Race Strategies and Tactics

Now that the winter is finally ending, it's time to start thinking about those podiums you'll be standing on! Hunter shares some race strategies and tactics to help you get there.

Running Off the Bike

As you prepare for the racing season, is your bike and run fitness firing on all cylinders? Coach Nick tells us how to optimize balance in training.

Making the Transition from Mono Athlete to Triathlete

Thinking about expanding your repertoire? Coach Karen Mackin explains two important aspects to consider when making the leap from single-sport to multi-sport.

Free Video: The Benefits of Training with Power

Why train with power? Is it really that important? Hunter answers these questions and many more in this free recorded webinar sponsored by PowerTap.

What is Training Stress Balance (TSB)?

The world of cycling has collected a long list of acronyms, and it's easy to get lost. Click to read Hunter's explanation of TSB.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

What to Do Next: A V02Max Intensive Plan

by Hunter Allen, PCG Founder/CEO and Master Coach

Peaks Coaching Group V02Max Intensive Plan Hunter Allen

Spring is here, and the riding season has begun in earnest. You’ve done some racing or some fast group riding by now and found your fitness to be exactly where you want it to be, or maybe you’ve found it needs to up it a notch. We all want to continue to improve and increase our functional threshold power (FTP) each year and throughout the season, but sometimes it seems like we aren’t improving any longer. For continued success, it’s important to improve throughout the year. This is especially challenging when you get to a stagnation point where it seems impossible to nudge the FTP needle any higher no matter what you do. You try long rides, fast rides, sprinting, resting, riding slow, but none of those tactics seem to help you get off your plateau.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Hunter Allen Reviews Speedplay

Peaks Coaching Group Speedplay Pedal Review
by Hunter Allen, PCG Founder/CEO and master coach

The average cyclist pedals between 4000-6000 revolutions per hour. If those revolutions are performed with faulty positioning, after thousands of pedal strokes they can lead to knee injury, shin splints, foot pain, and discomfort, all of which hinder performance, especially for competitive racers. Some of the faulty foot positioning can be caused by excessive pronation/supination (side-to-side tilting) or foot rotation. If you add in other factors like leg length differences, foot structure, muscle imbalances, improper cleat position, or poor-fitting cycling shoes, it’s easy to see the potential for things to go wrong on the bike.

This is how I found Speedplay. After struggling with some knee discomfort, I was presented with the opportunity to ride the Speedplay pedals. I am VERY happy I did. I worked with Speedplay ambassador Scott Moninger and was immediately psyched to learn that there were different spindle lengths available to select. This was super important for me, as I need a wider “Q” and always struggled to achieve it with my old system. I can’t stand the feeling of having my feet further inboard than my hips. Maybe it comes from my original background of BMX, but a wider “Q” factor for me also results in more wattage at FTP and more knee comfort. Scott helped me select a longer, custom spindle length and got me set up with a set of Speedplay Zeros. 

Now that I’ve been riding these for more than a year, here are my thoughts:

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Recipe: Ginger Lime Salmon with Mango Avocado Salsa

from the kitchen of Jen Sommer, PCG nutritionist
Photo Credit: NewsDay.com
Sometimes the best things in life are the simple ones. This easy salmon is wonderful broiled in the oven, or take it outside on the grill to make the most of a warm spring evening.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Race Strategies and Tactics

by Hunter Allen, PCG Founder/CEO and Master Coach
Peaks Coaching Group Race Strategies Tactics Hunter Allen
PCG Athlete Marcos Lazzarotto
The season awaits! After a long, hard winter, it's finally time to get outside. Whether this is your first year racing or your twentieth, preparation and planning is key to success. Let's take a few minutes and go over the strategies and tactics you might utilize in your events this season.

Road Races


These courses feature undulating hills that seem to go on forever, constantly up and down. A good example of this type of course is the Jefferson Cup races. Races like these usually come down to two different finishes: a sprint finish or a breakaway, either a small group or fairly large one.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Running Off the Bike

by Nick Stanko, PCG Elite Coach

maximize your running and cycling fitness

For many triathletes, March is a great time of the year because the racing season is beginning to peak on the horizon and we can start to connect more with the “why” of putting in all that off-season training. Balancing the three disciplines is different for most athletes, and it even varies from year-to-year for some, depending on what they should be focusing on for a successful racing season. When it comes to the bike and run relationship, many athletes can benefit from a successful transition into the use of bricks in the last five to ten weeks leading up to an A race.

Peaks Coaching Group Run and Bike Density
run and bike density (red dots)
As you prepare for the racing season, your bike and run fitness should be firing on all cylinders. Consider developing your running and biking individually to the fullest, and then as the season approaches you can blend the two together to increase your ability to run off the bike.

There are an infinite number of ways to optimize running and cycling fitness, and it should be up to the coach/athlete to determine what is best for any individual. If we had to narrow it down to one variable, frequency/density of training will play a major role in how well we can run off the bike. Running or cycling one or two times a week will more than likely not be enough to make the needed fitness gains. For a seven-day week, consider getting on the bike three or four times and running three or four times. If you run three times per week, cycling could be four times per week, or vice versa. Not everyone has the time or energy to get in this amount of training and still have time for swimming, but using this as a starting point will help you get the most out of the time you have to train. There is a tipping point, but for most of us it comes down to the fact that the more days (not necessarily volume) we can run and bike in a well-planned-out training week, the faster we’ll be on race day.

Here are two example weeks using the three-four principle (not including swims):

Run Focus Week (3 bikes, 4 runs)

     MON: Run
     TUE: Bike
     WED: Run
     THU: Bike
     FRI: Run
     SAT: Bike
     SUN: Run

Bike Focus Week (3 runs, 4 bikes)

     MON: Bike
     TUE: Run
     WED: Bike
     THU: Run
     FRI: Bike
     SAT: Run
     SUN: Bike

This is a pretty simple structure of alternating running and cycling days. The specifics/details of each workout will vary for each athlete based on what he/she is training for. If you can increase your frequency of cycling and running, this will lead to fitness gains that can be applied later to your race prep work. There should even be some training blocks of 5-7 runs or 5-7 bikes in a week, but we’ll save that one for another day.
Peaks Coaching Group Triathlete Insufficient Running and Cycling Fitness
insufficient running and cycling fitness
 Attempting to tackle all three at once in the off-season will leave you with a reduced ability to successfully run off the bike when it really counts (see the smaller pyramid example). For most athletes, completing bricks in the off-season will not optimize their specific running and cycling abilities to their fullest. But what about the law of specificity? Triathletes need to be able to run off the bike, so they should practice running off the bike. The glitch in this approach is that when an athlete completes a brick, he/she rarely ever pushes limits on the bike or run. Within most bricks, on the bike an athlete holds back a little for the run, so cycling fitness is not optimized. Out onto the run the legs are tired, and once again specific running fitness is not optimized.

Consider these training methods if you are looking to get the most out of your bricks once racing season rolls around. When we see athletes running well off the bike, more times than not their cycling and running fitness have been individually pushed to their max, and come race day, they blend the two together for a powerful one-two punch.

Nick Stanko is a PCG elite coach, a USA Cycling Level 3 coach, and a professional triathlete. He has entered two US Olympic marathon trials and placed in US road race championships and other national class races. He and his fellow PCG coaches create custom training plans for endurance athletes. Nick can be contacted directly through www.PeaksCoachingGroup.com.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Making the Transition from Mono-Athlete to Triathlete

by Karen Mackin, PCG Elite Coach

In the years I've been coaching runners, cyclists, and swimmers who want to become triathletes, I have found that the most important step to a smooth transition is to understand your competitive priorities. Continuing to compete in an individual sport in addition to triathlons can prove to be one of the biggest challenges you’ll face, so make sure you know and accept your priorities. Are you striving to become the best triathlete you can be, or are you a runner who also happens to compete in triathlons? A runner will put more value on performance in running races than in triathlons or might even be more concerned with the run split of a triathlon race than the overall finishing time. Training to improve your performance in an event that consists of swimming, cycling, running, transitions, and sometimes nutrition (for iron distance events) is very different from training to improve your performance in an individual sport while including enough cross training to enjoy a few triathlons.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Hunter Allen Reviews CompuTrainer

Peaks Coaching Group CompuTrainer Review Hunter Allen

One of the best things about my job is that I get to test all kinds of new power training devices and products throughout the year. Testing and tinkering with new stuff is a blast! Constant exposure to so many new items helps keep me on the cutting edge of power training and tuned in to tomorrow's hot products. It also gives me fresh appreciation for the really good products that I stick with for a long time. CompuTrainer is one of those products.

I've been a CompuTrainer user since 2004, when I first set up my trusty blue friend in our Peaks Coaching Studio for all my winter training and client testing. In the years since then, the system has seen me through thousands of miles, hundreds of FACT lactate ramp tests, and numerous camper trials. In the end, it just keeps doing its job. This year I've centered my winter training on CompuTrainer and ErgVideo more than ever before, and I'm reminded almost daily of what an amazing tool it is.

Erg Power 

As any CompuTrainer user knows, training in ergometer mode is different than generating power on a stand-alone, non-erg trainer. Erg training allows you to set and control the target wattage and forces you to achieve it (i.e., hang on for dear life!), whereas when riding a stand-alone trainer you have to use more intention and internal motivation to monitor your effort and nail the target watts. I've seen lots of debates over which is better, but in my opinion erg mode is better. There are two key reasons:

Target Control. When they talk about power training, most people mistakenly associate power with pedaling harder, but in reality the definition of “watts” is how hard you pedal multiplied by how fast you pedal. This means that you can create 500 watts by pedaling slowly and with a high force, or by pedaling quickly with a low force. Erg mode controls the target by managing this relationship for you, so if you pedal at a slow cadence (60 rpm), the force needed is higher, and vice versa, and if you pedal at a quick cadence (110 rpm), the force needed on the pedals is lower. I see plenty of trainer files, and in lots of non-CompuTrainer files I see declining RPM and declining power files as athletes fatigue and drop cadence. With the CompuTrainer erg system, however, the resistance goes up as you drop cadence to make sure you hit the target wattage. This allows a more steady workout (or faster failure!) for athletes and leads to improved development of muscular stamina and fatigue resistance. 

Quality AND Quantity. Using the Computrainer in erg mode makes it an amazing tool for completing highly defined, structured workouts that will improve the quality of your indoor training time while allowing for motivation to do more work. I know you can mimic the workouts on a standard trainer, but it takes a lot of mental focus and energy to stare at your head unit and control the output. CompuTrainer can manage this for you; all you have to do is pedal! This allows you to hit highly defined targets while you watch a good movie or enjoy a killer playlist of tunes. Improved quality and quantity is a big win for the CompuTrainer!


Another key benefit to the CompuTrainer is the accuracy of its numbers. More and more trainers are focused on good power curves and accurate readings, but CompuTrainer is still the gold standard. Once I set the calibration, I have confidence in the numbers and can consistently match them to my power meter files when tested. Part of improving your efficiency from time on the trainer is improving the quality of the data. When you do the calibration, I suggest using the same amount of pressure in your tires on each ride and then looking for an RRC (rolling resistance calibration) number close to 2.0. Heat, humidity, and other factors can of course affect your set-up, but I've found these two things to be the most important in making the wattage highly accurate.

Integration with Computer Animation and Videos

The “compu” in CompuTrainer is an outstanding part of the unit, and I enjoy riding on the courses inside the RacerMate One software suite; not only are they entertaining, but they're also great workouts that address the different areas of exercise physiology that are important for making this year's season great.

In addition to RacerMate One, a company called ErgVideo has made some excellent videos you can use to ride with real racers over actual courses throughout the world. I've really enjoyed the ErgVideos this year; they contain pre-built training plans, built-in workouts for each video, and the ability to create new workouts. This has made a difference in training consistently, and it also addresses the exact physiological training zone that I need at the correct time. Plus, riding on a course with other riders makes the time go by faster! One of my favorite videos is the “Sweetspot Over and Unders,” where you ride at just below your FTP and then do short bursts above and recover back to just below your threshold. These are tough, but they allow you to recover just enough.

Simple Cadence Capture

The new Puck is absolutely wonderful! So simple and easy. Place it under the right crank at the bottom of the pedal stroke, and you have instant cadence! I love it. No more fiddling to find just the right position on the frame for the cadence sensor.

Bottom line? My trusty CompuTrainer will be part of my winter training stable for years to come!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Benefits of Training with Power

Peaks Coaching Group PowerTap Benefits of Training with Power

Simply put, training with power is the most effective way to achieve your cycling race and performance goals. To better understand why, check out the video below as Hunter Allen, coauthor of the book Training and Racing with a Power Meter, presents the “Benefits of Power Training” webinar. This video recording lays out the ways in which investing in a power meter for your training and racing can lead to significant improvement in your performance. Hunter covers topics such as the definition of power, an in-depth comparison of power training to heart rate and rate of perceived exertion training, why data analysis matters, how power meters can improve your training and racing, and much more.

Sponsored by PowerTap.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Easy Winter Salad

from the kitchen of Namrita O'Dea, PCG nutritionist

Photo Credit: MeggSalad.com

This salad and homemade dressing is the perfect compliment to dinner tonight, or it can be dinner itself! Recipe makes four side servings or two complete meals.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Magnesium: From Muscle Relaxation to Heart Disease Prevention

by Anne Guzman, PCG Nutritionist

Peaks Coaching Group Magnesium for Endurance Athletes

Magnesium has many important functions in the body, ranging from energy production and nerve function to muscle relaxation. This important mineral also plays a key role in cardiovascular disease prevention. Its effects are far reaching.