Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Here's my number, call you maybe?

Wow, it has been a really long time since I have written a blog post.  I get a little uppity about giving away free information from time to time, but then am reminded that I could assemble a book of all of these posts and sell it for money.  Whoa.

A lot has happened since September, I was able to get a few articles on the Training Peaks blog about training with power for cyclocross and of course Rebecca and Justin went to a few World Cups and then I went to Colorado Springs for the USAC Coaching Summit and oh yeah I asked Julie to marry me and she said yes.  Which was cool.  Julie is fun and funny and I am a very lucky man.
The sun was in my eyes, I am not really that squinty.

Okay, let's try to focus.  This is the time of year where a lot of the road riders are reviewing their season with me and new clients are coming on board and talking about what they have been doing in the past.

One of the topics that comes up a lot is the Training Peaks metric called Chronic Training Load (CTL) or what is referred to as "fitness".  It is shown as that blue line on your Performance Management Chart.

It is commonly assumed that the higher the CTL value then the faster and stronger the rider will be.  However, as some of you may already know, I have been completely changing the way we look at discipline specific power training as well as being instrumental in how the rest of the coaching community looks at it as well.  So with that in mind, let's chat about CTL shall we?

CTL is the 42 day long rolling average of a riders daily Training Stress Score (TSS).  This number is very simply figured by squaring the Intensity Factor (IF) of a ride and multiplying it by the number of hours of the ride and again by 100.  Now, the IF is determined by the ratio of the rides Normalized Power (NP) into the athlete's predetermined Functional Threshold Power (FTP).  Did I mention that NP is figured by the factor of average power and the Variability Index (VI) of a ride?

Wow.  Confused yet?  Basically, the percentage of threshold of the ride times hours times 100.  Easy.  Let's look at it:

TSS = (seconds * (VI*AveP) * (NP/FTP) / (FTPx3600) * 100
TSS = IF^2 * (hours) * 100

Now, why am I even bringing all of this up?  Because the rolling average of TSS is a great metric but it isn't the end-all determinant of cycling success.  For instance:
  • A five hour easy (.55) ride could have a TSS of about 150 points, but
  • A 1.5 hour tempo ride with 2 hard, long sprint efforts could be about 120 points, and of course
  • a 40 km time trial with warmup and cool down is easily 130 points 
With a very small big picture difference between those TSS values, which one of those workouts do you think is more beneficial to racing and fitness?  Heck, I bet a rider could eat more calories during that 5 hour ride then they actually burn.  I have a funny story about that for a another blog.  Oh yeah: the middle one.  Tempo is a great race effect tool and the sprints are good for high power builds.  This was a trick question.
I wonder if anyone will get this reference...

So if our goal in training is to develop a really hard training effect for cyclocross or criteriums or events with short efforts, then a one hour indoor workout of Head Case Intervals might be best, but that workout only has about 65 TSS and I don't know about you, but I am pretty wiped out from it and the results are awesome!  And of course, if we had a targeted wattage goal for the "on" portion of those short sprints, then we know we were hitting what was "needed" for the races on the rider's schedule.

It is the job of a professional coach to make sure that the rider has the strength and power abilities to perform on race day, not just pedal away aimlessly in order to boost a riders CTL value and make the charts look good.  Do you know what makes charts look good?  Podiums. That CTL is only important if it is in conjunction with good power peaks and low fatigue.

Remember, a good high CTL value often comes with a high fatigue value as well.  And of course if you are fatigued, then a less fit rider can beat you in a race.  Not.  Fun.  At all.  Trust me.

Working with a high performance coaching company like Finish Fast Cycling is the best way to make sure that every pedal stroke in training counts towards crushing your enemies in racing.  Contact us about how to make your pedals count too.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

But, I called it a training camp!

As the sport of cyclocross really takes hold in the USA and in particular here in New England, the reality of athletes being able to train and focus all year long and still have the little things in life like, say a JOB and a FAMILY is often not possible.  So when Adam came to me and says he just wants to focus on cyclocross in 2016, then some sort of plan needed to be put together to help him be as fit as possible but also be around this cute little piece of heaven:
Edith.  So cute.
The good news about Adam is that he is seriously a fantastic bike rider and racer, so all that is missing after a summer of newborns and work is a little bit of fitness.  We can fix that.  Adam also lives in upstate Vermont and his favorite road race is the Green Mountain Stage Race, four days of hills and a fantastic criterium over Labor Day weekend.
We have shown in the past with Andre in Arizona and with Stef after her injuries that a sudden boost in training load can have both an increase in fatigue but more importantly a huge power and fitness gain. Although this chart shows how the sharp "rolling ramp rate" increase of Adam's Chronic Training Load (CTL), the real priority of cyclocross isn't necessarily the long duration power associated with the Modeled FTP (mFTP) but with some of the shorter high power efforts.  The chart below shows how Adam's power duration metrics for the same time period.
Metrics History showing Pmax and FRC in relation to mFTP.  Try to stay awake.
Okay, so what does all of this mean?  Well, it shows that when we "shock" an athlete into a hard short block of training, or in this case a solid month-long build capped off with a four day stage race, then we get the big picture boost that the athlete needs to start the season off well.  Although it seems like a lot of charts and numbers, the reality is when we are pressed for time, metrics and data feedback are critical to make sure that the athlete is not digging too deep of a hole but still getting all of the benefits.  BTW: this is why our premium level clients need to upload files daily!

The race ended pretty well for Adam; he won the final stage criterium in his own town of Burlington.  
Not to be outdone by this awesome picture, we should show what data comes from such a winning effort.  This chart below shows "Sprint Power Fatigue Resistance" or the amount of power maintained over a short duration from the absolute peak.  I think it is pretty cool.
The smaller the blue, the harder Adam stayed on the gas compared to pMax.  Ain't nobody catching that.
We joked online about Adam doing the race as a training camp, and since relocating FFC HQ to Vermont, I can't think of a better place to hold one.  Adam will be racing cyclocross at the Elite UCI level this season for the Apex/NBX/Trek team and we know he will make all of us and especially Edie proud of every finish.  We are huge fans of Adam, and all of you should be too.

If you want to boost your fitness and power on limited time, then first learn to corner like Adam and then ask Finish Fast Cycling to help out with your planning and training.  Thanks for reading, see you next time.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

It is surprisingly difficult to spell prescription.

As most of you surely already know, I have a very strong opinion about the use of Performance Enhancing Drugs (and methods) in all sport but especially in Cycling.  I will spare you the long story of why, but it is mostly about the missed opportunities experienced by some of the riders under my care over the years.  So, I have really tried to be a Race Clean ambassador, work with USADA and teams about rider education and of course even been part of the detection and enforcement efforts.  Fun.

Let's assume that not every bike racer is a scum bag cheater.  We will assume that they don't all think about ways to cheat the system and those around them and win that super duper bike race.  But, maybe they can be idiots too.  If you are like me (shudder) then you like to follow the news and sanctions web page from the US Anti Doping Agency: basically the announcements of dopers getting caught and their punishments.  Let's just call it a hobby.

Over the past week or so there have been a few announcements about masters riders getting busted for having a prohibited substance in their systems that they blamed on prescription medication.  As we all know, an athlete is responsible for everything in their system whether a doctor prescribed it or not.
My second favorite stock picture.
I can hear some of you thinking: but if a doctor prescribed it then how can it be wrong?  So I thought I would mention how or why a product is prohibited in the first place.  There are three main reasons that a substance is prohibited by USADA:
  1. The Potential to Enhance Performance.  Will the product in question actually provide assistance to the athlete in that particular sport?  Some things affect different sports differently.
  2. The Potential Health Risk to the Athletes.  Will the product affect the athlete in either short term or long term use?  It really is about the riders.  Ignore the weather and road conditions risk issues here please, that is a different blog.
  3. Does it Affect the Spirit of the Sport.  This is a tricky one right?  Does the product alter the whole idea of that particular sport?  You know, cycling is about suffering right.  
It is completely possible that a prescribed medication doesn't harm the athlete but totally shatters items number one and three.  So if you are super duper sick and need a medication but still somehow have the strength to compete in cycling then you can apply for a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) and be allowed to take both the prescription and compete.  If you listen carefully you can actually hear my eyes roll.

Let's be perfectly clear and say that a TUE is not a "get out of jail free card".  They are strictly managed by USADA and are only issued if there is no other option but the prohibited substance and not using it would cause the rider to experience significant impairment to their health.  Basically, don't hold your breath.

Two of the recent three doping sanctions were masters women who were taking prohibited substances as a prescription medication.  One had actually applied for a TUE and was denied, but thought that winning the Road National Championships would be perfectly alright.  The other one also tested positive for a steroid that she said was a medication, but also for a stimulant, you know: speed (eye roll).

There is absolutely no excuse for these positive tests.  Unless you are seriously living under a rock, in which case you would not be able to train much, then you would know that there are such things as anti doping and prohibited substances.  It is completely idiotic to think that you can take ANYTHING that actually made you feel better and not realize it would also give a performance enhancement.  Yup, I called them both idiots.  Lawyers be damned.

As a USADA Coach's Advantage member and an enthusiastic member of the anti-doping community, then I can help you apply for and submit a TUE form if needed.  More likely however, I will tell you to take up chess.  For everyone else: confirm every single medication you take with the Global Drug Reference Online system.  It is really easy to use and kinda cool too.
It is completely possible that you may need to skip a race or two while you are taking the medication.  If you are sick, get better.  Just don't race.  I mean, you ARE sick anyhow, right?  I will use smaller words: don't. do. drugs.

And since I am making numbered lists and you couldn't help but notice the high percentage of cyclists getting tested and busted (plus UFC fighters and ballroom dancers too), then here are the main reasons an athlete or sport is selected for testing:
  1. Demands of the sport.  Hard sports are likely to attract hard drugs.
  2. Benefit of doping to help performance.  I have no comment here so don't ask.
  3. History of of Doping in the Sport.  Thanks guys, you know who you are.  It's as if Lehman Brothers wore spandex.
Oh yeah, the third masters cyclist who got sanctioned this week?  Just steroids.  A normal everyday doper.  A cheat more than an idiot.  Thanks for reading, see you next time.

Dopey and dopier.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Exposure versus Ethics. Watch out for trenchcoats.

Okay, it is Wednesday and it's raining.  Which means that I am more motivated to sit in front of the keyboard than do other things.  And since the subtly reminding text messages from Julie started particularly early today, and I can actually *hear* Stef glaring at me from Colorado, I had better get started on BLOG DAY!

But first: huge congratulations to the now 3-time Olympic Gold Medalist Kristin Armstrong for her time trial win today.  She pulled it out on the big day.  The track events in Rio start tomorrow and that should be amazing as well.  Wow.

Speed, dedication, technology and focus.

Exposure versus Ethics!
Not only am I am full time cycling coach but I am also a self-employed cycling coach which means I am constantly paranoid about other coaches stealing my clients.  Now, that is silly right?  Why would any of you leave me?  Right?  Hello?  But at the same time, I absolutely live for my athletes and want them above ALL ELSE to be successful.  So that means they need to have exposure to other resources of all types.  So let's chat about a topic about which most of the information covered today I have shamelessly plagiarized. 

One of the coaches down in Rio this week taught me a few years ago about something called an athlete's "Performance Enhancement Team".  As a coach, I have access to lots of cool knowledge, tons of experience and well, stuff.  But the athletes themselves are going to need help as well and those people around them and their sport are critical to their success just as much as their coach.  A few examples are:
    • Massage therapist or chiropractor - a lot of athletes need adjustment or injury management to help them train and race succesfully
    • Sport psychologist -  you don't have to be crazy to need to talk about the stress and demands placed on all athletes of all levels
    • Bike mechanic - hey, someone has to fix those brakes.  And they usually like beer.  Just saying
    • Teammates - having a trusted friend in a matching outfit can be critical to staying motivated and focused on the racing schedule
    • Family and friends - get a life will you?  The spokes of the wheel must be evenly tightened  
    • Other coaches - wait, wut?
Yeah, I said other coaches.  High performance athletes require access to high performance coaching and resources.  Sometimes, this means that the athlete will have contact with other coaches; maybe not for training plans and workout feedback, but perhaps at the local group ride someone who also lives for athletes might suggest a better hand position, or maybe there is that coach at the race who you know has a pump you can use.  Dependable people are dependable.

Now, this can be tricky.  In recent years as I have been coaching more and more women athletes, I have seen the almost obnoxious pushiness of other coaches into the lives and sport of some of these athletes.  Maybe I am being hyper sensitive to the topic, but it seems like everyone and his uncle tries to voice their opinion on how to help an athlete, especially on social media (ugh don't get me started).

I try not to give free advice to athletes, it is very bad for business and like a famous person once said: "if you are good enough at something, you don't give it away for free".

Where does he get those wonderful toys?
Likewise, when an athlete who is coached by someone else calls me up and asks for advice about their training or about the methods of their current coach, I almost always decline.  The biggest reason is that I have no idea what the coach is planning in the big picture, and can't see that from a few weeks of a written plan.  I don't have his or her notebooks in front of me and I know that the opposite is true as well.  Almost always, I suggest that the athlete write down the same questions or concerns that they just told me and ask their coach about them.  99% of the time, the client stays with their current coach.  That is also bad for business, but it is what I call "ethical".

I try to be ethical, but it can be tricky.  I like to eat, pay rent, wear clothes.  Stuff like that is important so I always want new clients.  Recently, an athlete switched over to me a few months after I had that very same conversation, and the first coach called me a lot of bad names and stopped being my friend and also stopped being friends with people in my life as well.  It was weird and completely over-reacting, but at the same time, all coaches need to think about the well-being of the athletes first and foremost.  Because please remember like I always say:

It is not about you, it is about the athletes.

One of the things I really support is how an athlete often grows their coaching needs as their skills and racing goals grow as well.  For instance, a "club level" coach might be good for an entry level athlete, but as their racing improves, their required level of coaching needs to grow as well.  I pride myself on being considered an expert or National level coach and constantly try to work on improving myself as well, but that is a different blog.  I would consider it a compliment that an athlete who I coached needed to move on to a National coach because they got so strong working with me.  There is absolutely an important and critical place in the sport for club coaches, but again, that particular person is pretty nasty as a human anyhow.
So, as a high performance coach, I try to provide high performance coaching as well and follow these 6 Characteristics:
    1. There is a reason for everything.  All that I say to an athlete has direction both in content and intent.
    2. Resources are optimized.  To be honest, I don't feel threatened anymore by other coaches.  Get every bit of information and piece of equipment out there that you need to crush.
    3. Everyone is prepared for the season.  Athletes are switched on, coach is clear, team is on board.  Planning, preparation, training.
    4. Do exactly what is needed.  Even if it is less, don't deliver inefficient mediocrity.  A lot of us could use this advice.
    5. Everyone is the best person available.  You have friends, but who is your best friend?  Well I am obviously, but who else?
    6. Decisions are performance based.  Not ego based, enough said.
By following these characteristics of high performance, I feel that can provide ethical coaching at the highest level and at the same time encourage my athletes to get the most exposure to the best resources available.  And if you have questions, then call me up and ask them.  I absolutely love to find solutions to everyone's training needs and want them to grow and perform.

Besides, it makes me look good.  If you want to look good with high performance, then maybe Finish Fast Cycling is the coach for you.  Thanks for reading, see you next blog day.

Let's see who scrolls down enough today.