Thursday, July 7, 2011

How to stay Motivated for Racing in the Summer Months

It’s finally summer time.  The weather is nice and the days are long. However, for many bike racers, July is a tough month, motivation wise.  Early season races have come and gone, goals have either been met or not quite achieved, you pretty much know how your season is going to turn out, and the motivation to train and race is weaning.   Just as bike riding is at its best, people are tiring of riding and training.
The question becomes how to stay motivated to train and race through the entire race season which can last until September.
For most of us, having a goal is the #1 motivation to ride our bike.  This goal can be as simple as finishing a charity ride or Grand Fondo to something more intense such as winning a national caliber stage race or Master’s Nationals.  However, if your cycling goal is in the spring or in the beginning of the summer, once your goal ride or race is finished, it’s easy to lose the motivation to keep training.  This is why it’s important to have another goal in mind for later in the season. This way you keep your bike riding and racing motivation going strong. 
While training for goal #2, it’s important to keep it fun.  By this time in the season, most of us are tired of doing intervals, and are tired of riding the same roads over and over.  The best ways to beat these “midseason blues” are to find ways to mix up your riding.  Try riding new routes with new people or riding at different times of the day.  Mix up your interval sessions by doing them up a hill or change the length of each interval and rest period. 
My favorite way to keep training fun is to ride different bikes.  If you are a roadie, summer is a great time to hone in your bike handling skills (not to mention build great seated power) with mountain biking a couple times a week.   You can even throw in a short track race here and there to take place of your VO2 intervals.  If you are a mountain biker, spend some time on your road bike and add in a road race or two to test out your fitness and race tactics.   
Cyclocross racing is a great goal #2 or goal #3 to have.  Cyclocross mixes both road racing and mtn bike racing and is a fun way to stay in race shape and work on your skills in the fall and winter months.  Come July, if you are tired of racing and training, it’s the perfect time to take a break from racing, spend some fun time on your bike and aim to ramp up for the Cyclocross season that starts in late September.
Here are a few workouts to keep training and motivation fresh-

-Bottom to top intervals- using the terrain available; ride hard from the bottom of a climb to the top of the climb. Really push it all the way to the top. Recover on the back side.
                Here in Boulder, Colorado, we like to use climbs like 4-mile, Poorman’s, Lee Hill and Old Stage, and the Morgul Bismark loop to name a few.  If you don’t have climbs near your house, you could find difference sections of road that you can sprint on or sprint between speed limit signs and/or stop lights.

- FreeStyle Sweet Spot-   Ride hard, Sweet Spot Zone, for a period of time (like 20-60 minutes or more). Check out the article on Sweet Spot Training on our FasCat Coaching page-

-Friendly attacking or group rides- Ride with a friend and take turns “attacking” each other as you would in a race or join a spirited group ride that challenges you with city limit sprints or climbing out of your comfort zone.

                Happy training and remember to enjoy each bike ride.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Importance of Recovery

The most important aspect to riding and racing success is hard training. The second most important aspect to riding and racing success is recovery; for you can’t ride hard, unless you are rested and ready to do so.  For me, a recovery ride 1-2 times a week is crucial.  In general, recovery rides promote blood flow which helps decrease inflammation, remove waste products, and loosen stiff, sore muscles.
                For a recovery ride to be productive it has to be an easy, mellow, short ride.  If you ride any harder than “recovery pace” you are putting a training stress on your body instead of recovering.
Fortunately and unfortunately, I live in the mountains of Colorado at 8,000.  The training is amazing; altitude, mountains, low traffic roads, etc.  Unfortunately, every road either goes up or down. A proper recovery ride at 8,000ft while climbing is not ideal.
A recovery ride at home is where my Kinetic by Kurt Road Machine comes in.  When I need an easy, mellow, high cadence, recovery ride at home, I’ll get on the trainer and “spin out” my legs.  In 30-45 minutes I feel loose and “clean” because my body has gotten rid of the extra junk left in my legs after the previous day’s workout or race.  I keep the pace mellow (<140 watts) and every 3-5 minutes alternate spinning my legs at high cadence (<120 rpm) with more of a moderate cadence (90-100 rpm). 
I make sure to drink a lot of water (2 bottles) as it can get pretty warm in the summer time on the trainer and I sweat a lot.  I follow this workout with stretching and more water.  The rest of the day, I put my feet up and by tomorrow I am ready to “Rock n Roll”.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Benefits of Using a Powermeter During Early Season Races

This article was just posted on
Coach AP explains why you should use a powermeter during early season races.

On March 5th 2011, Lilly, (an athlete of mine) performed her personal best during the Frostbite Time Trial in Ft. Collins Colorado. This was very rewarding to her as an athlete and to me as she coach because we had planned on using this race as a test of early season fitness.  When Lilly and I began working together, we did an indoor test using the Powerbeam indoor trainers and determined her Functional Threshold Power (FTP) to be 222 watts.  On the Tuesday before the Time Trial, she did a 2x12 min Threshold workout where she was able to hold 226 and 227 watts respectively.  I used this data, to give her wattages to pace the Time Trial. I gave Lilly the goal to hold 220-235 watts until the turn around (halfway through the course). Then it was up to her to “go by feel” (i.e. monitor her energy level to either go harder, or to hold that same pace). 
After analyzing the data from her Power file, I concluded she paced the Time Trial well, rode a great race (she got 2nd place!) and exceeded her expectations.  The first half of her Time Trial she averaged 242 watts (higher than the zone range goal).  At the turn around, it was clear she had “enough in the tank”  to ride harder as the second half of her Time Trial averaged 255 watts and her peak 20 min power was at the end of her race.  Overall, Lilly averaged 247 watts, 22.7 mph, and had an average cadence of 86 rpm.

Lilly used her Powermeter as a guide to race smart.  Our pacing plan worked well as she raced to second place and got a new personal best 20 min power average (giving her a new FTP).  However, because Lilly’s power output during the second half of the race was so good, we know she could have maintained a higher wattage for the entire race.  We know this because of her higher average watts, best 20 min time period, and during the last 4 min she averaged 275 watts.  We learned she could have ridden the first half of the race harder, then maintained that pace during the second half of the race. I was able to tell Lilly, I think she could have done 250-255 watts over the entire length of the race. This strategy would have yielded a faster time and we’ll use this information for the next Time Trial race, April 16th.
This is great feedback for me, when designing her next training block as it updated her wattage based training zones. This is also great feedback for Lilly as it shows her that her hard work is paying off and she is training properly.  Most of all, Lilly has gained confidence. 
As you can see, the benefits of using a powermeter as a training tool for early season races are numerous.  The data and race files from these early season races provide fitness feedback to you and your coach that can be applied to future training and racing.  For example, when Lilly races this Time Trial next year, we’ll have this data to use as a bench mark and as a pacing tool.  We’ll be able to list goal watts for pacing and then can use her average race watts and compare it to her 2011 race data. This data is helpful when comparing fitness from year to year to see gains and/or losses that have been made.
  Everyone has goals they want achieve.  Using a powermeter takes the guess work out of your training and racing and provides real data that, when used and applied properly, can help you ride faster.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Race Tactics

I (Coach AP) am the mentor/coach of the Rocky Mounts Women's Cycling Team and I must say, it is very rewarding.  Before my first cycling race, 7 years ago, I had never even seen a bike race (other than the Tour de Frace on TV).  I had no idea about race tactics, training, or strategy. I was just excited to race hard and try to win.  Unfortunately, I had a lot to learn about racing and training before I was even able to think about winning a race.

It's for this reason, I am so happy to mentor the Rocky Mounts Women. On days like yesterday, when we go ride a local crit course together to practice race tactics, riding in a pack, and cornering skills, I am able to teach the women how to race as a team and, most of all, how to get the most FUN out of each race and ride together.

Now, when the team goes to their first race together, they'll not only know what to expect in the race, they'll have a plan on how to EXCEL during the race.  For me, that is a rewarding feeling.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

First Race-with athletes

This past Saturday, was the Frostbite Time Trial north of Ft. Collins.  This was the first chance to test my own fitness for the 2011 race season, but it was also a great chance to get to race with a few of my athletes.

As a coach, there is only so much I can do to get an athlete ready for his or her races.  Once at the race, the athletes are on their own.  I can't be at every race for every athlete and I certainly can't control the dynamics the outcome of the races. What I can do, as a coach, is to get each athlete as prepared as possible for each race.

Such was the case at the Frostbite TT.  Not only did I get to watch each athlete race, I got to warm-up with them, I got to go over the course and race strategy for each, we got to ride and cool-down together, and we car pooled together.
It was a great bonding experience and reminded me how much I enjoy coaching and riding my bike.

The Mountain Flyer Magazine was covering the race, and here is a nice write up about about the race, and the results.

The four of us came home with 1 win, 2 seconds, and valuable experience gained.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Honesty-with yourself

Honesty.  Ever since you were a little kid, there is a good chance your parents and teachers told you to always tell the truth.  Over the years, we all have learned honesty is the best policy.
For the most part, you tell the truth to your parents, to your kids, to your spouse, and to your loved ones.  But how often do you tell the truth to yourself?
How honest are you with yourself?
How honest are you with yourself and your training, or your nutrition or your energy levels.

Each of our body's talk to us.  It's up to us to listen to what our body is saying and then to be honest with it.

Maybe your body is run down and telling you it's tired, but your telling it to shut the F up because your training plan has 3 hrs on it for today and that's what you're going to do. 

If you're caught lying to a friend or family member, they usually get mad at you and you feel badly for lying in the first place.

If you keep ignoring your body and/or lying to yourself that you feel fine and everything is good, soon your body will get mad at you and tell you to F off.  Then comes the sore throat, the cough, the stuffy nose, the fatigue, etc.

Be honest with yourself and be honest with your body.  Listen to what it has to say and decide the best plan of attack from there.  Maybe it's rest, maybe it's less sugar in your diet, maybe both of you need a swift kick in the ass, but you'll never know unless you tell the truth.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Tis the season to be un-fit.

December...tis the time of year to be unfit.  And you should be unfit for fitness comes from un-fitness. Tis the time of year to build, to get stronger, to improve upon weaknesses and to enjoy other sports besides the bicycle.

I (Coach AP) did my Functional Lactate Test today and the results show that I am very much in December fitness season.  Though the numbers are slightly (VERY) ego crushing, (158 lbs- 225 watts LT) I know I can only get better from here and through each bike ride, skate ski, and Pilates session I'll gain fitness and continue toward my goals for 2011.

Here is my graph from today's test done at FasCat Coaching in Boulder, Colorado.

Double check yourself and your training to make sure you are in the correct fitness season.  Tis the season to be un-fit.