Thursday, June 30, 2011

Success in Cycling

I picked up a pretty good book at the airport this week entitled, "Outliers", by Malcolm Gladwell, that I highly recommend.  It's a book about what successful people have in common that helped them get to the top of their game. Outlier being defined in the book as: 1. something that is situated away from or classed differently from a main or related body. 2. a statistical observation that is markedly different in value from the others of the sample.  The book never really defines what "success" is but I'm assuming it's being at the top of the game/business/sport and making big $$ or winning a Nobel prize.  The book never really mentions "cycling" per se, it does mention ice hockey, but the things in common with all the top successful people (regardless of their business or sport) are:

1. they have a genetic gift- either physically or mentally.
2. they put in beaucoup hours of work/practice/training- have a hard work ethic.
3. they have/had good fortune/opportunities- were in the right place at the right time.

Do you know who the smartest man in the world is/was?  If I had to guess, prior to reading the book, I would have said, "Einstein".  Had I guessed that, I'd be wrong.  Einstein's IQ was 150.  The average Joe has an IQ of 100.  There is a man by the name of Chris Langan with an IQ of 195 (some claim it's even higher but can't be accurately recorded).  Can you believe that?  It's true.  But, the reason we never heard of Chris is because he wasn't successful...that is, according to the book.  Yes, he had a genetic gift, (not sure of his work ethic) but he didn't have good fortune or opportunities growing say Bill Gates did.  In fact, the reason Chris didn't go further with his college education is because his mother didn't fill out the financial aid form required to keep him in college for FREE.  Do you believe that?  She didn't fill out the financial forms?

Regardless, if you want to be successful in anything, including bike racing..I think you've got to have all three attributes as described in detail in the book: you've got to have good genes, you've got to work hard, and you have to have good fortune.  Me, with regards to cycling, I only have one..I work least I think I do. ha. Actually, according the book, I don't even work hard.  Because their definition of working hard is eating, sleeping, cycling..that's it.  And, I guess I suppose I have good fortune in that I have the $$ to buy the best equipment and have the $$ to enter pretty much any race I want.  I can't say I have good fortune during races though..because I've had more flats/mechanicals and been held up in more crashes in 30+ races than some riders/racers have had in double that.  So, maybe I don't even have one attribute of/for what it takes to be successful in cycling racing.  But, my goal is not to be "successful" in cycling's to be competitive, have fun and stay in shape.

What do you have?  1 out of 3, 2 out of 3, 3 out of 3?  None?  If you suck at racing, blame it on your parents or your bad luck/misfortune. ha

Power ON! Coach Rob

Conduct during cycling events

I can't tell you the number of times I've seen/heard competitors finger pointing, jawing, trash talking, etc. during a race..only for it to continue into the parking lot AFTER the race.  (If not with the competitor with their friends regarding a competitor.)  Heck, it doesn't even have to be in a race..I've seen/heard it happening on group training rides.  To be honest with you, I think we've all been guilty of it (jawing, trash talking, cursing, etc.) at one time or another.  I've even heard of guys swinging at each other..not only during a race but in the parking lot after the race.  For those of you that don't race, you might be wondering/thinking..that's ridiculous, how can anyone get that "fired-up" about a bike race..especially if you're only an amateur and race for fun on the weekends?  I'll tell you why, because when you're riding at 30+ mph and somebody cuts you off in a turn, or tries to run you off the road, the last thing you want to do is crash which could result in an ambulance ride to the hospital.  So, rider safety is paramount in cycling racing.  BTW, not all of these actions (cutting-off riders) are "intentional" they are "accidental".  Regardless, if you're not sure of your riding ability to hold lines in tight turns..then maybe you should be working/practicing on your riding skills a little bit more on the weekends rather than racing.  And, just because you're a Cat 3 racer doesn't mean your riding skills are up to par.  I've seen Cat 4/5 racers with better riding/racing skills than some Cat 3 racers..since the Cat 3 racers upgraded quickly (because their power got em their points), and haven't been racing as long.

Anyway, lets get back to rider conduct during a race.  The USA Cycling rule(s) I see broken most often during races, regarding conduct, are:

1Q6. Abuse.
(a) No rider or licensee may be disrespectful toward organizers, officials, riders or spectators [warning for minor offense; possible relegation of rider; and/or up to a $50 fine].
(b) No rider or licensee may use foul or abusive language or conduct during a race event [disqualification and 15 days suspension].
(c) No licensee may assault (an unlawful attempt, coupled with the present ability, to commit a violent injury on the person of another) or do battery (any willful and unlawful use of force or violence upon the person of another) to anyone connected with any event (including but not limited to riders, officials, spectators, public officials, etc...) held under a USA Cycling permit. [disqualified from the event, prohibited from participating in another event for 72 hours & suspended for up to one (1) year after due process]

1Q7. No rider may make an abrupt motion so as to interfere with the forward progress of another rider, either intentionally or by accident [relegation or disqualification; possible 20 days suspension if a crash results].

1Q8. Dangerous Rider. Any rider who appears to present a danger to the other competitors may be disqualified by the Chief Referee, either before, during, or after a race.
So, how do you make sure you don't break any of these rules?  Just hold your line, pedal hard and keep your mouth shut and race.  If a rider posed a danger to you or others during the race..get his/her bib number and report them to an official after the race.  I know if you come up to me and say something, I WILL have a word with the rider in question.  As you know, there are ALWAYS two sides of the story.  If a rider keeps "jawing" or "trash talking" during a race..just tell them to "shut-up and race."  Don't tell him/her to "shut the F$#k up and race" or you're going to hear it from me- if I hear it.  If there is a "squirrely rider" get away from them during the race and report them afterwards.  If you do say something to the rider after the polite.  Call the rider to the side.  You don't want to embarrass them in front of their friends.  Remember, we are all guilty of it (cutting people off by accident) at one time or another.  Hell, I reached in my back pocket one time for a Gu and almost took two guys out.  I, however, apologized profusely during and after the race.
One last thing, and I see/hear this all the time.  Don't be yelling at other riders during the race that they're NOT working hard enough or pulling through.  There could be a reason for it..other than saving themselves for the final sprint.  There have been times that I've bridged a gap to get up to the lead group and all but completely burned-out in the process.  So, the last thing I was going to do was take my turn pulling.  I just sat in the back, not taking my turn, and waiting until I got my legs back.  THEN, I would take my turn.  Now, if you DON'T take your turn (in time) ready to take an earful.  In which case- you deserve it.  Just make sure you don't throw any F-bombs in earshot of an official. ha
Be safe, shut-up and race!  Power ON!  Coach Rob

Thursday, June 23, 2011

One-Factor vs. Two-Factor Training Theory

I've often wondered what the "optimum" race-season training schedule should be.  Does it consist of only one HARD workout per week in preparation for a race on the weekend?  Does it consist of two HARD workouts per week?  And, if it does consist of two HARD workouts per week, should those HARD workouts be back-to-back..i.e. Tues and Wed, or should they be separated by a day or two...i.e. Mon and Wednesday with Thursday being a rest day and Friday being a race-prep workout day?  Or, how about three HARD workouts per week?  I won't even go into which workouts would be best..ha.   And, that is just a micro-cycle training schedule we're talking about.  What about a macro-cycle training schedule?  Should we be going HARD every week for three weeks and then use the fourth week as a rest/recovery week in preparation for an "A" event race? 

Just like everything else in the Ex-Fiz (Exercise Physiology) world, I'm sure the answer is: it depends.  It depends on who the athlete is, it depends on his/her current fitness level, it depends on when the "A" event race is, it depends on the athletes travel schedule, it depends on the athletes motivational level, etc. 

So, I did a little "training" research on the internet and discovered what some Ex-Fiz's call the "one and two factor theories of training".  The "one-factor" theory is the one I grew up with in High School and College Sports.  It is based on the premise that you load/workout then recover completely then you load/workout then recover completely repeating the pattern.  The key here is recovering completely before you begin your next loading or workout.  And, the loading is progressive loading.  That is, each week you increase the load so your body learns to adapt and gets stronger.  Granted, in High School and College Sports we practiced EVERY day and really didn't get a chance to recover completely.  At least I know I didn' Friday I was beat.  Even when we weren't practicing we were in the Weight Room lifting M-W-F.  Again, load/workout and recover completely and repeat.  It's what the Supercompensation model is all about (see my prior blogs on Supercompensation).
The "two-factor" theory of training is a little bit different than the "one-factor" theory.  In the "two-factor theory" you  train HARD for the first 3 weeks, 3x per week (usually 3 days in a row), so that you never really are completely recovered from any workouts. Then, on the 4th week you train only once or twice the entire week at a lower intensity and low volume.  Supposedly, after the 4th week of recovery training (low intensity/low volume) your fitness level will jump higher than if you trained (steadily/consistently) according to the "one-factor" theory.  Notice I said, "supposedly"?  Because I'm sure the "two-factor" theory doesn't work best for every athlete.  Personally, I believe it only works best for elite athletes that can maintain the strict 4-block training schedule of 3 weeks ON 1 week OFF.  For me, someone that lives out of a suitcase for business, the two-factor training theory wouldn't work.  Because I can never tell from week-to-week where I'll be on travel.  Could be the West Coast, could be in Wash DC or Southern MD or any other place where I might not be able to bring my bike for training.  And, if you think riding a trainer in the Winter is bad, try riding a Spin Bike in the Summer (when it's nice out) in a hotel or local gym..bleh.

Regardless of which theory of training you prefer or adhere to, the critical part in each theory is rest/recovery.  For the "one-factor" theory you MUST be fully recovered BEFORE your next workout.  For the "two-factor" theory you MUST rest/recover the 4th week of your training block with only one  or two relatively low intensity/low volume workouts.  If you don't rest/recover properly you WILL overtrain.  And, if you could hurt you MUCH worse than if you didn't train at all.

Power ON!  Coach Rob

Saturday, June 18, 2011

$25,000 reward for apprehension and conviction of a hit and run driver

In case you haven't heard, there was a fatal hit and run accident involving a cyclist in Plumstead Township, Bucks County.  In fact, the cyclist was killed right down the street from my house on May 28th, 2011.  Apparently, a white or silver GMC/Chevy Pickup's mirror hit the head of a cyclist while he was on the side of Rt. 413 while he was checking out a cue sheet on his group ride from Newark, NJ to Quakertown, PA.  The cyclist was 66 yr. old John Chapman.

Thanks to generous donations from NYC's Fast and Fabulous Cycle Club and Suburban Cyclists Unlimited the reward for the apprehension and conviction of the driver that killed 66 year-old John Chapman has been raised to $25,000.

Anyone with information about the vehicle and/or its owner should call the Plumstead Township Police at 215-766-8741.

I have my own guess/idea on how Mr. Chapman was killed.  I'd bet money that the driver was a construction worker/contractor on his way home from a local bar and was intoxicated..which is why he fled the scene to avoid a vehicular homicide prison sentencing.  I guess what the driver doesn't realize (yet), is if/when he DOES get caught, he'll be tacking on a hit and run which will hopefully extend his prison stay.  Personally, I don't know how anyone can live with themselves for doing something like that.  I hope to God that person turns himself in BEFORE he's caught.  I'm going to do my best to check out EVERY GMC pickup truck I see for a new right side mirror and anything but a white truck. That's if I ever see one. I'm assuming the truck is either re-painted already or sitting at the bottom of some lake.  Regardless, if you see any GMC pickup truck that looks freshly painted or has a new side mirror to call the number above.

For all you fellow cyclists out there..this tragic incident is something we can ALL learn from too..and that is NEVER stop on the side of busy road like Rt. 413.  If you have to stop..get off the side of the road into a field or a driveway.  And, if you can, avoid all busy roads especially during rush hour.  If I'm ever on Rt. 313 or 413 I'm not on it for more than 200 yds..and I'm hustling like hell to get off.

To John's family and sincere condolences.

Power ON!  Safely!  Coach Rob

Have Moto...Will Pace!

What is motorpacing?  It's a cycling training method whereby a rider (on a bike) drafts behind a moto (usually a scooter) at race pace.

Why motorpace? The real benefit of motor pacing lies in its ability to simulate the stochastic nature of racing with variable power outputs. i.e. coasting, accelerating, and constant power.

Now that I have a moto..I'll be motor pacing some of the elite athletes I coach- and/or their friends.  Why only the elite athletes?  Because motor pacing is dangerous, and the last thing I want is a newbie rider running into the back of my moto and falling.  You touch the wheel of the back of a moto going 30-40 mph and you aint going to look pretty when you EVENTUALLY get up.  It takes a lot of practice/coordination between the moto driver and the drafting rider to be safe.  I have never paced a rider behind a moto before, only a car which is MORE dangerous, but I do know what it takes to do it safely and effectively.  Ideally, it's best to draft a scooter because it's easier to accelerate a scooter slowly without pulling away from the drafting rider too quickly.  Most larger motorcycles' throttle is NOT sensitive enough to make gradual accelerations.  Plus, it's hard to tell how fast you're going on a motorcycle when the speed increments on the speedometer are in 5 mph increments. (That is why I use a GPS on my moto with tenths of a mph increments)  Having said all this, I believe I can safely and effectively motor pace anyone behind my motorcycle.

One of the keys to motorpacing safely is choosing a route void of traffic and void of obstacles on the road.  As a rider, the last thing you want to do is hit an obstacle at speed. (obstacle=branch, rock, pothole, rut, roadkill, etc.)  Plus, last time I checked, motor pacing is NOT legal in any state- for obvious reasons.  Another key to motorpacing safely is good communications between the moto and the drafting rider.  When I've paced riders in the past with a car, I always had a radio on the rider and in the car.  I also had signals on the car letting the rider know when I had to pull off the road or accelerate for an approaching car from behind.
I don't believe in rollers on the back of a moto.  Why?  I don't want a rider that close to my back tire to begin with.  Trust me, you can get an effective draft from a moto at 30 mph from 3-5 ft. behind.  Plus, no need to intoxicate the rider with the exhaust fumes from the tailpipe.  Besides, you touch the side bracket of a roller and you'll go down regardless.

There are basically four different workouts I use when motorpacing: 1) where the rider drafts at a constant speed (say 30+ mph) for up to an hour 2) what I call interval pop-outs, where the rider pops-out from behind the moto (for specific time intervals) into the clean air then back behind the moto 3) interval acclerations..where the moto SLOWLY accelerates until the rider can no longer hang in the draft and 4) a mix of all three.  These workouts replicate actual road race and/or criterium conditions.  That is the whole purpose of motorpacing.  It's all about specificity of training.  I believe that specificity is the MOST IMPORTANT principle of training.  A good time to motor pace an athlete is a month prior to their "A" event.  It's a good "peak" or "top-form" workout.  Plus, it will keep the athlete motivated while training hard.  And, make no mistake about it..although these workouts are fun for for least when I did them they were..they are VERY HARD!  When done correctly, you'll feel like you finished one of your toughest races.

If you'd like to motor pace, and you're an elite athlete that races, and are a Cat 1-4 racer, email me ( ) and we'll setup an appointment.  I already have two athletes that are interested.  I like to motor pace on flat rolling open roads in NJ and PA.  The roads are clear of debris and have a wide shoulder where I can pull over in the event of an overtaking car.  I also like to motor pace early Sunday morning when there are fewer cars on the road.  I charge $40 for an hour session.  You can split that time with a buddy, 1/2 hr. each, or use it up yourself.  Personally, I think 1 hr. per person is ideal...since that's what an average road race runs.  If you want me to video you, I can do that too for an extra fee.  I'll just mount my GoPro HD Cam from the back of the moto.  It's a good way to check how aero you are in the drops.

Sorry, but you'll have to sign a release form from me BEFORE you motopace so you know the risks/danger involved in this type of training.  I'll also give you a FREE trial run out on the road before we actually start the motopacing workout session to see if we are BOTH comfortable with each other.  We'll work at slower speeds to begin with and work our way up from there to your normal race pace speeds. 

For me, it's always SAFETY FIRST!

Power ON! Coach Rob

Friday, June 10, 2011

New Bike

I bought a NEW bike.  It's REALLY fast, lightweight, great brakes and cheaper than a Parlee road bike or a Specialized Shiv TT bike.  In fact, it was thousands of dollars less than either a Parlee or Specialized.  I took it out for a quick 75 mile ride today.  It was really smooth, shifted nicely, and had great acceleration.  And, it climbed better than a billy goat.  What was even better is when I got done riding I was not fatigued at all.

So, what did I get?  I got a 2011 Suzuki V Strom 650 w/ ABS.  Yup, that's right, I bought a motorcycle NOT a bicycle.  Still two wheels though..ha.  Yeah, yeah, yeah...I are dangerous.  Well, guess what sports fans..bicycling is dangerous too..perhaps JUST as dangerous as riding a motorcycle..maybe even more so- especially if you race.  Hell, a guy was just killed last week down the street from me on Rt. 413 in Doylestown Township when a truck's side mirror whacked him in the head while he was stopped on his bicycle on the side of the road looking at a (route) cue sheet.  What's worse, it was a hit and run.  I hope they find the guy and "string him up" for leaving the scene.  Probably some freakin' construction dude (contractor) that was drinking all afternoon at the Candlewick Inn Bar/Restaurant driving drunk.  Oh, I'm sure he'll tell his lawyer (the next day when he's sobered-up) that he wasn't drunk and that he just fled the scene because he was scared.  Yeah, right. 

So, why on earth did I buy a motorcycle?  Another mid-life crisis perhaps?  Well, perhaps a little bit of that.  But, this is NOT my first motorcycle.  I actually grew up with mini-bikes, three wheelers (prior to quads) and motorcycles.  My folks had a place on Lake Wallenpaupack (Pocono Mtns, PA) and I rode until I ran out of gas.  I bought this "Wee Strom" (they call the 1000cc the "Vee Strom") because I want to start moto ref cycling events/races.  For those of you that don't know, this is my second year officiating road races and cyclo-cross races.  I really enjoy officiating because I get the best seat in the house to enjoy cycling racing- either in a lead car, follow car, or working the pits.  Now, I can get an even better seat- hanging right behind the peloton of a Pro 1/2/3 race...with Cat 4 leg power. ha 

Another reason I bought the bike is because I love to take Action Sports Photography at Triathlons and Cycling events.  I can cover MUCH more of the course from a motorcycle than I ever could on foot or in a car.  This summer I'm already booked to shoot the 2011 Gran Fondo Colnago Philadelphia Cycling Event as well as the 2011 Univest Grand Prix.  I'm working on shooting the 1st annual 2011 Ironman Pocono 70.3 Triathlon too.  I've been on the back of motorcycles shooting photography for many events..and just have no confidence with the drivers I've gotten.  In fact, at one event, the driver almost dumped the bike when he skidded on a rain-slick road.

Still another reason I bought a motorcycle is because it's FUN!  I can't tell you how much fun I had on my maiden journey this afternoon.  I forgot what it feels like to accelerate on long windy roads and feel the wind in my face..not to mention the sights and the sweet smells of flowers, freshly cut grass, etc. along the route.

Tomorrow I'm taking my bike to a race in Lancaster, PA (Mt. Nebo).  I'm NOT moto-reffing with it yet.  I still have to get my moto-ref license.  USA Cycling is offering a moto-ref course/seminar/clinic on June 26, 2011 but I'm not crazy about driving to Morgantown, WV to attend.  I think I'll just wait until 2012 for something closer to my home.  In the meantime, I'll work on upgrading my Officials license from C to B and learning as much as I can.  The cool thing about riding tomorrow is that I'll get to follow two other moto-refs from my area to the race.  One guy is from Perkasie, PA and the other from Hatfield, PA.  Both towns are about 5-10 miles from my house.  Can't beat that.

Hope to see you out on the course.  Power ON!  Coach Rob

2011 Suzuki V Strom 650 w/ ABS

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Bonk Training

If you've been following my coaches blog you'll have noticed that a couple blogs ago I posted a blog on "bonking".  As endurance athletes, I'm sure one time or another we've experienced "hitting the wall" or "bonking".  The leading cause of "bonking" is not being fueled properly (glycogen depletion) either BEFORE the endurance event or DURING the endurance event- or worse BOTH! 

So, after "bonking" recently on a training ride I was determined NOT to let this happen again.  In the future, I would ensure the night BEFORE my endurance ride I would be properly "carb-loaded" and the morning BEFORE my endurance ride I would be properly "hydrated" and "carb-loaded".  I would also ensure that DURING the event I would hydrate and fuel properly.

In addition to being properly fueled, I was wondering what else I could do (other than being properly hydrated and carb-loaded) to help prevent "bonking".  How about "bonk training"?  I actually used it (successfully) as part of a fat-loss program this past Winter.  What is "bonk training"?  According to Wikipedia- "Bonk training is an exercise program designed for weight loss. It suggests the following strategy on an empty stomach the first thing in the morning, when glycogen store levels are low: consume coffee or caffeine equivalent to 2 or 3 cups of coffee, run or cycle at a casual pace (60% of max heart rate) for 20–90 minutes, have a normal breakfast right after exercising. Proponents claim this will force the body to "bonk" shortly into the exercise, and subsequently burn more fat to generate the energy."

So, not only will "bonk training" burn more will train your body to burn fat reserves for energy BEFORE the more valuable carb reserves.  So, in essence, you're "topping off" the fuel reserves by burning fat (initially) instead of carbs.

I've started "bonk training" recently for several reasons:
a. it's starting to get hot out (100F on store for today), so I'm getting up at 0600 and riding for an hour (15 min. warmup, 45 min. ride) while it's still cool.  I hate riding when it's hot/humid cause I sweat like a pig...which obscures my vision, corrodes my bike, etc.
b. I could stand to lose the 3-5 lbs. that I gained while I was vacationing in Italy (too much pasta and wine)
c. it will help stave off "the bonk" for future endurance burning fat (instead of carbs) on my HARDER and LONGER endurance rides

If you're going to start bonk-training, like me, the important thing to remember is NOT to eat anything prior to the morning ride.  Also, only drink Gatorade or drink with carbs in it.  Coffee is ok, but drink it cream or sugar.  Personally, I don't think the caffeine is required.  The other important thing to remember is NOT to ride too hard.  You only want to be riding at Tempo pace.  Do NOT ride at Threshold pace or higher.  And, the ride duration should be no longer than 30-60 minutes.  I like riding at a high Tempo pace right up to my Threshold for 45 minutes.  When you're finished riding, have a nice bowl of cereal and a latte.  That's what I had this morning.  The calories you burned during your ride will wipe out the calories you consume for breakfast- and more.  So, you start your day well fueled with a caloric deficit.

Don't worry about any health risk with this type of training. I actually got into an argument with a Fitness Director on a Cruise Ship ( a year or so ago) because he insisted that this type of training would burn muscle instead of fat.  I don't know where this kid got his Physiologist's Degree..but if you're only going at Tempo pace for 30-60 minutes you're NOT going to be canibalizing muscle mass. i.e. burning protein.  The key to "bonk training" is NOT to go too hard or too long in the morning.  Keep it at Tempo pace for 30-60 minutes and you'll be fine.  It's worked for me over the Winter..can't think why it wouldn't work for me over the Summer.

Power ON!  Coach Rob