Coaches Blog

  • Endurance Racing

    Endurance Racing

    This summer I have had the opportunity to leave my comfort zone of road cycling and experince a different facet in cycling. The world of ultra cycling is far from the fast paced, cut throat crit racing world and has many different strategies involved. While I have not completed and ultra endurance race solo, I have completed a couple as part of a team and have realized the undertaking that completing a 500 mile or longer race solo must be. I would argue that knowing your body is much more important in ultra racing.

    From the few races that I have done I have learned that my body does some pretty weird things between 2 am and sunrise and that during that time my nutrition must all be liquid. If I have any solid food in this time frame I will experience a lot of G.I. issues. During normal daylight hours I can eat nearly anything and feel fine. I have found that limiting the number of gels I consume towards the beginning of the race pays off in the end when solid food begins to not sit well.

    It is important to have a plan, but let the plan be flexible as conditions can change dramatically over 24 hours (often times more) of racing. As with road racing it is important to know where your limits are. The first 100 miles are critical. Races are not often won during these miles, but it can almost always be lost. During Race Across the West our relay team spent some time riding around some solo guys in the opening miles of the race. Nearly every solo racer that was hanging with our teams pace DNFed. As a team or a solo racer it is important to not get caught up in all of the fast riding off the start line. Hold a good pace and try to keep all of your competition within a closable gap. During many of the summer races the time to make up ground and pass is at night. The cooler temperatures at night allow riders to keep their core temps low and ultimately keep their speeds up. With this in mind it is important to conserve during the hot hours of the day in order to have the energy needed at night to make big gains and potentially capitalize on other riders mistakes.

    Finally, I have learned that having a solid crew makes all the difference. Recently I raced the Hoodoo 500, we self crewed the race. Self crewing was an experience and luckily we had a guy on our team that was willing to ride and act as a crew member. Our team did very well at Hoodoo, but having a full time crew can take a lot of the stress off the riders. Our Race Across the West team had a rockstar crew. They kept the team moving 24 hours a day for 48 hours. Our team managed to only miss 2 turns, but we had a rider ready to take over when the turns were missed, thanks to the awesome effort of our crew. Your crew is also responsible for closely following you during hours of darkness so there is a level of trust that must be maintained at all times.

    I encourage anyone that has thought about giving an ultra endurance a shot to take the plunge and do it. They are a great way to get out and ride in a new place. If you do it on a team you will learn more about your team members than you ever thought possible and you'll leave the event with memories that you will take with you for the rest of your life.

    Stay tuned for more info on the specifics of nutrition and race strategy during solo endurance racing.

  • If it ain't broke don't fix it

    If it ain't broke don't fix it

    As athletes we are always searching for an edge in competition. A way to be more aero, or make our bodies more efficient, but at what point do we look at something and say its working well so lets leave it like it is? Bike fits are a tough subject, everyone has their own opinion on how a bike should fit, but is one better than another? Ultimately the goal of a bike fit is to fit a rider on their bike so that they are as aero as possible without making the rider uncomfortable and without decreasing power output. 

    As a coach I will rarely send an athlete for a bike fit unless they look like they need some help on their fit, or if they are complaining of a particular issue. A lot of coaches I have been in contact with recently, esspecially long course triathlon coaches are all about sending athletes to get bike fits. Sometimes these fits are conducted by out of town bike fitters. Why send the athletes to get a fit if everything seems to be working out very well? The other crazy thought is sending an athlete to an out of town bike fitting expert. While not all cities have a great shop to get a bike fit at, Nashville has some great fitters locally. A local fit offers a lot that an out of town fit can't. If you get fit at a local shop you have easy access to visit the person that did your fit. If you have problems its a pretty easy fix. If you have to travel getting a few tweaks is much more difficult. 

    I often take the same approach to swim and run form. If the athlete is doing something that is putting them at risk for injury or is very inefficient then I will show them how to correct it. Often times if an athlete tries to make too many changes to their form at once they will struggle to perform well. When making large changes to an athletes form, especially if the athlete has been competing for a long time, changes must be small with a larger goal in mind. 

    This post has a lot of random thoughts combined into it. Ultimately when it comes to trianing, everything must be based in science, if changes need to be made, make them slowly. If the athlete is comfortable with the way they are doing something and there isn't anything wrong with it then don't change it!

  • Sleep

    How much sleep do you get each night while training? How much sleep do you think is needed while training? I will hopefully answer these questions, and give you some insight into why sleep is so important. According to the National Sleep Foundation normal adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. From studies they have done they reccomend that athletes get an extra hour of sleep each day. A nap can count for this extra hour. 

    Sleep has an effect on glycogen storage. Glycogen is essentially sugar that is stored in the muscles. Glycogen is needed during endurance events to help produce ATP. Sleep also plays a roll in reaction time and the ability to make on the spot decisions. Bike racing requires very quick reactions and the ability to make decisions quickly. 

    Studies have shown that lack of sleep can increase cortisol. Cortisol is a stress hormone that can slow down healing and lowers the level of growth hormone, a hormone that is needed to help repair the body after intense exercise. 

    Sleep is clearly important and it can be hard to get enough on a reqular basis. Be sure to set a regular schedule and try to stick to it as closely as possible. Avoid excessive alcohol consumption and limit caffine intake as these can reduce the amount of REM sleep that is accumulated each night. Try to get sleep naturally without medication (unless a doctor has prescribed it). Sleep medications can make it hard to get into a natural sleep pattern and can have the same effect as alcohol or caffine. Take your training to the next level, get enough sleep each night!

  • 88db6b0ad17cc7ed-lactate.jpeg

    Today I will be writing in reference to an article posted on Velo News. The link to the article is posted below.

    Just to get things straight I am going to agree with everything that is written in this particular article. For the most part lactic acid and lactate are used interchangeably for two totally different things. Lactate plays a roll, as shown above, in the production of ATP. In reality Lactate actually serves a purpose and helps us to create more energy. As stated in the article our bodies do create an acid which is simply H+ ions. The H+ ions and Lactate leave the muscule cells together. Because of the 1:1 relationship that the H+ ions have with Lactate, Lactate levels become a good indicator for intensity. The H+ ions cause fatigue in a number of different ways. Keep in mind that H+ ions will lower the PH of blood. When the PH decreases below 6.9 phophofrutokinase becomes inhibited. As PH continues to decrease glycogen breakdown stops at a PHof 6.4. Glycogen breakdown is a main source of short term energy. More research is needed on this last part, but as of now it appears that H+ ions compete for binding sites with Ca++ for troponin binding sites. Troponin and Ca++ are responsible for cross bridge formation and ultimately responsible for muscle contraction. Because the build up of H+ ions can inhibit our bodies ability to exerciese, do work, or live, our bodies must remove the H+ ions. Our bodies contain HCO3 which acts as a buffer for the H+ ions. Ultimately, as the HCO3 buffers the H+ ions breating rate increases because our body has PH sensors. As breathing rate increases H+ levels fall keeping the body in a state of homeostasis. If exercise intensity is increased to a high level then H+ will begin to build up,  because the body will not be able to buffer it and expel it through an increased breathing rate. The point where the H+ ions begin to accumulate and increase at an expontential rate is where ones lactate threshold occurs. Once again it is called lactate threshold simply because lactate is used as an indicator for the H+ ions. If the H+ ions continue to build up the athlete will eventually experience failure. 

    To summarize H+ ions cause the bodies PH to change, as PH changes breathing rate increases, the breathing rate must go up because the HCO3 produces CO2 in the blood, the CO2 must be expelled from the body. The reason your breathing rate goes up is not because you need more oxygen, but because you must get rid of the CO2 in the blood that is ultimately caused by the increase in H+ ions as exercise intensity increases. Next time you do efforts until failure you will know what is ultimately causing your bodies inability to continue.


    Dr. Thomas Barstowe Ex. Physiology course material

  • Gravel Grinding

    Gravel Grinding

    It's barely 30 degrees outside, the trails are covered in slick ice and the amount of time to put on cold weather clothes almost outweighs the time spent on the bike.  However, there's something that draws me to the gravel roads of Warren and Madison county.

    Gravel has a way of hardening a rider, whether it's the bone- rattling road, the consistent rolling hills, or the fact that the wind ALWAYS seems to be in your face.  It's for these reasons that I love riding gravel.  Some days it's great to get out there and ride 4 hours solo; just you and your thoughts, moments of self- reflection.  The absence of other people and the abondoned barns makes you feel desolate.  Or if you can convince a couple of poor souls to join you, you get to enjoy the collective suffering of the group.  During one of my last rides, the three of us picked up a fourth companion.  This guy was friendly and wanted to come along for the ride.  He followed us for a few miles before we decided that it was probably best that he turn back.  However, he just wanted to to keep going!  It took a full- on sprint to finally drop him.  An experience that could only be enjoyed out in the middle of nowhere.

    Why, you ask, do I do this?  The way I see it, is if I can persevere through dodgy conditions, hills and the rough roads, I'll have no problem getting on the road bike in the coming months.  The weather will be more tolerable, the hills shorter and paved roads that smooth tires will just glide across.

    Sometimes you have to embrace the elements and become tougher because of them.  The alternative, another 4 hour ride on something that resembles a hampster wheel while watching Paris- Roubaix for a sixth time.

  • Wahoo Fitness Kickr

    I recently picked up a Wahoo Fitness Kickr Trainer. I am very pleased with how well this product works and how seamlessly it interfaces with all of my devices. I was also pleasently surprised to find out how many 3rd party apps are available to make the trainer do many different things. 

    The trainer makes doing any power based workout extremely easy (not less painful). One app, allows you to write a specific workout based on pecentage of FTP and then it will control the trainer using whatever FTP is entered. Start the workout, put on a movie, let the trainer do the thinking and all you have to do is keep pedalling. 

    There are other apps that allow the user to watch race videos, or course videos while on the trainer. The trainer uses the .gpx file from a gps device to simulate the course. 

    This trainer has made indoor rides a much more pleasent experience, and it allows for some amazing FTP testing. The Wahoo Fitness Kickr is by far the best trainer I have ever used.

  • Cutting Corners

    This is just a quick reminder to everyone out there that cutting corners will not get you anywhere. Occasionally something might come up and you have to cut a ride short, or maybe you're not feeling so great so you take your run pace to 10 min per mile instead of 9 min per mile. That sort of thing is totally acceptable. When you are scheduled to ride 60 min, but only ride 55 min, or scheduled to try to hit 7 min miles but instead of trying because you know it will hurt you shoot for 7:15 mile, that's cutting corners. Often times corners are cut to remain comfortable. Being an athlete is not suppose to be comfortable all of the time. You should enjoy what you do, but you should enjoy it so that you are motivated through the not so glamorous times. Everytime you cut a corner in training you potentially jeprodize your performance gains. You might not even notice any difference in your fitness, but as soon as the season rolls around and you get beat by a tire width at the finish line, I can gaurantee that you'll remember everytime you knocked 5 min off a workout or made the intensity just a bit easier. 

    This goes beyond just a personal issue though, this can effect your entire team. If your team is working for you then they believe that you have put the work in to close the deal. Everytime you cut a corner you risk not being able to close the deal and letting down your entire team. Be a team player and do your workouts the right way and don't let those cut corners come back and bite you at the finish line!

  • Garmin 910XT

    I recnetly picked up the Garmin 910XT to try out. I have only used it a handful of times, but it is absolutely amazing! If you are a triathlete that is into crunching numbers this device will give you every number you could ever dream of and then some. 

    It has a very user friendly interface that will work flawlessly with your computer, making the tracking of data much easier than with any device you have used in the past. It counts strokes, stroke efficiency, strokes for eacy stroke used, laps, lap times, the list goes on for just swimming. It also does the obvious run and bike functions as well. If the watch is purchased as part of the triathlon bundle then you will have the ability to simply twist the device 90 degrees to remove it from the wrist band and lock it into the bike mount. It is pretty slick and offers a very fast switch. The triathlon bundle also comes with all of the accesories you will need to make it work for all of your triathlon needs!

    I have found very few things so far that I don't like with this particular device other than the high price. Garmin knows they have built a great product so they graciously pass that on to the consumer. Money doesn't always get you better quality, but in this case it definitely is worth every penny!

  • Tracking Data

    Tracking Data

    Tracking and analyzing data is a very important concept in endurance sports. You have to know what you are curently capable of in order to figure out where you need to be and how you are going to get there. For some people this is as simple as using a cateye computer on their bicycle to track distance and speed. For others this means using a Garmin device similar to the one pictured above. Garmin seems to have some of the best products for sports electronics. They have very few problems in comparison to other similar products, they do more than almost any other product that has been released to date, and they seem to work well with all other ANT+ devices. 

    Choosing the right device for you should be pretty simple. Figure out what exactly you want to use the device for; whether it be running, cycling, swimming, cross country skiing, or triathlon. Then find some products that are built for your intended use. Compare the features to find what you are looking for. If you have a coach I strongly recommend something will easily interface with your PC or Mac computer. I personally use the Garmin Edge 500, but just recently purchased a Garmin Forerunner 910 XT. When looking at electronics look for something that is user friendly. So far of all of the devices I have experience with the Garmin is by far the easiest to operate. In fact it is more user friendly than the simple cateye computers. 

    Once you have a computer figure out what other ANT+ or Bluetooth Smart devices you need to gather all of the data you would like to collect. Maybe you want to measure power, or heart rate therefore you will need to purchase the proper device to measure these particular stats. 

    Now that you have a computer and the devices to gather a plethora of information be sure to actually use the device to its fullest potential. If you have a coach, be sure to upload your data often so that your coach can give you feedback. If you are self coached be sure to analyze your own data and figure out what all of it means. If you analyze your data on a regular basis you will begin to see trends that appear with training and racing. These trends will help you to plan workouts and peak for races.

    Finally, the point of this post, track your data. If you have a coach, then they are likely tracking your data for you, or at least they should be. If you are using a powermeter it is pretty easy to track your data and see progress. It is as simple as tracking trends in your FTP. If you are just using Heart Rate you might have to get a bit more creative. Heart Rate Threshold values often show very little to no change as fitness increases, esspecially if the athlete already has a good level of fitness. You might try doing field tests on the same section of road, hopefully keeping weather conditions reletively constant between tests. Post test, simply view your heart rate and your speed side by side with previous tests. Most likely you will see a heart rate that is close to the same as before with a speed that is slightly higher than before (providing your fitness is increasing). I personally prefer to use Excel to keep track of all of my athletes progress. I am not going to give away all of the spreadsheets that I personally use, but if you use a little bit of creativity it is pretty simple to come up with something that will work to track your fitness over a period of time. 

    Most of the examples I used relate to cycling, however you can do pretty much the same thing with run paces, or swim paces. Ultimately it comes down to coming up with a valid test to figure out your threshold, and then using the testing protocol to figure your threshold on a somewhat regular basis.

    Knowing your Threshold will help you on race day. It will give you a better idea as to what pace or intensity you can sustain for the duration of the race. For example, you might be running a 10K. Most runners will be at or slightly above threshold for the duration of the 10K. Therefore, if you know your threshold pace, or threshold heart rate you should be able to pace yourself appropriately so that you do not go out too fast and then die, or go out too slow and then have a lot left at the end. When it comes to training, data can go along ways. At the end of the day it is hard to beat the ability to know your body, but there are definitely days that data will show you that it was more of a mental block than anything else. It will also help to show you that the fatigue you feel is showing that you need some recovery. 

    Ultimately, get a device to measure and track your personal training stats, know how to use it well, know what your numbers mean or better yet find a professional that can help you understand what all of the data means and help you to plan your training with the information that you provide.