Jimmy “The Rock” Archer is no shrinking violet. He’s also got a sense of humour. Take his website, for instance. Under “Weapons of Choice,” he explains his biking as nothing less than “deadly over all terrain”. He goes one step further on the run: “Lethal, even in long range. Enemy with less than a 4 minute advantage over 10 km will be eliminated!”
When he’s not training or coaching – or planning covert operations - the Boulder-based pro is writing articles for Triathlete Magazine and Inside Triathlon.
In our interview, he shares his thoughts on Xterra racing, coaching and the state of drugs in the sport, particularly in light of the Landis doping case and the latest controversy in triathlons -Jurgen Zack’s failed drug test a week ago.
Jimmy Archer…On Drugs
RW:Let’s start with a topic on everyone’s minds these days: Drugs in sport. How prevalent is the problem in triathlons?
JA: We know for a fact there are athletes in triathlon taking drugs. We have had some positive tests and a few athletes like Nina Kraft have admitted to it. So there is no question there; yes, there are triathletes on drugs. The more interesting question is; how many of those athletes are age groupers? I think this is where triathlon is unique. Our amateur athletes are doping. This is due to the fact that we have qualification-based championships for the age groupers and athletes are passionate about those championships. Unfortunately, some are passionate enough to do anything.
Most pros either don’t need to use drugs to compete well or are afforded the option of having a moral stand on drug use. Or, they simply don’t make enough to afford the roughly $10K price tag required to properly implement a drug plan. Age groupers on average; however, make plenty of money to afford drugs and if they have the moral flexibility, have nothing to lose. I am not even sure if it is possible to ban an age group athlete or if there is more than just a very few tests a year.
RW: What do you think about Jurgen Zack’s recent failed drug test?
JA: Well, at this point, we’re hearing the standard rhetoric. The textbook denial: “I will fight this to clear my name.” And of course, compete confusion at how this could have happened. You know, they aren’t putting drugs in the water over here. If you are taking anything that you suspect as possibly being tainted, you shouldn’t be taking it. But I can’t assume someone is guilty without proof.
It always reminds me of a quote from one of my favourite movies, Grosse Pointe Blank. At one point, the main character, an assassin, tries to explain himself by saying: “If I show up on your doorstep, you most likely did something to bring me there.” I don’t think false positives just fall out of the sky.
RW: Have you ever been offered or tempted to take drugs?
JA: Offered, no. Tempted, I wouldn’t say just that. The situation is, when I was a runner, the ‘if everyone else is doing it, why don’t I?’ thought crossed my mind. But that isn’t me. That isn’t why I race. I want to be the best out there and know that it’s me and not chemistry that’s doing it. It basically comes down to theft and if I am doing it to steal to make a living, I could do it in better ways than through athletics. I despise drugs in sport and have no patience for it. I believe that anyone with a definite positive should be banned for life and ostracized from the sport all together. We must have a zero tolerance policy.
RW: Let’s move on to coaching. What do you like best about it?
JA: As a pro athlete, my life can be very much about me, me, me. Coaching is great because it allows me to focus entirely on someone else. This can be very refreshing and motivating to my own racing and training as well.
RW: What are your strengths as a coach?
JA: I think my best talent is being able to mesh science with perspective and the ability to take the geek out of the whole thing and speak to a common understanding.
RW: What is your coaching philosophy?
JA: My main philosophy is that you can never coach two athletes identically. No one program works for everyone. You will have the basic fundamentals present in all programs but the trick is seeing the big picture of what the individual needs.
RW: How do you manage to work for NYC Consulting Services in New York while living and training in Boulder?
JA: Mainly through on-line coaching. But I like to get as much info as possible. I insist on heart rate monitors and knowing my clients training ranges. I prefer to use power meters as much as possible. I also use training peaks software which allows me to write programs, view the athlete’s training, download HR monitors and power units and graph is all out for the future. Basically, I feel I can almost coach better via the computer than I can one on one.
RW: What are the greatest sources of frustration as a coach?
JA: My greatest frustration would be in having to compete with other coaches who are uneducated, inexperienced and basically incompetent. I know that sounds very cocky but it is not uncommon.
RW: And your greatest satisfaction?
JA: It would have to be helping others achieve goals they might not really think they can achieve and actually having a positive effect on their life on their life as a whole.
RW: To switch gears, tell us about your latest win in Arizona.
JA: It was my first Xterra of the year. It was a good race a good way to start the season. I came out of the water in third, off the bike in third and was able to run down the leaders. It’s a great course through the saguaro cactus and classic desert landscapes!
RW: How is Xterra different from racing regular triathlons?
JA: Xterra is always an adventure. Every race is different and you always finish with a war story (ed note: Maybe that explains the war theme on the site?) It’s fun and it’s a purist race. You can’t really buy a good result. It’s more about fitness and toughness.
RW: Why is the Xterra becoming so popular?
JA: Mountain bike racing is struggling right now. I think Xterra gives mountain bikers more what they are looking for in a race than most NORBA races. The courses are tougher and more fun and the environment is less about attitude.
RW: What is your racing schedule over the next couple of months?
JA: July is a rebuilding month after a weird spring with lots of insect stings and some physical setbacks. August is building back into it. September, October and November are important race months with Xterra Nationals and the Worlds.
RW: What are your long-term goals as an athlete?
JA: The sky is the limit. I am finally starting to develop a competitive swim. I want that to continue. Other than that, I want an Xterra World and Series Championship. I would like to think that the Olympics could be an option but there are more challenges there than I could possibly list here. I think 70.3 is a good option for me.
Jimmy Archer Career Highlights:
1st, XTERRA Arizona (2006)
1st, Harvest Moon Half Ironman, 4:06 (2005)
1st, Colorado Off-road Triathlon State Championship (2005)
4th, US National Long-course Championship (2005)
2nd, XTERRA Triathlon Moab (2004)
3rd, XTERRA Triathlon Arizona (2004)
2nd, Los Alamos Triathlon (2003)
5x Top 10 Finisher, XTERRA World Championships (2000-2004)
Typical Training Week (in General)
Sunday – Long run and optional swim
Monday – Recovery. A bit longer ride on the mountain bike.3k swim. Easy run
Tuesday – Run intervals. 5 k swim. Easy ride
Wednesday – 3k swim. Group ride. Easy run. Short track mountain bike race
Thursday- 5k swim. Easy run. Optional ride.
Friday – 3 k swim. Easy run. Power intervals on the bike.
Saturday – 5 k swim. Optional run. Longer ride (3-4 hours climbing)
For more on Jimmy Archer, check out www.jimmyarcher.com and NYC Triathlon Consulting Services: www.nyctriconsult.com.