Rod Nadeau, Ph.D. - Adventure Therapist, Avid Cyclist & Maine Guide

What is an Adventure Therapist? 

An Adventure Therapist facilitates activities such as rock/ice climbing, kayaking, backpacking, mountain/road biking, skiing, snowshoeing, rafting, winter camping, etc. to foster personal change and growth needed to achieve therapeutic goals.

What inspired you to become a cyclist? 

My cycling roots run deep into my childhood tricycle that I literally rode into the ground.  Evel Knievel was popular back then so later when I could ride a 2 wheeler I built jumps on a daily basis.  So I guess I’ve always been a cyclist because I just love the sensation of riding a bike!

What are one challenge and one lesson you’ve learned from your experiences in your practice? 

An ongoing challenge I face while leading adventures with disaffected youth is the “Leave No Trace” ethic.  During trips, they might say they don’t care about the earth and may even lash out in anger and leave their mark. I’ve had countless debates on whether or not a gum wrapper constitutes as trash or not (the answer is yes, BTW).  What I’ve learned is the change process in disaffected youth is frequently very subtle and barely perceptible as they don’t want others to know they are being influenced so they wear a mask of indifference.  Subtle as it may be, I do see the change process happening and sometimes the change doesn’t manifest until days, weeks, months, even years later. Numerous times I’ve had students visit me years later and they rush up to excitedly tell me they went camping and carried out all their trash!!! 

What are one challenge and one lesson you’ve learned from your experiences as a cyclist?  

There are so many challenges I’ve faced:  100+ mile rides, racing up Mt. Washington, crashing, etc. I think the best lesson I’ve learned is that by embracing my weakness and that which I loathed the most, namely - climbing up long steep hills, I was able to turn my nemesis into my passion and strength as a cyclist.  I did this by focusing my training rides on all the steepest hills I could find. After much pain and suffering, I can now say I love hillclimbs and it’s my strength as a cyclist!

What are your top two favorite cycling Memories?

First:  I’ve helped organize and ridden the 100 mile Dempsey Challenge since its inception in 2009.  This event has raised about a million dollars each year to support the Dempsey Center for Cancer, Hope, & Healing so that cancer patients, their families, and caregivers can get support services free of charge.

The 2017 #DempseyChallenge Two Day ride: Oct. 7-8  For more information visit:  The Dempsey Center , "a leader in quality of life care for individuals and families impacted by cancer."

The 2017 #DempseyChallenge Two Day ride: Oct. 7-8 For more information visit: The Dempsey Center, "a leader in quality of life care for individuals and families impacted by cancer."

Second:  It was my first time climbing Mt. Washington on a bike.  The climb is about 7.6 miles ALL uphill at 12% grade with extended sections of 18% grade, 2 miles of dirt road, and the finish is an S turn up 22% grade!  Translation:  So steep that every year cyclists flip over backwards.

In hillclimb training, nothing compares to the actual experience of riding up Mt. Washington.  Everything is either a shorter climb or not as steep - even Mon Ventoux & Alp d'huez in the Tour de France are easier climbs.  This means all your training is on hills that really don’t compare to the magnitude of Mt. Washington which makes race day a true mystery and adventure in how your legs will perform!

I started out in sunshine with temps in the high 50's.  Then ascended into a cloud covered, 39 degree summit with visibility of~100ft.   At about the halfway point when I reached 4000 feet, the winds were blowing at 35-50 mph.  I almost got knocked down a few times.  At one point I was a foot away from tumbling down a 1000+ foot ravine, but was able to make a last second correction leaning into the wind.  The finish has a back breaking S turn with a 22% grade (that’s as steep as a staircase).  I had enough in the tank for a sprint finish and made it to the last corner about 50 feet from the finish line when I got blown off course so far I had to do a U turn and came about two inches from going off the road and crashing!  Wind chill on the summit was 11 degrees.  The climb took everything I had and to say it was a max effort the entire 7.6 miles up would be an understatement.  I was toast at the finish but overwhelmed with a sense of accomplishment.  After finishing I was hot and sweaty from the sustained max effort, but within a few minutes after I got off my bike, I was chilled and shaking so badly I had trouble getting warm clothes on.  I could not zip up my jacket because I was shaking so violently – that was an unexpected challenge!

Overall, Mt. Washington is said to be the most punishing hillclimb in North America and Europe (some say the world, but I doubt that), and then you add 35-50 mph winds blowing you DOWN the mountain - can you say pain & suffering?

How do you motivate yourself to get back on the bike the day after a hard ride?

I tell myself I will feel better and enjoy the ride as soon as I glide down the driveway.  I tell myself after 15 minutes I will feel good.  If I don’t feel good after 15 minutes, I can turn back.  I also know and tell myself that active recovery is one of the best ways to recover.  99% of the time I feel so much better after I roll on the bike! 

Addendum:  When I reflect on my bike rides up the Mt. Washington auto road - I recall searing pain and suffering like an animal while contemplating the stupidity of choosing to torture myself in the midst of hovering on the brink of puking in the type of effort so horrific both mentally and physically in a ride up the mountain that even Sisyphus would find insufferable in comparison to his lament - meanwhile luxuriating in the true existential angst of knowing that putting a foot down on pavement (quitting) or dirt (yes, there's 2 miles of 12% gradient dirt! Translation: steep as anything you’ve ever ridden a bike up) I not only fail in my goal of not putting a foot down (quitting) but realize that I might not be able to get going again as most racers who stop lie agonizing on the side of the road unable to continue.  As I climb, turning myself inside out and tasting blood in the back of my throat, I pray that I am spared the wrath of those who cramp up and scream in agonizing pain on the side of the road, retching in utter torment.  There is also a historical aspect in the amount of training and time needed to minimize the duration of this exquisite horror, and the sacrifices my family endures while I’m away on the bike for countless hours while their father/husband is absent. You ask why do I crave this unbearable hell? Like George Mallory said not long before he died on Everest when asked why does he do it? Because it's there…  As absurd as this may be, as soon as I finish, the profound sense of relief from pain and suffering along with a flood of positive feelings of accomplishment, I have an exhilarating feeling that it was an awesome ride, so glad it’s over, but can’t wait to do it again!

What is your favorite inspirational/motivational quote?

“It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.”  -Edmund Hillary

“It’s not a Challenge if it doesn’t Change you”  -Rod Nadeau, Ph.D.

In one word, describe yourself:     


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