John Jacoby of Team Montrail, USA

General / Nov 3, 2004

Over this side of the ditch, you are remembered as the Aussie who won the Coast, but your full list of accomplishments is unknown to all but the very old and very dedicated zealots.

Can you list your major achievements? Which of these stands out? Do you still have a Coast to Coast in you?

Kayak world titles and CTC wins are probably still my highlights. The Raid and Eco-Challenge wins along with MSOQ wins all hold a bit weight. I don’t think I have the real desire to do another CTC because I know the huge amount of training and preparation required plus it is at a bad time of year now, as this is the ‘off season’ for AR and I need a break at some point in the year.

There is a growing body of knowledge in the exercise physiology community to support the notion that those elite athletes who maintain their training, recovery and nutrition regimes into their prime (post 30 even post 40) may be stronger than earlier in their careers. What do you say to that?

Possibly, providing you stay injury free. Older age tends to start to find out the bodies niggles, plus everything starts to get a bit more worn out and stiff. The other big consideration is maintaining your mental desire and enthusiasm. There is a lot to be said for being young and ignorant but full of enthusiasm and desire. It would be great if you could combine the benefits that age bring with the enthusiasm of youth!

What has improved about your abilities over the years and what has declined?

Not much has improved! Perhaps things like foot care, sleep strategies, race food have become more refined but good old fashioned speed while running, cycling and paddling is not quite as good as it was 15 yrs ago! I think AR generally has an adverse impact on your pure fitness and speed levels because it is essentially a slow ‘old mans sport’. Doing AR’s certainly doesn’t help you go faster for things like normal multisport races. I continually battle to try and maintain my speed levels in all disciplines. These days the endurance part of the sport is a ‘no-brainer’ – but going faster is bloody hard work.

Is there anything you include in training, racing, lifestyle that you feel has contributed to your longevity in the sport?

I didn’t stretch for 20 yrs and I think that has helped me avoid a lot of injuries. I also gave up playing football (Aussie Rules) at a young age which helped avoid a lot of injuries. Having said that, I think 20 yrs of racing and not stretching has caught up with me a bit in terms of my flexibility. I now do a bit of yoga and I find that has really helped a few of the niggles I was getting in the groin/hips area. A lot of off road running also helps strengthen joints and reduces impacts on joints. I think also my parents blessed me with good hard wearing genetics albeit slow twitch ones!!

Adventure sports in Australia seem to be on the rise with a growing number of events and competitors. What do you attribute this surge to? What can be done to lift participation numbers and attract prize money to the sport?

AR has been very slow to grow in Oz when compared with NZ. I think the Kiwis have much more affinity with the outdoors then Australians and CTC seemed to capture the imagination of so many Kiwis who already had some skills/experience in the outdoors. I think Australia also gets distracted by triathlons and surf life-saving and this reduces the potential No. of AR competitors.

I think people are always looking for new challenges and AR offers this. It needs to be emphasised though that the sport can still be enjoyed by people who are not necessarily super fit and that completing a race is still an achievable and fun thing to do. Many would be starters I think get put off by the size/distance of many races. The small sprint type races are really helping to boost the Nos. The prize money issue is directly related to whether the sport can become a TV commodity. If this can be achieved then there is no reason why the money shouldn’t flow with that. Without TV it will always remain small. We have to try and grow the sport in the direction that will appeal to a TV audience.

What does a typical base program training week involve for J. Jacoby?

Most of my training is done between 5.30 and 8.30 in the morning before I’m on kids duty.

Monday – Steady/tempo run 1-1.5 hrs and a 1 hr paddle afterwards
Tuesday – Hills run session 1.5hrs and a 70min paddle, Bike or surf mid morning
Wednesday – Ride road approx. 80km with some hills
Thursday – 40min run then 2hr road ride on the MTB with a bunch
Friday – 1hr running session on the track- Up to 5km of efforts between 400m and 1.5km then 1hr paddle on river doing wash leads
Saturday – Long off road run approx.2-3hr
Sunday – Long MTB approx. 3.5hrs off road

Try and squeeze in some bike ergo work to help with cadence and interval work – sessions up to 45 mins.

You are a regular on the US circuit apart from the prize money and competition what are the big attractions to the racing there?

Not much!! I think it is very disappointing that the USA have virtually no individual races and that all their AR’s are conducted in pathetically slow boats/kayaks. In fact I feel pretty embarrassed even having to paddle the craft they use over there. This is one of my pet gripes in the sport. The paddling is very much a token discipline in AR because of the poor quality of the boats. Poor boats also encourage apathy towards the discipline and as such the paddling standard of Adv. Racers is woeful. Race organisers need to supply fast racing boats.

This will automatically lift the standard of paddling because a lot of teams will initially not even be able to stay upright in the boats – but it will force them to go off and do some serious training in kayaks. At present there is little or no benefit in being a good paddler because the boats used don’t allow you to display your skill and paddling prowess. Sorry, that’s my little bitch session over with! I still think the depth of talent in NZ and Aust. In multisport and AR is significantly higher than in the USA.

What do you look for in team mates?

A relaxed laid back attitude but someone with still plenty of guts and determination. They have to have the right personality that signifies they will always push on and not give up even in adversity. Its something that I think you are born with. Some people have more of it than others and it’s the former you have to look for. I think the Kiwis and Aussies are generally well endowed with that fighting personality.

What makes a champion AR team?

Obviously, you need a good navigator that can think well even under pressure and with little sleep. Again, these navigators I think are born with the ability to compute maps into 3D images and translate them to what surrounds them in the physical environment while running along a ridge or river bed. Members who can look out for others and offer assistance. You can’t afford to have a weak link in your team these days in any discipline. I think the ability to understand each other without having to say too much while out on the race course is important.

When you look at your container load of training and racing equipment what has changed the most over the years in terms of quality and performance? Which gear needs to improve the most to assist performance?

MTB’s have improved enormously with dual suspension and ride quality, however they still cost more to maintain then my car! Shoes have become a bit more specific which is good and help look after your feet. A lot of bits and pieces have come into the sport but the nuts and bolts haven’t really changed. As I said before, kayaks need improvement. I think use of single surf skis would be great. They are fast, can handle rough water and don’t pose a problem if you capsize. Single boats would also ensure that every team member had to have some paddling competence. It also prevents teams from ‘hiding’ their weakness. None of the other disciplines allow a team to do this.

EPO is endemic in many endurance sports do you believe there is any use of it or equivalent performance enhancers in elite adventure racing? Do you believe testing for drugs is warranted or desirable for adventure racing?

I hope not, but there probably is. I’m not convinced it would provide that much assistance though. I think testing is warranted. It’s not desirable but that’s sport these days unfortunately.

You have gone head to head with some outstanding athletes over the years anybody in particular stand out as extraordinary? Anybody you particularly enjoy beating?

There are a few great multisporters. Steve Gurney, Keith Murray, Matt Dalziel, Ian Edmond. I think Keith and Steve stand out because of their longevity in the sport. I’m still trying to beat Keith and Yes of course I like beating Steve! I think the likes of Mike Kloser, Mike Tobin, Ian Adamson are also great athletes but they are yet to prove themselves in the world individual multisport racing. The best proving ground for that is the CTC because it is a fair race where all disciplines are equally important and if you can’t do well in one of them you’re stuffed!

Adventure racing and multisport has been a huge part of your life John, what have you got out of it in terms personal growth?

Fantastic travel experiences. The travel aspect still keeps me motivated these days. A huge bank of knowledge about places and people that I will hopefully re-visit in years to come to do ‘relaxing’ adventure type trips . Also learnt to be a lot more tolerant and patient plus handle stressful situations with relative ease.

What is your favourite race and why?

CTC still would be one of my favourites, because that is where I started multisport and because of the huge support I have received from NZ. Also, it is a race that can humble the best athletes. It is a real leveller. I’ve seen it destroy 2.20 marathoners, elite paddlers and cyclists. I still say the CTC race is a lot tougher than an Ironman triathlon.

Any advice for novice adventure racers you can share?

Start racing NOW. It’s the best way to learn. If you keep saying ‘I’m not quite ready yet’ then you’ll never compete.