Tuesday, September 9, 2008
So What Now? Coaching and the End of Summer
On the surface, it might appear that cycling is simple. But nothing could be farther from the truth. The world of cycling is vast and confusing, and as such sometimes people need to pay other people to tell them how, when, and where to ride their bikes. These other people are called "coaches." So with the summer drawing to a close, it would make sense that riders everywhere are asking the question, "What now?" And their coaches are more than happy to tell them.
I myself have consulted two coaches, Chris Carmichael and Matt Shriver, by reading their recent columns in Bicycling and VeloNews respectively. (Fortunately for the clueless, there is such a thing as free advice.) Both had interesting yet differing opinions on what to do now that summer is drawing to a close. Here's what they had to say:
(CC) Now that I have the sub-nine-hour Leadville 100 monkey off my back, I'm suddenly in need of something new to set my sights on. ...I know myself well enough to know I'll get restless if I don't set some goals for the late summer, fall and winter.
Hmmm, when I get restless I just ride my bike. I don't really need goals to do that. I could understand not wanting to play soccer without goals, since then you're just kicking a ball around a field, but cycling without goals works just fine. In fact, cycling with goals is a problem. Because then you have bike polo, and no coach no matter how crazy would tell a person to do something that stupid.
(MS) The dog days of summer are over, the days are getting much shorter and the road and mountain bike racing events are few and far between. ... Yes, it is important to take a break from structured training and racing, but rather than completely racking your bike for the fall months and watching college football, hang on to some of that fitness and avoid losing what you have gained.
Ah yes, the "use it or lose it" approach to cycling. It's a sin to let go of your fitness, even if you don't really need it, yet it's also a sin to ride your bike outside of training and racing, because as everybody knows that's called "junk miles." This is a telling glimpse into the mind of the roadie, who is always the width of a chamois away from ditching the bike and embracing his inner jock by watching organized ball sports, and who must constantly trick himself into riding his bicycle.
(CC) Fortunately, I live in Colorado, and August through October is the perfect season for cycling in the high country. ... And so, I've decided on a very simple late-summer plan: I'm going daytripping.
Now that I did not expect. I was sure he'd be on to whatever this season's trendy cross-training technique is. (Word is that this winter it's all about caber tossing in order to build core strength.) I didn't even know "daytripping" counted as a goal. I thought it was just "junk miles!" Intriguing.
(MS) The fall air and shorter days mark the commencement of another cyclocross season. Become part of the fastest growing division of cycling and have fun on your bike year round!
Hey, I love fun and I love being part of trends! I've also heard of cyclocross. That's the one that has running, but not stupid running like triathlons, right? Sign me up! Do I get to buy a new bike?
(CC) There are a lot of racers and cycling enthusiasts out there like me: folks who finished up their main goals for the season and still have a lot of great fitness they can put to use.
So basically, Chris, you're saying fitness is like when you're in a foreign country and you have a pocket full of local currency with only two hours before your flight home, so you've got to squander it on crap before you leave? I guess I can relate.
(MS) Whether you plan on competing in multiple back to back 'cross racing weekends or just want to attend some fun group rides and maintain fitness, focusing on some key elements will help you get the most out of your cyclocross season and prepare you for your upcoming road or mountain bike endeavors.
Wait, what's this about "focusing on some key elements?" I thought this was about having fun! I don't want to "prepare" for my "upcoming road or mountain bike endeavors." I know I've said I believe in living in the future, but for some reason when I hear you say it it just sounds scary. I'm looking for excuses, not excellence.
(CC) The best part about these post-goal rides is that there's no pressure. You have the fitness to go fast, and the freedom to stop and admire the view - or add another 30 miles if you feel like riding some more before you finish up for the day. If this sounds like you, go ahead and map out some great day trips in the next six weeks. Summer has been great, but it's not going to last much longer, so don't let these precious warm-weather weekends pass you by.
You always kind of freaked me out, but right now you're making sense to me. Which freaks me out in a different way--kind of like when you listen to a Scientologist and you catch yourself thinking, "Hey, maybe there's something to it." Too bad I live in New York City, which is a total craphole, and not in Colorado like you do.
(MS) Once you feel rested and have had that cabin fever like itch or desire to get back on the bike, it is time to begin your cyclocross specific training. This is a transition period back into a structured training regime and it is important to ease back into it.
Translation: now that you've decided to have fun, it's time to begin the highly structured and rigorous process of engaging in that fun.
(CC) Where am I going? Well, I don't have all my trips figured out, but I'm definitely going to spend some time riding with Lance Armstrong in Aspen, and I'm working on expanding some of my ride-trips to include some camping with my kids and some out-of-town time with my whole family.
What?!? Riding with Lance Armstrong? Then the comeback rumors must be true! Maybe now VeloNews can publish an article that actually names a source.
(MS) Start with some base building... running... run two or three times in your first week... running... running fitness...
I don't like running.
(CC) ...a couple of the places I want to hit are: Monarch Crest Trail... Kenosha Pass-to-Breckenridge... Buena Vista-to-Crested Butte...
Well doesn't that sound nice. Are any of those places near my craphole? I didn't think so.
(MS) Your routine should at minimum address your back muscles, your lower abdomen, internal oblique's, hip flexors, and your upper body as well.
What's with all the chiropractor jargon? I don't even know what those things are. I thought this was about riding bikes.
(CC) ...Independence Pass... My biggest question is whether I should ride the pass into Aspen at the beginning of a nice weekend with my family, or end a nice weekend with my family by riding the pass out of town (and having them pick me up in Twin Lakes).
Oh, gee, Chris, however will you decide? I get to decide things like, "Should I ride through the gauntlet of Manhattan, over the George Washington Bridge, and into the sweaty crotch that is New Jersey, or should I ride through Brooklyn and Queens and onto the vast springboard to nowhere that is Long Island? Or maybe I'll drag my bike to some vacant lot in the suburbs and do some 'mountain biking'." Though I see you're right about the goal thing. I'm setting a cycling goal right now, and that is to move the hell out of New York.
(MS) Adding the weights portion will require more time to complete the workout session as well as proper weights phases, beginning with the Anatomical Adaptation phase and progressing from there.
Are you still talking?
(CC) I suppose I could do both...
Good for you.
(MS) ... sloppy mud, long run ups, double sets of barriers...
You know what? I think you just talked me out of this whole 'cross thing.