Friday, February 26, 2010

Computrainer Time Trial, March 6

We got a huge snow storm yesterday and I still got to log four hours on my bike. Yeah, I am a bit psycho because I did it all indoors, but I am very lucky with the equipment that I have to train on. I've had a Computrainer since 1997, and riding the courses on it is as close to riding the road as you will ever get.

After my ride I went onto Computrainer's web site for some info and coincidentally found that there is a time trial on March 6 for anyone anywhere to do, as long as it was on the Computrainer. Count me in! The FB40 is a 40 km TT, and I downloaded and rode the course today. Wow, it is not flat, with almost 1900 feet of climbing. The one "unroadlike" characteristic of the Computrainer is that if you decided to coast down a hill you will eventually slow down and stop. No rest for the weary! So this course looks to be a killer.

In the week leading up to this TT I will be doing my SST intervals on the course in an attempt to get faster on it. If nothing else, it will be good training for something else. Stay tuned for more of my impressions about this event, and check it out on FaceBook!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Opportunity and Preparedness

Since hearing the saying "Luck is the combination of preparedness and opportunity" I've recognized it many times, especially in the athletic world. When I sometimes hear fellow athletes wistfully wish they had the talent that some other "lucky" person has exhibited I have a hard time keeping my opinion to myself. Talent is one thing, but training that talent is another. Training it specifically is even more important, and recognizing and then making use of an opportunity can mean the difference between winning and having a so-so race.

Specificity was demonstrated in the men's cross country skiing 30 km pursuit on Saturday. The race is a mass start, with the first 15 km skied in the classic technique. At the halfway point the racers each ski into their own corral, where their skate skis await them for the second 15 km -- this time in freestyle. This transition area is similar to triathlon, and speed here is essential.

Several skiers entered the transition area at the same time, but Sweden's Johan Olsson changed into his skate skis so quickly that he was 2.5 seconds ahead of the pack in a heart beat. So he started to ski for the gold, all by himself, with 15 km to the finish line! Meanwhile, the pack gambled that he would tire out and they would reel him in. Enter Olsson's teammate Marcus Hellner. He went to the front of the pack and effectively slowed their pursuit. It was beautiful to watch, and Olsson's lead grew. Eventually, the chase began and Hellner was able to stick with the chase. He was one of a group of three that caught Olsson with only 1 km to go. Once caught, Olsson stayed with the trio and it was a hard charge to the finish line. Marcus Hellner's reward for his teamwork? A gold medal! An exhausted Olsson held on for the bronze, outkicking the Russian skier Alexander Legkov, who had started the chase with 5 km to go. Sweden had won 2 medals, and it was an amazing thing to watch. It almost made me want to come out of xc ski racing retirement!

Much of the preparedness is obvious -- physical and mental training and good ski technicians come to mind. However, the specificity of the ski change cannot be overlooked. Olsson nailed it, and with that the opportunity presented itself, and he went with it. Opportunity abounded for Hellner as well, who now was defending his teammate and in doing so he earned the gold medal for himself. Amazing!

Bottom line? Don't overlook the "small" skills when training, and keep the mind open to the opportunites that will always present themselves.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Working with New Cyclists

Last night was the first in my series of one on one coaching sessions with new cyclists who have signed up for this year's Ride for Missing Children. I have been donating this service since 2003, when I started coaching professionally, and "The Ride" and my program have evolved along the way. The Ride for Missing Children is a benefit for the Center for Missing and Exploited Children as well as a day which honors those children and their families. The Ride is a bit over 100 miles, and riders stop at schools along the way to impress safety to the children.

This is not just any bike ride, though. There are approximately 400 riders in this event, and the entire group rides in a rolling enclosure provided by several branches of local law enforcement. The average pace within this rolling enclosure is 14 mph, so it is vital that the participants in this ride become experienced enough with their equipment to ride in a double pace line and to become fit enough to ride at this average pace. There are many practice rides along the way toward the actual day, the third Friday in May.

The community where I live is fairly small, so events like this can become big in no time. Word gets out and everyone wants to be in on the action. It only takes one viewing of a parade of cyclists, lined up two by two for two miles, to spur the watcher into considering doing this event in the future. So each year our community gains many more folks dedicated to keeping children safe who just happen to become cyclists at the same time.

So for the next ten Wednesdays I get to work with those new to The Ride and new to cycling at Dick Sonne's Cycling, Fitness and Skis. Whether they bring in an old bike or purchase a new one, new riders all get a bike fitting. During the process the athlete and I talk cycling, and it is wonderful to share my sport with such new and enthusiastic folks. While on a stationary trainer we work on clipless pedal entry and exit, and talk about shifting and descending. Athletes ask questions, I answer as best I can. The goal is to instill enough knowledge so that those first rides on the road will be safer and more enjoyable, and so that by the day of The Ride each rider will be skilled enough to be able to fully appreciate the emotional roller coaster that remembering missing children truly is.

The hour goes by all too quickly and I am on to my next new rider, but not before giving one last hug and wishing the best of luck. I've made a new friend and the community and the Ride for Missing Children have a new cyclist. Win, win, I would say!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Olympic Effect

Despite the fact that I tell my athletes to go to bed early so that they can rest up and recover for the next day's workout I have, of late, been breaking that vital rule myself. Yeah, it is the television that is drawing me in, and it is the Olympic events that are on my tube. Is it the athletics, the sportsmanship or the drama? All of the above can be blamed. However, I like to think that there is more.

As a coach and an athlete I strive to explore the connection that the brain has in actual performance. I spoke yesterday of quieting the whining part of the brain in order to embrace and complete good training. Watching Olympic competition brings to mind another brain function that is fascinating to me and is what drives so many of the athletes I know -- the ability to be perfectly in the moment while competing. While watching on my little screen (no large screen half inch thick TV's in my house) it is amazing to see the athletes who are magically transfixed into their moment. It is also hard to watch those who have suddenly been reduced to a thinking being, trying to right the wrongs that are plaguing their Olympic dream.

I've been in both places, the latter more than the former. However, having that in-the-moment race can and does happen, and when it does it has an amazing feel, no matter what the final finish says on the results sheet. It is my meditation. That magical flow is what I enter the next race for, and then the one after that. I like to say it is my gambling, not so much whether I win the race or not, but whether I had my best-feeling race ever. It is nice, though, when the two things happen simultaneously, and more-likely that the winning will come when the mind is quiet.

So I will continue to cheat on my sleep a bit here and there so that I can witness for myself the incredible focus that can be achieved by the human mind. But only a little, I have a huge week of training ahead of me to recover from too. I might just have to focus on the events that end before 10:30 :)

Monday, February 15, 2010 indoors

Now that I am back from Tennessee I am really glad that I have decided on my big goal for the year. The snow followed me back, and now that there is enough here for Phil to snowmobile on there is also enough to keep me from riding my bicycle on the roads. I am intent on getting in the proper training, though, so that means indoor cycling. I have a Computrainer and rollers at my disposal, so my indoor training needs are certainly covered. And that is the case with most competitive cyclists living in these parts. However, to make indoor training truly successful, there is another piece of "equipment" that is harder to come by.

This missing link is nothing that can be borrowed, purchased or even stolen. Instead, it is a commodity that is present only between the athlete's ears. The committed brain. That's right, it is the willpower to really embrace indoor training. My brain has given me a lot of trouble over the years while training indoors, doing things like suddenly making my feet unclick from the pedals and forcing my body to get off the bike. Pretty wishy-washy, I must say. I've been reduced to standing next to the bike -- or walking away from it -- and the training clock has effectively stopped. This brain attack can happen for any number of reasons, from imagined equipment issues to thinking about all the other things that I am "supposed" to be doing.

A recent bolt of insight made me realize that the only thing that these brain attacks were doing was wasting time -- the very time that I really needed to do all the other things in my life. If a three hour trainer ride was really taking me four, well, that was not helping my time-crunched life out at all. This weekend I mounted my indoor trainer in a different frame of mind. I rode my bike, got off only a couple of times, and had more fun in the process. I worked harder at keeping my averages up, I got in the right amount of training in much less time, and I was super happy when I got done. The "time saved" on Saturday was spent on the couch resting my worn out legs, and on Sunday I spent the time having a great Indian dinner with Phil in the Village of Clinton. Now, if I could only do that with money...

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Newton's Revenge -- yikes!

As a coach and a competitive athlete I know that having a big goal event to train for can make the difference between stale training sessions and pushing one's self hard. In the snowy north -- or just about anywhere in the country this winter! -- the thought of lots of time on the stationary trainer can be less than motivating. The future goal can become an antidote for lethargy.

Keeping in mind that goals should be both a challenge and achievable, I open up my brain every spring in an effort to find something that will fit that bill. I love doing National Championships in road and cross, so any other events cannot interfere with these sacred dates. The date change for Master Road Nationals this summer, though, enabled me to look outside the box. July was now wide open!

Enter my sponsor Hammer Nutrition. As a member of Team Hammer Nutrition I am eligible to apply for any of the comped entries that Hammer receives in exchange for their generous sponsorship of these events. These entries are advertised on our member forum, and the events are all over the US and in a variety of endurance disciplines. I read them with interest and then hope that one day an event that I can race in will be offered.

That day happened three weeks ago when the call went out to anyone interested in racing Newton's Revenge. What is Newton's Revenge? It is the July bike race that climbs up Mt. Washington! I have always wanted -- maybe fantasized is a better word -- to ride up this legendary climb, but other things always got in the way. Economics, for one thing, and a conflict in dates for another. Never mind my perceived power to weight ratio problems. But with the first two items somewhat taken care of I figured that the power to weight ratio would give me and my coach Mark Fasczewski something to really work on.

So my entry is now official and training has begun. You can find me in my basement on my Computrainer for the time being, and when this snow ever melts out on the road doing LONG SST work. Keep posted for my progress!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Fun in Chattanooga

I just got back home after spending two weeks in Chattanooga, TN. My good friends Kym and Mark Fasczewski (Mark is my coach too!) invite me every winter to spend some time with them training and cyclocross racing. It is always great to extend my cyclocross season, and wonderful to spend time riding on the road in January. However, Mother Nature has been rather vicious in the southeast this winter, dishing out snow for the cyclocross races and subfreezing temps for many of our road rides. I was even treated to three trainer rides, due to inclement weather. Oh, my! But misery loves company, and many of my friends in the Chattanooga area made it a point to join me on my rides there.

In addition to training I was privileged to work as a coach at the SCV (Scenic City Velo) winter training camp. SCV funded this weekend-long developmental training camp for their Cat 4 women and Cat 4 & 5 men, and Mark and Kym, as well as SCV president Steve Strain, put on a stellar show. Despite the cold temps and the intermittent flurries we rode outside on both Saturday morning and afternoon teaching a slew of racing skills. The camp was held in Sewanee, TN, at the top of a mountain, and the snow flurries and below freezing temps on Saturday night forced us onto trainers while Mark lectured and answered a myriad of questions regarding racing fitness and tactics. What a super way for a club to develop its racing team. Way to go SCV! Thank you Mark, Kym, and Steve for giving me the opportunity to work in your very finely oiled machine.