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Ode to Marko Baloh coaching…

For nearly 2 years, Marko Baloh has been my coach, and I would like to tell more about my experience with Marko and his coaching services.

I DNF’d RAAM 013 at the Kansas/Missouri border due to severe saddle sores, sleep deprivation and overall I was mentally very weak …

To be honest, up until RAAM 013, I was a fit guy who liked ultra-racing, and I had finished several good endurance events, but I did not understand the challenges of ultra-cycling at all.

And as I had failed to finish the Race Across America, I wanted to learn and get better at cycling to go back and finish RAAM so I focused on cycling.

After my DNF in 013, when I got back to Dubai, I asked Matej, a Slovenian employee at naseba to get in contact with Marko Baloh and discuss with Marko if he would be interested in coaching me.

Anyone who knows cycling, knows Marko Baloh is one of the most accomplished ultra-cyclists, and a multi world record holder – but, at that time Marko did not coach.

I did not meet Marko at RAAM 013, but I had read a lot about him, and I wanted him as my coach.

Marko came to Dubai at the end of September 013, he met Sophie and I and we discussed and confirmed a RAAM training program, and after a training test week with me in Dubai… he confirmed to be my coach, and I am proud to say that I was Marko’s first athlete!

Just to explain:

I take Baloh Coaching’s VIP package (the most interactive package he offers) and I also do several training camps with him per year.
Being able to ride with Marko at these camps has made me a much stronger cyclist than I was before.

Marko is a super star coach, and an incredibly honest, down to earth, hardworking man … who puts his heart completely into his coaching services.

Over the first many months being coached by Marko, I drastically, improved my cycling level.

Climbing is my weakness, so in the beginning we focused a lot on climbing, and every weekend, Marko had me drive a couple hours outside Dubai to climb a mountain called “Jebel Hafeet.”

That first training test week with Marko back in Sept 013, we did the steep Jebel Hafeet climb 3 consecutive climbs … and I struggled on each of those climbs, with my best climb being 1hr16 and to be honest – I had to stop a couple times to catch my breath on each climb.

On the drive back to Dubai that day, Marko told me “before you do RAAM again, I will have you in shape enough to easily be able to do  Jebel Hafeet’s climb (13km, 9% avg) 10 consecutive times, with your fastest one under 50 minutes.” 
(ultimately, we achieved both these goals.  10 consecutive times up and down without stopping took 14 hours and 10 minutes, and I was also able to do 6 consecutive times all under 1 hour  with my fastest being 48 minutes)

Over the year, I also lowered my ironman bike split considerably by nearly an hour to 5 hour 14 minutes and avg speed over the 180km to 35kms/h; and Marko has challenged me to get my split closer to 37km/h.
Something I only dreamed about before.

Because I like training “hell weeks” — Marko organizes 10-14 day “hell weeks” every couple months, and over holidays, he has organized longer camps for me.

In the past 18 months, we have done training camps in Gran Canaries, Slovenia, South of France, Italy, Hatta, all over UAE, and this past Christmas, we had the most incredible 13 day camp…

Over 13 days, we rode from the border of the UAE/Oman across Oman, and down Oman all the way to the Yemen border, took a photo at the border of Oman and Yemen and then rode our bikes back up Oman, across and back to the UAE border.  I will never forget that adventure.

The training program Marko created for me was focused on me being able to complete RAAM under 10 days.

Yes, I will now admit that after my Oman training camp and how fast and strong I performed, Marko challenged me to go after breaking 10 days at RAAM, and being top 5 at RAAM became my main goal.

I knew if I were to be in the top 5, I would have to go under 10 days … and this is what we focused on for the rest of 015 up until RAAM.

In 013, I was nearly too slow to make the time cut off, and ended up DNF’ing right at the time cut off … so if I could go under 10 days my next RAAM, it would be a kick ass story.

I thought about breaking 10 days at RAAM every single day from January 015 until the race started…and I trained hard with this goal in mind.

But, I crashed out of RAAM 015 on my 3 ½ day, about 20-30 minutes into the long, pleasurable decent down Wolf Creek pass …

However, up until the moment I crashed, I was nearly spot on the timing Marko had set for me to be able to achieve this goal.

My training programs and all the hell weeks had been focused on ensuring the 2nd part of the race, I would get stronger and stronger…
but I got careless; I think I was too comfortable on the ride down Wolf Creek, and crashed out.

A big regret I have about failing to finish RAAM is for Marko.
Marko put his heart into training me … and has gotten me to a completely different level in cycling.
And it makes me sad that because I crashed out early, I failed to show how great Marko is as a coach.

If you are going to go after a cycling or ultra-cycling race, such as RAW or RAAM, I highly recommend you get Marko Baloh as your coach.
Just his experience alone adds so much value to his coaching services.  He can relate directly to all his athletes and understands perfectly what it takes to complete ultra cycling races.

Thank you Marko for everything.