Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A Second Chance

As an endurance coach I typically give an athlete a particular training objective for a given day with expectations of a range of output from their body in relation to the desired PE (perceived exertion) for that session, for that athlete. Included with the workout prescription is a range of expected output for which the goal for a given session will be met and for which it is therefore, prudent to proceed with the session. If the athlete is unable to reach the predetermined "lower limit" for the workout session, then they are given an alternate goal for the day...namely, recovery. The focus becomes recovery because if they are unable to "reach" this lower limit, something is wrong.

That thing that is wrong is typically that the athlete is under-rested, either due to my miscalculation of residual fatigue from prior training stimulus, or from an outside influence, such as, lack of sleep, illness or some other stressor. I've always favored this default shut-down for when an athlete has "bad legs" and it has always worked pretty well. Sometimes, we pass on a session, but we occassionally need to, as I am sure athletes I coach are tired of hearing "stand still when on a slippery slope to avoid sliding backwards". I am, however, going to be trying something a little different with some of these athletes the next time they have difficulty with a tough workout.

I've come to believe that what might be wrong is that the athlete was "blocked", or in need of an "opener" workout. This came to me because I've noticed a rather interesting phenomena recently while doing a bit of training myself. Twice in the last 6 weeks I have scheduled a training session that I was unable to reach the lower acceptable limit for my goal output for the desired PE. On both occassions, I cooled down, climbed off, went about my business, had something to eat and later gave myself a second chance. On both occassions, I returned to my bike and generated power at the upper end of the range I'd have hoped for upon originally scheduling that session. In other words, I believe that the earlier session had served to "open" my legs up for a break-through workout a short time later the same day.

As with any training protocol, I imagine that this will work for some athletes and not for others, but look forward to seeing how many of those sessions that typical leave me rescheduling the next day and possibly longer can be completed if given this second chance. Coaching is the artful application of science and each athlete is a unique experiment.


Sunday, November 25, 2007

Sunday+November=Trevor Ride

Some of the new guys call it the bagel ride, but to me it will always be the Trevor Ride. As I chatted post-ride with Trevor today it dawned on the two of us that we've been doing this in the Winter since he was about my current age...soon to be 40. He'll turn 54 right around the time I'll reach 40 and I thought who better to talk to about aging than the ageless?

Trevor says that he actually was "in his best cycling fitness of his life" when he was forty. He grew up in England and was a national caliber runner and Jr. TT champion, but took several years away from cycling while raising his family. So, he really didn't restart seriously until his mid-thirties. Five or so years back on the bike and he was just killing it.

I don't mean to take anything away from him now, as he still attacks relentlessly until he gets into the break, but back then you would have to grit your teeth and ride the rivet just to sit on.
His familiar side to side head-bob meant that you'd soon be wishing for a flat or a light.

My own beliefs on aging as relates to cycling were heavily influenced, as are many of my thoughts on coaching, on something I was fortunate enough to talk to Dr. Andy Coggan about while at a coaching seminar at Harvard a few years ago. Andy pointed to the literature than proves that after age thirty, it's the VO2 max in fully developed endurance athletes that declines and that strength actually doesn't appreciably decline until our sixth decade. His suggestion was that attention to maintaining VO2 max was critical in our 30's and beyond.
It is in this vain that I like athletes to do a hard group ride once a week in the winter while otherwise building their base fitness with rides between Coggan levels 2 & 4. These "spirited rides" contain enough of a volume of intensity to do a really good job maintaining this critical component of fitness. And besides, they are great fun...not to mention that for me, they are a tradition.


Saturday, November 24, 2007

Disney 70.3...The Raycation is born

With six of the athletes I coach racing the Florida 70.3 May 20th, and one of them making her professional debut (not to mention that it is held when it is 50F warmer than where I live), I was compelled to make the journey to Orlando.

As the father of two children, I have spent more than my share of time in the land of Mickey Mouse, but this was easily my most memorable trip down. One of the 6 athletes competing was Ray, father of 4 (including triplets), attorney, race director and all-around great guy. Ray has a time share and took it upon himself to do all the "heavy lifting" required to get me down to Florida and housed. It was phenomenal, really. I was picked up at the airport, brought to the finest accommodations and poured back into the airport at journey's end (more on that later).

In addition to Ray and Danielle, I was there in support of Don, Jessie and brothers Geoff and Gerry. The six of us flew into Orlando having prepared for the 90F+ heat and 90%+ humidity as best we could coming from Long Island where it hadn't broken through the 60's.

The race was to be for everyone a positive experience on one level or another...though the positive elements weren't immediately apparent for everyone. For Danielle, who made her pro debut, this race was incredible, finishing 6th, within 2.5 minutes of 3rd and just being passed by rock-star Heather Gollnick in the finishing mile. For Don, who put out the next fastest time, a near PR, delivered a great performance considering his inexperience and the fact he wasn't heat acclimated. This race marked Geoff's reintroduction to the addiction known as triathlon and established him as a staple for all future "Raycations". As Geoff says, "you're not having fun until I say you're having fun". The problem is I passed out before I heard him say it...I'm getting to that. For the three remaining athletes, they would, perhaps, benefit more through adversity. Jessie would have some technical trouble with her bike after finding it laying down in T1 and would, along with Ray, who would find out later was burning with fever, DNF'd. Gerry would struggle with cramping and under perform. Each would show their class soon after, though.

Jessie would redouble her efforts and break 5:00 for the first time just weeks later at Eagleman and then follow this up with late season success in Colorado and Arizona against some strong fields. 2008 will be a break-through year for Jessie. Ray would also receive redemption at Eagleman and PR the NYC marathon by 20 minutes. Gerry would include electrolytes in his race day arsenal and never cramp again. He'd also win almost every AG race he entered after that. He and his wife Laura have not aged in the 20+ years I have known them...seriously spooky.

The aforementioned crew, along with Jessie's Dad Armand and Danielle's parents Dan and Jan all went to Shula's steak house for a victory celebration (sans Ray, the organizer of the whole Raycation, who was curled in the fetal position, burning with fever, sucking his thumb). Geoff and Dan started the flow with a couple Magnums of Banfi and before we knew it, I had to make a withdrawal from the 401K for my part of the dinner bill. As we settled back into our condo, Geoff ordered room service and several more bottles of red. Fortunately, before passing out, I helped a couple of the crew box their bikes after seeing Don and Geoff standing on one of the boxes like the gorilla from the old Samsonite commercials. Fortunately, I had prepared my small napsack and laptop bag and had slept completely dressed with shoes on as a corpse does, in a casket, with hands crossed against my chest...on the floor. Somehow, my internal clock woke be 10 minutes before the shuttle was to pick me up and return me (more like pour me) to Orlando International Airport.

My one recollection from the ride to the airport was listening to a gentleman who had finished the race in a little over 8:00 hrs. It seems he and his coach were confident that you simply had to double the time to complete Disney and add an hour to figure out his projected time in Lake Placid 2 months from then. I wonder how close that estimate was.

Till next time, cheers.

Welcome and Thanks T.

This being my first entry to the blog, I figure it's a good idea to let people know where and why I'm beginning. First, I have been very fortunate over the years to make connections in the endurance sports world with class people like Bob Cook from the Runner's Edge and Jose' "the commish" Lopez of Long Island Tricoach, as well as, countless others that have come into and recommended others to come into my store, Babylon Bike Shop. It's through my association with these guys and a few others, that I've met and in many cases, become friends with, some of the most important people in my life.

I'm now in my sixth year coaching triathletes and cyclists for events ranging from TNT events to the Ironman World Championship in Kona. I've been fortunate enough to learn from each and every one of them. What I hope to do through this outlet is to share some of what I am learning as I am learning it. I hope also to share some of the (hopefully) interesting stuff that occurs along the way. I'll use this forum to ramble on about pretty much anything. I'll try to keep it entertaining and try not to drone on too much about training with power on the bike, but it is sure to come up from time to time.

Some of the characters I train with on a regular basis like brother Matt, George, Danielle, Luis, Skip, Jimbo in Boulder and Randy will be referred to by their names. People that are not actually innocent, but whose names I haven't asked permission to write about like Dennis from the Kreb Cycle shall be referred to by aliases. Dennis, for example, will be referred to as "Skip's significant other". I'll also include anything that might seem humorous or interesting to me that I encounter while working with many of Long Island's fittest (and funniest) people.

I couldn't write a first entry without thanking T (alias) for this idea and for his continuous stream of thought provoking suggestions. Thanks, buddy. Cheers.