Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Importance of Communication

I love my data.  Give me a power file, or please don’t send me anything!  

However, I also need to hear from you and how you are feeling. I don’t need a dissertation of every minute of the ride, but give me 3-4-5 sentences of info that will help me coach you even better.  

This great article below that talks about communication and how important it is.  It's not about cycling, but one of my other passions; racing. 

I especially like the anecdote about how important it is to relate things to people in the way that they can understand or relate to it best. That’s critical.      


by Eron Flory   Motorsports coaching is about transferring knowledge and experience from an experienced person to a less experienced person. But the difference in experience, while important, is not the most critical factor in successful coaching. To be successful, a coach must be able to communicate with the driver in a way which resonates with that particular driver. If not, the coach’s inputs may actually be harmful; these inputs may be distracting the driver from what they may otherwise be doing well and distracting from their enjoyment of driving on the track.​​​​​​​   I have been coaching for a while and racing for even longer. I thought I was a pretty good coach, but I found that I had difficulty communicating my intent to some drivers. Being an engineer, I found it very easy to communicate intent and car dynamics to other engineers, but found it much more challenging to communicate effectively with people who had non-technical backgrounds.   It turns out that there’s a lot of value in finding out what off-track life experience a driver has, because this can be the key to good communication. The driver’s previous driving experience is important to know when deciding “what” to communicate. The driver’s other life experiences are important in knowing “how” to communicate.​​​​​​​
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Wednesday, November 16, 2016

What I’ve Learned in 45 Years of Bike Racing

By PCG Elite Coach Bill Brunner

What I’ve learned in 45 years of bike racing is everything, or at least everything important.  Certainly, I learned how to ride a bike, train properly, and eat well…all the obvious things that come from being around the sport for so long.  What about the things we can’t measure with a power meter or heart rate monitor?  There is no function in WKO4 to calculate the willingness to suffer, the perseverance not to quit, the accountability to oneself and one’s teammates, or the balance of risk and reward.

How many times have you seen the strongest or fastest rider not perform the way you had expected?  Something prevents them from taking their right to win.  Many would say that these traits are inherent in the individual.  I would argue that these characteristics can be acquired though “smart work.”  I have made nearly every mistake that can be made, some many times over.  Although I had some wonderful mentors and coaches over the years, most of what I learned was from trial and error.  Today, athletes have the opportunity to interact directly with professional coaches, and avoid many of the time-consuming setbacks of approaching training and racing by the “chamois of their bibs.”

My bike displays an orange dragon on the head tube to encourage me to persevere.  A dragon never quits.  There is a balance as to whether you quit a race after being dropped, or continue somewhat aimlessly to get lapped and pulled.  Leaving a race early is not quitting.  Giving up on the last 10 seconds of suffering to keep you in touch with the field, and in the race for one more lap, that’s quitting.  Success in this sport is built on small successes.  Finishing the group ride with the front group, and not getting dropped in the local race and all the way up, you will reach your personal goals.

Here are the top nine items that, in my experience, will make you a better bike rider:
·         Thank everyone. You never know when you will need some food or a replacement tube.
·         Plan everything. Plan your year, your month, your ride, your race.  Write it down, post to Training Peaks, whatever works for you.
·         Stay clean. Inside and out. Have the cleanest bike.
·         No excuses.
·         Eat, drink, and be faster. This is often overlooked by athletes.  What and when you eat on and off the bike can make a huge difference in your performance.
·         Be smarter than you are stronger.
·         You worked for it, you deserve it, take it.
·         Training starts 9 months ago.
·         Seek help.  Find a team member, or local rider, who will help you avoid mistakes.  Join a team that focuses on development.  Work with a coach.

As the director of the Montclair Bikery Development team, I ask prospective athletes, “Are you sure you want to be a bike racer?  We play in the rain.  We fall sometimes.  It hurts most of the time.  And even the best rarely win.  This I will tell you. You will be a better rider, student, and person for your efforts.”

Friday, November 11, 2016

PCG Team Coaching Case Study: How PCG Can Help Your Team

By Peaks Coaching Group Master/Elite Coach Earl Zimmermann

            Racing your bike is a blast especially on a team: weekend team rides, racing together, training with others instead of just by yourself.  Sounds great!  If it only worked that way in real life.  What really happens is that sometimes teammates won’t join a team ride because it doesn’t follow their coach’s planned workout for them.  Then due to work/life schedules you may train solo, but are you sure you are spending enough time in each zone to improve race fitness?  Ultimately, the race strategy doesn’t go as planned, with only one or two finishing the race in the top 10.  What’s the alternative?  Having a team coach. A team coach can make a huge impact on increasing the success of the entire team.

For the past three years, I’ve coached a team out of Northern California while living in Seattle.  Yes, remote coaching does work.  Prior to team coaching, these guys had been through it all.  Constantly training too hard thinking if their legs didn’t hurt after a workout they didn’t train properly.  This led to legs blowing up during a race and having to be off the bike.  Letting race anxiety get the better of them by putting out their best numbers in the first 20 minutes, and not having any legs to contest the finish.  Most experienced some type of cramping while racing, but most of the time not while training.  By the second year of team coaching, they were firing on all cylinders with more teammates on the podium, winning Best All-around Team Cat 4 35+, and this year they won the Red Kite Ominum Top Team award!

            There were some challenges during the first 90 days of team coaching adapting to a “different” way of training.  We were working with a core group of six, and sometimes up to 10 athletes.  Each of them use a Training Peaks Premium account, receiving four key workouts per week to develop specific physiological systems.  With their first race in February, I added more intensity during the winter training phase, reducing the frequency of long base miles.  We discussed how and why they could move a workout during the week to fit their life commitments.  At first, it was hard for some of them to really do a recovery workout, while others found it difficult to stay in Vo2 max for at least 3 minutes.  Using Training Peaks turned out to be a better tool than expected, as the teammates at the extreme ends of training and racing could see the charts in the Dashboard showing them what was limiting them from making progress.  Now the whole team is doing similar workouts during the week, and the team rides on the weekend are more beneficial for everyone.

For the monthly videoconference calls, the team contributes to the agenda.  We allow time to address their immediate concerns, then move on to cover the coach’s topics.  Skype allows up to 10 users at a time, with the ability of sharing the coach’s screen with the group.  We watch race videos together, so not only could we discuss what was happening during the race, we could also see if one member was really staying out of the wind.  Then we review the race file to see who was using more matches chasing surges than others.  Watching the videos together also allows the coach to suggest proper cornering techniques to maintain speed through the turn, and to see them on their bikes while racing.  Watching the video can lead to bike fits to eliminate leg cramps and other posture issues.  For some, the saddle was too high, while for others the stem was too long.  These corrections stopped the leg cramping.  We spend time discussing various charts in Training Peak’s Dashboard and drilling down into workout and race files.  This makes a huge difference in their understanding as to why they were doing the workouts.

Everyone likes competing against others on Strava.  In the past, teammates were very competitive to get Strava segments, or KOM, and get bragging rights.  These “wins” during training didn’t always transfer very well to races.  Now it’s a tool to monitor one’s progress.

As everyone’s fitness improved, the level of competition rose to new heights during the team rides, with more teammates contesting at the sprint zone.  Everyone went into the team camp feeling strong, and these guys didn’t hold back.  Over the years, the team camp has now grown to 20 teammates, which are broken up into three separate groups.  This allows athletes to push themselves and test their limits.  Rather than some teammates getting frustrated from not being able to stay with the lead group, the bond amongst the teammates grew.  Each of them really got to know their teammates strengths and weaknesses on various terrain:  the longer climbs, the rollers, and the flats.  This proved beneficial in developing team strategies during the race season.  The team was coming together in perfect time for the spring races.

The strategy was laid out for the first few races, select a protected rider, and have multiple teammates covering any breaks.  A very common race strategy that is not always easy to pull off.  Teammates with a few seasons in their legs were now getting on the podium.  Others with less racing experience and mind were doing awesome, placing in the top 10, and just missing out of a podium.  The team was learning how different racing in the top 10, and being in the proper position to sprint for the finish can be.  These were perfect topics for the team call, along with watching the race video.  After just a few more races, everything fell into place.  Teammates were less distracted by outside influence, gained more confidence in their racing skills, and dealing with the chaos during the final kilometer.  By mid season, there were numerous mark riders.  The competition didn’t know whom to cover because they had so many riders that could contest the win.

Having a team coach allowed for each member to gain their own strength and speed, but also allowed them to truly be part of the team, all reaching for the same goal.  A team coach coaches each athlete, while coaching them all in how to be a team, race like a team, and most importantly win as a team.