Wednesday Workout: ‘Exceptional Off-the-Couch Fitness’ with Zoë Roy

Jason AlbertJune 20, 2018
Zoë Roy tapping into her “exceptional off-the-couch fitness” somewhere above Mistaya Lodge in British Columbia. (Photo: Florian Jungen)

BEND, Oregon — Zoe Roy.

OK, OK. First things first. Don’t forget the umlaut.

So it’s Zoë Roy. (Zoeeeee. Not Zo.)

If you don’t know Roy and you’ve been to Bend, Oregon, well then, maybe you haven’t exactly been to Bend. Roy is at once keen, kind, clever, artistic, athletic, and nine parts out of ten fun. She is an icon of fun here.

But let’s cut to the chase. We cover nordic sport and Roy has a history there, too. She skied at the U of U (University of Utah), raced a few World Cups having earned start rights on Canada’s team, and skins and shreds many peaks and slopes when the snow is prime. (Note: the snow must be prime. Like powder. No sun cupping. No ice. Corn snow will suffice.)

If you were wondering how she skied for Canada (as well as Team Ninja for a season) and resides in Bend during the current low point in bilateral U.S.-Canadian relations, she’s a dual citizen with pure maple leaf DNA. Her parents are both Canadian, yet she had the good fortune of being raised in Bend. With the combo of a Bend upbringing and possessing way above-average athletic talent, she, of course, has participated in the venerable local multi-sport race known as the PPP, or Pole, Pedal, Paddle.

She is a three-time overall winner of the women’s race. She’s competed in nearly every category, too — pairs, teams and onward — her only career PPP blip being a defeat to her own mother, Muffy Roy, when Zoë was 18 years old. On her 31st trip around the sun, Zoë (who turns 31 next month) remains spry.

But honestly, she’s sort of like Peter Pan in a good way.

This is a Wednesday Workout after all. And for that reason, we are going to focus on how Roy trained for this year’s PPP. She said it best herself.

Surfing the river wave in Bend, Oregon — Zoë Roy. (Photo: Jon Tapper)

“Training for the PPP involved a lot of time not training for the PPP,” she said as she sipped an Italiano a few weeks back. (In fact, this reporter learned during the interview that an Italiano has less water than an Americano. Good to know when seeking the in-between of an espresso and an Americano.)

Bottom line: Roy has a huge base of fitness and is still highly trained. Or it appears that way if you run, ride, ski, paddle, skin, or cook with her.

“Essentially I want to have exceptional off-the-couch fitness,” Roy explained. “To be able to hang with my friends on adventures.”

As mentioned, that exceptional off-the-couch fitness brought Roy her third consecutive PPP title this year. In other words, as U.S. Ski Team member Simi Hamilton referred to the PPP while in Bend this May, that’s three consecutive “World Championships of the World”. 

How did she do it?

A prized possession: the Z-Roy edition single-speed townie. Although this Schwinn is Grinch green, Zoë Roy is no Grinch. Her other bike has more travel. (Photo: Zoë Roy)

Most often, in good weather, which we see plenty of here in Bend, Roy commutes on a single-speed townie bike. Noteworthy is the bottle of wine in lieu of a water bottle affixed to a frame tube. Our guess is that the single-speed builds leg strength while cruising uphill. It was a pretty mild winter here in town so let’s assume Roy commuted on her bike 10 miles per week. Don’t be fooled though. The townie isn’t her only bike. She was an invitee to Bend’s Blitz to the Barrel — a high-octane, enduro-bike race. She placed second.  

Roy also committed to immersing herself in the local surf scene at the Colorado Avenue river-surfing wave here. The surfing itself builds jedi-balance. The swim into the eddy after a nasty flush from the wave builds upper-body strength.

“I surfed the wave all the time after I picked up surfing this winter,” Roy said. “And that will pretty much trump all other activities if someone asks me to go to the wave.”

Questioned whether she nordic skied much this winter, the reply was blunt and a little disappointing to fans of the skinny skis. “I didn’t really nordic ski this winter since my friend Elliott Heath wasn’t around,” Roy said. “I did coach a few XC Oregon master’s clinics though.”

Roy divulged that she engaged in a trifecta of sweet-sounding trips where the fitness was brought from “meh” to almost Norwegian-style “the shape is good” before the big race.

Level 5 scenery on the Cinque Terre trail in Italy. (Photo: Zoë Roy)

In April, she visited Italy where she ran the Cinque Terre trail north of Tuscany. She ran 25 kilometers on Day 1. For that stretch, Roy ran along the coast, then spent the night in Levanto. In the morning, she returned along the ridge for a 28 k jaunt, making for a tidy running loop.

She then rebounded with a backcountry ski trip to Mistaya Lodge in British Columbia. No name dropping here, but allegedly Roy was on the trip with some likely still pretty fast former Canadian XC skiers and maybe an American one, too. Lots of vert in BC kept Roy’s engine trending towards PPP-primed.

Then two weeks before the PPP, she climbed and skied Mount Hood. Not shabby. Again, evidence of how above-average, off-the-couch fitness can be a game changer.   

Here’s also something Roy didn’t mention — she often runs socially with a burly group of runners. Maybe it’s L1 running. Who knows. There’s no training log. No Strava we are aware of. But she runs early mornings on some days.

Zoë Roy paddles “Daisy” the boat on her way to PPP victory. (Courtesy photo)

She also jumps in and paddles her borrowed surf ski, a boat that resembles a Holstein cow, a few times prior to race day. (Our guess though is she paddles more than a few times pre-PPP.) The boat was salvaged from a dumpster and is white with large patches of carbon fiber and black spray paint here and there from the repairs. Roy calls the boat “Daisy” because it truly appears to have some Holstein lineage.

Let’s also be real. Roy is a crusher. We’re not exactly calling her out as a sandbagger. However, if you go adventuring with Roy, most likely you’ll be huffing and puffing gaining vertical. So we in town knew she wasn’t rolling over for this year’s PPP when in mid-May she was seen screaming down Century Drive from Mount Bachelor on a TT bike after her morning XC-ski session. Yup, that’s called official “training” for the PPP. Sort of late in the game perhaps.

To balance life, Roy holds down some pretty interesting jobs. She is the director of development for the Central Oregon Avalanche Association (COAA) and helps coordinate workshops for Wilder Retreats.

More true facts: Roy makes and sells handcrafted ice cream. She’ll cater a party, too. She also organizes perhaps the toughest ticket in morning dance parties here in Bend. Here’s the hashtag if you’re ever game for 7 a.m., L4 weekday dancing fueled by coffee, chai and Picky Bars: #daybreakerbend. Roy says crashers are welcome. And hey, we’re calling it, the daybreak dancing helped her peak.

Asked what the Wednesday Workout was exactly as we concluded the interview, Roy savored her Italiano on that lovely June morning and simply noted that the workout will find you.

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Jason Albert

Jason lives in Bend, Ore., and can often be seen chasing his two boys around town. He’s a self-proclaimed audio geek. That all started back in the early 1990s when he convinced a naive public radio editor he should report a story from Alaska’s, Ruth Gorge. Now, Jason’s common companion is his field-recording gear.

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