Saturday, December 24, 2016

Vegan Brownies

This is a great brownie recipe. I love using these brownies as fuel for my rides. The oat flour along with the almond butter helps them digest slowly and give steady energy throughout a ride. They taste great too!

Ride Size Portion

2 tablespoons ground flax meal
1.5 cups of oats (oat flour or any flour)
1/2 cup brown sugar (Don't have brown sugar? Add a couple tablespoons of molasses to white sugar.)
3/4 cup cocoa powder
2 tablespoons almond butter
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 cup non-dairy milk
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/4-1/2 cup of crushed walnuts (optional)

Entire Batch With Walnuts

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Mix the ground flax meal with 3-4 tablespoons of warm water and let it sit for about 10 minutes until it has a jelly-like texture. Put the oats into a blender and turn them into flour. Pour all the ingredients into a mixing bowl and mix evenly. Then add in the chocolate chips. Pour mixture into a brownie tray lined with parchment paper. You could add the walnuts on top here. Bake in the oven for about a half hour. Let them cool for an hour or two then cut them up into 9-12 brownies.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

From Couch to Competitor: Titans Stage 3

The final day of Road Titans had finally arrived! After fueling up on vegan pancakes with almond butter, we headed over to our "late" 10 a.m. start. We started late because we were supposed to catch the B and C group at South Cove Park, a few miles from the finish, for a photo and stroll into town together. On the drive over to the stage Anthony asked me if my legs were sore. "Of course my legs are sore" I replied. "Titans consists of my largest training rides three days in a row. I never do this many miles and this much elevation gain 3 days in a row for training." Titans is a difficult event to finish for all the riders involved. If it was not so challenging why would anyone attempt it? 

Titan Fuel!

We took off for the final stage of Titans under clear skies and in warm temperatures. There were some tired legs at the start, but Chris and I still kept the pressure on all the way out to the KOM. The KOM to Whitewater Falls was the easiest of all the KOM climbs, but we had to tackle another steep climb immediately after Whitewater. Since we had to tackle two big climbs the total elevation for the final day was equal to the elevation gains on the other two days. We arrived at the final KOM, and Anthony thrived. He tackled the 30 minute KOM at 7 more watts than he conquered Sassafras with a normalized power of 5 more watts than Sassafras. I wonder if he would have gained more watts if Titans were one more day. By the time we reached the first rest stop we caught the B group. Since we were the final group to the rest stop there were no peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I wanted a peanut butter and jelly sandwich so much that I decided to set a blistering pace and ride on my own. I blitzed through the B and C groups before the next stop to guarantee a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. A few minutes after I scarfed down a couple sandwiches Anthony arrived, and we decided to leave the final stop relatively early and finish this journey on our own. Anthony and I cruised back into Seneca about an hour ahead of everyone else with Erin Burton, a badass in her own right.

View from Wigginton Overlook

I am proud of how Anthony rode at Titans, the toughest physical challenge of his life. He didn't just putz through it. He rode well in the strongest group on the ride. We worked meticulously to have him prepared for the challenge. By listening to my instructions, eating well, hydrating well, pacing well, and resting well he was able to improve each day. Be sure to check out my final post coming out in the next couple days about our takeaway from Titans. 

Friday, November 25, 2016

Vegan Crepes

I've recently been posting pictures of these to my Instagram account, and some people have expressed interest in wanting to make them. They are delicious and nutritious, so I thought I would share the recipe on my blog. This also ties into my Road Titans posts because Anthony and I ate these on the final morning of Road Titans when we had some extra time on our hands with the 10 am start vs. the 8 am start. This recipe yields about 4 crepes, and one serving for me before my training rides.


For the crepe:

3/4 cup rolled oats
1 banana
a little more than 3/4 cup of coconut almond milk
cinnamon (optional)

For the filling:

1 apple chopped into small pieces
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla

Put a pan or a cast-iron skillet on the stove over medium to medium high heat. First put the oats in a blender like a Vitamix. Blend the oats until they turn into a flour. Then add the banana and the milk. Blend until everything is smooth. Once the skillet is hot melt some coconut oil in the pan, and then pour about 1/4 of your batter into the pan. Spread the batter out using a rubber spatula. Once the crepe is cooked about all the way through flip it to let it finish cooking. Repeat this process until all your crepes are cooked. You could also make pancakes using this recipe if you use less milk, don't spread out the batter, and if you finish the pancakes in the oven at 350 degrees for about 10-15 minutes. With the thicker pancakes I feel that the insides are a little uncooked if you do not finish them in the oven.

For the filling heat a pan over medium to medium high heat. Melt some coconut oil. Then add your apples, your cinnamon, and your vanilla. Stir occasionally, and let this cook for about 5 minutes. After 5 minutes the apples will be nice and soft.

When everything is cooked spread some almond butter on a crepe, add some apple filling, and roll up your crepe. Do this will all your crepes. Add some almond butter to the top of the crepes, and sprinkle the remaining apples over the top too. If you are going for a really long ride, and want some extra juice or if you just love the flavor drizzle some maple syrup over the top. I hope you enjoy this recipe because I know I do.

The Finished Product!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

From Couch to Competitor: Post-Ride Fueling

In previous posts I addressed pre-ride fueling and how to fuel on the bike. This article will discuss how to fuel after an event where you burn 3000-4000 calories in a day like the Road Titans 300 challenge. When you burn so many calories your day needs to revolve around stuffing your face. You need to eat like a ravenous wolf immediately after you hop off the bike. I have seen many people thwart their recovery by becoming distracted by other activities such as standing around, talking, and uploading to Strava right after big rides. The ride you just did is super cool and epic, but you can do other activities and fill your belly at the same time. You may want to take a shower first, so you don't scare off your friends, but refueling needs to take precedence if you want to feel good the next day. Another reason it is necessary to start eating ASAP is because right after long and hard rides is when you body best processes simple sugars. You speed up the recovery process when you get fuel in immediately following a big ride. I prefer to eat muesli soaked in almond milk with a banana and blueberries with cinnamon and almond butter on bread because these things are easy to make and are made quickly. Pasta salad or last night's dinner leftovers are a couple other good suggestions for quick and easy post ride meals.

Me tuning and cleaning a bike after the ride

After we fueled up we drove back to my house. As soon as we got home Anthony made a salad while I washed and tuned our bikes. It is necessary to be sure your bike is clean and functioning well throughout an event like Road Titans. A tuned bike ensures you will not have any mechanical issues throughout the ride. Even though I keep my bike tuned it still doesn't prevent all chaos that can happen in the circus called bike racing and the occasional mechanical does occur. A clean and tuned bike makes the unexpected happen a lot less frequently though. The salad contained spinach, avocado, walnuts, blueberries, strawberries, balsamic, and olive oil. Even though this salad does not have many calories it is packed with vitamins. Those vitamins aid in recovery and help to prevent illness too. I eat a similar salad like this between my post ride meal and dinner on all my training days, and I only get sick once or twice a year. Eat your vegetables!

Anthony's "Epic Salad"

After I finished tuning the bikes we would start preparing dinner. We would cook up some pasta with sauce and beans or we would have sweet potatoes and beans. The pasta or sweet potatoes would help replenish our glycogen stores for the next day, and beans are packed with protein that would help us recover. Rice would work as another good carb to top off glycogen stores before your next workout. I prefer to eat brown rice and brown pasta as the brown varieties contain more fiber and vitamins than white pasta or white rice. The brown rice and brown pasta are also lower glycemic than white rice or white pasta. This means they process slowly and help you feel full for longer than white pasta or white rice. I prefer wheat bread over white bread for the same reasons. You could sub about half a pound of meat for the beans, which is roughly how much I ate back when I ate meat. However, I am doing that vegan thing, so no meat for me anymore. I have been eating vegan for the past two and a half months and was eating vegan at Titans, so I want to point out that it is possible to eat vegan and perform well at long and hard events. However, Anthony was having about half a pound of meat with his dinner because he did not want to try something new at a big event. I agree with not trying something new or different with diet at or around your biggest events.

The bike clean and ready to go for the next day 

As you can see Anthony and I worked well as a team to take care of our fueling and bike maintenance needs throughout Titans. Things always work smoothly when multiple people work together towards a common goal. You can see from my other posts that we ate the equivalent of 5 or 6 meals each day. As my friend Oliver says "You need to feed the speed." So fuel up! 

After dinner we would head straight to bed, so we could do it all again the next day. Rest is just as important as fueling well. If you do not rest your body does not recover, and you will not function very well the next day. You need to get a ton of rest if you want to complete 300 miles in 3 days on a bicycle. Be sure to stay tuned and check out my next post about how the final stage of Titans went. There will also be a surprise post. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

From Couch to Competitor: Titans Stage 2

View from the top of Sassafras

Stage two was the toughest stage of Titans. This was another 95 mile jaunt where we tackled Sassafras, rode along some rollers on the plateau, descended, rode along the shore of Lake Jocassee, and hit some rollers heading back to Lake Keowee. We set off in overcast skies but relatively warm conditions. It seemed there were some tired legs from the previous day because the pace was a little more leisurely at the start. Just like on day one I told Anthony to sit in, eat, hydrate, and conserve because this adventure was a new thing for him. It isn't a good idea to push hard from the start on the hardest event you have ever done. Pushing your hardest early only will ensure you suffer the entire time and that you may not even make it through the event. That doesn't seem like a fun experience to me. Anthony heeded my advice and sat in for an easy ride all the way to the base of Sassafras. 

                   Sassafras Descent. I hit 60 mph!

Well...well...well... Now we had arrived to the biggest challenge of all at Road Titans. Simply put, Sassafras is the toughest climb I have ever done. There is no strolling up Sassafras. With an average grade of 8% (with some reprieves) and some pitches approaching 20% for 4.5 miles it is a near max effort at times just to make it to the top. Anthony chugged up it and did 6 more watts up Sassafras than his "stroll" up Caesar's Head on Stage 1, but his normalized power was 20 watts more than the previous day! His effort really impressed me. On the steepest pitches he grinded out a cadence of around 50 rpm. To make the situation tougher, Sassafras was still wet from the day before. The wet road made it impossible to get out of the saddle on the steepest grades because your rear tire would slip. When Anthony arrived at the top of the mountain I told him congratulations on finishing Titans. Did I mention Sassafras is a tough climb? The rest of the ride is tame compared to that beast. Since the descent was wet I really didn't want to take any risks riding with anyone. I wanted to take it easy, so I took off from the top of Sassafras with Anthony in tow. I helped show him some good lines on the 178 descent. After the 178 descent the group caught us, and we rolled along the flatter roads back to the start and took in the scenic views of Lake Jocassee. 

Lake Jocassee

With stage 2 of Titans done and dusted, we fueled up with some muesli and bananas and drove back to my house. Anthony was now thoroughly tired with sore legs but 2/3 of a Titan nonetheless. Be sure to check out my next post on how we fueled for optimal recovery after the ride and how the final stage went.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

From Couch to Competitor: Fueling During the Ride

A titanic amount of rice cakes

In previous posts I mentioned that we burned 3000-4000 calories during each ride at Road Titans. You need to fuel and hydrate properly when you are burning calories like a dump-truck guzzles gas. Staying on top of fueling and hydration will help you feel better throughout a ride, and it will help you recover faster for your next ride.

Rice cakes were our fuel of choice for Road Titans, and we scarfed down six of those puppies per day. We also went to town on some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at the rest stops. The rice cakes are a slow burning carb and are easy on the stomach, so they are the perfect fuel for endurance sports. I suggest to begin eating them half an hour to an hour and a half into rides and to eat one every 30-45 minutes throughout a ride. For shorter (3 hours or less) rides you can start eating later (around the 1.5 hour mark), but on long rides like the ones we did at Titans I suggest starting at the half hour to 1 hour mark. The same thing holds true for frequency. On shorter rides you can probably get away with eating every 45 minutes, but on the longer rides you want to eat more frequently.

I also suggest consuming plenty of water and hydration mix on all training rides. You can't go wrong consuming one bottle per hour. That strategy should keep you hydrated in most conditions. SWORD is my go to hydration beverage. It is easy on my stomach, and I have never cramped while using it. During the rides at Titans we would go through 5-6 bottles per day with 3-4 bottles being hydration mix.

If you are planning on doing some epic riding follow these fueling and hydration guidelines. You will feel great throughout your ride, and you will also be able to hammer the next day. Next up check out how we fared on that savage beast called Sassafras.

Lentil Curry Rice Cake

Here is a new rice cake recipe:
For details on how to make them go back to my post on rice cakes.
Lentil Curry Rice Cakes
1 cup of sushi rice
1/2 cup lentils (soaked for 4-6 hours and rinsed)
2.5 cups of water to cook the rice and lentils
3 tablespoons yellow onion diced and sautéed
1 jalapeno pepper diced and sautéed
8 grape tomatoes diced and sauteed
2 tablespoons curry powder
1/2 tablespoon paprika
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 tablespoon Sriracha

Monday, November 07, 2016

From Couch to Competitor: Anthony's Experience Stage 1

Here is what Anthony had to say about Stage One of Road Titans:

The day had finally arrived and the pre-ride\race rituals were in full effect. I was still a little jet lagged, but the aroma of fresh coffee and the sight of a pre-ride meal quickly summoned the excitement and nervousness one feels before a big event. We had ridden out to Caesar's Head a few days before and I was somewhat familiar with the climb. It looked attainable, and I felt prepared.  "Carb up" Winston said "The cooler is packed, and the bikes are ready to go. We'll leave in an hour."

We arrived at the start about an hour before we were scheduled to roll out, and as the sun rose, it became apparent that we would be starting in light mist and wind, a reminder of the major hurricane looming to the east.  During the usual nervous start line talk some folks teased that I had brought the rain in from Seattle, "just call me the rainmaker" I replied. A few folks recognized Winston and commented on his strong performance at the 6 Gap criterium a week or so earlier. As I listened I felt reassured that although the climbs were timed this was not a race. Even though it was raining, I had trained in this stuff all spring. I am prepared all will go as planned. The final call for the 'A" group start came, and the small group of 15 riders was underway.

As Winston mentioned in his previous post the initial pace was strong, and given the size of the group there weren't many options for evading the wind. The mist had become light rain and it all now felt like I was back in Seattle with one key difference, our motivated group leader was setting a blistering pace on the front. It wasn't casual, and it felt like a race. I couldn't help but think that perhaps he wasn't aware that we had 2 more days of this left, but then again this was the 'A' group. From time to time Winston would roll to the back of the group. I was still hanging on even after a short pull on the front "Stay off the front, draft, eat, and drink" he would say, "things will settle down."

The pre-ride plan we had discussed earlier involved riding a comfortable endurance pace up to Caesar's Head followed by a strong upper tempo effort on the climb. A quick glance at my bike computer and my power meter validated what I felt. We were going out hard on punchy rolling roads! Time to scratch the plan and buckle down for a 2.5-3 hour strong effort all the way home after the top of the climb. 

The strong pace didn't settle down, and as we approached the climb the wind and rain became heavy.  Winston's constant reminders to eat and drink had helped me get to the climb and taught me a fundamental lesson in bike racing, the game is really all about who can cleverly conserve the most, as opposed to who rides the hardest. I had done the best I could at this given the circumstances and now it was time to abandon ride metrics, become one with my surroundings and embrace the challenge. It was time to climb! I had been in this type of situation before during a training ride up Hurricane Ridge Road in Port Angeles, WA, but that was a training ride in a familiar place. On this climb things were a little different. After a strong 40 mile ride, nature was presenting an opportunity to test my limits, and I obliged.

"Good job" Winston said as I rolled into the parking lot, "It was a little faster than last year. Make sure you eat what we brought, so you are ready for tomorrow." All the food I had stashed in my jersey was gone, and it was time to refuel, sleep, and do it all over again the next day. Winston had mentioned some details about the featured climb on the next stage. Little did I know it would make today look easy. More on this to follow...

"Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it." Eckhart Tolle

Winston set a great example of how to remain in the moment and use the unexpected as an opportunity to grow. This theme would continually play itself out over the following days. 

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

From Couch to Competitor: Titans Stage 1

View from Caesar's Head

Finally the Road Titans 300 Challenge had come! It was time for the rubber to meet the road and see if Anthony's preparations were sufficient. In my last post I mentioned how Anthony carbed up and was ready to go. Hurricane Matthew happened to be pelting the South Carolina coast. We still felt the hurricane's effects 200 miles inland and took off in overcast skies and howling winds. The 94 mile stage tackled Caesar's Head, traced along the plateau at the top of Caesar's Head, and descended Sassafras back to Lake Keowee. This alone would have been challenging enough in warm and calm conditions!

Chris Mojock, the current Master's 35-39 national time trial champ, set a blistering pace right from the start. Our group only contained 10-15 riders, so there was not much shelter from the wind. Shortly into the ride I told Anthony the pace could not continue like this all day and for him to hang in there. The pace literally seemed like some fast races I have done as a pro. Chris continued this vicious pace until we hit Caesar's Head, the main climb of the day. Chris is an animal! I knew Anthony would have easily been able to finish Titans in the A group of previous years, but the fast pace threw a wrench in my plan and presented a new challenge. For Anthony the pace was low to mid-tempo all the way out to Caesar's Head. This meant he had to tackle the climb with around 35 miles of fatigue in his legs. Anthony and I rode Caesar's Head three days before the challenge, so he was acquainted with the climb. He rode within himself, did the climb at mid-tempo, and easily conquered it. The rain worsened as we climbed, and the temperature cooled as we gained elevation up to around 3500 feet. It was relatively cold at the top, so Anthony's tough training days in 50 degrees and rain in the Pacific Northwest paid dividends. After the Sassafras descent the rain subsided, and it was a nice cruise back to Lake Keowee. The pace was a little easier after the climb, so Anthony comfortably finished the stage with Chris and a few other riders. I was pleased Anthony was able to finish out the first day so strongly.

Stage one was in the books and Anthony performed superbly. He conquered the stage at a faster pace and in worse conditions than I had predicted. I couldn't have asked more of him. We fueled up immediately after the stage and drove back to my house. After we arrived to my house we cooked up a nice dinner and slept well heading into stage two. Be sure to stay tuned to read Anthony's thoughts on stage one.

Monday, October 31, 2016

From Couch to Competitor: Anthony's Experience

This post was written by Anthony. This is how he felt heading into the Road Titans 300 challenge.

The text message from Winston came in at around 4 AM PST before I was about to start a training session for my third and final TT we had targeted in early April: "You want to do Road Titans this year?" What a challenge just to finish something like that I thought to myself. I had read up on how the ride was organized after Winston had mentioned earlier in the year, and thought I could comfortably tackle it in the C or B group with some work. The finishing times in those groups seemed reasonable and were well within reach, plus the event was in sunny South Carolina, a perfect setting to evade the start of an impending grey Pacific Northwest winter, "Sure" I replied "I will register for it tonight which group do you think is best for me, C or B?". Turns out Winston had a different idea, "Sign up for the A group you will ride the three days with me in that group." After some thought and hesitation I replied back "Are you sure that's a good idea?" Winston's reply "You can do it, I will have you ready"  That night after a couple of rounds of mental volleyball, I registered for the event in the A group, and a nagging doubt lingered, had I overstepped my bounds, and naively wandered into something way beyond my ability?

In retrospect I realize I had, and although it wasn't apparent to me yet, it was precisely what I needed to gain a deeper understanding into what it means to confront doubt, channel adversity into strength, and a belief that I could finish a challenging event amongst a group of talented athletes. Winston's simple, positive, albeit powerful reply marked the beginning of a transformative journey through wind and rain swept training days in the Pacific Northwest, a ride from Vancouver BC to Whistler, and three epic days of riding in South Carolina.  In our conversations over the years I have come to realize that elite pros like Winston take every opportunity, whether its training or racing to constantly reinforce and solidify an unwavering belief in their abilities. Every training ride and piece of encouragement from Winston, presented me the opportunity to embrace a challenging training schedule and make his instinctive belief in my ability to complete the challenge my own. Without that belief no amount of physical training would prepare me to clip in for the final 104 miles and 10000 feet of climbing on the third day of the RT300. 

Read on about our first day in the RT300. Bruce Lee's idea that "What you habitually think largely determines what you will ultimately
become"  took on new significance for me. My days of training in the rain in the Pacific Northwest also came in handy, since my visions of a sun swept southern landscape would not exactly materialize as I thought they would. That's bike racing in a nutshell, things rarely play out they way we think they will. It would be my first test in the belief I had honed in the months leading up to the event. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

From Couch to Competitor: Pre-Ride Fueling

Like I mentioned in my previous post, each stage at Titans took roughly 6 hours to complete in previous years, and Anthony had to complete back to back 5 hour training rides in order to be ready for the event. Whenever you ride this much your body becomes a furnace. You burn somewhere between 3000-4000 calories during these epic rides. This does not even account for the calories you burn off the bike with your ramped up metabolism running at the speed of hummingbird wings.

If you do not fuel your body properly, you will not be able to complete the insanity. I suggest eating low glycemic carbohydrates (like oats, muesli, wheat bread, or sweet potatoes) along with some fat and some protein (eggs or nut butters work well here). The low glycemic carbs burn slowly, and the fat and protein help them metabolize even slower. This means you should have energy throughout the ride, provided you fuel adequately throughout. The stages at Titans started relatively early at 8 a.m., so we needed to eat something quick or wake up at 4 a.m. to make something extravagant. We were lazy and wanted to "sleep in" until 5 a.m., so we decided to take the fast route. That didn't mean McDonalds drive-through though! For breakfast on the mornings of Titans we would eat 1 cup of Bob's Red Mill Muesli soaked in Califia Farms unsweetened coconut almond milk overnight. In the morning we would add some cinnamon and slice up a banana to mix into the muesli. You could add other fruit here like apples or berries. I sometimes add in a pinch of coffee to my muesli for a nice flavor. You could also add maple syrup, brown sugar, or honey, but I do not add any sweeteners other than the extra fruit myself. Anthony would eat a couple eggs, and I would eat some almond butter on a few slices of toast. We would also drink a cup of coffee for the caffeine.

This breakfast helped us to feel great throughout Titans. The portions may seem a little large, but when you are burning 4,000 calories a day you don't want to skimp. In my next post I will discuss how Stage 1 was even more challenging than I had initially planned. Check it out to see if Anthony rose to the challenge!

Monday, October 24, 2016

From Couch to Competitor: Structuring the Plan

In my previous post I mentioned that the Road Titans 300 Challenge consists of 3 days of riding 100 miles per day with 7,000 to 10,000 feet of elevation gain per day. With this in mind, I needed to design a training plan that would help Anthony not only get through the entire challenge but to conquer it with relative ease. With long endurance challenges like Road Titans it is not necessary to train the full distance of the event. You need to train enough so you can complete the event, but if you train too much you tend to arrive at the event tired and slow. Anthony carried some great fitness from his previous goals in the year, so I simply needed to top off his endurance for Titans. In years past the rides at Titans have taken about 6 hours to complete per day. Anthony works Monday through Friday, so I was able to give him short and intense workouts throughout the week and longer workouts on the weekends. Over the two months leading into the ride I had Anthony build up to completing two 5 hour rides in a row on the weekends. I also needed to make sure he could tolerate all the climbing, especially that monster Sassafrass. In order to meet these demands had Anthony build to riding two hours at tempo zone and eighty minutes at sweet spot at a low cadence. Over the final workouts leading into the event I had him perform some VO2 max sessions to top off his fitness.

Over the next couple posts I will talk about the nutritional aspects that helped Anthony complete his training, the fueling strategies we used throughout the event, and about the event itself. The event was faster this year than during any of the other years, perhaps it was from the strong winds of Hurricane Matthew or from the monster that flew in from the Pacific Northwest called Anthony. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

From Couch to Competitor: How One Person Awakened the Titan Within

I recently coached my athlete Anthony for the Road Titans 300 Challenge, a 3 day cycling event in Seneca, SC. During the Road Titans 300 riders are organized into three groups according to ability and tackle a tough 100 mile stage that features between 7,000 feet to 10,000 feet of elevation gain each day. The toughest climb within each stage is timed, and the rider with the shortest accumulated time after the three days is the KOM winner of their group. 

Before taking up cycling and choosing to work with me three years ago, Anthony was only moderately active. One day he passed a local bike shop and decided to buy a bike to stay fit. Anthony began training with one of my training plans he found on TrainingPeaks. He was pleased with that plan, so he contacted me about further coaching services. From that point on I have been making custom plans for him to prepare him for races ranging from road races to time trials. These earlier goals helped set a foundation for Titans.  During his training for other cycling events over the last few years I helped Anthony make steady fitness improvements, so in March I thought it would be challenging but possible to coach Anthony to ride in the Road Titans 300 A group.  Given Anthony's watts/kilogram at lactate threshold (or sustainable power for an hour) I felt he could be coached to tackle the climbs and finish all three days with the strongest group of riders that would show up to the event.

Preparing Anthony for such a long and difficult event like Road Titans 300 presented some interesting challenges for me as a coach. As a full time pharmacist he has limited time for cycling training and is required to be on his feet for about 40 hours a week. The training plan would require a lot of dedication from Anthony because he would have to spend most of his weekends training long hours. He also needed to make sure he was resting well when possible. Whenever you push very deep you need to recover well, and rest is when the gains are made.  

Read on to see how things steadily progressed for Anthony as I coached him for this epic cycling challenge. Throughout this series I will discuss the training demands over the last couple of months and what it took to help Anthony conquer the Titans Challenge. I will also give details about each stage and on the fueling strategy that helped Anthony perform better on the final day than on the first day of the event.  

Saturday, September 24, 2016

6 Gap Crit

Today was the 6 gap crit in held on a tight course in downtown Dahlonega, Georgia. The race was 60 minutes in duration, so my plan was to settle in a little bit and then go on the offensive. Right from the gun Thomas Gibbons and Huntley Nash had a slight lead (maybe 3 seconds) over the field when a crash occurred that stopped the race. Upon the restart the two riders were given a ~15 second advantage on the peloton. I waited to see if anyone would take chase, but after a few laps the gap kept growing, so I went to the front and pulled and pulled and pulled. I made it my mission to make sure those two riders would not stay away. I was trying to get other riders to help me by flicking my elbow, but everyone was on their limit. I knew if I slowed my momentum at all the gap would grow, so I would never slow when I flicked my elbow. At first the gap held even for a while, but that didn't deter me. Then Nash cracked, so that gave me more motivation as I now only had to catch a solo rider. I just kept chugging along and would receive a little help from other riders, but pretty much did all the work myself. Finally with 15 laps to go I brought back Gibbons, and he attacked right after he was brought back. I went with him and we had a gap on the field. He looked toast, so I countered him and quickly established a lead of ten seconds. I just kept pushing and stretched out the gap to around 50 seconds. That assured my victory with around 5 laps left to race, and it was a great feeling to pull out another win in my final race of the 2016 season. Tomorrow is the infamous 6 gap century. I can't wait!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Reading 120 and Doylestown Crit

This past weekend the Lupus Racing Team raced the final race of the 2016 season at the Reading 120 and Doylestown Crit. These two races are some of the toughest on the calendar, and are also two of the most beautiful races. The road race goes through picturesque farm country of Pennsylvania, and the crit takes place in a beautiful downtown Doylestown.

The road race, like its name says is 120 miles long and features rolling country roads. We did two 45 mile loops, and the last 30 miles of the road race takes place in Reading where we do 3 laps of the Mount Penn climb. The race took place in scorching heat and humidity. The pace started off fast from the gun with attacks like all races do. The plan for the day was to put me, Evan, and Matt in breaks and keep Chris, Joseph, and Nicolai fresh for the finale. It got really tough covering moves and at one point before an hour into the race I felt like I was cracked. We went on some downhill, slick roads, and there were a few crashes in turns. Then we approached a crosswind. The combination of these two things led to a split of about 30 riders where we had everyone on our team except for me and Chris. This was a good move. Holowesko didn't have many riders in the split, so I watched for some of them to bridge across. However, the race took a wrong turn through a town and the field neutralized. As soon as it came back together attacks happened again, and I found myself off the front with 2 UHC, 2 Rally, and 2 Holowesko riders. I didn't like my odds in that situation, so I opted to do zero work. We went up the longest hill in the opening circuit and a few more riders came across, one of which was Joseph. That gave me the green light to work, but I did not want to do ridiculous work because we still had ~80 miles to race. I was also still feeling exhausted from covering the early moves, so I thought I better eat and not work too hard. Throughout the rest of the lap I did just that. We rolled super easy over Mount Penn, and by the time we started the second loop my legs were good. With about 60km left to race I was feeling good and thought the bigger riders in the group were suffering, so on all the hills I pinned it at threshold to make them hurt. Whenever we reached town Joseph gave me a coke, and Adam de Vos of Rally attacked at that moment. This put me on the back foot at a crucial moment in the race. I needed to burn a match just to make contact again. As soon as I made contact another attack came and that spelled the end of my day in the break. As the team car passed me on the climb I was loaded up like a camel in the desert with a Coke for Chris, and 3 water bottles. I tried my best to go up the climb hard and make it to the top, so I had a chance to give Chris the Coke and water if he wanted it. However, Nic came flying past me in a small group and soon after Chris came by following an attack as well. There was no way I could get him his Coke. I was cracked and wanted to finish the race, but the groups still riding were drilling it, so I decided to save the legs for the Sunday crit. Oscar Clark and Eric Marcotte from my initial break ended up staying away to the end taking first and second respectively, and Holowesko took third through fifth as well. Nic was our best rider in 7th position after a really tough day on the bike.

The Doylestown Crit is one of the toughest crits on the calendar. I am not sure if the race is so tough from the aggressive racing, the fact that it is the longest crit on the calendar, because the crit is half uphill and half downhill, it is the last race of the season, or if it is because it is the day after the hardest one day race on the calendar. Perhaps all these factors play a role in making the Doylestown crit hard? The race was 60 miles long, so we did 47 laps on the downtown circuit that had fans cheering all around the course. The plan for the day was a simple one; Phil wanted us to be present in breaks throughout the race, and he wanted us to help Evan if the race came down to a field sprint. We all did a fantastic job covering breaks throughout the entirety of the race and were present in all the dangerous moves. With 35 laps to go there was a big crash in the tight portion at the top the the course, and an ambulance needed to be called. That meant the race had to be restarted, and all the riders who were at the front of the peloton now restarted at the back. This annoyed me, but I fought my way through the riders to eventually make it back up to the front about 7-10 laps after the restart. Once back at the front I got back to covering moves and Evan and myself found ourself in a lead group of about 10 riders with 15 laps to go. This move ended up sticking until the finale. With 4 laps to go Evan attacked with a UHC rider, and it looked like he would stay away until the end. However, Shane Kline of Rally chased hard and brought it back. I countered with everything I had at two to go, but wasn't able to make the move stick. Matt countered me, but he was also reabsorbed. I followed Shane Kline until about 300 meters to go. Then Chris came around me with Evan and Matt on his wheel. I was sure we were going to at least end up on the podium, but Evan used his finishing legs in his final break. Matthieu was our best finisher in 8th, with Evan 11th, Chris 12th, and me in 20th. We had a solid ride with super teamwork both days, but we just fell short of getting the result. It was a really great way to end the season.

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Tour of Alberta

I raced the Tour of Alberta last week. It was 5 stages of flat, windy, cold, and intense racing through the plains of Alberta. The weather, the wind, and the long transfers made it one of the toughest races I have ever completed.

The first stage was a tough 100km circuit race in Lethbridge. It was about 90 degrees for the stage which made it feel like racing back in the South. The pace started off fast from the gun with furious attacks in the crosswinds. After about 10km of racing a split of 29 riders jumped off the front of the peloton that included Matthieu Jeannes from our team. Matthieu won the first KOM and took second in the final 2 KOMs of the day. An Amore e Vita rider won the second 2 KOMs and finished second to Matthieu in the first. That meant Matthieu finished the stage at second in the KOM competition. The pace in the field was surgy and chaotic with the wind and the hills. With a couple laps to go Matthieu and a lot of the break came back to the peloton. After Matthieu was caught; Chad,Barry, Oliver, Bryan, and me set pace at the front of the group in order to reduce the gap to the break. At the end of the day 10 riders finished in the lead group with a 2 minute and 5 second advantage over the peloton. Colin Joyce of Axeon took the stage win. After the stage we had a 3 hour transfer to Kananaskis. 

Stage 2 was a 180 km stage from Kanaskis to Olds. It was about 40 degrees at the start, and it appeared rain would be on the horizon. The stage appeared to have a net downhill, but winds were ripping. The pace was aggressive from the gun like during stage one. Axeon had an iron grip on the race and were not content to let a break of more than 3 riders roll. Chad, Bryan, Evan, and me covered big moves early on in the stage, but eventually Tanner Putt and a Canada National Team rider went away. Axeon was pleased with this and sat up across the whole road. That is how the break of the day went after 50 km of white knuckle racing. After about 80km of racing the only KOM of the day came. With only two riders up the road, we set Matthieu up at the bottom of the climb at the front of the peloton, and the pace was pretty fast over the climb. The Amore e Vita rider beat Matthieu, so Matthieu was trailing the Amore e Vita ride by 3 points at the end of the stage. After the climb crosswinds came for about 5 km, and teams drilled it to make a split happen. Holowesko had 5 riders present in a 9 or 10 rider group off the front of the peloton. After the crosswinds there was a headwind, and I was about 20 seconds off the back of the group in a group of ~10 riders with Rob Britton of Rally, Ryder Hesjedal of Trek, and Phil Gaimon of Garmin. We were working steadily together, but we could not make the junction back to the peloton who were in hot pursuit of Hincapie. It started to rain, and it really became miserable. Eventually my right arm and my hands went numb. I had the chills and thoughts went through my head wondering if I could die in these conditions. I couldn't eat or drink with the numb hands and arm. I kept telling myself it wasn't that much further and eventually survived to the finish. This was mentally one of the toughest days I have ever had on the bike. We only had Chris make the split over the KOM hill, and Oliver, Chad, Bryan, Evan, Matthieu, and me finished about 12 minutes down on the peloton.

Stage 3 was another 180 km stage from Rocky Mountain House to Drayton Valley. We had some hot tea on the 1.5 hour transfer from the hotel to the start of what would be another intense and cold stage with wind from the beginning of the stage. At least there was no rain! All the riders on our team covered early moves. Me and Bryan just missed an 18 rider split at about 15 km into the stage. This meant our team went to the front and chased after we got reabsorbed into the field. A dirt road came at about 20km into the stage, and Trek brought the break back. After the dirt road was the first KOM of the day. Matt was off the front of the peloton off the dirt, but Amore e Vita set a savage pace up the climb to bring Matt back and have their rider take maximum points on the KOM. I was ~top 30 going over the KOM and bleeding through my eyeballs as Phil told me I was positioned well and a break would probably go soon. This meant I needed to cover the next couple moves, and my legs were more or less gone ~40 km into the stage. The aggressive racing continued with crosswinds, but I was unable to cover from this point. I just survived in the gutter until the break finally rolled ~80 km into the stage. We had Bryan chasing to the break with Antoine Duchesne of the Canadian National Team, but he remained at 55 seconds from the break for a really long time and was unable to make the junction with Antoine with him. Antoine was high in the general classification, so the break rode hard for them to not catch. After the feed zone the pace in the field finally slowed for about 10 km. After that it was back to business as usual, and I went back to chomping on my stem in the crosswinds. There was a final KOM climb heading into Drayton Valley, but all the points were up the road, and there was a headwind on the climb. That meant the pace was not too intense up the climb. However, as we reached the outskirts of Drayton Valley attacks started dropping like bombs. In the finale we did 3 laps on a 4km circuit that included a 500 meter hill with a crosswind. The pace was ballistic on the circuits, and I came off the back of the group with about 6km to go on that hill. Robin Carpenter of Holowesko and Evan Huffman of Rally fought it out for the stage win with Huffman taking the stage and the GC lead heading into stage 4. Chris took 11th on a very tough stage. 

Stage 4 was a Merckx time trial through a park in Edmonton. It was a fun rolling 12km course. I just pedaled the time trial around threshold in order to stay open for the final stage but to not totally waste myself for the final stage. Robin Carpenter of Holowesko ended up taking the race lead by one second over Bauke Mollema of Trek. This meant the final stage in Edmonton would be another intense stage of racing. 

Stage 5 was a 120 km circuit race through the streets of Edmonton. This is a fun circuit that features 2 climbs each lap. We raced 11 laps and 3 KOMs were up for grabs. With Matthieu trailing the KOM leader by 12 points this meant we needed to put Matthieu into the break. The pace started off intense, and after about 9km of racing we had Matt in the break of 18 riders with Bryan. After the break rolled the pace lessened a little bit for most of the race. With 5 or 6 laps to go the pace increased as Holowesko started reeling the break back in. Up in the break Matt took second to the Amore e Vita rider in the first two KOMs, so that meant the Amore rider sewed up that competition. With 3 laps to go Evan flatted as Trek started launching attacks to try to break Holowesko. This was a really bad time to flat! Bryan, Chad, and I waited at the back of the field to try to help Evan once he got back on. For a lap Evan was close to getting back on, and with one lap to go he came back on only to blow up on the KOM hill. It was a valiant effort by him, but this course is a really tough course to come back on. Waiting at the back was taking its toll on me because this course had a sling shot effect meaning you need to make harder accelerations at the back. Chad and I came off the back of the peloton with 1.5 laps to go to regain contact later on in the lap. This was a really hard effort! I positioned myself decently on the KOM hill on the final lap, but I had no legs from bad positioning on the previous two laps. I lost contact with the peloton that final time up the KOM hill, and Chris was our only rider to finish in the lead group. Robin Carpenter beat Bauke Mollema on the stage, so he ended up winning the general classification.  

I learned a lot at the Tour of Alberta this year. The intense wind and the aggressive racing made you stay on your toes throughout the entire race. The ProTour riders are ridiculously strong! Chris is very good at saving energy and maintaining position. That maintaining position is key to making splits and getting good results. There is no way to make up positioning at key moments when the best riders in the world are drilling it. I will employ this knowledge at the Reading 120 and Doylestown Crit this weekend.