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.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Okay, I admit it. Hers is better.

The Cascade Cycling Classic
Guest blog by Stef Sydlik, cat 1 on QCW Breakaway Bikes

My very first full length road race came in a stage race: Killington Stage Race in 2013. It snowed, I crashed, I bonked, and I loved it. The idea that I could come back again the next day to try again and improve was what really hooked me.

Now, it’s my 4th year racing and my 2nd with Coach Kyle. Other than enjoying suffering, I lack all instincts that would make me a good road cyclist. However, training with Coach Kyle is sometimes like having a coach with a magic wand. Last season I got my Cat 1 upgrade, tried a few bigger races and did pretty acceptably, and around the end of the season, accidentally started dropping just about everyone on climbs. Turns out if you can pick the right time, sometimes just wanting to suffer IS enough to win! So, I got it in my head that I should try racing the NRC races this year. The National Racing Calendar stage races are the longest and most competitive women’s races in the country, contested by the domestic and UCI professional teams. I set a goal of a top 20 finish on a stage.

Unfortunately, 5 minutes into the first stage of the first NRC stage race, I crashed hard. This was doubly discouraging, as I had just had my first serious race crash a few weeks earlier. Even though I knew my arm was broken instantly, I finished the stage "just in case", but could not start the next day. I had to have surgery to install a titanium plate and 9 screws. No weight bearing on the arm for 8 weeks, and no mass start races until July. Yikes. There goes my season, right? 

I looked at the calendar and looming in July I saw that I had one more shot at an NRC race... the Cascade Cycling Classic. Cascades is the longest, if not the hilliest of the NRC races and it took place July 20- 24 in Bend, Oregon. To add to its mystique, this year it was also a UCI race. I told Coach Kyle I wanted to try. Since there was only 1 local race before Cascades in July, he crafted an ambitious and creative training plan to get me ready. Meanwhile, I overachieved in physical therapy. I got permission to start mass start races early on June 13th, so the very next day, I started racing with abandon. I won TTs, raced more crits than I had in the previous 3 years combined, and won two local Stage Races. When I arrived in Bend, I was ready.

Stage 1, 90 mile RR. This first stage is perhaps the longest women's race in the country. It was mostly flat, except for the last 10 miles where it climbed to a summit finish. I was nervous, but my legs were feeling good. 80 miles in I started working my way towards the front of the peloton to position myself for the climb. Then, my front wheel got sucked into some squishy dirt in the shoulder and in a flash I was down hard.

I couldn't believe it. I had crashed again. After 3 years of bike racing without a single crash injury, I managed to end up on the pavement for the 3rd time this season. I got up and chased back on quickly, soon realizing that blood was gushing from my knee and that I had dirt in my ear so I must have hit my head. I was confident that I had a 5 w/kg effort in me from the race prep Coach Kyle had given me, but as I tried to accelerate, I felt dizzy and my legs wouldn't respond. I dragged myself to the finish line, way off the pace I'd practiced and off the back of the peloton. I pulled over to the medical tent and realized I was worse than I thought. In addition to feeling woozy, I couldn't put weight on my left leg without pain and my right knee needed stitches. The medics told me it was too deep to treat on site, so I had to head to the ER to make sure that it did not get infected. Frick.

Well, that was that. I had crashed 3 times in the 3 pro level races that I had traveled to this year. I'm 30 years old, have a great job, and I already demonstrated that I was a world class athlete as a rower. What was I trying to prove? Any sane adult wouldn’t be putting herself through this. Aidan, my husband, called, and I told him that I had come to the only possible logical conclusion: I was going to quit bike racing. I hung up and checked into the ER. While waiting for the anesthetic to set in my phone buzzed and I found the following text waiting for me.

Ugh. Tomorrow. I had of course not yet shared that I was quitting bike racing. I did not particularly want to have that conversation, and well, I really like working with Coach Kyle so instead of jeopardizing that relationship by revealing that I was a quitter, I decided that it wouldn't hurt to wait one more day.

Stage 2, 16 mile TT. Upon waking, I found that my stitched up right knee, while bloody, somehow didn’t hurt and my left knee was letting me traverse stairs pretty well. I was also thinking pretty clearly again, so sent a text to Coach Kyle to update him on things. I tried humor...

Ugh, again with the tomorrow. I had to get through today first! My TT bike passed UCI inspection (Efficient and UCI legal TT bike fit courtesy of FFC! These are actually not that easy.) I set out on my warm up and was surprised to find that my legs actually felt pretty ok. My TT was solid. I was really hoping for a breakthrough, but a day after a crash and an afternoon in the ER, my legs only decided to match the pace I set at Nationals earlier in the summer. Ah well. I rolled to cool down. My phone rang. It was Aidan again, excitedly telling me that I had gotten 21st in the TT! Meanwhile, I get the following text…

Tomorrow again?!  But, that result seemed pretty ok, and my legs were feeling better so I decided that I would start the RR the next day. There was a team car, so if things turned south I could always wave my hand and hop in with no shame. After all, I had crashed hard.

Stage 3, 83 mile RR. This RR was actually the one I was looking forward to the most. The race opened with a long 10 mile climb, followed by a fast decent, 50ish miles of flat, and then closed with another sustained portion of climbing. Coach Kyle’s insight for me on the stage was something along the lines of, “You’re going to love it. You’ll just be climbing and look around at some point and wonder: where did everyone go?” Well, we started and before I knew it, we were climbing. Twenty-16 went to the front to set the pace, and soon I realized that people around me were struggling and falling off left and right. The air got cooler and thinner and even among the reduced peloton, I heard people breathing hard. Meanwhile, I was sitting very comfortably in the lower middle of my tempo zone. My legs felt good enough that I could have attacked! But I knew with the long flat section, it would be smarter to save it so I did.

I crested the climb feeling fresh in a breakaway of 23 riders with a 2 minute gap on the field. This breakaway included all of the race leaders and favorites. Twenty-16 had protected Kristin Armstrong (2-time Olympic gold medalist) and isolated her competition, Tara Whitten (Olympian) and Carmen Small (National Champion) from their teams. I thought there was a good chance that our breakaway would stick, but it unfortunately did not.

As the peloton grouped back together on the miles of flat, I tried to stay out of the wind and restrain myself from chasing anything down. I stayed with the GC leaders, but unfortunately, a break went just before the road turned up and it stuck.

The final climb was another 10 miles, but was more of a 4 mile climb, 2 miles flat, 4 mile climb, followed by a right hand turn into a flat sprint finish. Thanks to my crash, I was 9 minutes down on the GC so thought if I could find a good place to attack on the first portion, maybe the race leaders would let me go and I could climb to bridge up to the breakaway. So, I moved to the front. And for the first time, I attacked the pro peloton.

After the initial acceleration, I looked over my shoulder and saw that I had a gap. I continued pedaling hard until I heard someone behind me and looked again. It was freaking Tara Whitten, with the rest of the peloton strung out long, but still training behind. Seriously?! You couldn’t let a girl you were beating by 9 minutes go? You just had to chase me down yourself and bring the peloton back to me?! I pushed the pace for a bit longer, but soon the road turned down and I was stuck on the front. Free ride for everyone! Ugh. I sat up and waited for someone to come around, but had to wait a long time. I cursed myself, knowing that I couldn’t be wasting watts if I was going to push the final climb.

The road finally did turn up and I attacked again. Carmen Small countered me, with a crushing acceleration that I couldn’t match. Maybe I should have been patient and waited instead of trying earlier. Oh well. The only thing to do at this point was spin my pedals as fast as possible. I slowly caught back to the leaders and someone attacked again. This time, I was able to follow. Much sooner than I thought, there were arrows for turns (3 of them?) and all of a sudden the finishing stretch was there. I unleashed my (rather pathetic) sprint for the line, knowing that I was pretty close to my top 20 goal, so beating one more person may make a difference. I found our DS and learned that I had finished 18th! Achievement unlocked! Later the results were corrected and I found that had actually finished 17th. I had my top 20 finish! I could quit bike racing with pride now. But… Not too surprisingly, I found that I no longer wanted to quit.

Stage 4, Downtown Criterium. There’s not much to say about this stage, but by now I was racing hard enough that it was clear that my head was in the game. I finished with the peloton.

Stage 5, 49 mile Circuit Race. This was a twisty, turny 16 mile circuit, which we would traverse 3 times. With no long sustained climbs, I had no idea how this was going to go. I had some hope because the climbs were steeper than the other courses, and these short punchy climbs kept coming at you. No drafting there! It was almost like riding in Pittsburgh. We made a plan for the day…

With the GC still tight, the riding was fast and aggressive from the start. I felt out of my league and my brain was trying to disengage. I told myself that was only natural, that this was worst of the race and to just hang on. I had promised Coach Kyle that I’d try an attack after the QOM, so I had to get there and get into a position to make good on my word. People were falling off the pace and the peloton was growing smaller with every turn and every hill. I kept rocketing up the hills, moving up the peloton only to be shuffled back on every subsequent descent. Shortly before the QOM at the end of the second lap, Tara & Kristin got away. (Lesson learned: attacks before climbs sometimes stick! Maybe I’ll try it.) The peloton stalled, as they waited to see if anyone would respond. As we crested the QOM, I knew attacking would be suicide, and I would only become a ride for the desperate peloton. So, I had no choice but to save it for the finish. I had promised that I’d be aggressive.

When I saw the 3k to go sign I knew it was now or never. It was steep from there to the QOM, but then there was a fast, flat mile before the last 500m uphill to the finish. So, I attacked hard with about 500m to the QOM mark. I looked over my shoulder and had Carmen on my wheel. WTF was up with these world class athletes suddenly wanting to be on my wheel!? There were only a few people there though, so I attacked again as we crested the steepest part and went into the flat run up to the finish. No one wanted to take the wind from me so I sat up. This time, we were close enough to the finish that other people did come around quickly and vigorously, and I had to be careful not to let myself slide too far back.
Pic by CCC twitter (Thanks)
Finally we hit the turn to the uphill finish. I was about 20 people back by the time I took the corner, but I stomped out of saddle and began to accelerate around people. I knew it was only a minute from there to the finish. I’m not great at sprinting, but I’ve had a few shining moments where I could fake fast twitch for a minute. I saw the 200m to go sign and I was still passing people, but I couldn’t stay out of saddle one more second. So I sat & spun hard. Then, I saw Carmen just a few feet ahead so I couldn’t be doing too badly! I sprinted out of saddle for the line and went under it completely gassed. I had no idea how it went, so went and got some water and found my teammates. Then this…

OMG! I had gotten a top 10 finish in in not only an NRC, but a UCI race and had even earned it in a somewhat technical course with a sprint finish! How was that possible?! In reviewing my power file, my last 10 minutes were strong, and the last minute was my best minute since I had broken my arm. And it was the very last minute of a week long stage race, bonus! I guess there was a purpose behind those “Elite kJ” and “Pain Minr” workouts. Thanks, Coach.

All in all, I was happy with how I raced last week. I stayed aggressive and was able to do what I love about stage races: every day I came back a little stronger than the day before. I was very fortunate to have a coach constantly reminding me that there was tomorrow and it really wasn’t optional. Still, I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if I hadn’t crashed on the first day. I guess instead of quitting, I’ll have to keep training so I can go back next year to find out!

Bend is really beautiful and also we raced up that.

But there *has* to be an "I" in team!

Well, it has been a few weeks since the last blog day.  I had the sniffles, then the Talent ID camp, then I was distracted.  But, since Stef has threatened to file criminal charges, or WORSE take over the blog for me...I though I had better get off of my butt and get typing.  It is basically about her anyhow, so she will have to deal with it.

One of the biggest "discussions" I have with "other" national coaching organizations or even the Anti-Doping Agency is how cycling is not a locker room sport and how that affects the team structure and how things work.  What does that mean you ask?  Well, cycling is primarily an individual sport: you train alone, you suffer alone and you finish alone.  We don't meet everyday for practice or get a well, locker room before and after each game or race.  However, as soon as we zip up that colorful jersey we become part of a team.

Let's see if anyone gets the reference...
With the Tour de France just ended, we all got to see how a cycling team works on the television.  There is some sort of leader; either a climber or a sprinter or an overall type guy and then there are lots of riders that help him.  Maybe they block the wind for hours at a time, maybe they carry water bottles back and forth from a team car at position 17 in the caravan or maybe they are just a great roommate, keeping that team leader calm and cool when they are off of their bikes.

That is some nice clothing hanging there, just saying.
Amateur cycling is a little bit different.  Budgets aside, most cycling teams that we see are first and foremost a "club"; a group of like minded sporty types who enjoy riding their bikes.  Some of them of course start racing and they call themselves a team.

I have been on a lot of teams.  In the 1980s, I raced on a mostly Polish squad that all seemed to know each other and barely spoke English.  It was tricky, but I tried my best, showed up and raced my bike.  Years later, I would be on all sorts of teams some of which were complete disasters.  Even though we were all great riders most of the races were disasters.  We ate separately, we trained alone, heck even drove alone from the hotel to the race starts.  However, we lost together.  I would never wish that on anyone.

In reality, no one deserves to call a group of riders in spandex a "team" unless they can figure out how to work together and try their best to get a good result.  You see, unlike a standard "locker room" sport where the entire football or baseball team is awarded a win, only one person on a cycling team gets that score.  But in reality, the whole team should be recognized each and every time a rider wins (and loses, but that is a different blog).

Recently I got to see one of our riders have one of the best races of her career.  What was particularly awesome about it was how well her team did as well.  Not only did they perform well as individuals, but they were on similar travel schedules, supported each other every day on and off of the bike and shared in the success of each day.  It was a great race.  Remember, if you look around the room and can't tell who is the bad teammate, it might be you.  And you need to check that immediately so that the whole team does well.  It is just nicer.

One of my coaching ambitions is to work with a team in addition to the individual riders.  That is tricky because in the sport of cycling we have to balance that line on performing well for ourselves at the same time we are performing well for the team.  All of us: riders, coaches, mechanics, clothing suppliers.
Photo by CorVos

So the next time you are out riding your bike in that cool clothing, think about the team and how you are training for yourself and for them too.  Thanks for reading, I will be better about this silly blog.  Silly.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

A local criterium and a bunch of chicks

So this past weekend was a small first time criterium just a little bit South of HQ and although I skipped racing it myself we had three of our women clients competing in the "Elite 1-2-3" event.  It was actually a helluva bike race, so I thought I would share some of the details and exploits of these awesome athletes.

A Hasty Generalization
Okay, traditionally New England women's road racing has been about as exciting as watching slow boring paint dry on a humid day.  A lack of confidence and training usually means that the regional women ride around in circles talking about knitting or something else that requires breathing through the nose.  However, the women athletes of Finish Fast Cycling sure as hell are well-trained and sure as sh*t are confident.  When they signed up for a race, you had better bring an umbrella because it is going to rain pain.  
Can you tell I like this one?

Think Locally, Act Globally
Sunday was the first real hot event of the year and you can see a lot of the racers were affected by it.  Our u23 rider Paige had already scored a podium in the amateur 3-4 race an hour earlier after racing aggressively and skillfully, something she called "fun".  We like Paige.  She double-upped to support her teammate and FFC's Chief Physiologist Julie "Jtrain" Tracy; a racer who is more comfortable going up hills but usually just likes to crush in general.  Also racing was Danielle Ruane and she brings a lot of experience and tactical awareness to the field as well as her dog, Frank.  Who was hot (or so he said).  Woof.

The beginning of the race started with a few weaker riders from the Boston area trying to escape the field on their own.  The pace was manageable and Paige was staying up front on the short flat criterium to both manage the race and lead her teammate through the best lines on the technical corners.  You can see her mostly steady heart rate file here (it's easier at the front):
After this initial block of about 16 minutes or so, a strong group of six riders went up the road including our very own Danielle who went on the attack with a blistering 20 second effort at 730 watts.  The group immediately got a gap on the field and the race was on for good now!

However, this elite group of riders was missing one important piece of the puzzle: The Jtrain.  Well, to say that Julie doesn't sit still well would be an understatement, and about a lap later she went solo off the front to chase them down.  She put down a massive 2 1/2 lap effort at 107% of her threshold and caught the group.  With Paige now riding her brakes through the corners in the field behind them (this slows down the chase without burning additional energy and is a selfless team move), the break was gone for good.

She only has one speed: crush.
 Well, the next half of an hour was fairly uneventful.  The group was actually working together and looked to eventually lap the field and end the race in a sprint.
Technically that is Leslie, Danielle is just to the right...
With less than two laps to go, the breakaway finally got all the way around the course and lapped the field.  Again earning teammate of the year points, Paige immediately hit the brakes and went to the back of the remaining main field.  This was to allow her teammate to now follow her to the front of the group and at least try to compete for the win.  You can see Paige's heart rate spike as she now tried to hammer her way to position Julie for the finale.
This was Paige's highest HR of the race.
Now, in hindsight, it would have been better for the break to hold off from catching the field at all; or maybe lap them earlier; or better still the riders should have been attacking the smaller group mercilessly until the odds of a favorable outcome were better.  But with only the last lap remaining in the race, it was kinda of a crap shoot.  These things happen, trust me.

We were pretty psyched to see Danielle sprint to a solid third place behind a former world/national sprint champion and her own teammate.  This was a great score and she crushed the 10 seconds from the final corner to the line at over 600 watts with a 75% fatigue resistance rate (a future blog).  You can see her hit the gas on-and-off three times in a minute during that last lap to gain and hold position plus sprint super fast.  Some of you might recognize that workout, eh?
Sprint peak / sprint average = fatigue ratio.  Trademark Coach Kyle.
There is no way to describe how proud and happy I am of our athletes and girlfriend.  They are awesome racers and when they compete the events are better because of them.  There is a big block of criteriums coming up this weekend in New England and I know that there is no way the three of them can be beat.

If you want to actually race your bike instead of just riding it, then let Finish Fast Cycling help you learn to perform at your best!  Remember that proper coaching and training makes you a fast and confident bike racer.  Thanks for reading, see you next week.

Friday, June 17, 2016

It's as if Tom Clancy wrote the story

Ok.  I know it is Friday, which means my normal "hey, it's still Wednesday in the Fiji Islands" excuse ain't gonna work this time.  But, I was busy.  However, did you get a chance to read Rebecca's or Paige's blogs?  They are much better written and much more sincere.

So without further delay, its (kinda) BLOG DAY!  Special Russian doping edition.

A Clear and Present Danger
As you all know, I have very strong feelings and motivation towards the anti doping fight and clean sport in general.  To be honest, no one cares about who gets moved from 4th place to 3rd place five years after the Tour de France or a marathon, the reality is that the moment of glory for that athlete who was literally cheated out of their prize can never be made up.  And not to mention the continuing careers of athletes or professional opportunities that an Olympic medal means versus yet another fourth place.  Thinking of these athletes makes me cry and scream at the same time.

Red Storm Rising
So as some of you may know, in November of last year the international governing body that handles the sport of Track and Field (IAAF) suspended the Russian team from international competition due to the country's mishandling of anti doping measures and a suspected State run system of performance enhancing drugs; particularly in the highly competitive middle distance women's running events.  Then, starting in January, dozens upon dozens of Russian athletes from all different sports started testing positive for Meldonium, including tennis poster girl Maria Sharapova.

Ms Sharapova getting in some gym work.
As a reminder, Meldonium is a short term prescribed medication used to treat chest pain and angina, but also happens to work as a recovery aid.  Ms. Sharapova was taking it for like eight years.  Move along, nothing to see here.  Incidentally, the international tennis body has banned her from Rio as well.

The Cardinal of the Kremlin
Since then, testimony has come out that during the 2014 Sochi winter Olympics (also in Russia) the police and former KGB was actually managing the substitution of Russian dirty urine samples with fake clean pee through holes in the walls in the testing area.  You.  Can.  Not.  Make this up.
Graphic by NY Times.  Yes, its a glory hole.
Then finally today, the IAAF voted unanimously to ban the Russian track and field athletes from the upcoming Rio Olympic games this coming Summer.

The Hunt for Red October
In reality, from a coaching and sporting standpoint, sending a group of athletes to the Games with less than 49 days of focus and almost no international competition this year is almost as bad as forcing them to skip anyhow.  I mean, the only thing worse than not competing at the Olympics is spectacularly losing them the same year your nation is accused of organized doping.

Now, let's not confuse State sponsored doping with sport sponsored performance enhancement.  There is nothing wrong with the Australian Institute for Sport, or the British Lottery or even how our Women's Team Pursuit squad is getting beyond high tech in their training.  Unless of course, you are competing for Team Paraguay.

The Bear and the Dragon
So.  I predict that this summer's Track and Field women's middle distance events will have a particular Scandinavian flare to it and the good news for the Brazilian organizing committee will be that the news will follow the testing protocols and not the poorly built venues.

Let's be perfectly clear here: I want every athlete from every country to compete in the Olympics, no matter what the sport.  And furthermore, I want to coach the bicycle ones.  But if you, your sport or worse your country is managing and supporting doping, then you deserve to stay home.  I am curious however what this guy says about the vote:
Julie's dream boy.
Thanks for reading, see you next week.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Chris and the Battenschmill

A few weeks ago was the infamous Tour of the Battenkill held in lovely Washington County, NY.  As some of you know, I have had a roller coaster affair with the event; I won it a while ago, brought teams there as a NRC event, worked for the promoter for years and even lived in the area that was the starting town.

However, no matter what my opinions about my old apartment, the race is completely and undeniably epic.  At over 100km long and mixing in lots of paved hills, country roads, dirt and gravel roads, rural route hills and even an ancient covered bridge, the event is simply amazing and well organized and brings riders and racers from all over the country and world.  The race is no longer sanctioned by USA Cycling (sigh) but that doesn't make it any less competitive or epic and one of our favorite masters cyclocross racers and emergency surgeon Chris Roseberry raced and agreed to let me share his energetic and contagious race recap and ride file from that lovely upstate New York morning.  I added some comments about the course as well for blog sake!

So, here we go...
"Started out slooooow. I kept wondering when people were going to race. I held back my enthusiasm to just go since I knew the first gravel hills would explode the field. Oh, and the pre-ride was KEY.  (Coach Kyle: we encouraged Chris to do the pre-ride event a month earlier.  Clutch for first timers)

Anyway, sure enough the first hill popped a lot of people. I was careful to be toward the front as we entered the hill so I had a nice position. At the peak of the climb I was within easy catch of the lead but the descent was my downfall. The rocky descent made me nervous so I had to check speed a few times. I couldn’t risk a broken wrist or collar-bone from a fall. (Coach Kyle: this brutally difficult section of the course used to be much later in the race, now its the first dirt road and is a major deciding factor)
The steep and slippery leg sucking dirt section of Meeting House Road
Unfortunately, that was the major deciding factor of the race. I spent the next few kilometers trying to bridge the gap to the lead group with two others. I eventually dropped the other two and by the next set of hills, had mostly caught the lead group. Maybe 10 sec back. But, I had burnt so many matches during that chase that I got gapped on that hill by the lead group. That hill was my max HR.  (Coach Kyle: that "hill" is Stage Road and is very loose dirt and very steep after a tough fast headwind section)
The run-in towards Stage Road and then the fast descent to Eagleville
I fell back and about 20 guys eventually caught me. I was actually quite thankful so someone else could do the work for a while. We rode at a decent pace for a while. But, I wasn’t impressed that anyone had any motivation to catch the lead group. 

At one point I said:
“It would be nice to know how far back we are from the lead group.” 
 No-one responded. Which is telling. 

So for the next 30 miles or so I kept at the front of the second group, usually the front 5, doing a lot of work. I tried on 3 separate occasions to make a break. Each time no-one went with me and I found myself 50-75 meters ahead and no-one following. I knew it would be shear suicide to try to bridge by myself so I sat up. On the second try, someone even said “looks like no-one can get organized.” “No kidding” I said. So, I stayed with that group. (Coach Kyle: this is the hardest 50km of cycling in the Northeast and Chris is attacking and chatting the whole time.  Brutal hills, windy farm roads, the slop of Juniper Swamp and a few angry cows.  Pretty good fitness right there.)
The infamous: Perry Rd, Joe Bean, Juniper Swamp and Riddle Rd
At that last gravel hill (Coach Kyle: Riddle Road is barely a cow path.  The only cars in 12 months are on race day) I then got gapped by about 8 guys on the descent for the same reason as above. I then spent the next 5K or so in solo time trial mode and caught them. That is the next to last spike in HR that you see. So I sat in for a few kilometers as we got close to the finish so I could rest. 4K to go and a couple of moves went that I covered without much difficulty.

Then I thought of your tactics and held off on an attack of my own until that last hill. As we turned left, sure enough I caught everyone by surprise and gapped the group. 3 guys caught me by the top of the hill so I went again in an all out standup effort. At the very end one guy caught me and finished 2 seconds ahead. (Coach Kyle: it is great to see Chris have the mental focus to remember his tactics and give a maximum effort when needed.  That says proper fueling and hydration to me.  Yay.)
Chris times his 750w effort perfectly on the finale.
Overall, sooooo much fun finally using tactics in a race. Like really the first time for that with me. I found myself laughing out loud after the race finished because it was so much fun. Seriously. (Coach Kyle: it doesn't matter who you are or what race you are doing.  It HAS to be fun.  Love this.)  But, this group was slower that what I am used to in the Wed night worlds here and could have easily been 4KPH faster no problem. The paved descents were much faster.  Thanks for the good coaching on that last attack. It saved me like 5 places. Super cool. (Coach Kyle: cough, cough)"

Big picture for Chris
When we look at the raw numbers from Chris' race, you can see it was a very difficult and taxing event not just in power, but in the 1.24 variability index that showed how crazy the course is on the legs plus how his best 10 minute (and under) power values were all on Meeting House road, within the first hour of racing!  That means every pedal stroke for the next three hours was under duress!  Ouch!
Work, work, work.  Molls and trolls.
Chris mostly focuses on cyclocross in the fall, and with his much stronger and aggressive spring and summer means this is going to be an amazing year.  Congratulations to Chris for his training and this awesome race.  More to come, we know.
Thanks for reading, see you next week.

PS: My iPhone used to auto-correct the race name to "Battenschmill".  No idea why, but it always stuck in my head and is kinda funny.  See you next week!!