November 28, 2010

BASP #4 - November 28th

41...not the George Bush kinda 41, the birthday kind. Figuring on ones birthday they should be able to do pretty much whatever they want I decided to spend my birthday at a bike race. Go figure. I fired out of the house at about 7:15 this morning, car loaded with team stuff and me. I got to Golden Gate park just before 8a and had to schlep my tent, etc about 150 yards to our set up spot. We were next to the Vanderkitten squad, run by good friend Jono Coulter. I had about as good a race as I could expect. Not excuses...but not much riding of late, so a bit lacking in the punch and sustainable power. 22nd. Meh.

170. Not lean, but not too bad. Trick is to see what i can do in the next year to lower that number, but toughen myself up. I'm soft I think....lacking in muscle strength and feneral fitness...OMG, I think I need to lift weights! Hmmm...interesting. I haven't lifted since college really - dabbled here and there...but it may be time to take that old man plunge and start lifting again. Oh yea and consistency - gotta have more consistency in this year than last.

This is more of a diary entry than a blog post btw...just wanted to make sure I had a reference point to go back to when I'm 42!

November 09, 2010

Shifting Paradigms In Athlete Development - Part 1

Part 1: Athletes and coaches have a responsibility to consider development across time of a full spectrum of skills, tactics, and physiological systems. Istvan Balyi, one of the world’s pre-eminent voices in athlete development, offered his assessment of both long term athlete development and shifting paradigms in coaching at the recent USA Cycling Coaches Symposium.

The concept of athlete development is often minimized, or worse bypassed completely, by junior and adult athletes alike in their rush to win and get to the next level. That talented kid who rises quickly but ends up out of the sport within a few years, the gifted athlete who seemingly sprints through the lower categories only to arrive on the regional scene under-prepared for the skills and tactics of high level racing, or the long suffering category four racer who can’t seem to upgrade. These are all representative of a common trend in racing to look at the short term payoff rather than long term development.

What Is Long Term Athlete Development?
Long term athlete development (LTAD) is simply the process of optimizing training, recovery, and competition programming relative to the biological maturation and development of the athlete1. LTAD is most appropriately applied to athletes from pre- to post-pubescent. In this article, however, we’re going to apply some of the principles to an adult population as well. I want to do this because I think it is a valuable perspective for adult athletes to look beyond their day to day training to create a realistic plan for themselves.

Istvan Balyi explored the overall complexity of LTAD as applied to juvenile athletes and what a tangled web it can be when we consider differences between early, average and late developers, between aerobic and power based sports, and when trying to optimize training focus appropriately!

By the same token it can be viewed as eminently simple wherein the development cycle of the young athlete should follow a simple progression that is well researched to target specific areas based on easily measured biological markers like onset of puberty and peak height velocity (PHV, maximal rate of growth). For example, emphasizing coordination skills during a growth spurt is ill advised due to the general loss of coordination and consequent skill break down that often occurs in this phase. Similarly, aerobic development is an ideal focus for athletes at the early onset of PHV.

Fine, kids need appropriately focused and responsible training, so what does this have to do with adult athletes? Well, here’s where it get’s interesting. The other presentation he gave was on creating paradigm shifts in performance training, especially around the role of periodization and creating a meaningful plan. Bear with me as this next couple of sections may seem to meander…

Steps In Athlete Development
Balyi identifies seven steps in long term athlete development:

1. An Active Start
2. FUNdamentals
3. Learn to train
4. Train to Train
5. Train to Compete
6. Train to Win
7. Active For Life

Let’s cut this down to a slightly more manageable size for our stated target populations – teenagers and adults. To that end we can drop numbers 1 and 7 on the presumption that many of us had an active start and will remain active for life (that’s why they call it a lifestyle, right?). That leaves the crux of development focused on #2-6. Similarly the FUNdamentals stage is focused primarily on basic, rather than sport specific, movement skills and abilities, so let’s presume that each has completed this step. That leaves, essentially, training!

Most athletes think they know how to train, and they certainly know how to train to compete as well. Of course training to win is just a short skip from there, right? Don’t we all train to win, after all? Yes, but there are subtle differences between the types of training listed above when applied to all audiences. In addition, I think that the list below can be viewed from both long term (season over season) and short term (within a season) approaches and modified to suit each individual:

- Learning to Train: The first stage of training, learning to train is seemingly rudimentary, however, to work on the habit of training in a structured way, and to focus on the benefits offered is clearly worthwhile.

- Training to Train: In youth and adults simply training to improve one’s general fitness and base skills is a worthwhile goal, especially within the first few years of an activity. Balyi noted that the ‘training to train’ phase often includes less demanding competition and a continued emphasis on cross training and fun.

- Training to Compete: Consider this as the beginning of specialization. Competition demands increase as the athlete is able to further focus on the quality of training while addressing specific needs for competition.

- Training to Win: Often the end goal of all training is winning, but it is misplaced to put too much pressure on the athlete, no matter their age, to perform well until they have reached a high enough level of preparation.

Perhaps you’ve heard the adage that it takes 10,000 hours of training to achieve expertise? Think about that for a moment - five years of full time work to achieve true mastery of a skill or subject. Is it reasonable then for a beginning, even a regional, racer to argue that they don’t need to work on fundamentals, skills, and basal development?

While you may not have 10,000 hours invested yet, chances are you’re planning to continue riding and competing for the next five years, so let’s use that as our reference point moving forward. Given our new five year window, we should probably consider a plan that addresses each component of training each year to get where we want to go.
This is dramatically outside the comfort zone of most athletes. They would rather focus on next week’s workout than on the structure of training for this year, next year, and the year after. Stretch yourself (!) by shifting your reference point on where you are and what you want to do to match your developmental stage.

Long Term Athlete Development is a constantly evolving field that focuses on how to best prepare young athletes for a lifetime of sports participation. By identifying key points in maturation, and ascribing phase appropriate training and competition demands, the path to individual excellence is much smoother, and ultimately more efficacious, than not.

Similarly adult athletes can benefit from taking a more longitudinal approach to their own training and development. This is true across the spectrum of performance from skill acquisition to physiological development. Given the 10,000 hours rule for mastery of a skill, there is likely some room in your training plan to address the varied components of performance. Next time we’ll look at creating the plan that will get you where you want to be via a paradigm shift in periodization


1. Balyi, Istvan – Long Term Athlete Development. USA Cycling Coaching Symposium Presentation. October 2010
2. Balyi, Istavn – Paradigm Shifts in Coaching. USA Cycling Coaching Symposium Presentation. October 2010

July 28, 2010

CX Webinar Update!

Hi Everyone -
just a couple of updates on our CX Webinar on August 13th:
- We've added a drawing for all registered participants. Many thanks to our sponsors: TRP Brakes, Fluid Recovery Drink and Challenge Tires for kicking down some FREE STUFF!
- Working on a few special guests for the event, details soon!
- The webinar is 60-minutes and starts at 11:00a. It will be available in an archived version afterwards, but without the free stuff!
-register at: - lower left corner of the page.
- questions/comments? Try me on facebook or by email:

July 18, 2010

New Freshness

I know, it's been awhile.....

but here is some fresh new from the "Performance - it's the name of the game" guy:

happy Sunday!

June 16, 2010

Lactic Acid - Part 2

It is a common misnomer that Lactic Acid is the cause of fatigue and cessation of high intensity exercise, yet training plans built around your individual Lactate Threshold are highly effective despite the debunking of the “Lactic Acidosis” rationale. Let’s learn why…

By Matt McNamara

Last month we looked at the intricacies of Lactic Acid/Lactate production and its role in limiting performance. The short summary of that article is to say that Lactic Acid production is NOT the limiter in high intensity exercise, and the science behind that belief was founded on an inferred cause and effect relationship between lactate production and cessation of exercise that, ultimately, proved to be untrue.

While lactate production may not be a limiter, it is clearly a marker of overload and does play a role in athletic development and performance. Lactate Threshold based training, when paired with use of a powermeter, is seen as the gold standard for endurance based performance improvement. So let’s explore the real meaning and value of Lactate Threshold based training.

What Does Lactate Threshold Really Mean?
First off, Lactate Threshold is commonly defined as “the exercise intensity at which lactate production exceeds lactate removal, and thus begins to accumulate in muscle and hence in the blood.” Unfortunately, the definition of what constitutes “Lactate Threshold” is highly variable.

Many researchers establish threshold as the point when lactate concentration rises 1 mmol above an exercise baseline. Others use a fixed value, for example 2.5 mmol per liter, as the threshold point. Still another approach is to use D-max which takes the mid-point between the baseline and maximal lactate concentrations. In the end the most important consideration isn’t the way threshold was determined, so much as the concept of Lactate Threshold (and associated terms) as illustrating the non-linear relationship between lactate concentration and exercise intensity.

It is also important to acknowledge that terms like Maximal Lactate Steady State (MLSS), Onset Blood Lactate Accumulation (OBLA), Ventilatory Threshold (VT), Individual Anaerobic Threshold, Critical Power, etc are talking about roughly the same range of intensity. Each of these, MLSS and OBLA in particular, correlate well with the power training concept of Functional Threshold Power (FTP), which is itself defined as your maximal sustained power output for approximately 60 minutes.

Now that we have a clearer idea of what is meant by Lactate Threshold, and we know that Lactic Acid is not the cause of fatigue, let’s look at other factors that might play a role.

Other Causes of Fatigue
In 2005 researchers from Edith Cowan University in Western Australia set out to do just that. Models to Explain Fatigue During Prolonged Endurance Cycling, Chris Abbiss and Paul Laursen’s comprehensive review of fatigue literature, looked at no fewer than ten different explanations of fatigue.

Abiss and Laursen point out that fatigue is usually defined by the type of research being done. For example, if one is looking into psychological causes then they will tend to classify fatigue as “a sensation of tiredness,” while a biomechanist might look more at changes in force output to qualify fatigue. Fatigue research is also driven by a reductionist approach; those doing the research tend to look for a single ‘answer’ to the question of fatigue.

Among the different paradigms and models explored were the anaerobic/cardiovascular model, the energy supply/depletion model, neuromuscular fatigue, biomechanical, thermoregulatory, and muscle trauma models. In addition the psychological/motivational model, central governor, and complex systems models were also reviewed. A quick summary of characteristics might demonstrate that:

Neuromuscular fatigue tends to be divided into a question of where along the neuromuscular pathway inhibition occurs, while the muscle trauma model seeks to explain fatigue as coming from damage to the muscle itself, or to alterations in the chemical homeostasis.

The biomechanical paradigm seeks to define fatigue as the result of decreased efficiency of motion, where increasing efficiency lowers the production of metabolites (like lactate) and energy consumption, helping attenuate increases in core temperature. This segues nicely into the thermoregulatory model which looks at the role of core temperature and the increased demands on the physiological systems brought about as a result of increased core temperature towards critical points at which exercise capacity is reduced or terminated.

While psychologically no single variable appears to be responsible for motor output alteration due to afferent (outgoing) signals, it is thought that numerous mechanisms are responsible for the subconscious perception of fatigue and alterations in central activation and perceived exertion.

The central governor and complex systems theories seek to explain fatigue as a function of oversight by an as-yet-undefined central mechanism, or through the complex inter-relationship of multiple feedback loops seeking to maintain homeostasis, respectively.

Their net conclusion is that any number of systems may contribute to fatigue in a specific way for a specific situation, but in general the limitation of the system is derived from oxygen delivery to the muscles, especially at high intensity.

To further clarify in the Abiss and Laursen article fatigue was defined as “tiredness and associated decrements in muscular performance and function.” This is an important point as much research has looked at performance to exhaustion. The relevance comes when we look at how to best apply some of the factors above into the creation of a responsible training program. Many of the changes we seek are built around the optimization of oxygen delivery and increasing metabolic efficiency during the training year, so how does Lactate Threshold help?

Threshold As Proxy
An individual’s Lactate Threshold is the single most important physiological determinant of endurance exercise performance. It is trainable, reliable, and a sort of proxy for other important metabolic processes that underlie performance.

For example hormone production, like epinephrine/norepinephrine, shows a similar curvelinear relationship with increasing exercise intensity. Plasma potassium concentration, catecholamine concentration, plasma ammonia concentrations, growth hormone, cortisol and many other elements also demonstrate the same threshold type trends as lactate.

Power at Threshold
Now that we’ve established what Lactate Threshold is, how it is determined, and what processes it parallels, let’s spend a little bit of time on what advantages threshold level training can bring to your performance.

For untrained athletes the Lactate Threshold benefits of training can be seen at a wide range of intensities. Simply getting on the bike regularly will bring about many changes including increased mitochondrial density, blood lactate response, and reductions in lactate concentration at a given intensity.

For the trained athlete however, continuous training at intensities around Lactate Threshold has been shown to be beneficial since the time of the fabled East German sports machine in the twentieth century. The East Germans were famous for doing extended hours of training at OBLA!

In a similar vein, Gorostiaga et al in 1991 compared a continuous training group at circa-threshold intensity to one that did only structured high intensity VO2max type intervals (of the type that are all the rage today) and found some compelling differences. While the VO2max group did show a two fold increase in percentage change in VO2max (16% increase v 8% increase), the continuous training group had a ten fold increase in citrate synthase production compared to the VO2max group (25% increase v 2.5% increase). Citrate synthase is one of the main markers for muscle mitochondrial capacity, and is a good reference for total metabolic efficiency.

Both of these examples (the first decidedly anecdotal) serve to illustrate the value of continuous training at an intensity around Lactate Threshold. This has most recently been termed ‘sweet spot’ training, but the idea has been advocated by Lydiard, Coggan, and others in various forms or years. Typically “sweet spot” is defined as approximately 88-93% of your Lactate Threshold power, however the true measure of intensity should be determined by your ability to repeat them over multiple days in a training block.

These circa-threshold efforts should be at least twenty minutes in length, but can last up to two hours or more for advanced athletes. A key determinant of the duration and intensity is your ability to replicate the workout intensity/duration again the next day. A well prepared, motivated athlete doing 60 minutes at 88-93% of threshold power (FTP), should be able to replicate that workload again the second and third days. If you can’t then you probably went too hard, too long, or don’t have a good estimate of your FTP and need to adjust. My suggestion is to start doing some field testing to establish your FTP and then see what you can do. Have fun and let me know how it goes…


1. Abbiss, Chris, Laursen, Paul – Models to Explain Fatigue During Prolonged Endurance Cycling. School of Exercise, Biomedical and Health Sciences, Edith Cowan University, Australia. 2005
2. Coggan, Andy – Explaining Lactate Threshold. Webinar Presentation. 2010
3. Robergs, Robert A., Ghiasvand, Farzenah, Parker, Daryl – Biochemistry of exercise-induced metabolic acidosis. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol 287: R502–R516, 2004

May 06, 2010

Lactic Acid Article

Lactate and Lactic Acid production are routinely offered as the seemingly natural cause and effect parameters that lead to fatigue and a decrease in performance, but are they really the source of the problem?

By Matt McNamara

If you’ve read anything about training in the last ten years you’ve probably come across the idea of Lactate Threshold and a discussion of how lactic acid production limits performance. The argument often goes something like this:

“As exercise intensity increases lactic acid production rises at a rate that, eventually, overwhelms the bodies ability to buffer this build-up and a decrease in performance naturally follows.”

Heck, I’ve repeated the mantra myself time and again over the years, despite KNOWING that it was an incomplete explanation of what actually happens. The truth is it provides a simple, though not wholly inaccurate, way to explain the well-documented trends of decreasing performance with increasing lactate concentrations. The idea of cause and effect just sort of fit well. So rather than perpetuate mediocre understanding, let’s jump in and learn a bit more:

A Brief, Albeit Incomplete, History
Lactic Acid was first isolated by Swedish researcher Carl Wilhelm Scheel from a batch of sour milk in 1780 (hence the commonly used term “lactic” instead of the far sexier formal name of 2-hydroxypropanoic acid, but I digress). Otto Meyerhoff and Archibald Hill, Nobel Prize winners in 1922, demonstrated that Lactic Acid was actually produced as a side reaction of Glycolysis, a primary metabolic pathway that converts carbohydrate/glucose into pyruvate, in the process converting energy into ATP through a 10-step set of reactions. In the absence of oxygen this conversion is sustained with Lactic Acid. This anaerobic process releases a proton (H+).

This was a key finding as it seemed to offer a cause and effect relationship between lactate production (lactate is, essentially, the salt or base of Lactic Acid) and the extended concept of Lactic Acidosis, or a decrease in pH that results from the release of protons in the system (cell or bloodstream).

This cause and effect relationship was taken as fact by researchers throughout the 20th and into the 21st century. However, in reviewing past and current research, Robergs et al (2004) have shown that there was no actual empirical evidence to support the cause/effect relationship; rather it was largely based on statistical correlation and the reputation of the Nobel Laureates Meyerhoff and Hill (which was richly deserved, I might add).

So, if the cause and effect nature of lactate production and acidosis is not an accurate portrayal of the role of Lactate in the onset of acidosis, and therefore performance, what is?

Debunking Lactic Acidosis
In 2004 Roberg, et al wrote an extensive review of the literature that sought to debunk the long-standing cause and effect relationship between lactate production and metabolic acidosis. Their sixteen page review takes an exhaustive, and somewhat intimidating, look at the true biochemistry of metabolic acidosis.

For example they detail the role of the phosphagen, glycolytic and mitochondrial systems in producing ATP and the differences in how each manages any released protons. They also note the difference in the nature of the proton release in glycolysis depending on whether the carbohydrate was derived from blood glucose or muscle glycogen. Glycogen is less acidifying to muscle during intense exercise.

Roberg then goes on to detail the many benefits derived from lactate production including the alkalizing effect of LDH, Lactate Dehydrogenase, or that it then circulates away the lactate to other areas that need it including the kidney, liver, and heart, for use as a substrate.

Finally, they looked at the role of nonmitochondrial ATP production, via research by Gevers in 1977 and 1979. Gevers established that metabolic processes other than LDH might contribute to the removal of protons in the form of the turnover of ATP via glycolysis. In other words that non-mitochondrial ATP production was likely responsible for metabolic acidosis.

But here’s where lactate threshold based training comes in

Training Threshold
Lactate threshold based training is a great tool. More specifically using the combination of a powermeter and a threshold based training approach is a highly effective way to manage your training.

Andy Coggan recently hosted a webinar on Lactate Threshold via USA Cycling. In addition to a comprehensive look at the establishment, definitions, and relationships of training around one’s lactate threshold. Among the cool takeaways

The first is to see terminology like Lactate Threshold, Maximal Lactate Steady State, Onset Blood Lactate Accumulation, etc as talking about roughly the same range of intensity. It’s likely going to be between about 80-90% of your VO2max for sustained periods of time. This will raise your general metabolic fitness. Further specialization is ideal for targeting specific race preparation

Coggan also noted that it has been shown in a wide array of studies that many other factors and processes contribute to fatigue. Things like epinephrine/norepineprine (adrenaline/noradrenalin), plasma potassium, and cortisol level, etc. often show a similar threshold type profile to that of lactate.

Abiss and Laursen did a comprehensive look at fatigue in 2005. Models to Explain Fatigue During Prolonged Endurance Cycling looked at no fewer than 10 different models of fatigue including the cardiovascular/anaerobic model, neuromuscular biomechanical, thermoregulatory models, and several others. Their net conclusion is that any number of systems may contribute to fatigue in a specific way for a specific situation, but in general the limitation of the system is derived from oxygen delivery to the muscles. Since we established above that metabolic acidosis is not derived from lactic acid, but that lactate production is an important contributor to oxygen delivery, it time to embrace those burning quads and get to work improving that lactate tolerance.

Perhaps next time we’ll look at that – drop me a line if you’re interested in a part 2.


1. Abbiss, Chris, Laursen, Paul – Models to Explain Fatigue During Prolonged Endurance Cycling. School of Exercise, Biomedical and Health Sciences, Edith Cowan University, Australia. 2005
2. Coggan, Andy – Explaining Lactate Threshold. Webinar Presentation. 2010
3. Robergs, Robert A., Ghiasvand, Farzenah, Parker, Daryl – Biochemistry of exercise-induced metabolic acidosis. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol 287: R502–R516, 2004

April 30, 2010

Central Governor Theory and the RAAM!

I was driving to Sacto the other night and heard a discussion centered around the idea of a "Central Governor" theory for exercise physiology. It was a small part of pretty cool NPR piece about the Limits of human capacity on the show"Radiolab". Witout getting into the theory itself; During the show they referenced this movie too:

sort of a fun way to start the first weekend in May...

April 20, 2010

Spring Fling!

A quick update before I put my head back in the computer...

The past 6 weeks has been a foggy haze of coughing and allergies that hit a crescendo last week when my doctor prescribed Advair and Singulair to try and stem the tide of sickness that saw approximately 7 HOURS of training in March! I'm not wild about taking prescription drugs - espeically those with a 30-day run time mandatory - but I do want to get healthy and able to ride sometime this season, so I did it.

On the plus side I feel much better and just got back from a SOLID trip to Sea Otter working for TRP Brakes. It was a very enjoyable trip because we got to meet and greet hundred of cyclists and dozens of industry folks who all had nice things to say about TRP Brakes. We even made a few connections for the upcoming Cyclocross season. I'll have our 2010 program information our shortly - it's gonna be a good one.

On another topic: CyclingNewsAsia - is a fledgling site that serves the growing asian market including China, Taiwan, Malaysia and all points on that side of the ring of fire. I like the arc of their approach - user friendly and slightly entry level. The goal is to ably educate newer riders on all that cycling is. They are also smart (or not) enough to let me write some content too! My first article just went up last week and another will follow shortly. If you want to learn what's happening in the production hot-bed of Asia, check them out.

More soon...


March 01, 2010

Hypocrisy Writ Large

I'm sitting here enjoying a ham & cheese sandwhich before I finish my monthly training programs and get after making a sweet skillet pot pit dinner. So I click over to cyclingnews to catch up on the latest....and stumble upon this article about one of my 'favorite' riders - Dirtbag Ricco.

I'll save you the time - he's convinced that the Tifosi will welcome him with open arms back to the pro field because they are simply "not interested in doping." Even more precious is his assertion that he's, basically, in the same boat as Valentino Rossi, who apparently dodged some taxes in the old country. "D"R, referring to himself in the third person (here is a simple explanation of THAT psychologically)says "I don’t think real tifosi are interested in doping. If someone is a fan of Ricco, they still are now, even if he's made a mistake or not."

Uh, well, I guess...except that Ricco was an major dick before the CERA positive (time and time again) and has always been a bit too arrogant for my taste.

Anyway, this post is about Hypocrisy....

The hypocrisy is that he expects exoneration from the tifosi for his actions and 'youth' - yet he dumps his girlfriend and disparages her publicly for the same crime. The kicker - they have a kid together. A kid who will someday get to read his fathers comments and wonder why his dad didn't stand beside his mom in this most crushing of times (I'm not excusing her actions - stupid is the word that comes to mind). Dirtbag - first class!!

January 29, 2010

Training Update #2 - The Athletes

We are lucky here in Nor Cal - despite a 10-day block of rain last week'ish, we generally enjoy easy and frequent riding conditions that most would envy. So, what does that have to do with a training update? Simple..good weather = more stuff for the coach to look at. Rather than ramble on haphazard about a group of athletes you've never met, I thought I might profile five of my current athletes and provide some insight into their training and development this year. Sort of a small, written reality show. So here we go....

#1 AC - my pro, my proxy in the peloton(except I never trained quite as hard as he does), my learning curve. Five hour ride - check. Hill repeats at 350-375W - check. Pro contract, check. Now we've begun the 'real' work - mostly because he's finally on a power system - yay me, er him!

#2 FK - I've worked with him for over 3 years now and each one we get better at the process of improvement. He's one of my most consistent workout achievers - hits 'em on the head nearly all the time. Best part - he really put it toether for CX Nationals and had a GREAT ride.

#3 CE - Recently back under a program I have high expectations for CE this year. She's a long time talent returning to top level racing and I can't wait to see what happens when the hard stuff starts. Lots of focus brings lot of speed we hope!

#4 JK - Every coach needs an ultra-distance guy. Those who do 200 miles as a start to the day. I've never been one of those guys, but I'm glad I've got one. It certainly helps that JK is quickly establishing himself as a real force in the discipline. We'll have some fun with this one

#5 KMH - Well, if you need an ultra guy, you probably need a duathlete too right? How about a potential top finisher at Masters Worlds? Ok, it's a new realm - what with the whole 'running' thing..but we've done well so far. First race of 2010 is coming up in a couple of weeks..we'll see how it's going now.

This is a sampling of my current athletes - they each represent a different challenge and a different demand. It's one of the great things about coaching, the chance to assist athletes and tap into all the elements (physiology, psychology, power theory, workout creation, researhc, etc) to try and bring it together at the right time. We'll see. Come on along...

January 28, 2010

2010 Training Update #1 - The Coach

In typical fashion I've started to be able to focus on my training a bit later than I'd planned. I don't know why it is a suprise to me when it's been this way more often than not. Case in point:

January Hours/Miles By Year:
2002: 20hr / 253mi
2003: 56hr / 921mi - that was awesome!
2004: ?? / ??
2005: 43hr / 670mi
2006: 29hr / 505mi
2007: 23hr / 390mi
2008: 27hr / 424mi
2009: 19hr / 365mi
2010: 19hr / 313mi so far

So, overall January has not been a growth month for me. This year started off with a small, very small actually, flurry of rides in the first 10 days. I was 7 for 10 I think. Then the month got busy, time slipped by and here we are at the end and I'll be topping out at about 25hours and 400 miles yet again. So, what are your 'best' and 'worst' training months? Take a moment to look back and see what you've done for volume over the past several years if you can. It's a very enlightening process. I know that fitness will come back pretty quickly, so I try not to let it stress me out too much - but it's tough knowing that friends and competitors are racking up big miles while I am not. This week has been decent so far... 3 rides of Tempo/Threhsold intensity. Tue/Wed I did 3x10minutes at 90% of FTP within a 60min ride and today I knocked off another hour at the same - 270Watts - with a series of 7 loops of 6-7minute circuit completed at 100-110% of FTP (short enough that 110% was sustainable). My legs are a little tired - which is nice. Tomorrow I'll try to do another ride, and this weekend I'm mentoring on Sunday so i should end up with my target of 500TSS for the week. A good 'kickoff' to Februarry, which is usually a pretty good month for me - guilt I guess...

January 21, 2010

rain rides make you tough

January 17, 2010

Archive #3 - Race Tactics 101

There have been some great racing articles in Toolbox recently with Bruce Hendler setting up a race routine and Josh Horowitz taking you inside the overall dynamics of a race. While we wait to read the second installment from Josh, let’s take a few minutes to talk about your racing. Specifically how you develop and execute race tactics.

Most of us can recite some standard tactical acumen like putting your team on the front and driving to the finish for a big sprint victory, or getting in the break and then attacking out of it for a prestigious solo victory. What if you don’t have a team? What if you are new to racing and still figuring out how to apex a corner? Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Do Your Homework
The first step in creating a realistic race plan is to understand just what it is that you are facing. Don’t roll up to your next event blind. Race reconnaissance can be broken into a couple of categories: strategic knowledge and tactical knowledge. Strategic knowledge includes things like your start time, race distance, and course layout.

With the internet and a variety of cool software and hardware options, there is no reason not to know the important details of the course. Strategic knowledge requires some work before the event, but can really pay off once you are at the race site. Ask teammates for information in the weeks ahead of your event. Take their advice with a grain of salt, however; a hill that may be a monster and absolutely needing a 34x25 for them may be OK for you with a 39x23, or vice versa! Search the internet for race reports or GPS files of the race course.

The next step in your strategic pre-race recon is to know the competition. Who won the race last year? Who is riding well in the other races so far this season? Are there any particular teams to watch or follow? Do breaks stay away or always get caught? Try to imagine different scenarios that might come up and have a plan for each. Have you raced the event before? If so, how did it go? What did you do right?

Once you get an idea of the competition, the course profile and the demands of each it’s time to take a deeper look at the course.

Pre Riding!
Pre Ride the course! This simple baseline is all too often ignored by stressed-out racers rushing to get ready in time. One of the easiest ways to derail your race is to miss the pre-ride. Ideally you can do a ride or two on the course before the main event. This is especially true for “A” level events where you have higher goals and expectations. Though this is tough to do for road races, it is well worth the effort if you have never done the race before. Where is the climb? How fast or technical is the descent? Are there areas where you can take advantage?

For criteriums pre-riding is a necessity. Get on the course between categories if possible and give the course a good once over. This is often banned by the organizers, but at the very least walk the course along the sidelines. Look for obstacles or potential hazards. Is there a seam down one side? Bumpy pavement or holes to avoid? Look for the fastest line into or out of corners. If you have the time, watch other categories. Is it faster to ride an inside or outside line into the final corner? During the pre-ride take a few moments to steel yourself to the task at hand. It’s a race, a fight. Be a warrior. Put yourself in the mindset to do well.

The Race
The first race is the one to the line. In most events being on the start line is not THE make or break for the race, but it is the first chance you have to establish yourself in the field and observe. It is very important to feel a part of the race. Your adrenaline will be pumping anyway so you might as well expend a little at the front rather than fighting from the back through all the corners. Normally I like to set up on the outside line for the first few corners. It’s a bit easier to keep your speed up and you can move around a bit easier.

Riding outside through the first corners may force you to ride farther, but it can help to avoid the squirrels on the inside and avoid the start/stop sprints that sap energy. After the first few laps and the pack thins out and maintains a steadier rhythm, it’s usually much easier and more efficient hitting the inside of the pack through corners

Once you’ve established at the front it’s time to do some work to help keep the pace high. This will drop the weaker riders and also force strong riders stuck at the back to expend a lot of energy to get back to the front. A few weekends ago I mentored the Category 5’s at the Menlo Park GP. It was a fast course with a couple of tricky corners, but I was pleasantly surprised that the racers continued to rotate through and keep the speed high all the way to the finish. Rotating through in the pace-line is one of the most fundamental skills, but one which requires many hours to master. How hard you pull through and the transitions off the pull are subtle arts. You’ve likely seen a derivative of this before, but in the interest of awareness, here is the rotation:

The on/off paceline featuring constant rotation as soon as the lead rider’s (upper left) bottom bracket clears the front wheel of the “off” rider (upper right) is tremendously hard in effort but the fastest in speed. Especially in big fields, make sure you get back into the “on” or left line again before falling too far back, or else you’ll get trapped.

Tactically you can use the rotation to your advantage. If you are a solo rider don’t feel obligated to take monster pulls trying to keep the pace high. Instead start floating just off the paceline and watch the other riders. Who looks strong, who looks squirrely? Of course the caveat is that you gotta do your work! Don’t get a reputation as someone who won’t work at the front. Considering the fact that most criteriums are less than 45 – 60 minutes long, If you’ve done the training then you will have the fitness to contribute and still finish well.

Riding Corners
Without a doubt corners represent the biggest challenge to racers, all racers. Even if you’ve done hundreds of races every corner is its own experience. There are a myriad of lines in any corner and, unfortunately, the fastest line is sometimes elusive so you have to be flexible every time. That said let’s look at a couple of stereotypes – the inside and outside lines.

Inside lines are coveted. They are fast and seem to allow you to maintain position easily. Simply set your wheels inside the rider in front of you and stay smooth. Unfortunately, the ugly cousin to the inside line is diving the corner.

Diving the corner is usually a result of the field slowing and riders surging to get a better position. Said ‘Diver’ will run up the inside line and try to slot back into the field in the nick of time. Sounds easy, except that most riders simply charge to the corner, grab a handful of brakes, and then have to re-accelerate to maintain the hard fought positions. First, this will almost surely require more energy expenditure to maintain than simply staying smooth. Second, and perhaps more importantly, you will endanger and probably impede the riders around you with that technique.

Instead work on only taking the positions that are safe and open to you. You shouldn’t have to slow down much at all, and a big handful of brake lever is a clear indication that you’ve mis-judged the line.

Once you have taken that inside line you have to do something with it. Lots of times the inside line will open up on the exit and give you a straight shot at advancing or sprinting for the finish. Try different approaches to each corner on the course. Instead of trying to pass ten racers in a single corner take a more measured approach and pick off a rider or two each corner. Lay back, let some space open and accelerate into and through the corner. This will give you a nice head of steam coming out of the corner. The graphic below illustrates how to gain tactical advantage from the inside.

If done properly (and safely!), taking the inside line through a corner is the shortest distance and can let you keep the most momentum. Also, riders tend to naturally drift outside, adding to the gap you can create.

Then again, the outside line is also a place to make time. Outside lines usually close down if the course runs back to the outside curb, but not before you can pick up a place or two. Again, just lay back a little and carry more speed into and out of the corner. You have to set these things up throughout the race. Each time is a trial run for the last lap craziness that will surely come.

Racing is fun because there’s never only one template for success. Here a well-timed attack on the outside can be ideal, especially if the rider in front of you (white body with blue sleeves) can be used as a drafting slingshot.

Finishing It Off
Now that you’ve learned how to get and maintain position in the corners it’s time to put together your finishing push. As a solo rider you have ultimate responsibility for how you approach the finish. You have to be ‘in’ the race and willing to push yourself. You have to be willing to take the chances necessary to win, be that a late break of positioning for the field sprint. You have to be, pardon the phrase, master of your own domain. The rush is coming, you know the rush is coming. Instead of waiting and hoping to take charge someday, take the extra pull that keeps the pace high and the hounds at bay. Ride the outsides. Don’t get caught in the middle. Keep rotating forward. Look for riders going to the front and get a free ride. It’s easy. If you’ve been practicing moving around during the race it’s even easier! The great thing about racing is that there is always another one, another chance to perfect the art, another course that suits, another chance to grab the right wheel, or be the right wheel.


Today was the third installment of the Early Bird series. If you're from NorCal you know the series, and hopefully you know how lucky you are to to have such a great 'starter' series each year. The first couple of weeks there were over 400 'new' racers in attendance, so it's certainly got a following.

This weeks race was under 'threat' of rain - which cut the numbers, but not the enthusiasm. This week we were working on moving in the field, and I was very proud of my group. They listened and learned during our drills, and I hope brought that same attention to their races. Of course, I was less impressed with my own attack of ego-centrism...

While working with my group I took the 'initiative' to insert myself in another group that looked to be struggling at the skill - which of course they weren't - and then to take all the 'foundational' elements of the mentoring process (positive approach, empathy, deference to the lead mentor, etc etc etc) throw them out the window and act like a mildly crazed drill sargeant. Rightly so this irritated a couple of the gals in the group. I heard about it - felt defensive for a couple of minutes - and then made my apologies from a place of sincerity. In looking back I would've been annoyed by me! I really enjoy the mentoring's fun and I don't want to be anything but professional and deferential to those who put so much into the Early Birds - Laurel Green, Laurie Fenech, Alan Altha, and Larry Nolan. So, my apologies for not representing....

Ok, back at it....

January 12, 2010

Road Team - Inaugural Ride This Weekend

This season I've got a small group of Masters Cat 4's that are racing under the Sterling banner. I'm jazzed about this project because it puts me out on the road with the athletes working on those crux skills that win races. This weekend is our first group ride and I'm really looking forward to it. I'll take my camera/helmet cam and see if I can put together a small introduction next week. The team roster is:

Mark Davis (actually W Mark Davis, or just WMD to me)
Jim Werle - owner of Bay Area Mobile Bike Repair
Shane Greenwood - claims he won't race much, but we'll see
Matt Payne - he's a Matt and into pain, what else needs to be said?
Paul Calandrella - wonder if he'll be our climber?

New Years Resolutions

Yea, it took me an extra 12 days to get around to posting what was originally set out to be a nearly-daily update, but here I am at long last. This year I vow to post more often and to keep relevant things like clinics, camps, webinars, team information, etc current. Why, well...honestly it's part of a global domination strategy of sorts. I'm curious to see if I can develop a 'loyal following' over the course of the year. From what I read the way to do that is to add lots of content that appeals. Since this is a cycling blog, and there are lots of cycling blogs, the challenge is to post stuff that is both appealing and somewhat central to the core of what this space is - a communication tool for my company. As to the intended scope of this 'loyal following' it fair to aim for a 100 fold increase in weekly site traffic? Last week, my busiest since adding the tracking code in November, I had 47 visitors. 4700 may be a stretch - but what the heck....let's see what we can do TOGETHER!

That is the key you know - a team effort. I can write all the content I want, but if those twenty of you who visit the site regularly will both come back, and suggest the site to a friend or two then we'll be on our way. Of course that presumes that you find something of interest here. So tell me what interests you.

For the twenty five of you who visited the site for the first time this week - I hope you'll drop back by again. Yea, you can't read this, but I figure good karma is good karma - so come on back....ohhhmmmm, ooohhhmmmm, to the races we go!