April 20, 2009

Those Arduous First Miles

I've finally crossed the mythical 1000 miles threshold for 2009. Yep, 1140 as of yesterday. I'm 'happy' about it - honestly I thought I had about 50 hours, but it turns out its more like 66! Hold that praise a second, here are the numbers from the first four months of the year:

Month Duration Distance TSS kJ 1'w 5'w 20'w 60'w
Apr-2009 14:36:31 276.14 931 9914 454 310 265 237
Mar-2009 18:53:17 324.13 1242 12153 446 330 306 228
Feb-2009 15:24:12 257.49 789 10187 374 301 232 210
Jan-2009 17:34:07 284.32 866 10998 406 316 271 219

Not exactly tearing it up, but maintaining I guess. This past week was my best training since December - all 9 hours and ~178 miles of it. Rather than look at the time/miles as unrewarding I'm choosing to see it as a foundation upon which to continue my transition back to some fitness.

Saturday I jumped on the local 'race-ride' aka The Spectrum Ride. It starts near my house and is a good test-piece to see where you're at. There are a couple of 'ouch' sections - Arastradero, Alpine, and a couple of spots on Canada - but generally the ride is easy enough that getting dropped isn't a worry. Despite that fact, this was still the hardest sustained ride I've done this year. My peak 60min effort was 273Watts normalized and we averaged 23.5mph for the 40'ish mile ride. A solid Level 3 workout. Friday I'd done the 'noon ride' and knocked off a 20min effort at 293Wnorm - so the combination made for a nice couple of rides. One thing I did notice was that I just didn't have the leg strength to close a gap on a small, hard, rise one time. It's never fun to have the guys on your wheel give you a push to close the gap, it's embarassing, but I deserved it and was really trying (sorry guys). I've got a ways to go, but I can start to see some progress in my ability to push a bigger gear and sustain the effort. I'm optimistic enough to consider racing Cats Hill in two weeks in the M35+ 1/2/3's...though I should just continue training instead!

April 15, 2009

Training Theory Applied - Part 1

The Athletic Mindset:

One of the first tenants of my approach to training is the cultivation of what I call "The Athletic Mindset". Though I've used the term for years - even going back to my first coaching clients in the mid 90's, I thought it wise to see if I was unique in using this term. The only other relevant references from a simple Google search are for a speaker series by Don Thomas, a former college professor and coach in Dalton, Pennsylvania, who offers an 8-hour course on Athletic Mindset Training($119 for adults) to help athletes learn to discipline their minds for athletic success; and a book by Christopher Bergland called "The Athlete's Way". I haven't read the book, nor seen the presentation so I think I'm safe in ascribing my perspective on the athletic mindset to my own experiences, research, and opinions, lots of opinions.

While trying to keep this post short and to the point let me say that the Athletic Mindset is merely a way to approach your training that encompasses both a sense of awe and a sense of purpose. There have been innumerable passages dedicated to the creation of a positive mindset, learning to discipline the mind and body, or improving your mental attitude. Rather than rehash what you MUST do to achieve optimal performance I'd rather encourage the athlete to look at their sport as a vessel for expression of their best self. We are often at our best when we relinquish control and expectation of an outcome and simply do.

For me there are several points that triangulate the Athletic Mindset. One eloquent expression of is the Japanese Zen Buddhist Philosophy. When you have a moment click the link. The mere reading of the passage will calm you.

Another point is attached to the concept of the flow state as described by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi in his seminal book "Optimal Experience: Psychological Studies of Flow in Consciousness. Many, if not most, of us can identify with the feeling of being in the flow, the trick is to make it part of each workout or competition.

The third triangulation is the concept of expertise. The term "expert" is tossed about in the daily vernacular of our culture without regard to the true nature of the idea, nor the strident efforts necessary to cultivate an expertise. Malcom Gladwell, among others, has written about "This idea - that excellence at a complex task requires a critical, minimum level of practice - surfaces again and again in studies of expertise. In fact, researchers have settled on what they believe is a magic number for true expertise: 10,000 hours."

Taken together these three ideas can form a foundation for ones approach to sport and the practice of sport. My philosophy is that when you can attach these precepts to your sporting life, and perhaps your life in general, you are opening the door to your potential.

April 09, 2009

Training Theory Applied - A Preamble

To me, one of the points of coaching is to develop and elucidate a performance vision. The background for that vision must be based on science and an ability to understand the complex series of relationships that coalesce in cycling. From aerodynamics, biomechanics, tactics, psychology, and nutrition, to the deep intracacies of exercise physiology and it's relationship to performance, a coach has to Know, Live and Love all the elements. Certainly every coach has particular strenghths, and good ones tap outside resources as often as possible when they reach an impasse or need assistance (let's hear it for message boards and google groups!), but the essence of the vision must be your own. My own...

This year I am in the fortunate position of getting to put my vision to the test - on myself. I've been lucky enough over time to be reasonably fit and reasonably competitive on a mostly unstructured program. If I ride quite a bit, say 10-12 hours a week, I get in a modicum of shape and feel competitive in races and strong on rides. Don't get me wrong, I know what I've done and can do. I'm very diligent with my powermeter, I download most every ride and have 3+ years of good data to review. I can easily tell you my Mean Maximal Power values or recite my tactical or psychological strengths and weaknesses. Still, I don't think I've done more than a handful of structured VO2/MAP workouts over the past three years, haven't worked on my sprint much, motorpaced, improved my climbing or even been that focused on my nutrition. I've just kinda gotten by on a modest amount of ability and a lot of years on the bike. Which begs the question (or questions) what can I do on a structured program and don't I owe it to myself and my athletes to try that which I've prescribed? This must be the year to find out...

April 08, 2009

What Out of Shape Looks Like

I have been doing about nothing on the personal cycilng front. As a point of validation let's look at my Performance Management chart over the past few years. It is both inspiring and depressing! Anyway, here it is (explanations below the image):

So let's review some data...
1. Trends - clearly I'm all over the place on consistency! From a low of 24.3 TSS/CTL points at the end of January 2007, to a maximum of 83.3 in Mid May of 2008. There have been 4 or 5 serious interuptions in training since January of 2007.
Typically they are periods of low activity lasting approximately 10 days to 3 weeks. Most training is between 55 - 80 TSS/day. The December 2007 Training block is the most substantial break from regular cycling I've takn in the last 5 or so years. It was a legitimate 4-weeks off the bike. It really set me up for a good 2008...but I had some hills to climb in the fitness arena.

2. Racing During This Period - despite my lack of sustained fitness, I did do some quality racing. Among the results I'm happy about:
- 3rd State Championships Masters Track Sprints, July 2007
- 3rd Masters Miss-n-Out American Velodrome Challenge, June 2008
- 4th State Championships Masters Points Race, July 2007
- 4th Single Speed CX NCNCA Cup, September 2008
- 5th State Championships Masters Kilo, July 2007
- 5th Masters Keirin American Velodrome Challenge, June 2008
- 5th Masters Scratch Race American Velodrom Challenge, June 2008
- Completed Elkhorn SR Pro/1/2 - 4 stages, ~230miles, June 2007
- Hit a personal best FTP of 340 Watts in November of 2008

3. So Now What? Well, I guess it's time to get back on the bike and start building some fitness. Currently my CTL is at a world class 30 TSS/Day - which I think is the equivalent of getting up and walking to the refrigerator. My body weight is at 170.6, body fat at a hair over 12.5% according to my Tanita (but really I think it's probably closer to 15%!). I'll do some testing this week and get a 'true' baseline of my fitness. If I were to guess, I'd say my:
- FTP ~280W
- 5s Power - ~1200W (best of 1380W)
- 1m Power - ~500W (best of 600W)
- 5m Power - ~350W (best of 420W)
My lack of riding is most visible to me in my 5min efforts - I just can't go very hard for very long! That and my pedal stroke is just crap rigth now! Well, all this lack of fitness does allow me to test some theories for training load and specificity over the next few months. Stay tuned, we'll see what we can come up with...