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It's that time of year again(15 posts)

It's that time of year againSherpa23
Aug 25, 2003 7:58 AM
That's right, it's time for you to find a coach. What did you think that I was referring to? I have been thinking about some of the bad information that I've been seeing floating around here and other places lately and I find it very disturbing. I know that a lot of this can be cleared up and fixed with good coaching. But how do you find a good coach and how do you know he or she is a good coach? Well, after reading a post by Underhill in another thread I am going write a little about finding proper information and coaching.

First thing is first. Everyone needs coaching. If I went back to racing right now, I would have to go back to the National Team coaching staff and get a training program. Even if you have all the knowledge about training and physiological responses no one can effectively coach themselves with 100% efficiency. Why? Because a rider cannot objectively decide what is best for himself or herself for a given day or given week or given month. A coach is an impartial observer of your fitness. I care about data, not stories. Numbers, not words. The words help colour the numbers but it doesn't change what the numbers are. It's impossible to keep those two apart when you are coaching yourself, with the help of a book or anything else.

Okay, you're ready for a coach. What do you do? If you have access to a real live coach, that is the way to go, although that needs some qualifying. A real life coach down the street that sends you a training program once a month and calls you from time to time is not a real coach. A real coach does workouts with you periodically to make sure execution is correct, he does drills with you, he motorpaces you from time to time, and lastly, he shows up at certain events to watch the execution in action. The hands on access is very important because, again, coaches provide that valuable tool of an impartial observation. How many times have you finished a race thinking that it went a certain way and then you spoke to a teammate or supporter and their account of what happened was entirely different. People like to say that there are two sides to every story but whoever says that obviously doesn't race bikes because then he/she would know that there are at least 5 sides, if not more, to every story. Bike racing involves many different perspectives and it's impossible for anyone's account of the what happened to be exactly as it happened. That's why a coach on the sideline is so valuable. He/she can say what's what and help the rider correct any problems both in races and in training. And let's not forget that racing is the reason we do this. The importance is always the racing, not the training.

As many of you know, I don't believe in Web-coaching. It puts too much emphasis on one of the lesser pieces of the puzzle, namely training. Training is one of those things that is a big deal until you get fit, and then after that
it becomes evident that fitness is not what's holding you back. At that point you're in a predicament because here you have this program that you shelled out major dough for and you're still getting 15th in the local crits. But what's that you say? Your LT power and sustainable wattage is almost to that of the pros? Big deal! If you can't win a local cat 3 crit what's the difference? Being a top cyclist is not about fitness. It's about about exploiting the weakness in each of your competitors without showing yours. It's about making economic decisions about where you place your bets and doing the math correctly to come out on top. Fitness only gets you a place in the game not the game itself. If you want to win all the time trials and hill climbs and finish 30th in local criteriums then by all means, get a web coach, but if you want to be a real bike racer then you need something more.

So what happens if you need a web coach because there are no good coaches around? Then find someone who only does web coaching and has
re: It's that time of year againSherpa23
Aug 25, 2003 8:00 AM
So what happens if you need a web coach because there are no good coaches around? Then find someone who only does web coaching and has results doing it. You should get references from other clients and have them back it up with results. Real results, not a bunch of top 10s or top 20s. Also, you want them to incorporate some kind of race check up by looking at HR or, better yet, power downloads from races. If you get that, then you are on the right track.

So how do you find the right coach? This is pretty hard as good coaches come in all shapes and sizes but there are a few things to look out for that should help. These are only guidelines as there exceptions to each of these but the most effective coaches have all of these in common.

1) Find someone who you want to be around. Racing is fun and you want someone who will add to the fun, not someone who stresses you out or makes you mad every time you talk to them.
2) Find someone who's smart. There are some coaches out there that never got it when they were racing and will never get it when they are coaching. Coaching requires the ability to problem solve, think on the fly, and remain flexible. In racing you can get away with being stupid but in coaching you can't.
3) A coach that has raced at a very high level is a good bet. Most great racers don't make great coaches but all the top coaches were great racers. There are some good ones that didn't race at a high level but they're few and far between. What you are looking for are two things. First, you want access to the really good, cutting edge training programs and second, you want access to someone who has seen so many different types of racing and racers that he/she has the ability to think of killer strategies in a split second to match any kind of field on any kind of course.
4) Find someone who's in it for you, not themselves. One of the things that always made an impression on me were the coaches who wanted me to do well for me, not for their glory of having a hand in my championships. It's not easy to find someone like that.
5) You have your own set of needs, so get a coach that understands that. The reason why books and websites don't work is because they are generic programs for a wide range of people. You'll get 75% fit that way. To get that last 25% you need someone who is constantly changing things to reflect your individual physiology, work schedule, family life, etc. Every person that I coach has a pretty different program. Some of them may do the same workouts but I can pretty much guarantee you that the intervals, durations, and gearing will be very different from person to person. That's what you want.

Okay, this is way too long but I hope that you find it helpful. I could go on for hours about this but I'll just stop now. If you have any questions you can post them and I'll answer them.
Uhhh...You can keep going...we don't mind...biknben
Aug 25, 2003 8:42 AM
Last year I incorporated portions of Joe Friel's program. This year I have followed it as closely as I could. I have shown promising improvements. My biggest challenge was getting the hours during the base phases. Trying to come up with 15-17 hours of training time while the roads are snow covered was a significant challenge. I'm not able/willing to spends hours upon hours on the trainer. I maintained the time by cross-training with running & XC-skiiing.

Can you offer your opinion on if and where Friel's plan falls short and where improvement can be made?
What guidelines do you see one needs to follow to be coached?hrv
Aug 25, 2003 9:48 AM
Thank you for the in depth post regarding coaching. My questions are what type of racer should be coached? Cat 3's and higher? What type of mindset should the racer have? What traits do you see as common among the 'highly coachable' athlete? I'm not talking about supreme fitness or vo2max off the charts, either.

As you can tell, many on this board are probably lifetime cat 4's, maybe 3's. We all want to do good when we race, otherwise why would we do things like drive 2 - 3 hours to race in the rain? Cycling and racing for fun to me means not putting the rest of my life on hold so I can cat. up, but at the same time I want to do the best I can do and progress. Is someone who isn't madly driven to become a cat. 2 or higher or podium in the State Crits. a candidate for coaching? In other words, how much desire does one need to bring to the table to warrant looking for a coach?

Thanks again for your insightful posts.

hrv, an old, slow cat. 4 having way too much fun!
What guidelines do you see one needs to follow to be coached?Sherpa23
Aug 25, 2003 11:54 AM
There are some prolems with Joel and Dirk's book, but it's basically intrinsic with any book. First of all, what's in there will not work exactly for you. Each person responds differently to different types of training. Some people need more volume, some less, some people need greater rest, some less and the thing is that you won't be able to see it because that's part of the problem with coaching yourself. And that's the most typical problem the program. It's like a one size fits all business suit - how the hell does that help you? Sure you look a little better than with the t-shirt with salsa stains you were wearing but you'll never close that major deal with a sloppy looking suit. And you still paid full price for it. So how do you change the programmed outlined in the book for one that suits you? It's a big problem because to do so requires that the reader know a little something about training in order to configure things correctly. Well guess what? The reader doesn't know anything about training, that's why he bought the book in the first place. I know that many people think that they know enough to use the book effectively but really most people don't. They get some improvement but will never get past the 75% mark. Besides, does the book show you how to win races? Does it show you how you messed up the last race you did? I am only touching on the limitations but there are many more.

I don't know if category makes anyone better to coach. In fact it sometimes makes them worse. For example, I actually will not take on any senior men category 2 or higher. Although there are exceptions I have found them to be extremely hard to coach because they always second guess their coach's strategy or program and most of all they take their coach's program and add it in with advice from others that they talk to. That's crap. I'll take someone and get him to pro level and keep coaching him but I won't take on someone already at that level unless he can really convince me that he'll follow the program.

To be coachable, the biggest thing is that you have to be willing to listen and do what your coach says 100%. You can't sa, "well in Lance's book he says x works for this and blah blah blah." Do you really think that Lance shares his real workouts? The guy had someone write the book to make him money and have people like him, not to make you a better Cat. 4 racer. You need a lot of faith in your coach. That's how it works. You can't get better only doing 50% of what he says or 80%. You have to do the whole thing.

As far as ability, I know coaches that will only take 1's or pro's. The big thing for me is that my riders have a good attitude, have goals to accomplish, and want to have more fun with bike racing than they ever had before. It's too hard of a sport to do with a whiny attitude or someone who has a defeatist attitude.

For me it doesn't matter if you have other commitments either. All I care about is that you want to get your goals accomplished using everything availabe within your priority schedule. So I make sure that you can do the best given your work and family commitments. That's what coaches should do. I don't want you to be another racer like me or like Colby, or JV, or Jonas. I want you to be you. If you want to be a pro, I'll help you get there but I don't expect that everyone wants to be a pro. Besides, they shouldn't, it's kind of a crappy life.

Anyays, I know that there are other coaches like that so while it may seem difficult, they are out there. The important things are that you find someone who can help you to be the best you can be and that they really care about what you learn and how you learn it. And they should want you to have fun. It's all about fun.
How much should a person expect to pay?Jer77
Aug 25, 2003 11:36 AM
and are you accepting new clients? I live in Denver, didn't know if you limit to Boulder only. If you are taking new clients, drop me your email or phone and we can set something up directly.
How much should a person expect to pay?Sherpa23
Aug 25, 2003 12:00 PM
Actually, I live in Denver so the Boulder people are out of the norm for me. I will not take on any more Boulder people but I might take another Denver person. The other thing is that I might not be the right person for you. If not, I can probably help get you in touch with someone more suitable. I will email you and we can talk.
How much should a person expect to pay?Sherpa23
Aug 25, 2003 12:18 PM
Pay is wierd. It can really vary. I really think that if you have a top internet coach, you should pay no more than $75/mo. And that's if they are awesome. A real life coach varies. If he trains you every day, like motorpacing and going to the track and timing you, things like that, then $600/mo is reasonable. However, that's for pro level training. I charge $250/mo and my guys get a lot of hands on coaching, drill work, motor work, story telling, motivational speaking, entertainment, a shoulder to cry on (oh wait, there's no crying in cycling), and someone to look at some of the races and yell at them (okay, I don't really yell). Generally, they can expect to see me a fair bit and if they live in Denver, I would expect to see them at least 3 days/week. Yeah, it makes CTS look like a bargain but I'm not in it to get rich. And I found that if I do it for less than that the athletes don't take it seriously enough. That price kind of weeds out the jokers. This is just a guideline but it should apply to the coaches in your area.
no he never does yell, but...lonefrontranger
Aug 26, 2003 10:16 PM
he gets this vein sticking out in his forehead and I pretty much know I've had it. He more than makes up for lack of temper by being a generally sick bastard with the scooter et. al.

Levity aside, here's the bottom line. Any fool can successfully coach the gifted ones. It requires rare ability to refine the pure metal of talent from the slag of everyday goods.

I know you're all heartily sick of hearing it but it bears repeating. I was a crappy bike racer for over a decade, and dare I admit, cynical with the weight of it all: managing a team, coaching my own students, being a race promoter, yadda yadda... So along comes this wiseass kid who's been racing less than half the years I have and he's gonna teach me a new angle? Yeah, right.

That new angle coupled with dedication, enthusiasm and the discretionary boot in the tush have meant that in eight short months I've gained twice the results and ten times the enjoyment out of this sport than I have in the past ten years. I have seen the looks on some of the faces this year when I've ridden beyond expectations, and yes, I'll admit it's a rush. Suddenly that no-talent fool they all figured for dog meat can put the screws to them for a change. Not brilliantly, no, and not consistently, not yet, but I'm learning something new every race, and more importantly, getting the valuable feedback and adjustment I need from a objective source to help monitor and build on every improvement.
If LFR can improve & learn something from a good coach..........Len J
Aug 27, 2003 7:07 AM
what does that say about the rest of us?

Thanks for the insight LFR & Sherpa. I learn something every time one of you posts.


a great example of an old fa$# who can still learn a thing or two.
Aug 25, 2003 12:49 PM
After years of riding and lots of racing I finally gave in and found the right one for me. I might have to give up the No_sprint handle now and sign up gettin' a sprint. It took a long time to find one that does all that you're talking about with me. Goes to events, trains with me, drills me, etc. rather than a canned workout quarterly with couple emails and a couple calls.

Between $125 and $250 per month seems the going rate for a real person elite coach rather than a bunch of emails. Beware, it's easy to find a bunch of emails for $100/mo.
re: It's that time of year againSherpa23
Aug 26, 2003 7:07 AM
Someone asked me if it's better to have a coach that is actively racing than one that is not. It's a tricky question but for the most part it is always better to have a coach that doesn't race anymore. Everyone who has raced, especially at a high level, still has the fever and it's better for you that they get their fix through you than through themselves. That way you don't get the backseat to his/her own race effort. The flip side is that a coach that races will probably be at all of your races, however, the fact that he/she is either preparing for a rce or recovering from one means that you will not get your coach's undivided attention. It doesn't mean that coaches that race are bad but if you have a choice between one that races and one that doesn't, factor that component into the decision. And it's better to have a coach paying 50% attention at races than one that doesn't come to a single race at all.
Junior CoachingKeeping up with Junior
Aug 26, 2003 11:53 AM
Any suggestions or different criteria when looking for a junior coach? As we all know, parents of teenagers are useless for all things but money and transportation, so I know better than to assume I can coach my 15 year old. He has developed well this summer with lots of miles, lots of racing and lots of physical growth. He is getting to the point where he (thinks he) can almost beat me. A great base for him to build on this winter (Indiana) with some guidance and direction from a coach.

Thanks for any ideas or links.

Dad - Team Sponsor, Team Mechanic, Team Driver, Team Domestique...
Junior CoachingSherpa23
Aug 26, 2003 2:57 PM
Ah, juniors. Yes, juniors need some very different kinds of coaches. There will be a lot of different opinions out there but one thing that no one can argue against is the attrition rate. Very few of those hot shot Cat. 2 16 year olds are ever racing bikes at 20. That's a real shame. To prevent that, a coach needs to be innovative, exciting, and most of all, full of the right perspectives. To that end, the right coach for most juniors will look something like this:

1) Bike racing is not the be all and end all of life. It's just a cool way to spend part of your life but not life itself. Don't cry if you lose, don't get upset when things don't go your way, and don't treat it like that's all life is about.

2) Kick butt in school. The discipline to do well in bike racing is closely related to the what it takes to do well in school. They are not mutually exclusive. Many of the top bike racers are extremely well educated: Linda Jackson-MBA, Heather Albert- PhD, Megan Troxell - MD, Eric Heiden, MD, Derek Bouchard-Hall has a master's from Stanford and he's getting an MBA from Harvard. This stuff goes hand in hand with success in cycling.

3)Things have to be fun. If it's not fun, why do it? Things should be fresh and interesting and there should always be lots of laughing.

4)Do other sports. Swim, run, play team sports, do it all. Specializing in cycling before the age of 18 is very premature and it will lead to serious burnout.

5)No one's a climber, sprinter, time trialist, etc. These are kids. They may show aptitude at one part of the sport at one point but their bodies are changing. In a year they may be better at something else. You do not want to limit their aspirations (I'll never do the TdF because I can't climb, etc.) because things are constantly evolving.

Well, there's more but I am sure that this is boring. Anyways, I hope that it helps somewhat.
Know any great coaches in Austin, TX?AFrizzledFry
Sep 19, 2003 3:46 PM
20 y/o Cat 4 Racer here, looking to shoot up the ranks asap! Only been riding one year, but plan to be a Cat 3 by the end of next year. if you know any great coaches down there, can i have their names please? i'll be attending UT austin starting next spring. i'll have a budget of about $100/ month.

and one more question- how much base is too much for the winter? i'm planning in putting in 10-15 hours for three weeks, and a recovery week, then repeat. any insite would be greatly appreciated.