April 30, 2012

Trying Real Hard, Ringo...


I lost a long term athlete today. That doesn't happen much and it stings a bit....I wasn't providing the level they expected, so after three plus years they are making a change. I can look at it a few ways...

1. Hurt - How could they? I'm a Level 1 coach, I write prescient articles on training, have lots of credentials and experience - I MUST be a great coach..how could they leave me? Where is the appreciation? Where is the thanks for the hours and hours of phone conversations or the support during their trying times? And of course they chose to leave while at a personal best in both body mass and fitness....why not go get a new coach and let them enjoy the benefits of my planning and commitment?
2. Relived - Whew, I don't have to endure any more of the grind. I don't have to stress over so much untapped potential, hear the excuses for why things didn't go as planned in ABC workout, or commiserate the never-ending struggle. It's one less thing on my already over-stacked plate, which is probably the main reason in the end...stretched to thin, if I'm...
3. Honest - I let them down. I'm hired to provide feedback and direction and I didn't do that very well over the last couple of months so it's completely understandable and mostly on me. Damn...
4. Hopeful - If I felt stale, certainly they did too...my hope is that they find a place where progress continues to rise and they can get what they are looking for. It's too hard a sport to carry a grudge against an athlete and friend. All the best!

Really it's all four...but I'm trying, I'm trying real hard...

Belgian Training - Day 6

I think I took a solid step today...nope, didn't ride, but did drop an email to a fellow coach about helping with a program....I'm sure it's a smart thing to do but I'm still a bit disappointed in myself for not having the internal drive to fire it up on my own...then again I've always sucked at long term training myself..hence the move to find a coach. Now to dial it in...

April 28, 2012

Belgian Training - Day 5

This is a work in progress.....aww F man....I've ridden less this 'training' week than I have in awhile, and that's saying something!

So I'll just give a tip of the hat to guys who actually race

1. Team Mountain Khakis - WIN at Athens!
2. John Piasta - FB friend by and by...but riding stellar today at Wente
3. Lee Rodgers - Tour of Korea mayhem and he's still starting every day
4. Adam Carr - altitude prep for Gila..seriously? #jealousmuch
5. Matt McNamara - that guy rocks when he rides...'cept he never rides!


Belgian Training Day 4

Day Off...but not volitionally...

Quickbooks and Athlete Updates have dominated my day thus far...which is largely as it should be - but I do need to ride more.

Race Safety

Oh the heels of Lee Rodgers report from the Tour of Korea (wow, devastation barely covers it!) I thought it might be a good idea to review the safety requirements of different level racing. Let's start at the top with UCI racing. The UCI website has several sections on Race Organization and Safety, but details are only really covered in the tech guide...and even then only briefly!

From the Tech Guide on Organization:

Race programme - technical guide
(N) The organiser shall prepare a programme - technical guide for his race each time it is held.
(N) The programme - technical guide shall cover all details of organisation, and at minimum:
the specific regulations for the event which, depending on the type of race, shall include the following: - mention of the fact that the race will be run under UCI regulations; - a statement that only the UCI scale of penalties will apply; - where applicable, the local anti-doping legislation which will be applicable in addition to
the UCI's anti-doping regulations; - the class of event and the UCI points scale applicable; - the categories of riders; - the number of riders per team (maximum and minimum); - the opening hours of the race headquarters; - the venue and time for the confirmation of starters and the distribution of identification
numbers; - the venue and time of the sports directors’ meeting; - the exact location of race headquarters, the testing station for anti-doping tests; - the frequency used for radio-tour; - secondary classifications including all the information required (points, tie-break proce-
dures, etc.); - the prizes awarded for all classifications; - any applicable time bonuses; - the finishing time limits; - stages with summit finishes for the purposes of article 2.6.027; - awards ceremony procedures; - the procedures for applying the times recorded during team time trial stages to individual
classifications; - the presence of the neutral support service via motorcycle, if any; - feeding points, if any, during time trial events or stages and the relevant procedures; - the criteria used to determine the starting order of a time trial event or prologue; the criteria
shall determine the order of teams; each team shall determine the starting order of its riders. • a description of the course or the stages with profile (profile if necessary), distances, feeding
points and, where applicable, circuits; • obstacles on the course (tunnels, level crossings, danger points, etc.); • a detailed route and the schedule anticipated; • intermediate sprints, mountain primes and special primes; • the plan and the profile (profile if necessary) of the final three kilometres; • exact start and finish points;
2.2.016 2.2.017
2.2.018 2.2.019
the list of hospitals contacted by the organiser in order to receive any injured; the composition of the commissaires’ panel; • the name, address and telephone number of the event director and the names of the officials • in races with time trial stages: whether the use of a specific time trial bicycle is prohibited for
time trial stages.
(text modified on 1.01.02; 1.01.05; 1.01.07; 1.01.09).

So, no mention is made of the requirements of the medical staff on site, the ambulance crew, etc is made.  That is suprising and I'll be curious to see if there are any consequences for Tour of Korea's seeming lack of preparation... 

April 26, 2012

Belgian Training Day 3

Preceded by Rant #2...

F'ing cyclists! Now, I'm the first to admit that I wear far too many hearts on my sleeve when it comes to cycling - and that's as it should be! So don't start spouting your silly little truisms about what cycling 'should' be or 'used' to be...sorry, but it ain't. If you want to ride your steel hulk with down tube shifting and 36 spoke wheels it's cool with me..just don't presume that because others don't you are somehow better than they...truth is I can probably kick your ass in whichever discipline you'd like to undertake - riding on your bike no less...

Ok, back to training...

F'ing Trainers! How do people actually ride these things for more than 45 minutes? I think I'm just soft and squishy so every ride sucks, but at least outdoors I can see things to distract me. The hills seem interesting. Indoors does not. I'm playing with the new CompuTrainer "RacerOne" software..and it's an improvement, but not enough to make indoors fun. I'll have a PEZ update out soon on that. I DID start the Threshold test...got all of 14 minutes into it and didn't feel like going harder...so I stopped at 310W with my HR around 155 I think..but my legs were done.

Right - add irreverent stuff to draw audience...


April 25, 2012

My Latest Pez Article -

Personality and Performance
Classics season is a showcase of talent. From Flanders to Liege we have a four week window into what it means to be the best in the World. In addition to the obvious physical gifts, there are individual and personality traits that have helped these riders reach such lofty heights. Let’s look at the role of personality in performance.
 By Matt McNamara
Professional cycling doesn’t have the luxury of a draft. There is no annual combine to assess talent. Instead we speak of a riders threshold power or VO2max as the keys to success. Unfortunately, for cycling, there aren’t a lot of great stats that can be referenced in making those selections. There is no “on-podium” percentage, or relative-finishing-position across races that has any real statistical merit, so we are left to a mix of physiological measures and perception as guides.

This isn’t the case in most other professional sports and perhaps that’s part of the allure of cycling – it really doesn’t operate like most other sports. Yet the quest to find top talent is terribly important to teams and coaches seeking the upper echelons. Teams cannot simply sign a rider on potential alone and invest years in developing that potential in the hopes that it may pay off eventually. Certainly the physiological characteristics are essential, but there are a host of psychological and personality factors that come into play as well.

While sports psychology is well recognized and oft discussed, the role of individual personality traits seems to be less considered at the outset. By and large personality traits, those intrinsic templates we use to view and interact with the World around us, are stable across ones lifetime. Let’s look at a few of the indicators that teams might consider, and that you might want to have a look at for your own development.

The Five Factor Model Most research on personality references what are called the “Big Five Factors” of personality and their constituent traits:

  1.  Openness to experience – ranks the individual as inventive/ curious, appreciative of a variety of experiences versus being more consistent and cautious. 
  2.  Conscientiousness – compares tendencies towards efficient/organized versus easy-going/careless. A tendency to show self discipline and aim for achievement; planned rather than spontaneous behavior 
  3. Extraversion – looks at predispositions towards being outgoing and energetic versus solitary and reserved. 
  4.  Agreeableness – Ones tendency to be friendly/compassionate and cooperative rather than cold/unkind, suspicious or antagonistic towards others. 
  5.  Neuroticism – compares nervousness and sensitivity (a tendency to experience unpleasant emotions like anger, anxiety or depression easily) versus someone who is more secure and confident. By and large these traits are considered fixed and unchanging across time. 
Of these, conscientiousness is the trait most often affiliated with performance as it considers ones tendency towards self discipline and their drive for achievement against outside expectations and measures. Conscientious individuals are considered thorough, reliable, organized, industrious, and self-controlled, among other traits. Conscientiousness is not without it’s limitations, however, namely that it relies on factor analysis of associated adjectives and in so doing eliminates those adjectives with few synonyms (and antonyms) from consideration. Another confound is that research has shown that the relative importance of the above qualities will likely vary depending on the type of achievement under consideration.

Indeed it has been suggested, for example, that self-control, ones ability to resist temptation, is a poor predictor of very high level achievement, whereas achievement orientation was shown to better predict job proficiency and educational success than did dependability.(1)

Researchers seeking to further understand high achievement, and the traits of star performers, have come up with a novel assessment that, by name at least, seems a perfect measure for cycling – Grit! Grit is defined as “perserverance and passion for long term goals.” Tenacity, drive, and determination are related terms, with the key element being a long view towards goal attainment.

Angela Duckworth, a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, is acknowledged as the primary force behind the development of the Grit model. Her primary paper cited six different studies they conducted, each aimed at validating the idea of grit as a predictor of future success. Duckworth and colleagues developed a self-report scale that attempts to determine individual levels of grit. To establish a viable level of validity the scale had to meet four essential criteria: evidence of psychometric soundness, face validity for adolescents and adults pursuing goals in a variety of domains (e.g. not just work or school), low likelihood of ceiling effects in high achieving populations and a precise fit with the construct of grit

Research Summary The first study sought to validate the scale across an open spectrum of respondents and included questions that tapped into an individuals ability to sustain effort in the face of adversity (e.g. ““I have overcome setbacks to conquer an important challenge,” “I finish whatever I begin”), consistency of interest over time (e.g. “My interests change from year to year” or “I have difficulty maintaining my focus on projects that take more than a few months to complete.”).

Items are rated on a 5-point scale from 1 = not at all like me to 5 = very much like me. Of particular note was the tendency for “grit” to become more ingrained as we age and with higher education levels. Older college graduates demonstrated a higher level of “grit” than younger or less educated ones.

Several of their other studies looked to explore the real world realities of the model. For example it was demonstrated that spelling bee participants who scored higher in grit survived longer in the competition. Grit also proved to be a valid predictor of first year success and retention at West Point Military Academy.

Of course all of this correlation and relevance has some counfounds,chief among them was that the model is built on self-report. For example the answer tracking of the questions on the test are fairly easy to extrapolate in context, which may lead people to answer “how they should” – the so-called social desirability effect. The second confound is that respondents are asked to reflect on past actions, which are then extrapolated to future outcomes. Of course the fact that different respondents across different populations respond similarly.

Finally, the research used select populations and didn’t offer insight into a relationship to other predictors of success like self efficacy and locust of control. A Familiar Refrain? If all of this sounds vaguely familiar, it may be that it tracks well with Malcolm Gladwell's writings on expertise (if it’s not familiar, you have some reading to do!). Gladwell's summary noted that expertise is derived from continuous effort and focus – 10, 000 hours of it! Indeed, Ericsson and Charness (1994) concluded that in chess, sports, music,and the visual arts, over 10 years of daily “deliberate practice” set apart expert performers from less proficient peers and that 20 years of dedicated practice was an even more reliable predictor of world-class achievement.

Summary Performance is all too often ascribed to physical talents and physiological gifts alone. Certainly there are a vast array of psychological components that set the star rider apart as well. Into the mix steps the work of Angela Duckworth and the role of Grit. Grit is defined as perseverance and passion towards long term goals. Grit is a personality trait that has been shown to be a strong predictor of overall success. From spelling bees to West Point, individuals who score highly on the “grit scale” are more adept at the long game of deliberate practice that ultimately results in expertise and achievement.

References: 1. Duckworth, Petersen, et al “Grit: Perseverance and Passion for Long Term Goals. Personality Process. 2007 2. “The Emotional Quarterback” – Jonah Lehner, Wired Magazine Online April 6, 2011

Belgian Training Day 2 (and 3)...

Tuesday I met up with one of my H.S. MTB athletes - well, I actually met up with the other 2 as well, but they went MTB'ing - and we headed out to do the legendary "Sweet Spot" or "Hour of Power" ride...60m at ~90% FTP. I figure my FTP is probably around 300W right now (maybe a bit lower), so I set out to do 270W, figuring that was going to be a stretch after not-a-lot-of-riding the past couple of weeks (months, years)...and figuring that Malcolm might not be ready to go full gas since this was his first time doing the workout. I use a sweet little loop by my house:
View Sweet Spot Loop in a larger map It takes about 22-25 minutes to do a lap, making it the perfect loop for this workout. You do have to wait - or blow - one stoplight, but that's not too bad for an urban area like this. Anyway, off we went and I quickly found that 270 was pretty easy - in fact I could hold near 300W without too much strain or heart rate drift. I even kept the "sprint-every-3-minutes" component because it wasn't that bad. Malcolm did a good job of sitting on my wheel (he's about 140 lbs to my 173 lbs - so in the draft he had it "easy"). Here's the quick version: 48 minutes of Sweet Spot, 12 minutes of Groveling! Things were going great into the third lap when I gapped off Malcom just before the turn around, roughly 45 minutes into the ride, and was feeilng pretty good. My average was down to 295 but I thought I might be able to pick it up again if I tried... then the wheels came off over the small hill on Arastradero - couldn't hold the power, couldn't really pedal very well...and over the next 12 minutes of nearly focused effort I lost about 12W of my average!. Here is the Strava for the ride: Roughly 20.5 miles in the hour...but still need the power download (F*%&king Powertap Cradle!)

 Day 3 was NO RIDE b/c I wasted too much time on my job today instead of riding - oh yea, and I ate a McDonalds out of depression...I suck. Back at it tomorrow...

April 23, 2012

Belgian Training - Day 1

That's it! Today...not yesterday, or Saturday...or last week, or the week before...nope TODAY is the day I start what might be considered "real" training for my upcoming trip to BELGIUM in July/August. So much so that I actually threw just about every piece of measuring equipment I own on the bike....

Powermeter - check
Heart Rate Monitor - check
Strava App - check
GoPro Camera - check

All of this for a 30-40 minute climb that I ALWAYS suck at! Today was really no different...and once I have a power file I'll upload it. Looks to be around 35:40 for the climb - probably near 310Wn if I'm guessing...

back at it tomorrow...

When The Race Was Really Won

Liege-Bastonge-Liege is done for another year. Maxim Iglinsky was well and truly amazing* today! Maybe not quite the battle of giants everyone had hoped for, but a compelling finish none-the-less. Several people have posted about the moment the race was won - and in a literal sense they are right...when Iglinsky passed Nibali the race was finally won, but I think it was truly "won" many kilometers earlier...After Nibali took his flyer off the un-listed Cote De La Roche Aux Faucons climb (and all the action on the climb itself) it seemed an obvious lapse by Gilbert et al. He quickly ran out to more than 20 seconds and eventually near a minute. The continual shuffle behind saw attacks and counter-attacks by Pierre Roland (wow, what a day for that guy!), Thomas Voeckler, Kiserlowski, Dan Martin, and Gasparoto (solid solid effort!). I don't think Gilbert has been given enough credit for the amount of work he did to try and bring back both Nibali and the various groups that formed in pursuit. Bad judgement? Maybe, maybe not...seems that if he doesn't help try to close it down then all is lost - and pro cycling tends to be an all or nothing proposition...


 so perhaps Gilbert DID give it all out on the course...just at the wrong time. That he was largely facing squads of two or more riders in the finale certainly didn't help his cause. In the end it seems the race was won by a combination of team tactics and attrition - much like it has in previous editions. While we've come to expect the outlandish solo victory, Sunday was proof once again that cycling really is a team sport. Put Iglinsky against Nibali and Gilbert head-to-head and we'd likely see a different outcome 7 out of 10 times (hey, it's still cycling!).

Of course Cosmo says it best:

Liege Bastogne Liege 2012 - How The Race Was Won from Cosmo Catalano on Vimeo.

 *provided it stands the "test" of time....and the UCI.

April 15, 2012

Up Tomorrow - Riding The BMC

Just a quick note to myself* for tomorrow as I am heading out to ride the new GF01 with the crew from BMC and a bunch of real journalists. We're supposed to have access to the engineers and such to get the inside story on the bike' development. As I'm a typically skeptical person (yet optimistic - are those oppositional?), this should be an opportunity to try and learn something interesting and write something worthwhile. I've been kicking around some questions and topics of conversation. Things like trail and bottom bracket drop are of interest, especially for a bike built to perform in races like Roubaix and Flanders, but targeted at "endurance" riders for whom quick handling and stiffness are tertiary goals. How do they balance these two competing markets? What are the pluses and minuses of longer chain stays and a higher head tube outside of what has already been written?

Frankly I was torn over whether or not to read any of the articles out on the bike so far. Would it skew my experience? Would I simply regurgitate what others had written? I think not...but only the final product will tell, so I guess I better make it good...

*Given my vast readership

April 11, 2012

How To Stay Interesting

What makes you go to a cycling site?

More to the point what makes you go BACK to a site?

There are some great sites, with great content still on the periphery - for now - but soon enough they'll be absorbed, maybe. The thing is I don't really understand how they do it. How do sites like INRNG and RKP stay interesting day to day? Then again maybe it's only interesting to that small cadre of cycling fiends that I know and hang out with. Of course good writing is part, as are great pictures...but there is something else. Perspective? Outside the box thinking? Experience? Whatever it is, whatever combination..i'm hoping to start to get a line on it soon.

On the flip side I find myself in open disdain of VeloNews (Velo? WTF?) these days* and tolerant of CN and others mostly in the search for current news. They seem to put up lots of aggregated content, or worse rehashed press clippings from teams. They fire their most experienced and prestigous for what one can only presume is cost savings...but saving money at the cost of credibility and content is simply mis-guided.

Sites like Pez** and the smaller blog based ones do a good job of painting the varied portraits of cycling that keep readers coming back. Unique content is certainly a solid foundation for success! Guess I gotta go get interesting now...

What's Interesting:

120 Miles of Battenkill...

Jered Gruber's KOM's from Strava...

Tomorrow's project with BMC:

*Stealing, mediocre-ly, the "How The Race Was Won" concept from Cyclocosm was laughable. Just watch VN's E3 effort compared with Cosmo's Flanders or Roubaix posts for confirmation that talent cannot be copied. Then again I think they do a few things well...bike reviews are good.

**Yea, I write for Pez...no wonder it's so good!

Love and Hate

I love cycling - love it enough that I went and made it my job.

I hate my job - if only from ineptness

I love my wife - she makes me smile most days

I hate my life - when it seems an unending misery

I love my daughter - my one true joy

I hate myself - for failing to reach my own expectations

I love to ride - it is freedom and peace

I hate my bikes - they are never perfect

I love physiology - it's constantly fascinating

I hate technology - unmastered mediocrity in my hands

I love my athletes - they are all good and interesting people

I hate my team - stagnant by ambivalence

I love to go places - a road trip anytime is fine

I hate to leave my house - somedays

I love music - A daily gift

I hate the ringing in my ears - seems worse with stress

Commence Rant

Since no one really reads this blog, honestly, no one.

AND since in the back of my head I fancy myself a passably capable writer, or some bastardization of that term...

AND since I have a lot of opinions on a lot of things...

HTFU is a mantra, not a clothing line! Stupid people permeate the Republican party. Timeline sucks. Masters dopers are a joke (hey, I didn't say my opinions were all revolutionary or anything!). "Pro" isn't unless you're getting paid. If you can't turn 300W you're slow. Carbon bikes should NOT cost $5k! Nothing in cycling should cost $5k. You know I almost took out the pro comment b/c I think AC is pro anyway, but that would be capitulation. Capitulation sucks.

...and since I'd like to get out of my multi-month FUNK as my life floats by and a summer of racing beckons while I add pounds and lose cardio capacity EVERY SINGLE DAY ....I might as well say whatever I want!

So, for the foreseeable future this blog will simply RANT about whatever crosses my path. It'll probably be some geeky cycling crap or passably amusing anecdote I heard from someone else - but then again maybe it won't...