We recently spent some time riding the beachy, pumice terrain of Mammoth Mountain and it got us thinking about the crazy pair of Kali athletes, Amanda "the Panda" Nauman and her somewhat silent-partner Dave Sheek and their crazy gravel event, Mammoth Tuff.
With just about a month away from go-time, we met up with Sheek in Mammoth, CA. to find out a little bit more about about the man, his love of cycling and this adventure they have conjured.
Kali: David, do you remember your first bike and are there any interesting stories about that bike or your very early days on the bike?
Sheek: The first bike I really remember was a BMX bike my dad got me for a birthday. I was young, it was shiny and awesome. But, the story got better as I learned more about what really happened. He had a successful night at the blackjack tables on a trip before my birthday so I got the new whip. Maybe the gambling part is bad to share but it still makes me laugh.
Kali: Can you tell us when you realized you love riding bikes, if in fact you do?
Sheek: I loved my bikes from a young age and learned to just go explore on them. I grew up in Mission Viejo, Orange County, CA when there were still farms, cattle ranches, and we still had orange groves. This was where the 1984 Olympics were held and it was an amazing experience to be ten years old and watch the road race descend out of my neighborhood. This was all before the Irvine Company turned it into a complex, on a complex next to a complex, so I learned to love the bike and adventure. I would put on a backpack loaded with gear and go find trails to get me to a lake to fish, or that lead over a hill and through parks to get to the beach. There were days I remember skipping school to ride 20+ miles to the beach, body surf, and then ride home before the end of the school day. (Not recommended kids, stay in school. -DS).
Kali: Do you remember your first race and what were the early days of racing like for you?
Sheek: The first races were MTB when it was huge in the 90's at Snow Summit Ski Resort in Big Bear, CA. They had an amazing amateur cup series, and the World Cups were in California as well. I learned about mountain biking in the late 80's and got motivated with some friends to start racing. We thought we trained back then doing a loop at the mountain bike park or riding a long distance on the mountain bike. But, again, it was more about the adventure to go ride where the races were and explore somewhere new.
Kali: At some point you added coaching to your riding portfolio. How did this come about?
Sheek: I was teaching until about 2012 or 2013. Loved sharing knowledge but more breaking things down so people didn't waste their time on the bike or as an athlete to get results. I have always been an athlete and questioned how to improve performance, no matter what I was doing. After too many years getting hurt on snowboards and a lot of PT, I started riding again and eventually training with other coaches and racing. Naturally, I continued to learn more about the sports science side of endurance sports and the nitty gritty of racing bikes, so I then began working with CTS in 2014.
Kali: What is the number one piece of advice you give someone who is thinking about signing up with a coach?
Sheek: Make sure the coach-athlete relationship is good, choose someone you can trust and listen to. It is okay question things to understand why you are doing it, but if you don't trust the person, you will never allow yourself to get uncomfortable and explore your boundaries to make new adaptations.
Kali: Mammoth Tuff seems like it is going to be tough, did you hold back on the route or is this just about as tough as anyone would want it to be?
Sheek: Amanda and I are holding back a little, but it is extremely TUFF. The short route is one of my go-to rides when I have four hours in Mammoth to go for a ride. The long course will be one of the TUFFest 100-ish mile events anyone has tackled. It will be an amazing experience with the full range of emotions and extraordinary sights people will experience through the day.
Kali: Why Mammoth Tuff, not only why you named it Tuff, but why would you invite people to come do such a tough thing?
Sheek: From the Mammoth TUFF site...Tuff (tŭf) is a general term for all consolidated pyroclastic, volcanic rocks. The name, Mammoth TUFF, is a nod to the Long Valley Caldera and the volcanic stone that defines "gravel" in the area. The caldera was formed about 760,000 years ago in a volcanic eruption from which the magma still underlies it, heating underground water and fueling hot springs the event will ride by. The short course is around 45 miles with 2,000 feet of climbing and will circle the famous caldera. The long course is around 100 miles with 8,000 feet of elevation gain and travels through the Volcanic Tableland formed by the Long Valley Caldera. Prepare to be transported back in time on routes used by miners and even further back. We are inviting people to come do such a TUFF event because it’s where Amanda and I fostered our success at gravel events and where we’ve created many great memories. Its beauty is so unique, but the views are hard earned. We loved the beauty and the beast aspect that the area has to offer.
Kali: What sponsors do want you want to shout out to who helped you make this a reality?
Sheek: There are a lot of sponsors that are helping put this event together and the Town of Mammoth Lakes through Visit Mammoth is first. Without them, this event would never have come to fruition and they believed in our vision from the beginning. Monster Energy - Monster Hydro have been big supporters of what we have done as endurance athletes and ambassadors for so many years with the goal of pushing their enhanced water. They also believed in this event and want to be there to help riders reach their full potential. Kali Protectives, of course, is a brand that has more to offer a rider than most realize because the world of sports is all marketing. Small brands don't have the dollars to compete in this world all the time, but the technology from Kali emphasizes safety and it’s the number one reason we have stayed loyal to the brand for so many years. None of this matters if we can’t keep the noggins safe! Thanks, Brad!
Sheek: For now, the future is the Mammoth TUFF and building the TUFF brand to introduce some TUFF gravel camps and eventually a TUFF trip or two. More on that in the near future…