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Putting Your Hands in the Fire – How to Race Faster

 

Often I catch myself talking to Coaching Clients about race results (or goal events) for extended periods, long calls or back-and-forth emails. It is tough not to since races are fun, exciting and ultimately why we train for months on end! It is fantastic to share so many of these post-race conversations with clients and to find out more about what went well and what we can improve on in our next block of training. But I (try to) constantly remind myself that the key to success lies in the day-to-day grind. We must not lose sight of our daily focus and next steps. We need to make sure that you prepare so well that race day is simply about pedaling and doing what you practiced.

There is no magic on race day, only the execution of what you have practiced in the day to day grind. If you are prepared to be in the fire, you will thrive.

Sport is about becoming good at being uncomfortable. In mountain biking, this is steering around trees while you are cross-eyed and breathing really hard. This high-intensity race pace is like a contest of keeping your hands in a fire. Some people will stay far away from the fire, some will go in too deep and get burned and some will find that optimal zone where they can be uncomfortable but hold on and, over time, get very good at staying in that fire and pushing their limits. This is a mental skill as much as it is a result of physical training. Our fitness will come and go but that ability to work hard and coordinate our cycling is definitely a skill trained over time. The catch is you have to be recovered, motivated. and focused enough to train ‘in the fire’.

Train Harder, Train  Easier

Train harder so you can be familiar with race intensity – Put your hand in the fire and practice holding it there – Recover until you can do it again

Athletes who are new to sport, or struggling to meet their goals, will generally be very good at starting and being near the front at the start of the race but also consequently end up falling back and ending up with poor results (Scenario A) or athletes will be poor starters who struggle to really push themselves into the ‘fire’ (Scenario B).

Scenario A – The Fast Starter 

The fast starters are often those who played team sports previously. They love intensity and competition, they had anything steady. They are usually well served to work on muscular endurance and spending MORE time at a hard effort and developing a feel for different levels of intensity so they can adjust workloads and pace as required for their event. These athletes often will not have the endurance rides or full sets of workouts. They will do 1 x 10-minute effort (maybe a ‘Strava segment’) or just a 3 x 10 that they did a really hard effort to start and then decided that was enough for the day (ie. this is the same as they race … hard start, failed rest of race).

 

The goal for these athletes is to FINISH a well-paced set of intervals. 2 x 20 or 3 x 10 min threshold workouts would be an example. Since these athletes will really not enjoy long efforts and long rides there will be a need for some group rides, some point-to-point rides, some use of endurance races or stage races to build a base. Intervals such as 30/30s may help build sustainable power with a more tolerable on/off rhythm.

 

Endurance is done 3-4x a week and around the intervals at 65-75%, watching for these athletes to dip under and over the range rather than riding steadily in the endurance range.

Scenario B – The Endurance Athlete

The other type of athlete is the ‘endurance athlete’ who rides a lot but struggles with the ‘defining moments’ in the race. The start, the accelerations, the attacks, the hills. You can finish the race, so more endurance is not the issue. I feel for these athletes as this is me. Tired, mentally can tough through any distance but to survive the first 10 seconds of the race is SO HARD. These athletes may need to pay attention to going easy enough in endurance rides (or do fewer endurance rides, at least for some portions of the year) to allow for hard enough intensity to practice being in the ‘fire’.

 

I have had several endurance athletes (myself included) take a lot of recoveries, add in more strength training, do more walking (forced LOW intensity and mobility and stress reduction) And then put all their cycling energy into 2-3 REALLY focused efforts a week. It can be magical how recovery and motivation make for great results. Less is more for these athletes a few 10-second sprints (even start sims) or short Vo2/Hill reps starting at the low end of the rep. range (ie. 3 x 2-3min)

Keep Your Hands in the Fire

 

The 2 weekly intensity workouts should have the process goal (based on feeling, not wattage) to KEEP YOUR HANDS IN FIRE. The fast starter needs to keep them longer and perhaps not go quite as deep (or as far into it) and the endurance athlete needs to PUSH harder and get into the ‘fire’ early and then fight the urge to back off. I really like testing and TTs to encourage this playful relationship to spending time with discomfort, becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable.

 

This is a lifelong journey to Endure (have you read  or listened to our podcast with Alex Hutchinson yet??)

Fall Base Training Plan for Mountain Bikers w. Strength

Looking for a Training Plan for Mountain Biking?

Check out Smart Athlete’s most popular pre-made Training plan last month made specifically for Mountain Bikers who want to do strength training and some indoor-Trainer Workouts

Get Your Plan now via TrainingPeaks.com

MTB Base for those with 5-12 hours to train each week

3 months of fall/winter training to get you fit and ready to race mountain bikes

Features Downloadable workouts for Garmin/Zwift/Trainer Road AND strength routines in PDF downloads!

The plan includes options noted to extend or reduce hours as your schedule dictates

This plan builds your strength, endurance, coordination (cadence) and muscular endurance. Workouts are based around the trainer and cross-training (ski, run, etc)

Strength Training is prescribed twice a week. A PDF download is included for each phase to make the routine easy to complete.

workouts help you pass trainer time and combine cross-training and strength with key bike workouts

This Training Plan INCLUDES:

Downloadable workouts to use with your favorite trainer software (e.g. #Zwift or #TrainerRoad)

PDF downloads for the Strength Training Workouts

These features make your transition to indoor/winter/base/off-season training EASY and EFFECTIVE

Get Your Plan now via TrainingPeaks.com

Practical examples of how YOU can use Sports Psychology in your Training and Racing

This episode of the Consummate Athlete is a good one (see the show notes here). Many times Sports psychology gets ignored as people think you have to be a crazy person to use these techniques but the fact is that no matter how hard you pedal into that “smart” Trainer on the imaginary island your brain is the boss. How you perceive your effort is a big deal (remember the episode with Alex Hutchinson on ENDURE?) and how you talk to yourself and frame moments in the race, your daily training goals and successes and your ability to stay calm (optimally ‘aroused’ or excited) can make or break your results.

 


View the whole show notes on the ConsummateAthlete.com

Like this episode? Why not Subscribe in your favorite Podcast app? 

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Free Cyclocross Clinic in Durham, Ontario- Sept 26 2018

Free Clinic and Awesome Series alert! Put Wed. Sept 26th on your calendar and come to play cyclocross with me. Your dismount/mount will get better and then we can all race around the awesome course that the Durham Shredders have laid out for Wednesday Races this fall.

http://durhamshredders.com/cyclocross-race/

 

 

From the Shredders Website

(check out the Shredder site for info on the youth program, weekly cyclocross race, AND their Regional Race in October)

 

 Wednesday, Sept 26 (Sponsored by Smart Athlete)

 

Peter Glassford (Smart Athlete Coaching) and Molly Hurford (Shred Girl author) will run a FREE mount/dismount CX Skills clinic before the race. Everyone is welcome to join and work on their skills. The clinic will start at 4:45 and run for 30min, so show up early! There will also be some prizes around the bonfire. Come to learn from a highly skilled coach and a passionate CX racer!

 

Can’t Make it? Check out the Online Course I Created with the Ryan Leech Connection Skills website to take your Cyclocross Mounts/Dismounts from ZERO to Cyclocross HERO!

Do Strength to Improve Your Cycling

You *should* do Strength in the Off-Season to Improve Your Cycling

Studies and practical experience from top athletes in the elite and masters ranks show us that that strength training can increase our on bike performance AND make us more resilient to injury. You need only look at athletes like Nino Shurter for elite examples of strength training and general athletism!

Strength training improves cycling performance
If not the above is an infographic from YLM Sport-infographic to help start your investigation into why you should strength train.

But What should you do for strength to improve your cycling? 

Your first priority is to get used to strength. Getting in the gym and moving through a range of motion in the fundamental movements. Squat, Hinge, Push, Pull. Many of us are best served working on limiters in range of motion and to get used to moving well. This may take several months of work but you will see improvements each session, and if you stick with it for a few months you will notice you feel stronger, more stable on the bike and likely less stiff and tired throughout the day. The trick is what exactly should you do? How many reps? How many sets? How many exercises?

Strength training improves cycling performance

If you check out my ‘Anywhere Core Routine’ you can get started today! This free video gives you the basic motions and you can start at only a few reps and one set today and progress until you are feeling comfortable with that plan => see the free 20-minute anywhere core routine below

Ready for More Time in the Gym? Want to stop guessing at your routine?

 

 

Get 12 weeks of Strength Training with Examples in downloadable PDF documents you can keep on your phone or print out.

 

Losing Weight, Fueling Performance, Altitude and Heat – Stacy Sims

This episode of the podcast deals with so many awesome topics. These are common questions about extreme conditions like altitude and heat, and well just enduring all the crazy events that you do as an endurance athlete. Stacy has so much experience as a researcher, business person, and endurance athlete so this episode is a great one to listen to if you want to hear a simple, yet research backed answer to these difficult questions.

  • How to lose weight but fuel performance and not get sick?
  • How to be ready for altitude if you aren’t at altitude.
  • How to use a sauna or hot-tub to increase your endurance and heat tolerance.
  • Does your menstrual cycle affect training? How to improve your training by paying attention to your cycle? Working with your coach and including notes about your period in training peaks or the HRV or other apps.

Find the post notes and other links on the ConsummateAthlete.com or stream it below!

Cyclocross Burnout

 

How has your season Gone? feel free to book a phone consult to tell me about it!) 

Canadian Cx Nationals have happened and the weather has turned towards fall/winter/cyclocross weather in most places. Cyclocross season is here, but where is your motivation? And who stole those fresh September legs!

Regardless of where you live and how you built or failed to build your fitness for cyclocross season, it is a bold goal to take on 1, or 2  (or more!) races for 1, or 2 (or more!) months. Most of us come out of a mountain or road season and neglect to take a mid-season break or rebuild our endurance. We jump into one or two (or more) cross practices (which are races) a week plus the early season races to test our legs, get the intensity and those coveted early points.

The problem is we get tired from the repeated back to back weekends of racing.  We miss our weekend fun rides, our endurance decreases, and the weather starts requiring more work to get motivated and prepared for. 1 or 2 (or more!) bikes need to be prepped before each race and repaired after each race. Then work comes Monday. This is tiring even typing and remembering trying to race cyclocross as an unsupported pro!

So what should you do?

If your goal was to race until a certain race then that may still be possible. Take a week off the cross practices, go to bed early and do only easy workouts all week. You will feel better next weekend. If you can take the full week easy and get some longer endurance rides in on the weekend. This should make next week and next races go much better. If there is no obvious reason to race twice weekly (including weekly races) than stop doing that and focus on the key races remaining on your calendar.

Getting your indoor training environment setup to make workouts quick and get to sleep earlier will help with short days. Keep focused and don’t forget endurance and lower intensity workouts. Skill workouts in the mud and wet, along with practicing your clothing choice will pay dividends in the late season mud races.

For the remainder of the season ride your favorite discipline most of the time for outdoor training and spend time working on your cyclocross skills. Most people need to work more on cornering, dismounts/carry/mounts much more than they think. If you seat is inside your armpit or you are not grabbing your top tube before most barriers then there are 2 pretty easy ways to boost your efficiency.

Are you racing without a goal?

If you did not have a big goal race or end date then I would end the season now. Why race yourself into deep fatigue and low motivation for no reason? Take a week, or two (or more!) off and try to grab a few more road or mountain bike rides while you can. Start looking towards 2018 and planning training gradually towards that goal after the important break. SmartAthlete.ca for thoughts on ‘when to start training for your big goal’ 

 

What I Wish Clients knew Before Training with Power

This is an ongoing list as more and more clients train with power, power becomes cheaper and more questions get asked! Please feel free to email me with things I have missed or questions you may have.

Having power doesn’t mean that all other metrics are useless (RPE, Heart Rate, VAM etc.) 

I wrote an article for MyFitnessPal about using both HR and Power (and any other metric/info you can use … including your brain!)

Power can be wrong, misleading, depressing, not available, frustrating … be prepared to take a breath and carry on like you would at a race–or like you would have before power. 

I have been there. Pushing really hard, thinking everything was going well then a glance down at Mr. (or Mrs.) power meter makes me want to curl up in the ditch and phone home for a pickup and some hot tea.

Focus on doing the work, recovering well and using the data you have to move forward. While the power meter ‘doesn’t lie’ it very well can be set-up wrong, miscalibrated or, more importantly, your perception of what you SHOULD be doing is off. I talk about the idea of setting realistic FTP or thresholds in this Consummate Athlete Podcast episode. 

Capture- paul dashboard hr and power and tss

Don’t forget you still need to steer around the Trees (or jump pot-holes)

Too often clients forget the technical, tactical, mental, preparational and the multitude of other factors that influence a race. Your CP20 or best 20-minute power is not your race results and often the people with the best power tests are not the best on the race course (also your cp20 is not your threshold / FTP). Use power as one aspect of your preparation.

Power doesn’t always go up in tests or workouts. You still can complete a workout if power isn’t what you think it should be.

You can learn about setting and updating heart rate and power threshold in this article.

Steve Neal and I discuss power testing and nerves in this Consummate Athlete Podcast Episode as well.

Testing in the field or with a coach can be helpful to understand what zones or power levels you should expect to ride at. Read more about testing

Generally, avoid riding your power meter in rain/cold … think of it like an iPhone w. no case 

This is less of an issue as the devices get better BUT I would still avoid riding through rivers where possible. Same goes for temperatures below freezing. Some power meters are easier to do this with but it may also mean riding a winter bike outside and leaving your ‘power meter bike’ on the indoor trainer.

Buy extra batteries now and start a routine to charge your devices to avoid ‘losing’ them mid-workout or when traveling. 

Learn to calibrate and do it every day to avoid misreadings.

Want to learn more about your new power meter and training with power?

Book a phone consult to discuss all your questions – Easy to schedule with Front-Desk