In 2017, Colin Strickland placed first at Gravel Worlds. In 2018, he placed first at Bike the Bricks and first again at the Gravel Worlds. In 2019, Strickland placed first at The Rift Gravel Race in Iceland and first place at Dirty Kanza. In 2020, he placed second at The Mid South 100.
It’s safe to say Strickland has raced his way to the top, and this month, we get to speak with him about his training prep, nutrition and mental toughness.
AFM: How did you originally get into gravel racing?
STRICKLAND: You could joke that it was riding out to the mailbox as kids, but I rode some local races in Texas that suited my physiology, and I won back to back Gravel Worlds in 2017-2018.
AFM: Outside of biking, how do you stay in shape and maintain your endurance?
STRICKLAND: I work on projects around my house, including landscaping, renovations, mechanic work. It all ends up being pretty physically taxing, and I don’t see a need to go to a gym. I also incorporate some purpose-driven strength training exercises for endurance.
AFM: What does day-to-day nutrition look like for you?
STRICKLAND: [I] stick to nutrient-dense foods my body can process to replenish after long rides. I will eat red meats on an as-needed basis, but I usually eat veggie-heavy. During a long training ride, an ice-cold Red Bull at a gas station in the middle of nowhere is the savior to getting me home after a 90- to 130-mile ride.
AFM: Gravel racing vs. road racing — which do you prefer?
STRICKLAND: I love the craft of road racing, but gravel is a great fit for me and I get to experience the bike in a different way.
AFM: What is most challenging about this sport in particular?
STRICKLAND: Managing the mental side of things. Over a 10-hour period, a number of things cross your mind, [so it’s about] having the ability to keep it all together.
AFM: Long races can be tough, both physically and mentally. At what mile mark do you typically begin to struggle?
STRICKLAND: On a cold and wet race day, I am going to say as soon as the race starts. Each race is really different — many factors like nutrition and hydration play into that.
AFM: How do you handle this struggle mentally?
STRICKLAND: Reminding yourself of all the hard work and training you have done to remind yourself that you can.
AFM: What are your favorite songs to listen to while training?
STRICKLAND: Anything by RF Shannon or Hank Williams can do the trick. I am also a big fan of BØRNS if I’m in a romantic mood for some candy pop.
STRICKLAND: Gravel roads have disappeared in Austin, but I love racing the weekly Driveway Series Crit, and for gravel I have to head south of Austin to find some long gravel routes. West Texas Terlingua/Marfa areas are also breathtaking.