Newlyweds Rowan and Mike Torckler visited Mammoth Lakes recently, but it wasn’t a starry-eyed honeymoon that brought them here. Mike is a professional road cyclist who was taking advantage of Mammoth Lakes Tourism’s Endurance Crib for the second summer in a row.
The high altitude roads of Mammoth Lakes brought Mike and Rowan back for more because they understand the benefits of working out at elevation. With a home base in Santa Rosa, Calif., Mammoth Lakes is a “handy and beautiful” training ground, Mike said.
“It’s at the optimum altitude,” he explained. “You can get to 9,000 or 10,000 feet easily, which is good training for upcoming races.”
Mike rides for Team SmartStop and will be competing in the upcoming Cascade Classic in Bend, Ore. from July 15-20, 2014, as well as the Tour of Utah from Aug. 4-10, 2014 so he timed his stay in Mammoth Lakes perfectly. Both races take place at altitude.
“It takes awhile to adjust [to the altitude], so you need a minimum of 10 days here to make the training effective,” Mike said. For the first couple of days, he kept his rides to three hours or less just to give his body time to adjust. He and Rowan were also spending time at Snowcreek Athletic Club as their bodies adapted to 8,000 feet.
The biggest differences the body experiences when adapting to high altitude, according to Mike, include having your heart rate go up much more quickly, not being able to push yourself to the intensity level that you normally would, and needing to eat a whole lot more because you are burning calories at lightning speed.
“He eats a runner’s diet but with a whole lot more added,” Rowan, a runner herself, said with a laugh. With a tall, lanky frame, it’s obvious that altitude or not, wherever Mike is consuming his calories he’s an efficient, food-burning machine.
Staying hydrated is also critical for workouts at elevation, where the risk of dehydration is much greater. “I think I’ve found all the good water stops out on the road,” Mike said with a grin.
The 27-year-old has been racing since 2007 and has battled through several injuries, including being hit by a car a few years back. Luckily he hasn’t had any lasting physical effects and isn’t even afraid of cars while pedaling these days because he doesn’t remember much of the accident.
“At the beginning of my recovery I was more wiped out during training, but now I’d say I’m back up to full speed,” he said.
Both Rowan and Mike are originally from New Zealand and find Mammoth Lakes to be reminiscent of that part of the world.
“The rivers and the lakes remind me of home,” Rowan said. “And the small town is great. It’s a cool community.”
As for the challenges of riding locally, Mike said the toughest part is “always feeling like you’re moving so slowly on the up hill.”
The reward, however, according to the Torcklers who were wed in January, is the speed you can achieve going down the other side.