Reflections of a sport scientist
Posted by Dan in Untagged
The 'I did this, then I did that' part is contained in part one and part two but I wanted to finish on a few thoughts from my time away. 10 hours squashed in a window seat courtesy of British Airways does offer plenty of time for reflection, beyond my discovering that 'American Pie: the Reunion' is not terrible as far as the fourth title in a series goes and that 'Ted' would be unwatchable were it not for the addition of Mila Kunis.
My own coaching
The nature of much of the coaching work I do means that I rarely get a chance to take charge of a large group, instead working one to one or in small groups. This is probably not an accident, suiting my personality much better than trying to be autocratic and take control of a large group or athletes pulling in different directions! One of the biggest learning opportunities for me during my time away was watching the command Sri had when managing such a large group. Quite simply Sri is a force of nature when it comes to the cycling community! When speaking, his message was loud, clear and simple to understand. When giving instructions he left no room for error or 'interpretation'. Thinking back to the coach education I've undertaken, it was the most stark example of the difference between an authorative or dictatorial coaching style (Sri) and a more democratic or facilitative style (me). I'm not planning on wholesale changes to my approach but it certainly left me with an appreciation of the difference between the two and a desire to think more carefully about what approach to take in different circumstances.
Chaotic Indian roads should be more dangerous than they are according to the pervading logic of British road engineering and education. The UK drive for segregated cycle paths and more legislation and punishment for breaking 'the rules' goes against some of what I thought worked in India.
- Awareness - because of the chaos, there's no chance for anyone on the roads to not pay attention. You learn to expect the unexpected and prepare for that accordingly. Speeds are generally slower anywhere there's a junction or traffic joining and no assumptions that the other traffic are going to do as you'd guess.
- Tolerance - Motor cycles, Holy men, animals, rickshaws, cyclists, cars, lorrys and all manner of other traffic share the roads with no animosity from one group towards another. Cars give way to cyclists and equally as cyclists we had to give way to cars (and the odd snake or dog). Food for thought...
Watch this space! When I first made contact with Sri, I had zero knowledge of the cycling scene in India and quite frankly at that time there wasn't much of one! The growth is quite impressive even in the time I've been watching and as India develops as an economic power I can only see this accelerating. Two clear signs of growth, Suresh Kumar owner of probikers.com started the Tamil Nadu Cycling Club 2 years ago and they now boast 1500 members. As previously mentioned, the scale in India needs adjusting somewhat but that's impressive by any standard. Additionally, the first India professional team, Specialised Kynkyny was registered with the UCI in April and are forcing up the standards at the top end of the sport. On the boot camp we were joined by a very talented lad called Sreedhar who kicked all our backsides every day and would have no trouble holding his own as 1st or 2nd cat roadman in the UK. And he's only 18 and improving rapidly!
Well that's about as deep as my reflection goes these days so I'll end by sending a big thank you to Sri for inviting me out for the camp, to Adhi and the Kranksters for being such good hosts in Coimbatore and to all those I met during the trip who made it such a memorable week.
Roll on next year
Posted by Dan in Untagged
Last time I described my first few days in India with the initial shock of arriving and my first two days of bike fits, Q&As and generally settling in. The main purpose of my visit was in support of the 'Boot camp' and so it is with great fondness that I look back on the three days of suffering, learning, scenery, suffering, alleged downhill rides that seemed to involve a lot of climbing, and mosquitoes.
Each day of the camp had a focus on one particular aspect of road cycling performance. The idea was to include some theory, have a chance to put this into practise on the day's ride, and then finish with some more general presentations on training theory, recovery, nutrition etc. Day one saw a focus on time trialling, an early start saw just a little time for some pointers on TT pacing and technique before rolling out for a ~50km spin to the TT course. All went wrong from the get go and choosing to follow a support car rather than the bunch saw me heading in the opposite direction to everyone else. A quick u-turn and then 3 miles of motor pacing at 40mph through very busy Coimbatore traffic and I decided the safe option was to jump in the car and get a lift back to the group. Quite the baptism of fire! Anyhow, up to and including the TT was fairly sedate but Coach Srinath's request to push it on the way back saw plenty of suffering as the crosswinds blew up and the temperature started to rise. Here is my ride file from Day One.
Day two was based around the climb up to Ooty, with the 28km section to Kotagiri making for a formidable timed section. 28km at an average gradient of 6% would provide a stern test for any cyclist but with most of the camp having < 2 years riding experience (some only having road bikes for ~ 2 months) there was always going to be massive time gaps. I set about a steady effort up the climb, knowing full well that with the fatigue from day one biting at my legs, and the ever increasing altitude would give me plenty of chance for some hard work at the top. A few well-timed stops for photo opportunities helped ease the suffering but sure enough my 39 x 25 was only turning at 50rpm for the majority of the second half of the climb and I was mighty relieved to see the car waiting at the top. A spot of lunch ensued before another hour or so of climbing to take us on to Ooty and our accomodation for the night. Day two garmin file.
At this point it's perhaps time to draw attention to Sri's unique motivational tactics in fostering a little team rivalry between those cyclists from the Tamil Nadu region and those from Karnataka. Rather than reward the victors with a jersey as is customary in the cycling world, the decision was instead taken to award skirts to the losing team each day. After the flatlanders from Chennai handed out a beating to the Karnataka team on the first day's time trial, the lack of experience in the climbs was ruthlessly exposed on the road to Kotagiri and fortunes were reversed. I'm sure the guys won't thank me for sharing the photo :-)
Day 3 involved a descent back down to sea level where a small road race was planned as a chance to put into practise some of the techniques and tactics that we had discussed the previous evening. First the descent: after sooooo much climbing the day before, we were assured that it was all downhill from there. I can tell you, 1800m of climbing in 80km does not qualify as downhill in my eyes! The kilometre effort with pitches over 15% was the final sting in the tale before we rejoined the road we had climbed on day two and a genuine downhill to the course for our race. All moaning aside, the mist of the previous day had cleared and a beautiful crisp morning revealed the incredible beauty of the scenery we had been riding through. My iPhone pics really don't do it justice but I can honestly say it was the most stunning terrain I've ridden through anywhere in the World. Day 3 Garmin file. The planned course for the race was unsuitable due to heavy Sunday traffic so the (easy) decision was taken to rest tired legs and retire for a beer and a camp wrap up. With the Tamil Nadu cyclists victorious in the TT and the Karnataka boys winning the climb, an honourable draw was declared and the Cauvery Waters shared.
I've included a few pictures here but there are more over on the PBscience facebook page if you fancy a look. There were a number of considerably more talented photographers than me on the trip so I'll update this as I find more good ones! In the mean time, expect part 3 in the next few days on my final few days in India.
Posted by Dan in Untagged
Having just returned from one of the most exciting weeks of my life I think it makes sense to jot down a blog post on what I've been up to... First a little background. The journey towards my trip to India started in late 2010 when Sri contacted PBscience to enquire about some coaching. Eager to help and also very intrigued as to the cycling scene in such a far off place, our relationship developed over the last few years into more of a sounding board for his own coaching work as much as his own racing. The story of this transition is also interesting but not for this blog post! The aim for my visit was to offer my expertise in all areas of their training and racing but the tag line for the camp "Cycling Boot Camp - are you tough enough?!" showed that there was also some serious cycling to be done! Bookending the 3 day camp was a few days to meet some of the other local cycling community so an action packed week was in store... in time honoured fashion I shall start from the beginning.
Stepping off the plane at Chennai International Airport I was greeted by apocalyptic weather conditions and admittedly a pang of doubt that I was in way over my head! Tropical Cyclone Nilam was passing just off the coast and hammering Chennai with monsoon rains, heavy winds and all the destruction that comes with it. Perfect cycling weather. Camp was still a few days away (and 300 miles away in Coimbatore) so with a deep breath I headed out to find my driver and a lift back to Sri's place.
Day one was a chance to meet some of the MadRascals cycling team (Sri's own team in Chennai, formerly known as Madras - see what they've done there!). A few check's on riders bikefit, a chance to meet some of the guys I'd be riding with all week, a spot of dinner and then off to bed ahead of a long day to follow.
Day two saw a morning flight on to Coimbatore, ahead of a meeting with the Tamil Nadu state cycling coaches and a ride and Q&A with the local Coimbatore cyclists. The Tamil Nadu juniors fared rather badly in the recent state championships and so the question was what needed changing to move towards their goal of a rider on the podium within the next 3 years. Working through a translator (thanks Adhi!), I learned a little about the training they're already doing and offered a few suggestions on what to change to make that next leap forward. I guess time will tell if my help was of use but the riders were already working hard so by just training a little smarter hopefully the necessary improvement will come.
Next up was a few more quick bikefits (a theme that continued all week) before my first ride in India. My roadie was still in transit from Chennai so I was fixed up with a MTB and set off for an hour with around 20 of the local cycling community. Towards the end of the ride, a journalist and photographer from the local paper joined us and then stayed for the subsequent Q&A. You can read all about it here in 'The Hindu'. Incidentally, the paper is just a *small* one with a daily readership of 140,000 - I really had to adjust my scale for this trip!
With the first day proper under my belt I was settled and ready for day one of the camp proper. This is getting a little long so I'll write that up separately in the next few days. Check back soon!
Posted by Dan in Untagged
Just a quick note to update on my current adventure... I'm typing this half way around the world in Chennai, India where I'm staying as a guest of PBscience athlete Srinath Rajam. Quite a way off the beaten track as far as training camp venues go! I'll keep this short as I have an early start tomorrow with a flight on to Comibatore to begin the camp proper but we had a very productive evening bikefit session today with Team MadRascals and I look forward to getting to know everyone a little better over the coming weekend. We have a pretty packed schedule over the next four days but here are maps of the planned rides:
Day 1 : http://connect.garmin.com/course/2283762
Day 2 : http://connect.garmin.com/course/2283468
Day 3 : http://connect.garmin.com/course/2283691
Day 3 : http://connect.garmin.com/course/2283743 (Road Race)
I'll try and update again mid camp but if not expect a longer blog with more photos when I get back!
Posted by Dan in Untagged
After a long weekend supporting Pete at the National 24 hour, it was back in the car to visit the folks at the University of Kent as they presented the Endurance Research Symposium to mark the formation of the endurance research group at the university. It was also a chance for Professors Louis Passfield and Sam Marcora to present their inaugural lectures, long overdue it has to be said as it's been several years in both cases since they were granted tenure!
After considerably less sleep over the previous few days than I'm accustomed to, the prospect of concentrating for the whole day was not one I relished. This was compounded by the sudden heat wave that led to a rather hot and stuffy venue, albeit a rather grand one! (see pic). I'm not generally a fan of extensive note taking at these events, instead preferring to give the presentation my full attention and write up the day afterwards. With heavy eyelids, I wrote down a lot more on this occasion to avoid missing anything. Here are a selection of 'soundbites' on what proved a fairly diverse range of topics relating to the latest endurance research.
It's easy to get fixated on 'the aggregation of marginal gains' but sometimes this eclipses the most important aspect in endurance performance - consistent hard work over a prolonged period of time. Professor Passfield is in the position of having extensive data on elite cyclists - pooling lab data with the EIS, Louis was able to show a 17% improvement in 'Rider H' over a 17 year period. Along a similar theme, Andy Galbraith analysed training data from a group of runners and found that 40% of the improvement in 'critical speed' was explained simply by distance run.
Take home message: train a lot over an extended period of time to get good!
Nutrition and immune function saw some attention from Dr Glen Davison, with a simple two stage process to maintaining immune function outlined. First avoid dietary defficiency in the major macro nutrients (no evidence of benefit from consuming extra, except in the case of carbohydrate). Beyond that, there is evidence of a benefit for a few 'advanced supplements'; bovine colostrum, probiotics, echinacea, beta-glucans and quercetin coming in for special mention.
Professor Frank Marino also paid a visit from down under and presented new data that undermines the classic dogma that dehydration negatively impacts endurance performance, exhibiting as yet unpublished data that dehydration of up to 4% has no negative impact on 5km TT perfromance in the absence of heat stress. For sports that place a premium on weight saving (e.g. running, cycling uphill) that suggests that dehydration may actually confer a performance advantage. This says nothing about the impact of dehydration on recovery, or subsequent adaptation or any other of the multitude of questions that this raises but it does force a rethink on so much of the practise we have taken for granted.
There was so much more over the course of the day but these are some of the nuggets that have a more practical application. The final point on dehydration leads on to a final observation from Dr Stuart Mills as we left - so much of what we have assumed to be true and so many of the explanations that sports science has offered in the last few decades are now being questioned. As I type this the GB men's pursuit squad have just clinched gold in another WR time and Jamie Staff is explaining the process of questioning every tiny detail in the quest for perfection. Both observations serve as a reminder that sports science is a process of systematic questioning rather than a means to provide absolute answers.
Posted by Dan in Untagged
This weekend just past was a momentous one for British cycling with Bradley Wiggins and Team Sky creating history on the roads of France. Equally exciting on the domestic front, was the belated arrival of summer and the chance to set some fast times in the many TT events up and down the country! The first part of the season has been a very frustrating one for UK testers. Despite a focus on improving power outputs and targeting process goals that are indpendent of external factors such as wind and rain, in a sport governed by the stop watch it's very hard when inclement weather means that times are minutes down on previous bests. Even if the numbers (other than time) show that the athlete has great form and has moved on to a higher performance level. Fortunately this weekend saw the opportunity to put those slow rides behind us, here are a few of the highlights:
Lisa and Chris started the ball rolling with PBs on the G10/57 course early Saturday morning. Both of the Scarlett's have had a tough early season, with Lisa overcoming inumerable setbacks on her road back from injury and Chris not reaching his goal of 70.3 Worlds qualification. Personal Best performances are always great, but in this case all the more so given the hardships of the last few months.
Next up was a slightly more mixed bag in the '50' at Newmarket. Oli set the ball rolling by smashing his PB with a rapid 1:48:03 and Jill then followed that with 2:08:27 to come within 2 seconds of her lifetime PB set over 9 years previously. Jill's result was made all the sweeter in that it justified our decision not to finish the EDCA 100 6 days previously when it became clear that a fast time was not on the cards. Pulling out of a race through choice is not something that either of us would normally choose to do and we both admitted to feeling a little uneasy and 'fraudulent' in doing so but with the benefit of hindsight and a fast 50 time it looks as if we made the right call. Sandra came in with another super quick 2:01:32 but the dark cloud on the day was Dan suffering a freak mechanical that prevented him finishing the race. It doesn't bear thinking about what he might have done but the SRM file suggests he was on 'a ride'. Gutting.
Meanwhile, over in Bermuda, April was not to be left behind and a fantastic 3rd place saw her continue her improvement against the clock.
Last and by no means least, Pete and I travelled up to Shropshire for the National 24 and his number one target for the year. The aim was to improve on last year's 443 miles and 10th place set on Sussex roads, and Pete delivered a truly outstanding performance to finish with 471 miles, 4th place overall, a new Eastbourne Rovers club record, and in the process becoming VTTA National Champion! The magnitude of this achievement is still sinking in but once all the facts and figures are in I will give it a little more attention in it's own blog post in the not too distant future. Over a celebratory curry following the event Pete expressed his relief at finally putting the 24 to bed and his excitment at the prospect of returning to a normal race program next year. Breakfast the following morning was another matter entirely...
Congratulations to everyone and long may this barmy weather continue!
Posted by Dan in Untagged
I'm sitting writing this in front of the TV as the pro peleton begins Stage 11 of the Tour de France from Albertville to La Touissure. It's always exciting when Eurosport get to show the whole stage and the skimishing to get in the break of the day is currently underway. This is a stage I've been particularly looking forward to as it featured as this year's Etape Acte 1 and so it's one that I've studied closely as I've had the pleasure of supporting a number of cyclists preparing for this stage (which they attempted on Sunday). Acte 2 features the Pyrennean stage from Pau to Bagneres du Luchon which will offer another great challenge with the added bonus of being ridden on Bastille Day. Expect the whole of France to be en fête!
The Etape is an event that I am particularly fond of. Having come into cycling after following the Tour for a number of years (and dare I say it, becoming a bit of a Lance fan...) the thought of completing a stage in the biggest sporting event is a mouth watering prospect and a terrific challenge. Fast forward a few years and being now emmersed in the world of coaching this enthusiasm has not dimmed and the experience of working with a number of riders attempting this challenge over the past years has only intensified my love of this event.
This year for example, has been a fantastic year for the people I've met as a result of the Etape and while many of the stories are similar in the goals and motivations for attempting a stage, each person has their own challenges and motivations. In my opinion, the Etape is very close to replacing the London Marathon as the most high profile mass participation sporting challenge. Each year I speak with a number of cyclists with common themes for attempting the Etape: a high profile goal to mark a return to cycling after a number of years off the bike, a catalyst to lose some weight and improve body composition and health, a novice cyclist looking to challenge their new found riding skills and fitness or a racing cyclist looking to see how they stack up against the very best. For one event to appeal to such a diverse group of cyclists is a key factor in it being such a great event.
A huge well done to all the cyclists who've worked so hard in the first part of this year and put in such a great effort on Sunday and best of luck to those riding on Saturday. A special mention to Alex who has the entire Cycling Weekly readership waiting to see how he gets on!
Posted by Dan in Untagged
After promising to blog a little more regularly sometime way back in the off-season, here we are at the end of June and it has been many months since the last update. Where to start...
I guess this period marks the middle of the season for many athletes and here at PBscience that is no different. We’ve had many big season objectives already and that makes this the ideal time for reflection on the outcomes and the preceding few months. This inevitably means a period for celebration, or in some cases mourning. There are no guarantees in sport and even the best laid plans and most diligent hard work sometimes don't receive the rewards they deserve. As an athlete (or a coach) it's always a difficult time: it's important to celebrate the victories without going overboard, but also to conduct a thorough post-mortem on the less satisfactory results, without becoming so negative that you end up at the bottom of a bottle contemplating retirement (or worse watching the latest reality TV series...).
Anyhow, rather than go throught the gory details here are a few pictures that capture some of the early highlights from the season, or at least the ones I could find photographic evidence of!
Here's to a successful second half of the year!
Posted by Coach Carter in Untagged
It is about time I updated everyone on the changes going on in my life, and how those changes are impacting on PBscience. I have recently decided to take a step back from my coaching work. I had already reduced my athlete base down to 5 in order to open up some space in my life, but I now wish to take a more complete break.
As well as personal reasons (one being to protect my health) the main driver has been my growing interest in working with the human being 'more directly'. In the past 6 months I have been undertaking meditation teacher training (travelling to New York for that instruction); and on the horizon I have two years studying to be a Humanistic Psychotherapist (closer to home at the University of Brighton).
I trained to be a Life Coach back in 2009, and I have always found helping others to pursue their goals a deeply satisfying experience. I think in truth this was a big part of me turning to cycle coaching. I have always regarded sport as a metaphor for life, life experiences magnified / intensified. Indeed, in my 6 years of cycle coaching I have been able to help athletes both on and off the 'performance stage'. Many people come to cycle coaching for their sport; but as our work together unfolds, so do the challenges that face us in everyday life...especially for the 'part time' athlete who has to combine many pressures alongside their passion.
I have seen deeper manifestations of the human experience too. Life is not easy and having a focus on sport can bring up many 'demons'. I know from my own experience, the pressure to perform, the expectations placed on self, the need to achieve. These aspects of personality were evident in all arenas of my life; but it was sport that highlighted them and made me look them directly in the face. During my competitive days, I was fortunate to have a coaching team around me who understood those lurking demons. Sport brought them up, but I had to leave sport in order to truly address them.
And for me as a coach - moving out of the sporting towards a life context has a similar motivation. I want to deepen my understanding of the human psyche and learn more skills that will help me to help others. My underlying motivation has not changed "to help others excel": it is the depth and medium that is shifting...for the time being at least.
This has been an incredibly hard decision to make. I have loved building up PBscience, and loved working with the athletes I have had the fortune to meet (52 since PBscience started in 2008). I am grateful for each and everyone of those relationships: coaching is a two way process - I learn as much as the athlete does. But I know I must apply myself to the psychotherapy training wholeheartedly. As many of you know, I don't do anything by halves!
However, this is NOT a goodbye! I am still very much part of the PBscience team. Dan and Oli will be taking care of coaching services, whilst all 3 of us will be ensuring we keep PBscience at the front of the cycling coaching provision in the UK. My intention is to be available as a consultant for athletes, to work with Oli and Dan on their athlete projects when needed, and I am also hoping to keep a bit of writing going too. So much depends on the homework...returning to being a student may well be a shock!
Posted by Coach Carter in Untagged
Recently, my athlete Juliette (aka 'Robot') blogged on her progress - not only in her quest to balance the training demands of running and cycling, but also how she is coping with the management of her lymphoedema. Juliette and I started working together back in 2008: originally the intention was to improve her time trialling. While that is still a theme in our coaching relationship, it has somewhat been pushed to the back burner - in some ways, both of us were thrown a 'curveball': she was diagnosed with lymphoedema; and I was called upon to deepen my physiological understanding of a disease as opposed to my comfort zone of sports performance.
Juliette has won the affectionate nametag of 'Robot' - since I have been working her I have enjoyed one of her traits: I give her a task, she simply goes off and ticks it off. We joke that I programme her, and she then robotically delivers. This could be seen as an ideal Coach-athlete relationship! However, the recent challenges thrown up by her condition have meant this inherent nature has sometimes been Juliette's worst enemy. She has a high work ethic and high standards, so when things struggle to come to her she can be self critical (being of the same mould, I can understand that). Its one of the things we have worked upon together - being more accepting of where one is at right now. She is one of the most self-reflective athletes I have - Robots DO have a heart!
When I first read Juliette's blogpost, I decided I would write a little commentary of my own on her data and her reflections. However, as I thought more and more about her 'case', I realised how much HER process had changed me. Not only as a Coach, but as a person. So, as well as some physiological commentary on her current marathon project, I thought it would be useful to blog about MY process alongside.
Juliette's lymphoedema first came in to my field of awareness as we were walking across the Eiffel Tower gardens in June 2010. I say 'walk' but both of us were hobbling a little, having just completed the London to Paris 3 day ride. My hobbling was definitely muscular (!) but Juliette's 'waddling' was more duck like (sorry Robot!). I noted how swollen her ankle was - I remember feeling guilt, as I had 'made her' wear the PBscience socks during our 'heavily branded' ride, and the high ankle had been rubbing on an insect bite. At the time, I just linked the swelling with that bite being irritated. Over the next few months, it transpired to be something else...
In the Spring of 2010, and indeed previously whenever we had tried to instigate a period of high intensity training, Juliette would really struggle to hit the numbers I asked of her. It didn't really add up in my mind - surely, based on her 'zone 3' powers (where she could give me ~200W for a 3h ride) she should be ok with me asking 220 to 230W in 15 min efforts? But no, it wasn't that easy: as soon as we moved above the endurance zones so comfortable for an athlete with a diesel engine, she spiralled in to not only premature fatigue, but also such despair that she once confessed to wanting to sit road side and weep. Maybe she was just an extreme example of an endurance rider with a very flat 'power-time' relationship? Very comfortable for sub-maximal powers over long durations; but once above the first LT powers can not be held for very long. We had sort of resigned ourselves to that being the case. But as I say, other symptoms began to rear their heads.
You can check out the symptoms of lymphoedema online. From a sports performance angle, the reduced efficiency of transport of waste materials is incredibly damaging to someone trying to ride at high power outputs and withstand fatigue. So, looking back at Juliette's attempts to complete zone 4 work we are probably looking at a bottle necking of lactic acid removal away from the muscle bed (to name but a few consequences). There is also the slow carriage of any interstitial fluid away from damaged areas - hence the high swelling in her leg. This has all impacted her chosen goals. Juliette (coming from a marathon running history) has always been pre-disposed to long distance events, but this condition has almost limited her aspirations of competing in short distance events (time trialling or indeed hill climbing which she excels at with her high power to weight ratio). I say 'almost' limits her, because I know the very challenge of overcoming this condition to still fulfill goals is something she relishes...almost more than the going faster itself!
So, taking all this in to consideration, when Juliette told me she would like to 'give something back' through her sporting life by running for charity at the Brighton marathon I was excited, but a little lip biting did take place! How on earth would we balance the running and cycling AND this physiological nuisance? Juliette chronicles that aspect very well in her blog post. The process for me started with thinking about how we would break the year down:
- a general phase in which we explored how to maintain a cycling load whilst building the running element (we had to keep the cycling in, as Juliette has not given up on cycling goals in 2012, the London 2 Paris is on the cards again)
- a marathon specific phase (which she is just entering)
- a post marathon phase, building the bike work back in, as well as upping the intensity of training to cope with the high intensity efforts she will no doubt have to face in L2P (the timed sections, working on the front of the group now in her new role of Ride Captain)
I am really proud of the results we have so far. you only have to look at Juliette's 'Chronic Training Load' graph to see how well we have managed it. Just look at:
- The intial phase from the summer last year to November - where the aim was to control CTL but introduce the running to a maximum of 3 sessions per week: across a mix of reps, tempo and a long run per week
- Once we had achieved that, we were building intensity of the bike a litte (zone 3 work) and also the quality of the run sessions
- The pink line shows Juliette's projections (its fab to have a mathematician athlete who relishes the planning at this level of detail!). We are holding CTL steady whilst she tackles every marathon runners' 'Pièce de résistance' ...achieving the long run mileage.
- The rate at which we build CTL is carefully planned: whilst its commonly reported that 5 to 8 points per week is okay, this is a generalisation which Coach's must be aware of. I get to know just how much build an indivdual can handle and build a picture as I work with them over seasons.
- The same is true for the level of CTL. As well as being a Robot, Juliette is an endurance monster - she can eat miles for breakfast, lunch and dinner. However, she is fragile with high intensity. So not only do we have to think about total CTL, but also the contribution coming from above first LT exercise training.
I have to say, Juliette's 'performance management chart' has always been one of the most beautiful to see unfold - and this small segment is an example of that. It is quite easy to see the build each cycle, with a short respite in the 4th of the 4 week cycle. Those familiar with the concept would also enjoy looking at her 'Acute Training Load' - the 'saw teeth' profile is evident, and we can see the switch in how we get to the outcome CTL pattern so effectively: The two demanding sessions of the week being performed back to back at the end of the week give us a big peak before the rest day on Sunday. This has been a very useful finding for the pair of us: and we are looking to keep that 2d block in the programme past Brighton.
I have spent a fair amount of time considering my coaching philosophy: and indeed, I have recently contributed to a forthcoming book with a chapter on the coach-athlete relationship. With my recent decision to reduce the number of clients I work with, the philosophy of my coaching has deepened even more: whilst I have always valued the human behind the athlete, I find myself more and more connected to the personal stories behind the quest for athletic excellence. This has had its impact on me: I am more engaged, more empathic, and more resolved to supporting each person through the ups and downs of not only training and racing, but life in general. My training as a Life Coach has been really valuable in providing this service to my athletes.
Another consequence is closer relationships with the five athletes I currently coach: friendships are building. It means the process becomes more and more two way. Not only do I guide them in their journey, but I get something back in return. I mention this now as Juliette is a good example. Since 2008, we have become very good friends. First that was our shared love of all things cycling; then it became a passion for coffee and cake (!); and now she is one of my most trusted confidantes.
This wasn't always easy for me. In the late summer of last year, as I was struggling to understand where my work life was going, I felt a conflict. I wanted to talk with Juliette as 'my buddy', yet I felt scared to reveal my angst to a 'paying client'. How could I talk about my stress, anxiety and lack of motivation to someone who was paying me to BE motivated? I felt a little trapped, I felt I had to keep away from that topic in our bike rides. That in itself became a stress...arghhh!
As I mentioned earlier, Juliette is one of the most reflective people I know - thankfully for me....as she was able to bring up the conversation after one of our Saturday rides over coffee. Her compassion brought me to tears: the relief that came from her understanding just flowed out. She told me if if there was a conflict she would rather stop working with me and maintain our friendship. That meant SO much to me. It not only cleared the tension from me, it also opened the way to me using her as a sounding board. The relationship was now truly two-way mentoring!
I am learning the power of being authentic. Historically, I would put on a front, be 'Coach Helen'...I felt I needed to be strong, to be all knowing - just so I could reassure my athletes that everything was ok, I would make sure of that, no matter the walls we hit in exploring the training and racing projects. Being more 'me', being more open, being more comfortable NOT to have the answers has really brought something to my coaching.
I wanted to recount that story because I think it shows something we can take from sport. It opens doors to meeting new people, to sharing some great experiences and to finding ourselves.
PLEASE sponsor Juliette's run at Brighton in April - you can donate on this page. Thank you
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