Interview with Endurance athlete Josh Tostado

By Ben Welnak (Twitter at @Bwelnak) with Josh Tostado (www.joshtostado.com)

The last interview with Kelly Magelky has stoked my motivation to seek the perspective, background, and motivation that makes endurance athletes tick. I hope to turn these two into a series of interviews with endurance athletes, including mountain bikers, triathletes, and other cycling related athletes, from Denver, Boulder, and around Colorado. Throughout the process, I’ll strive to go beyond the normal questions of training and nutrition by showcasing their personalities, motivation, and maybe even those little thoughts that get them midway through an all day adventure. Kelly made it an easy start to this adventure and my second interview, with endurance mountain biker Josh Tostado, continues to make it a smooth, interesting start to the series.


Photo courtesy of Liam Doran www.liamdoranphotography.com

After only two interviews, some themes are emerging. It’s a classic chicken or the egg story. Is it the nature of endurance sports that humbles athletes, makes them enjoy the entire process of training, and forges an unmatched mental toughness? Or, do these humble, hardworking, and mentally tough athletes gravitate towards endurance competition?

Josh is a down-to-earth guy who truly lives life to the fullest every day. Riding for Bach Builders (www.bachbuilders.net), he experienced a successful 2010 racing season that started with a strong 6th place showing at a very muddy Cohutta 100 in April, picked up mid-season steam with an amazing performance at the Breckenridge 100 in July, and culminated in an inhuman championship performance at the 24 Hour National Championship in Moab in October.

The interview was an interesting conversation about training, racing, and life because Josh was able to draw several parallels between riding, endurance, and life - important lessons for all of us interested in cycling and especially endurance events.

[303Cycling] Where did it all start?

Josh got his start in cross-country skiing and mountain biking while growing up in Southern Maine. Like many Coloradans, he started out as a ski bum. He was immediately drawn to Colorado after skiing at Arapahoe Basin in June during a road trip. Josh has lived in Breckenridge since.

[303Cycling] So, it’s not easy telling your parents you’re going to be a ski bum, is it?

“When I told my parents, they were really cool about it,” Josh discusses as he acknowledges how lucky he is to have such supportive parents. “They have been super supportive – they just realized that I wasn’t like a lot of other people,” he admits. “They just told me, ‘You need to do what makes you happy’.”

[303Cycling] What is it about Breckenridge that keeps you there?

“It’s just so awesome,” Josh enthusiastically confirmed. “It can be a little Disneylandish at times,” he admitted. “But there is an underlying community that really gets out there and loves the outdoors,” which is the perfect place for someone like Josh, who seems to really thrive on his connection with the natural world around him. While he admits that there are better places for skiing, the whole package of skiing, riding, and community makes it really hard to leave.

[303Cycling] Skiing – How did you get so good?

Josh got a really good start on the slopes by working at a ski hill during high school. With a future ski bum’s dream job, he was able to take advantage of the free skiing and constantly being around the hill to hone his skills to be able to really rip once he made his home in the mountains. His passion was blossoming at an early age.

Josh’s passion and drive to live the dream kept him stuck to the slopes in the early years as a Breckenridge resident. He continued to push his personal envelope by throwing himself down hills, off jumps, and over as much terrain as he could. The practice paid off. When the gang from Warren Miller Entertainment showed up in Breckenridge looking for local huckers to appear in their 2003 feature, “Journey,” Josh’s name came up and he was in. Josh admits that the whole opportunity in the movie was very fulfilling, “I got to live that dream of being a pro skier in my head.” From there, he went on to ski competitively for the Breckenridge team. He laughs, “I can’t do that stuff anymore – I’m too old.”

[303Cycling] You’re Josh Tostado.

Through these interviews, it has become clear that successful people genuinely feel lucky to be where they are. Josh is no different. He feels lucky to have such a supportive family that wants him to do what he loves to be as successful as he can. His feeling toward his network within the Breckenridge community is the same, “when I need work, I can get it – people just help you out.”

Over the years, he has made some good friends and contacts. True to his endurance sport nature, Josh is hesitant to admit that “people like what I do and are really stoked to help me out and try to help me get where I need to go – it’s been really cool.” He hit the nail on the head when he continued with, “it’s so overwhelming, that if you tried to do it by yourself, there’d be no way – physically or mentally – no way.”

[303Cycling] How about that mountain biking you do?

Training? Precise, numbers-based training is not for Josh, “I just like to ride – I fill a big backpack full of stuff, go up high, be in the outdoors, and have an adventure. I like to go out and go hard.” Josh is proof that, especially in the world of endurance racing, the lifestyle and training is strongly influenced by personal preference.

Josh does a lot of winter cross training to clear his mind, including downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, and gym workouts, because he feels that he can keep his motivation at its peak - if the brain is right, the body will follow.

Riding for 24 hours at a time is a long time – ridiculously long. What is the secret? To Josh, there is no secret, “Racing is life training. You’re not dying and life goes on, no matter what. Racing has helped me take things a lot better.” He acknowledges that, in his younger years, he was more easily rattled. As he has matured, Josh has learned to “take things in stride.”

At the ripe old age of 34, endurance racing has mellowed him out and helped him to enjoy the ride of life. Like life, endurance racing requires a stick-to-it-tiveness not needed in a lot of other disciplines. “When you get into a habit of quitting, it’s easy,” Josh said with a determined look in his eye.

[303Cycling] 2008 24 Hour Nationals in Wisconsin. You’ve arrived!

The 24 Hour National Championship was held at the Nine Mile Recreation Area near Wausau, Wisconsin. This was an exciting race for Josh as he felt like he had finally “arrived.” It was a similar sensation to his Warren Miller opportunity. He looked around and saw legends like Chris Eatough and Nat Ross nipping at his heels – he was living the dream, only this time on a bike. Josh was ahead of Chris for most of the race up to the point that he lost light power, which allowed Chris to catch and pass him.

Josh, describing what it was like to be racing a legend like Eatough, “You see a guy like that, my first time at nationals, and I could hang. You always have that one voice or doubt that says you can’t, but really you can. It’s just that you need to go out there and give ‘er. If you’re feeling it, you’re there, if not, you’re not.”

Unfortunately, Josh didn’t have enough to recover from the deficit and ended up finishing less than 16 minutes back of 24 Hour Hall of Famer, Chris Eatough.

[303Cycling] Arrived…..After six straight wins at the Breck 100, I’d say you’re the man!

“I could do it drunk and blindfolded,” Josh joked as he described the homefield advantage, “It’s huge!”
His win at the 2010 Breckenridge 100 was very impressive. The Breckenridge 100 is widely considered to be the hardest of the National Ultra Endurance Race Series (NUE Series), a nationwide series of seven 100 mile mountain bike races. He held off a hard charging field, which included the 2008-2010 NUE Series overall champion, Jeff Schalk. Explaining the wins, Josh again points to luck, “To win it six times, I am so lucky.” He also points out that Jeff is “the man” when it comes to the 100 mile races.

[303Cycling] At the top and still in awe….

Josh lined up at the Breck Epic this year, finished 3rd overall, and still had to pinch himself to make sure he wasn’t dreaming. It seems hard to convince these endurance guys that they are that good and deserve the praise. Josh confirms this with, “I come into races, I’m nervous, and I look at the competition and wonder, man, can I hang? Do I have enough speed?”

[303Cycling] Moab. Two-time National Champion and three years in a row!

Josh laid down an unbelievable race at Moab again to pick up his third straight win and second straight National Championship. It was an epic showdown with Kelly Magelky. After the two dueled it out in 2009, they each trained out of their minds all year to come out punching in 2010.

For the first seven laps, they were about even. After that and throughout the night, Josh was able to consistently put time on Kelly each lap. By the end, both had laid down a record setting 18 laps and Josh finished well over an hour ahead of Kelly.

[303Cycling] Why Bach Builders?

An article by the Denver Post this summer dubbed the team as “unlikely.” However, for those in the know, the team is anything but unlikely. The Bach Builders team is led by Fran and Dave Bach. The two brothers own Bach Builders (www.bachbuilders.net), a Boulder-based contracting company that prides itself on supporting the local economy and strong, customer- focused service. They show a strong passion for their business, people, and bikes.

With his strong passion for life, Josh feels that he fits perfectly with the team. Fran sums up their relationship with Josh by adding, “Josh is a great representative for our company and we are proud to sponsor such a true natural talent. Josh is a remarkable person on and off the bike and he is a more than a team member to us. We are very fortunate to have a two-time 24 Hour National Solo Champion ride for us.”

[303Cycling] Golf? Seriously?

In an unexpected turn, Josh revealed that elite mountain bike racers can enjoy a round or two of golf. He confesses that “it’s a really good rest activity and I just have fun. If I shoot under 100, then I’m doing good.” He does reveal his racing side and admits that “my A.D.D. steps in and I can’t do more than nine holes.”

[303Cycling] What are your future plans?

“I have the next day plan. I try not to look too far ahead.” However, he does admit that maybe he should start thinking about the future a little more. During the 2011 season, Josh would like to try to compete in a mix of events, if they work out, including the Breck 100, Park City Point-to-Point, 24 Hour World and/or National Championships, and the Breck Epic.

Josh will be back at it again next season. His schedule won’t be finalized for a while, but you can bet you will see him out pushing himself to his limit, learning about life, and enjoying the ride.

If there are any endurance athletes that you’d like to get to know better, I’d like to know. Feel free to shoot me an email at b_welnak@yahoo.com or Twitter at @Bwelnak. Check out my blog at benwelnak.blogspot.com.

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Do you want more endurance content? What are we missing?

Our new writer, Ben Welnak, has a passion for a different spin on cycling content, focusing more on the mountain biking endurance side. I hope you liked it because more is on its way thanks to Ben.

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