November 22, 2008

Putting On The Coaching hat

I've been reading a bunch of stuff lately (see the previous post), but not all if it has been pure candy. I try to read some relevant stuff too. Physiology, biomechanics, stuff that is important to both my day to day job and the performance of my athletes (which is my day to day job - a potential infinite loop of hilarity).

Anyway, there is some good stuff out there from coaches across the spectrum of spots (gotta read it all). I just read some very interesting stuff on the influence of the brain on fatigue and There is also some junk out there as well. A few coaches are pushing ideas and their own theories that are based more on ego than real science. I won't throw them out now, but may later...guess it depends on the quality of my coffee tomorrow. A couple of observations

1. Lots of coaches claim to have the next silver bullet of performance. This year it seems to be Tabata Intervals. Roughly, its a set of 6-8 intervals of 20 seconds ON, 10 seconds OFF performed at about 170% of VO2max (power i presume as the study had them on a cycling ergometer - though they are usually described as 'all out' by those referencing). I've been using them for about a year now intermittently (yep, one of the sheep) and can say that they are both effective and too easy. I haven't done them in the run up to a competition, but my athletes seem to like them. They are hard, but they aren't as hard as some other workouts I do. The argument is that those doing Tabatas had a 14% improvement in VO2 and a 28% improvement in anaerobic capacity over the course of a 6-week study doing these 2 or 3 times a week, while those exercising at 70% of VO2 only showed improvement in their VO2 (53 to 58 ml/kg). It just seems to me that doing a block of these 2 or 3 times a week isn't sufficient to make performance gain - think about it this way...6 sets of 20s is only 2minutes of workload - so although intensity factor is very high, total training stress is very low. Then again, as an interval model they are a valid approach. Then again so is Peak Power. Think of Peak Power as VO2 power. The strategem is to do your peak power for 60% of your T-max (maximum sustained duration at peak power). While a solid approach to High Intensity Training (HIT) I think that the Thibault approach is much more elegant. Dr Thibault has built a model for improving your VO2 power by working across a range of intensities (85-110% of VO2power) and durations (45s - 6:30m). I like it because it offers both a standardized approach and a wide variety of workout options to keep athletes motivated.

2. The next big 'revelation' is the move away from periodization in training. Carl Foster of ACSM asserts that no reliable studies validate the periodized training plan approach. While I haven't read the reference material he drew from, I did look around a bit and found an interesting look at the relative volume of training done at Lactate Threshold at an ACSM Annual conference, chaired by Carl Foster, that could certainly be a backstop to the idea of eliminating periodization if for no other reason than to minimize training time spent at higher intensities. That study, lead by Stephen Seiler, looked at polarizing training (increasing volume of low intensity and essentially decreasing threshold level work) and the positive results that came as a result. My worry is that athletes will simply hear that periodization is out and use it to justify an increase in volume of intensity (defined by me as Level 4/LT and above) that will ultimately lead to stagnation or perhaps overtraining.

Anyway, this idea of ego-centric coaching was all brought home recently on a series of threads authored by a coach with a great list of acronyms and accomplishments behind his name (which is a HUGE pet peeve of mine!!!!) but a complete lack both perspective and couth (sp?). He went on and on about how doctors are, basically, inept and dangerous, how chiropractic will be the wave of the future, and what a jerk another coach is for posting an educational link that happened to also be revenue generating for the other coach. It was distasteful and tacky. That he followed it up by telling this group (that includes many accomplished coaches, PhD's, etc) that the next big thing ("you heard it here first") was having trainers partner with doctors to help both gain credability. What? My first job out of college in 1995 was working as a trainer/exercise therapist in a clinical setting with chronically ill patients - yea...almost 15 years ago!

I guess my point is that each of you should really try and see the big picture with your training. Don't look at the next 'new' thing as the path to greatness. Don't presume that because someone has a lot of letters behind their name that they know what they are talking about. Challenge your sources. Ask questions. Don't settle...

November 20, 2008

Too Much Time....

I am a confirmed bike-holic (b/c bike-a-holic sounds like a problem). Bike-addict? Anyway, I think it may preclude my ability to succeed in other areas. It's like a constant pre-occupation or gnaw. I think I should have taken my riding more seriously. I kinda squadered those foundational years with girls and college...ok, not exactly a waste of time since I can form a sanguine thought, or so I think. Anyway, the point is that I spend a bit of time reading blogs and am constantly amazed at the talent that is writing about cycling, the creativity of their posts ( a quiz where the winner gets to watch the Family Ties when Alex P Keaton gets addicted to speed - come on!), and the seemingly endless amount of free time people have to do this stuff. Nevermind the time spent trying to read it all! I normally read the same one or two but have tried to challenge myself to go beyond of late. I've been pretty far. Glad I did. The myriad of perspectives and opinions that grace the web is daunting, disturbing, and fun.The good ones have made it to the left hand column. I'm gonna try to make my posts have a bit more panache to them from now on.

November 17, 2008

CX Magazine Photo Stream

Find more photos like this on Cyclocross Magazine

BASP #3 - Night 'Cross Comes Calling...

Tom and Alec Simpson throw a pretty good party for the Super Prestige, but Saturday night was a new ceiling! Their crew and the folks at Roaring Mouse put together a fun new twist on 'cross....Night Racing. I've done some night races, they are fun because everything is more surreal, feels so much BIGGER. This was no exception. Rolling out to pre-ride one wondered if there would be enough light thrown on the course. The bumps were there. The short, crisp climbs. Rocks and dust - all the CX mainstays.
Would the darkness mask an errant bump and take me out? Strangely the visibility on the course was akin to a daylight race, I think because the haze of race level intensity is the same so a lack of light isn't really a distraction. I'd certainly say that the crowds helped....a super shout out to Liza and her crew - you were sooooo loud every lap!! It was inspiring to come up that hill and hear the cheers...thanks! Anyway - the race...

I haven't raced an Elite A CX race since 2002 or 2003. With a call up for the top 20 I was a little nervous about the start, the all important start. So I lined up way early, shot the breeze with some other guys and slotted into the 2nd row right behind Josh Snead and his flashing red bar ends (well, at least i'll know how far ahead he is - eg if I can see those lights I'm probably ok!). Off the line and up to speed - not too hard, but enough to take a wide line into the first turn/curb - hot onto single track and i'm in 4th. A couple of hard chargers, including Buckethead, slip past in the corners before the barriers, but I'm feeling pretty good and trying to recover a bit as we head into lap two. Held my own through the lap, but bobbled the barriers and got passed by one other guy, drat. Kept it up the next couple of laps, started to get some recovery and felt pretty good - time to go looking for places. 20 minutes done - wow, 40 to go...pace yourself, but go! A little hot into the slippery transition onto the homestretch pavement and, down! Not super fast...but don't those always hurt more!? I got up quickly but my shoulder and thumb hurt. Back on the bike - out of sorts and in pain. I rode the next lap or so in a daze, lost some positions and kept hearing the internal voice saying - 'you're hurt, probably should stop" - but I didn't want too..i wanted to do this race, wanted to finish in the top 15 darn it. The next few laps were painful. It actually hurt less to grab the bars hard on the bumpy stuff...for awhile anyway. Aaron Kereluk passed me and we played chase for the next 3 or 4 laps. He was faster in the technical stuff, but I had him cold on pure power. Honestly, without the injury I never would have seen Aaron - I was just faster, and Aarons fast! That felt pretty good. Unfortunately the pain kept getting worse and I spent two of our three laps braking almost exclusively with my front brake/left hand. Managed to scare myself a few times, but didn't crash. I dropped out at 36 minutes. 36 hours later I am hopeful that my thumb will be ok for districts and I think I can run with the top 5 in 35A's, we'll see.

Ok - now the fun part....the power data! I'll post the screen shot in a few minutes. I've taken some grief for putting a power tap on my cx bike. Extra weight, unreliable, blah blah blah - I'm just curious what it looks like. About like you'd expect - tons of spikes in the 600-700 range alternating with 0 watts on the barriers, downhills, turns, etc. i averaged 79rpm for the race - which is actually a good cadence for that course - slightly larger gear saves the legs a bit. i didn't have heart rate, but i'm guessing it was high!
Race Time: 36minutes
Watts: 323W
Watts normalized: 346W
Details - the race started with a 1238W punch - that averaged out to ~750W for the first 10s and 550W for the first minute. The first 20 minutes Normalized out to 356W, which if we use the Coggan formula would put my LT Power at ~340 (95% of 20min value) - which is quite a bit higher than I expected. I really wanted to get the full hour of data, but that slippery pavement didn't feel I should. I can't wait to see the next one...