Thursday, December 31, 2009

I set the alarm to meet the Lion and T-Fed for a pre-snow ride this morning out of Holtsville.
The forecast on was for a small probability of light snow flurries up until 9:00 am and then an increasing chance as the morning progressed. I figured that once we got going, by the time the flurries started, we'd be already on our way south, having ridden through the nut-punch hills of the Lion's Flanders route, making for an epic ride back home.

Shortly after rolling out of the driveway the first flurries began... no problem... the weatherman promised it would be okay.
Warmth wasn't really a problem as the pace picks up after the requisite 30 second warm-up the ride leader graciously bestows.
Almost immediately, the snow picked up in intensity and our exposed faces became very cold. I know I was not alone, as I could tell from the ventriloquist sounding gibberish T-Fed was mumbling "What do you guys think?". What we 'thinking' (if you can call it that) was this is really stupid, but if they aren't turning around, neither am I... I am no wuss. What we said was something to the effect of the weatherman said it won't amount to anything and let's just keep riding... not a great idea.

Fortunately, heaven intervened and I smashed into a snow-filled pothole and the bottle of water I was taking for a ride flew out of its perch and caromed down the asphalt. Coming to a complete stop some thousand yards down the road, I gingerly made a "u-ey" and went back to retrieve it. By the time I made it back to my mates, they were still hunched over their bars... a clear sign they'd started to come to their senses. As anyone that has ever dropped a bottle knows, people slow down (sorta) while you go back to get it, or if you're lucky, opt to take a nature break, but they are always riding when you get back to your turnaround spot. These dudes were just standing there... a very good sign.

"What's up you punks, calling it quits you poofs?", I say. "What, you still wanna ride?" one of 'em says.
Perfectly executed turntable... ball back in my court... time to hitch up my skirt... I cave "We should go back or one of us is going to get killed". The six miles we'd ridden were terrible, far worse than 23c tires were using were designed to ride upon.
It took nearly twice as long riding home.

The ride home from Holtsville in the car was equally terrifying, as 4WD vehicle after 4WD vehicle raced on icy roads all the six miles back to Sayville. By the time I reached the intersection of 97 & 27A, I had seen 3 accidents (all including SUV's... stupid user vehicles?) Even though the ride was 45', it counts as my 4th outdoor ride since Thanksgiving... I am a trainer rat... and from's 10-day forecast, it will be another 10 days before I get another. Happy New Year.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Bread, Butter and Horseshit

The beauty of training triathletes is that, for the most part, they are open to new ideas. Because of triathlon's relatively short life (~25 yrs.), there does not exist nearly as much history with regard to 'what they did for training back in the day'. Triathletes also expect, and rightly so, that their coaches be 'up' on the knowledge science has to contribute to expediting improvement in fitness in general, as well as, race performance specifically.

I mention this because there exists within cycling a preponderance of 'old school' coaches and athletes that listen to these coaches that still believe that 'the old ways are the best ways'. They and their athletes lift lots of legs weight, ride restricted gears at an arbitrarily low effort, or even on a fixed gears in the winter, do isolated leg exercises, cadence drills, and generally lose cycling fitness. Not only do they believe these methods make them faster come Summer, but they think they help avoid 'burnout'.

These athletes (you see them as 90% of the people on local World Championship group rides)are the ones who are kinda fast, but never get any faster year over year and almost never get any race results. THEY are the ones that burn out mid-Summer from starting to race in the early Spring without ample aerobic fitness to support the demands of racing. These folks usually are quite vocal towards the 10% of the people using training methods which science has given birth to and the best cyclists in the world are using about how they've got it all wrong. These folks need only look at ANY cycling publication which depicts these athletes training and in many, many cases racing with portable power measuring devices on their bikes.
These dinosaurs should realize that they are the ones that need a 'paradigm shift'.

Like dinosaurs, nature, through the 'crucible of competition' will select them out over time as they get injured doing heavy squats, powercranking and other horseshit, as well as burn out mentally due to a discouraging lack of fitness relative to those doing the 'bread & butter' endurance training necessary to see continual gains season over season.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Top 10 Things I Will Be Prescribing To Cyclists This Winter

The Careful attention to diet to maintain/decrease non-lean body mass
The determination of FTP
The determination power at VO2max
The determination of AWC
The determination of neuromuscular power
The establishment of a power 'profile'
Skill work in the form of riding pacelines, cornering, echelon, sprinting, touching wheels, bumping
Small doses of structured volume at VO2max every 7-10 days, to maintain VO2max
Sprints each week from a slow roll 'all out' to maintain neuromuscular power
A large volume of training L3/low L4 (SST) to create our desired "Base" (as opposed to LSD)
A large volume of L4/Threshold training during 'base' to increase threshold power

I didn't number them because there are several different orders in which we could arrange them in sequence of importance.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Top 10 Things I Won't Be Prescribing To Cyclists This Winter

In reverse order, of course...

10. More than 10 days completely OFF the bike in a row
9. Spin Classes
8. LSD miles
7. High Cadence Drills
6. Low Cadence Drills
5. One legged drills
4. "Muscular Endurance" Intervals (what the hell does this even mean?)
3. Power Cranking
2. Rotor Cranking
1. Weight training for their legs

next... the things I will be prescribing.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Lion of Holtsville

I've been putting in a considerable amount of time riding several new routes with a friend that lives surprisingly close to be showing me some new roads. The loops all have names like Flandria, Amstel and Flanders and have slight variations depending on what the day's training calls for. We'll talk about our goals for the week each of us has and then construct the week's schedule accordingly.

This arrangement has been mutually beneficial. When the weather was abysmal this Spring, knowing the other was meeting us ensured we'd get out... this is really more of a benefit for me because he will ride in any weather and never complain... a real Flahute. Essentially, we agree on training philosophy. Cycling is an aerobic sport and most time should be spent focused on improving threshold and VO2 max. We differ ever so slightly on the best ways to do this, but it is more a matter of tomato vs. tomAto. We also differ with regard to the amount of recovery needed for our rides. He's about 15% stronger than me and despite doing the lion's share on most rides, he often finds my solid L3/borderline L4 ride barely scratches the top of L2 for him.

For guys like him, having another rider that's capable of training with is encouraging. The fact that he enjoys talking about the nuts and bolts of training is also a plus I bring to the table. For me, the quality and volume of training I get is something I simply cannot accomplish solo.

For example, last Sunday we did the Flandria loop with a small group, in a steady rain. The 54 mile route starts into the wind for about an hour where we all trade hard pulls, before heading into a sequence of successive hills on the north shore that range from steep little power climbs to grinders. The idea is to keep it together for the most part, but there are 'green light' sections where riders can ride as hard as they can/want with the knowledge that we'll regroup at a designated spot afterwards.

For those versed in training with power, we finished this loop in 2:44 and I had held an average power of 236W with a norm power of 274W. Yesterday, we rode the Flanders loop... a 43 mile journey north through punchy hills that took a mere 1:58.
The numbers, 222W with norm 256W don't really tell the whole story for me. I drafted 100% of the ride... didn't pull a single second... felt great, power was coming easily, but on his wheel, I was forced to hold a normallized power equivalent to my functional threshold for 40' continuously smack in the center of the ride.

As important as the hard days I train with him are the days I ride without him. As I stated above, while he's riding L1, I am solid L2... not the best scenario for recovery for me. Perhaps, this is why we differ on recovery philosophy. I am a fan of active recovery at times, but also of passive recovery as well... he rarely takes a day off... I take 1-3 per week. On my days without him, I get to go longer and easier, or just sit behind my computer, recovering.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Hated One

Recently, while accompanying a rather talented athlete during yet another difficult training session I'd prescribed for her, I was informed that she 'hated me'. Now, after having finished the difficult session and having come to her senses, she did 'take it back'. Actually, I believe she appreciates the rather huge increase in fitness she's witnessed recently.

After almost 8 years I've been coaching endurance athletes, I still favor the approach of 'raising the left to drag the right' up with it. Granted, training over on the left is less comfortable, and it requires a great deal of attention to stress and recovery, but it provides with it a constant reference as to fitness and adaptation. It's pretty easy to heap tons of 'crap miles' onto an athlete. Athletes can swim, bike and run "L2" for months straight every day... toss in some high L3 through L5 and you immediately know A) how fit they are and B) how tired they are. I also find it so much easier to plan peaks for important races for the very same reasons. If all you ever do is train long and slow you get good at going long and slow.

So, to those that call me 'coach'... hate away.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Is Your Addiction Slowing You Down?

I know mine does at times. I am completely addicted to the sensations I still feel when I'm riding my bike...even when I am not getting the best output from my body.If it were only a matter of whether I wanted to ride because I love the feeling of speed and of being connected to this machine, flying across the ground propelled only by my legs, I would ride every day.

Forget the physical...while riding, even with others. the entire world is polarized into how hard I am going and the 50 yards hurdling toward me...I forget everything I have to do for my business, for my athletes and even my family...this is the only time that is truly mine. Some may say, 'what about when you sleep'? Even then, when considering a big decision at work or for an athlete's program, I wake up thinking about what was on my mind when I fell asleep. My therapist's couch is a Fi'zi:k Arione saddle.

From the post title, it's clear that this isn't always a good thing. Forget about needing to escape reality and bury my head in the sand instead of facing my responsibilities for those additional couple hours a day...I'm talking about the fact that much of the mileage I and other addicts pile on isn't really adding to our fitness and in many cases (depending on if you look at the definition of fitness as I do) is detrimental to it.

With the addition of a power meter to my cycling training many years ago now, I introduced a tool that would allow me to calibrate what my body was feeling and a little watch dog that would allow me to know how much and how hard for how long I needed to get the best legs on race day and keep me from doing more. I have employed the same strategy for the athletes that I look after, whether it be cyclists, runners or triathletes. There's an expression tossed around the endurance word 'more is more...until it isn't'.

So much of my time as a coach (especially lately with the addition of some of the fastest, some would say most 'successful' athletes I have ever coached) is spent convincing athletes to NOT train! What I try to impart to them and to keep in mind for myself is that an athlete that is under-rested can see fitness go only two ways...they can get a handle on it by recovering, by resisting the addiction to do more, and to grow fitter and faster OR wait too long to accept the signs of long term residual fatigue, of legs that lack any 'snap', and spiral into a state of exhaustion that can only be reversed by an extended period of time off.

In short, if you're training 'a lot' and you feel like you're training 'hard' and you aren't getting faster...or worse, then maybe you need to admit you have a problem. That is, after all, step one.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

1000 Miles

We just arrived from our research trip in Tucson, Arizona on the red eye Sunday morning. I seem to remember being able to bounce back from such things better a few (like 15) years ago. As exhausting as the trip was, this two and a half day recon mission was a critical piece of making the March training camp there absolutely perfect for all involved.

Having been introduced by Jimbo to former resident, Virgin Blue Pro Cyclist Phil Zajicek, we had the very best resource possible for everything in Tucson, from the best rides to the best restaurants and even the best bike shop to ship our bikes to to be assembled before our arrival. Armed with our itinerary and 50 hours, T and I stood in Phoenix airport as we set the Garmin for the monster house we would be staying in for the week.

One of the best parts of our camps is the 'big MTV-style' house we stay in. Athletes stay in palatial accomodations with a huge common area and/or media room in which they can chill and pass the non-training time bonding with each other, sharing their own experiences. The whole vibe is pretty amazing, really. Which brings me back to our first stop. When we threw down the dough for our Tucson chateau, we did so based on the realtors website showing stunning views and 7500 sq. ft. of exceedingly opulent living.

The Garmin indicated we we arriving at 5241 yata yata street in 400 ft....200 ft....and 'you have arrived!'. Silence engulfed the SUV as T and I sat adjacent to the driveway of clearly the nicest house on the block. As a matter of fact, it was the only place that didn't have a pile of shit like screen doors, disabled cars or couches on the lawn...this was SO bad. "Ummmm, I had better call the realtor" was how T chose to break the silence. No answer when he called to politely say "we are sitting outside the house and it looks different than the one we saw on the web"...massive understatement. It seemed to me that we could have purchsed the house we sat before for what we paid to rent it. Checking the contact again, we realized that we'd not entered the correct address...we'd input the realtors home address. Of course, T would replay his message in his head to see if he'd been too derogatory regarding her home...I assured him we were cool on the way over to the palace in the hills that truly delivered as promised.

Among the the goals for the trip was to interview pro soigneur and wife of uber rider/retired pro Gord, Caryn Fraser. We set up our bike delivery and assembly/disassembly with Ralph at Fair View Cyclces, home of 'The Shootout' of the fastest, most famous group rides anywhere. We met with Phil's dad for some additional perspective on making the most of our camp there.

We were able to arrange for private swim coaching at an outdoor pool high in the foothills of the Catalina Mtns.. We went to the run loops we'd be using for the camp and either drove or ran them. As T out it after running through one canyon, it was the most beautiful place he had ever run in his life. We checked off the box next to fantastic run destinations. The rides were clearly the most challenging logistically, not only in terms of planning for the trip, but for the recon as well. When we returned the car to Avis, we had driven 1000+ miles seeking out all the fantastic rides in and around Tucson...Saguaro National Monument, Colossal Cave, A mountain, Madera Canyon, Gates Pass and of course, Mt. one other little surprise 'show-stopper' that Phil suggested...let's just say that this 13+ mile climb at 8% is the most unbelievable climb T or I have ever none.

We poured our exhausted carcasses into the red eye back to NY with a sense of having finalized every detail necessary to make our first camp in Tucson as memorably perfect as our Colorado camps. As an aside, we've got Jeff working on the website after having our graphic designer come up with logos and 'treatments' for the content. Game On.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Pushing and Pulling

I have had most success in approaching endurance training by pushing fitness up from below until I can no longer push it up anymore, before pulling it up the last bit from there. There are far more pronouns than my English teacher Mrs. Gerek would ever permit, so I'll be more clear.

I believe in first pushing threshold power and pace to higher levels by first beginning below threshold until gains at threshold cease. I have found that as an athlete approaches about 90% of VO2 max, threshold ceases to rise. I then raise the ceiling, or VO2 max in the given sport by pushing output at VO2 max up from just below VO2 max. It's what I typically witness while raising the ceiling that has convinced me to push whenever possible and only pull as the races close in. As VO2 max power or pace rises during a VO2 focused push, threshold ether stays put or, goes up slightly. If I start to pull up on VO2 by either focusing on AWC or simply by racing a lot & continuing to train hard mid-week, fitness soars after 4-6 weeks, reaches a crescendo, and if I then switch to a schedule in which the athlete essentially races, rests and opens before the next race, this can go on for a few to several weeks (3-6...depending primarily on 'base' fitness and years training, yata, yata), but then threshold drops and then so does VO2 max. Only by pulling too long or hard on an individual in an attempt to tweak 'em that last 1% have I realized the signs of pulling too hard.

Those familiar with endurance training will recognize the former situation as peaking. Those who have left their best legs out on the track or on the road training will recognize the latter.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Addition by Subtraction

There's an expression that goes 'you never know what you've got 'til it's gone'. The understanding being that you don't appreciate how good a situation is until it isn't 'is' anymore, but 'was'. Sometimes the opposite is true, though. A related corollary should read 'you never know how bad what you have is until you don't have it anymore'.

We've all had a friend in bad situation that continued to make bad decision after bad decision in hopes of correcting for a prior bad decision, instead of going back to square one and changing the original mistake. Usually, the friend is in a bad relationship and cannot bring himself to sever ties or perhaps, is in a bad work situation and lacks the self confidence to 'make a move'.

Often, the unsuspecting friend does not realize their situation exists and if they do, are paralyzed when faced with the thought of changing it.

On a lesser level, I see it in athletes' training programs and/or race execution. One such example is when I hear a cyclist talking about why he missed the race winning break after attacking futilely for the first three quarters of the race. For triathletes, the most common error when looking back at a poor race performance, where their run was far below the level of their current run ability, is to redouble their efforts in run training...more 'speedwork', more miles.

The cyclist above changes his training thinking that he's missing the late move because he just can't go hard enough for 10' that it takes to establish the break, so trains far above threshold intensity too long and too often, leading to stagnation and fatigue and even more poor race performances. The triathlete ignores the importance of her swim and/or bike training to focus on the run which let her down and then expects to swim X minutes and bike at Y watts, so is ready to quit the sport when she still can't run well after thrashing herself trying to do the unrealistic during the time before T2.

The cyclist needs to subtract time spent launching ill fated solo attacks early in the race when everyone feels good and ready to an old teacher told me 'you can only truly attack twice in a race...and when you do, you must create 30 seconds separation almost immediately'.

For the triathlete, she needs to eliminate the idea that her run is the problem. She needs to assess where her fitness lies in all three sports and then consider what she is expecting to do in the race in each as it relates to that fitness. Certainly, she cannot expect to hold 80% of threshold for 112 miles and stand any chance of running a marathon within 20' of her stand alone time.

In an effort to practice what I preach, I've done a personal inventory, considering work situations that needed to be eliminated and training and racing mistakes that when subtracted will lead to an addition in the quality of my time.