Month: August 2015

Why Do You Ride – Avoid and Overcome 'Post-Event-Burnout'

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As big races come and go we will realize one day that we no longer HAVE to wake up early to ride and gaining a few pounds won’t matter because we don’t have plans to climb massive hills anymore. It is easy to go back to ‘normal life’ and forget about ‘training’ and for some athletes this is fine. Their goal was not to be a cyclist, or get healthy, or find adventure. For some athletes the goal was to simply complete ‘x’ race–they move on to another chapter of life post-marathon, post-Ironman, post MTB-Stage race.

Today my thought is more to those athletes WHO DID WANT TO BE HEALTHY. Too often the ‘TRAINING’ process and pressure around a race ends up sending athletes down a less then healthy path. Bad habits are formed and resuming riding, following healthy nutrition and lifestyle  is difficult.

Understanding why you ride is important. Social, personal improvement, health, excitement, exploration are all common reasons that should be kept central irregardless of whether you are training for a big event or ‘just riding’. Too often we loose focus on why we ride and, consequently we loose the fun.

So how do you avoid post-event retirement?

1) Plan for life-long adventures. Be excited for your big event(s) each year but also be excited to go ride your local trails, join in the weekly races, do a big loop near your home. Let your focus ebb and flow with the close-ness of your race but arrange your rides so that you are able to keep in good shape just by riding and putting in a bit of effort each week. Finding a mix of groups/friends to ride with so that you are challenged but also made to feel competent weekly.

2) Ensure your build up to your big event(s) are filled with friends, fun and adventure. Any workout can include friends in at least the warmup, cooldown, post-ride coffee and many workouts can include friends in much of the workout. Hill intervals can be done on small loops where no one gets dropped and longer flat tempo is a great time to let a friend sit on and keep you company. Meeting friends after the main set to ride is one of my favorite ways to motivate me to get my intervals done on-time and get a big long ride in with help from friends for motivation while tired.

3) Take time off from structured training, make sure you are healthy first BUT strive to keep routine and healthy lifestyle as a central tenant in your life. While some post race festivities are great, rarely is their cause for the party to extend beyond the night after the race.

Feel free to repy with Questions or ideas !  Or comment on facebook!

3 Common Mountain Bike Mistakes That Steal Your Speed

3 Places I see clients loosing ‘free’ speed are found below.

Too often I get to see clients too late. At the race site in the days before the race is a tough time to make change in your trained movements (good or bad).

Our skills are very much connected to our end performance but it is ‘easy’ to over-look how much a daily focus on skills can change our performance, enjoyment and safety on bike.

These are 3 of the most common areas I see clients loosing speed and efficiency on trail.

peter vertical on hardwood rock by ivan rupes

A crazy photo but demonstrating that as the hill gets steeper we need to shift forward to stay upright and powerful

1) Hills are Hard

              -> Does Client understand (and use) shifting to optimize cadence and carry speed?

              -> Standing up balanced and powerfully ? (need to do this in training to do it in races)

              ->  shift forward on the saddle. Often riders will have seat slammed back and sit on back of saddle. As hill gets steeper shift your butt forward to stay upright – train to avoid ‘boobs to the bar’

2) Frequent Flats, Wheels busted, trouble in bumpy-tech sections

              -> Work on front wheel/ rear wheel lift (related videos) – Start today w. a stick on ground and on curbs

              -> Work on pump track / not pedaling in sections that have whoops and berms to practice generating speed without pedaling *in practice … keep pedaling in races!

              -> Ensure maintain centered position on bike (attack position) when ‘pumping’ terrain and on downhills (rarely need to be BEHIND saddle)

              -> How to fix flats and setup Tubeless 

3) Stopping pedaling when terrain flattens

               -> Most people loose time at the top of climbs where we can still pedal but the terrain does not ‘force’ us to. Power drops, speed stays SLOW. We need ‘spin out the gear’ to get back up to speed.

               -> use those ‘spinups’ and high-cadence drills from the trainer and road to motivate your MTB performance. Get back up to speed at top of climbs before taking rest

               -> use downhills to recover and pedal hard when you can pedal. Practice this on road and mtb by keeping steady power on ups, downs and flats

Feel free to reply with Questions or ideas !  Or comment on facebook!


How to Describe Intensity


Today my goal was to discuss a few common stumbling blocks that coaches and athletes hit and suggest some possible ways to avoid.

How to Describe Intensity

1) Using ‘Race Pace’ as an intensity level .

Referring to race pace is most common in running where we can suggest that a run be done at a certain pace (e.g. 10km pace). It becomes more vague to suggest an athlete do a ‘race pace’ effort if their race is more variable (i.e. MTB or Cross). There are higher and lower intensity periods in both race types. It is perhaps better to use a HR or Wattage or RPE metric to explain whether the effort should be a steady/longer interval or a harder/short term explosive interval. The difference between a 2 x 20min interval set and a 5 x 2 interval set is fairly significant and the feelings associated with both in training are not that dissimilar from a race while executing the set.

karlee sprinting - climbing 2014

Practicing Climbing, sprinting and accelerating will have you ready to do so in races during the critical moments

2) Max effort, Maximal, Max out, All Out … Any reference to ‘max’

I use Max efforts fairly often in my prescription (and my own training) but as a coach I try to do some work upfront to explain that max does not mean DNF. So if we are doing 5 x 2min hill intervals then 3 x 2 min and then crying and riding home is not what is being suggested by Max. I am resistant to avoiding the use of max because I think learning to ride at ‘max sustainable’ pace is important to success in racing. Learning to ride our limits and build/maintain pace at different duration is important. Best results are found by not rushing into workouts that say ‘max’ and building pace through each individual interval and also as you appoach the end of the set. Empty the tank on the last few intervals and rarely will you be disappointed in the results.


Short or Long – There will be moments in any race where you have to go ‘max’ but it is always relevant to the duration of the effort

3) Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) and Feeling.

Feeling is important to develop. I find the various RPE scales frustrating as an athlete and coach. I have gone from using 6-20 scales to 1-10 scales and then refined what the 1-10 scale meant as I learnt more about it. Establishing some qualitative metric of the work you do can be helpful in tracking improvement and fatigue. Having a scale can also help you understand pacing and this whole topic of intensity and zoning.

Using the 5 x 2 min interval set again, the first 2 might be done at a 8-9/10 effort and then the last 1-2 at 10/10 effort (RPE) but the distance covered and wattage might be very similar.

4) Critical Power (CP) and Threshold (FTP)

A final common way to prescribe work is relative to a test result. FTP and Critical power are most common and can be very useful. Do your 2 x 20min sets at CP30-60 and your 5 x 2min at Cp5 or Cp6. This can help reduce the vagueness of ‘race pace’ we talked about earlier, especially when combined with RPE, Heart Rate and a general understanding that not everyday should/will be a best day of wattage.

In closing I think the biggest breakthrough I have had in my thinking is to take whatever the interval set is we are doing and assume it is best sustainable pace. With few exceptions (i.e. tempo) this makes everything very simple. If we need to ride up a hill 5x today then we will do it the fastest we can without failing to do so, we do not need to cloud this by saying ‘faster than race pace’. Further, keeping an ongoing discussion of the goal of the workout, the week and the block of training helps athlete and coach stay on the same page.

Using Sick Days and Injured Days to Your Advantage

As I come off a couple days where I have been forced off bike and forced to modify my training plan I thought it was worth discussing how I deal with these days personally and how I have helped clients be ready to react to these inevitable changes to the plan.


One of the concepts that I try and instill in coaching clients is to use the training plan as a ROUGH PLAN. This is the direction we are heading, the rough progression of intervals/volume/workout types that will move us towards our goal but on any given day we might do less/more or completely different workouts. Embracing this concept helps us avoid over-training and also under-training and the frustration caused by both.


Once we have our working confines for the day then we need to be ready to focus on 1 or 2 key things and do a fantastic job practicing them. As an example if you decided to go with a classic 5 x 2 minute hill interval set then you might focus on maintaining a strong posture for the intervals and perhaps on pushing a little extra at the point our mind/body/legs want us to stop or back off to edge ourselves towards a bit more performance. On the flip side, if we decide that today is an off day due to injury/illness we might focus on doing several short sessions of meditation, mobility and/or getting a massage. We could do some work on our bike, we could do annoying phone admin work like hotel booking and insurance selection and focus on being ready for the next day. Selecting 1 or 2 ways we can achieve a daily goal and make progress, just like we do on our training days, makes these off days part of our journey towards our goal rather then a step away from it.



On training days and on off-days try to program and set goals around a recovery technique. Sleep, Mobility and Walking are two key ones I focus on. For sleep ensuring we fit in naps, especially if not getting >8 hours or not a ‘great’ sleeper. Bedroom should be quiet, pitch-black, cool and free of screens/electronic/lights. Try to include some meditation/mobility/quiet time before trying to sleep. Mobility is a broad term that can include stretching, yoga, gymnastics, calesthenics, walking, playing with your kids, gentle swimming, massage and several other kooky practices. Basically keep your body moving through the ranges of motion you were given before you decided to be an adult/athlete. A good, very broad, direction to start is to spend time daily squatting low, lunging to at least 90 degrees at both knees with upright torso and putting your arms over your head–you decide how/where you do it.  Finally walking is something I have done a ton of and I find the more I do the better everything else in my life goes. Walking serves to help open up tight hips, gets us out moving outside of our ‘workouts’ to get blood moving and add to our daily activity and also can serve as a quiet time, technology free time, family/relationship time. There is very little downside to adding walking to any person’s daily routine. For my business-people clients adding walking meetings and calls to their daily routine has been huge. Getting outside for walks on those days you are feeling tired, tight, sick can be a game changer–gentle movement and sun rarely does harm.



On these days you are off training this is a great place to start adjusting the rough, long-term plan again. Give yourself sufficient time to get back riding and be patient, usually 1-2 days more off/easy after we feel ready to go is wise so build these into the rough plan. Having this rough plan as an evolving map of where you are now and where you want to go will serve to keep you motivated and invested in the process.

peter and evan on beach oxnard 2014


Pacing For Endurance Mountain Bike Racing


Pacing for endurance events such as Leadville is a common stumbling block for many athletes. Getting it right can maximize the fitness that you have, while getting it wrong can lead to a result that doesn’t reflect your true abilities. I like to think about pacing for these events as if I am a car. This helps me understand where tactics like ‘filling up’ in the feed-zone, keeping the ‘gas pedal’ steady and being aerodynamic can help improve my speed and efficiency.
The first area to consider is your training. Your previous workouts should be building confidence in distances and durations similar to your goal event. For our car analogy this is all the driving we have done before to learn the intricacies of our car–How it responds in the mountains, how it sounds when it is working to hard, how far we can get on certain fuel. For an event like Leadville, I’ll often have clients ride long tempo intervals at 80 to 85 percent of max heart rate and/or the related power zones and/or at an 7/10 effort to get used to the pace that would ideally be used in the event. This intensity is key to know for places we could pedal harder–the flats and the downhills. Having workouts that let us practice riding ‘aero’, riding in packs, and descending quickly help us save energy to use in places we have to pedal.
Use Technique to Improve Pace
I find it comforting to remind clients (and myself) that we don’t have to pedal for the full race time. With thousands of feet of climbing we will also have thousands of feet of descending. One way to pace to a better time is to simply ride better technically down the hills, or having ideal aerodynamic position to improve “gas mileage.” Back to our analogy of the little car with limited gas mileage–we can save energy but gain time if we can be smooth on downhills, corners and flats to coast as much as possible to conserve gas, while maintaining or improving our goal pace.
While heart rate and power offer attractive and seemingly simple pacing guides, it is important to develop a feel for your sustainable pace. Again, this is something we should be learning in training, but generally in endurance events, avoiding sprinting or extended efforts that cause labored breathing in the first half to three-quarters of the race  will allow you to finish on pace, or hopefully with a negative split in the last miles of the event. Don’t forget: the first ten minutes of the race shouldn’t be your best ten minutes of the race, there is lots of clear road in the last 90 miles of most events!
Plan Your Times
Another tactic not used as frequently in cycling is split times. As an example, in Leadville, having a split for when you’ll get to the turn at Columbine, for example, getting there within 5.5 hours, will give you a good buffer to make a sub 12 hour time. Some people prefer many split times during the course but I find a few notable landmarks help to give us practical feedback. Some riders will combine physical splits with average speed–knowing the average speed needed to hit your goal finish time can provide a good motivator in the last quarter of the event.
musette bag issue at leadville
Plan Your Food
An often overlooked contributor to pacing is fueling. If we fail to fuel optimally, this will obviously affect our ability to sustain a pace, even if that pace was within our fitness capacity. Training with your fueling strategy and sticking to your fueling strategy (unless it’s obviously not working) is generally the best course of action. Typically, I see athletes using 250 kilocalories per hour and somewhere between 16-20 ounces of water. With events at altitude, the water consumption is often on the high end, so adding electrolytes is likely a wise decision.
Tough It Out
There are going to be very hard points in any race. Being able to stay positive and keep moving forward is essential. If you are over your ‘limits’ then it is worth assessing whether it will tactically put you ahead or end up leaving you low on gas in the last quarter of the race. When you’re beginning to breathe hard, feeling muscle tension, embrace it and consider what you’re going to do with that: are you going to make it up the steep hill, or make it to the back of the pack ahead of you. You have the ability to push harder then 85%, it is just a limited fuel and so must be saved for critical moments (I like to think about this like hitting the ‘NOS’ button in a Fast And the Furious Car–Don’t Hit it Too Soon!)
Keep a Bit in Reserve
When you’re planning your pacing strategy, don’t forget to account for a final push to the finish, especially at a race like Leadville. At Leadville, the most common mistake is not saving enough energy for the last part of the Power Line Climb after the steep wall and the infamous road climb around Turquoise Lake and surprisingly, the last four miles of false flat gravel.
Just like all of the other elements in our training prep, having a plan for pacing will help you avoid frustration or miscalculation during the race.
If you haven’t checked out my post about how to cut an hour off of your time at Leadville, you can find it here {LINK}.