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Archive for the ‘training’ Category

No matter how vexing!

Got this ‘thought of the week’ from Dr. Wendy Borlabi, the USOC Sports Psychologist assigned to work with the US Sprint Program.

“Each Warrior wants to leave the mark of his will, his signature, on important acts he touches.

This is not the voice of ego but of the human spirit, rising up and declaring that it has something to contribute to the solution of the hardest problems, no matter how vexing!”

–Pat Riley

It feels fitting. Some days I feel like a warrior. Today I felt like a wounded warrior after two hard weeks of training.

Somebody called me a pioneer once, which I found both flattering and laughable. Pioneers are people like Joan Benoit and Fannie Blankers-Koen. If a woman racing bikes in the year 2011 is considered a pioneer, the feminist movement stalled when it got to the sport of cycling.

But it does have me thinking about what solution I’m working towards.

Is it doing my part to move the US women’s sprint program forward? I’m working hard to qualify a spot for the World Championships and Olympic Games. I know  my experience is an asset to a young program.

Some days, I think it may be just reminding people it’s never too late to dream or try something new.

Hmmm? Leg speed or OTB strength . . . photo by Sandra Geroux

As an athlete I have it easy. My problem is to figure out how to get myself, my bike and my partner up to max speed from a stand still as quick as possible.

Lately, I’ve been hitting 60-62kph in 19.6 to 20.2 seconds, depending on the track and training phase. As (wo)man 1 in the Team Sprint, I want to accelerate all the way through the line at the end of the first lap so my (wo)man 2 gets a slingshot effect in the exchange.

Blistering speed at the end of lap 1 translates into a faster first half of lap 2. The goal of (wo)man 2 is to carry or improve on that speed  to the finish.

Throw on a 90.6 (47×14) and get off the line quick at the (potential) cost of valuable kph in the last 60-80 meters. Or ride a 92.6 (48×14) and — while you may reach higher top end — the gear could slow you down out of the gate, adding 1-2/10ths to your first 125meters.

Then there’s the relationship between your gear and your partner’s . . .

In training, the puzzle is finding the right equation of big gear work, little gear work, explosive short efforts, longer efforts, weights, time on the road and equally important, time away from training to recover.

The US women need to go faster and get there quicker. The best women in the world are covering the first lap in just under 19 seconds. The next tier comes in between 19.0 and 19.5.

I did a 19.6 standing lap at the Pan Am Games, which was a HUGE personal best. But going 250 meters in 19.4 to 19.7 seconds consistently would be better.

I know enough about elite sport to realize I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t have something to contribute.

And I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think it was important.

Adjusting chain tension, dialing in the gear. photo by Sandra Geroux

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With Master’s Nationals over, I confess to being a little concerned I’d lose my training partners.

I know how tough it is to fit in consistent workouts with a 9-5, and while some of the guys I train with are teachers or have flexible schedules, most of them have wives and kids who really like to see them when their goal has been met for the season.

(Thanks, btw, wives and kids for letting your men come to the track. I feel very fortunate to train with them.)

Imagine my relief when I got this text from Affinity‘s Jon Chambers:

JC: U available to train Sunday?

We’ve had storms hovering, plus I raced Friday and training gets shuffled for these reasons. And while Sunday’s usually a rest day, (can I get an Amen!?), it’s also a day when guys like Jon can sneak away for a morning track session.

ME: What do you have going on?

JC: Not sure yet depends on what you have.

ME: This weather may shift things around, so maybe flying 200’s or rolling 500’s.

JC: Works for me.

Jon & Cam setting up for Masters' Nationals.

There was a little more to it. But that’s the gist. We’ve trained together quite a bit the past few years and can speak in shorthand. Our schedules haven’t meshed lately, so I was glad to hear from him.

Did I mention Jon’s racing like a champ? Just killing it every Tuesday and Saturday in the Cat 2/3’s and Master’s Men’s field. He’s a powerhouse who stepped it up a notch this winter. I hardly recognized him when I got back from Los Angeles in May.

It’s not uncommon in competitive sport to see elite women training with men of equal or greater ability. In track cycling, you often see top women racing with cat 2/3 or Master’s men to simulate the kind of speeds and action you’ll get in international competition.

Basically, you have to train as fast as you want to race. So if you’re trying to step it up; training with the guys, a motorcycle or exceptionally fast women are, in theory anyways, your best ways to go about it.

Today it was Jon, myself, Jon’s teammate, Cam; Bike Line Dale and Paul; Greg, the new Manager at Performance Bicycles and his buddy Ken. All great guys. I did flying 200’s behind the motor on Thursday, so I had 4 handicapped rolling 500m efforts, full throttle, two in race gear +4, two in race gear +6.

Three words: Big muscular effort.

We split into two groups: sprinters & enduros. Each of us (Jon, Dale & myself) took a turn at the front.

The speed difference between leading and chasing was remarkable: 6kph faster in the chase. I know I hit some of my best top speeds today. I also know the guys put the hammer down ’cause (and they’ll tell you this) no one likes getting beat by a girl.

Today’s training session was mint. Each effort high quality. For most of these guys, track time is a priority and they make the most of it.

And Jon is like a locomotive once he’s on top of a gear. Lucky for me, he doesn’t mind it if I sit a few bike lengths back and turn myself inside out trying to catch him.

There’s always some good-natured ribbing that comes with the territory. The guys like to tease me about being a girl (which, I am). I grew up with an older brother who used to pummel me for sport, so these guys are lightweights in comparison.

Gentlemen, in fact. Am I allowed to say we have a good time? And I certainly get more out of each effort than I would on my own.

This is something I’ve been thinking about because it’s new to me. I trained by myself a lot last year because it’s what I needed to do at the time.

I started the summer working with Andrew Harris on starts & OTB strength and did flying efforts with Chip Berezny and his crew on Wednesdays. Each session has been good in so many ways, this year better than last.

Then I found this newspaper clipping when I was home and thought, “Hah! This must be my destiny!”

Me & the Boys. Towsend, MD Invitational 1975?

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Where to begin!?

I’m writing this on my return flight from the Manchester World Cup. My teammate Cristin is two rows in front of me. We started the day with Bobby Lea, Kim Geist and Cari Higgins—also of the US Team—and Megan Hottman, of DFT Treads Cycling.  We left Kim & Bobby in Pennsylvania while Cari & Megan flew on to Denver. Cristin & I are heading back to Los Angeles where we’ll resume training Tuesday at the ADT Center.  

I flew to Los Angeles shortly after Thanksgiving to train with the new US Sprint Coach, Jamie Staff. Staff was hired by USA Cycling in July 2010 with the challenge of building an internationally competitive sprint program. Staff retired from competition last year after a career that began on the BMX track and ended with his winning gold at the Beijing Olympics as the starter for the British Team Sprint team.

At Elite Nationals, I learned Staff had an open door policy for now.  I did well at elite nationals—two gold and two bronze medals—so I took a few weeks to consider whether I wanted to pursue the sport at a higher level. If I learned anything in 2007, it’s that it’s nearly impossible to succeed at the world class level without committed support from an organized program.

We decided we were still game so I emailed Jamie to see if I could join his training group between the holidays.

That was three months ago. What started as a ‘try out’ has become a work in progress!

When I arrived in LA, 2009 elite national champion Cristin Walker was the only female sprint athlete training with Staff. She was doing road work and being groomed for next season. Staff has been straight up since taking the job that he’s got a long term vision and is building a program with the 2016 Olympic Games in mind.

New for London 2012, the Team Sprint is being used to qualify sprinters for the Olympic Games. Prior to myself and Tela Crane from Seattle joining him, Jamie had only one female–Cristin–in camp. When we arrived, he suddenly had enough bodies to field a team.

So we got to work. No promises were made. Jamie’s a high-energy, driven, process-oriented coach. We show up every day, work hard and give him our best. He gives us his best and expects our best. That’s how it goes.

By January, Staff felt we were fast enough to race the World Cup. I don’t want to put words in his mouth, but I think he saw this season as a chance to gain international experience, establish a UCI ranking and if all goes well, earn Olympic qualification points. At the very least, he saw it as a chance to get US women back in the game.

It’s been a whirlwind, to say the least! Cristin and I flew to China last month for the Beijing World Cup. It was my first elite international race since December 2007 and Cristin’s first World Cup ever.  Long travel, crazy jet lag, funny food, very little English . . . nothing like diving in head first!

We did well in Beijing: placed 11th with a respectable time of 35.954. We also scored Olympic qualification points our first time out! Last week we rode a 36.054 in Manchester . . . just 1/10 second off our best.

With Beijing, the travel and cultural differences take some getting used to. Manchester is an entirely different beast: sold-out crowds, non-stop loud music and cameras in your face. The stimulus factor is a 10+ and learning to concentrate and focus on your race is a cultivated skill.

We’d grown accustomed to going 2/10ths faster every time we rode together, so we were expecting a faster time in Manchester. Cristin and I also came home from China sick as dogs, though, and lost valuable training time between the two events.

Still, we’re ahead of schedule: Instead of waiting ‘til next World Cup season, we’ve got two World Cups under our belts. And, we’ve set a time we can only improve on and have seen first-hand the best in the world perform.

Plus, we’ve got a UCI ranking and have scored coveted Olympic qualification points. Whoot! I’ll post photos soon and do my best to explain what it takes to qualify for the Olympic Games . . .

For now, I’ll just say this: Every pedal stroke counts!

Until then, cheers!

Liz

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. . . because it’s a great way to end the season. I don’t think Donna will mind my telling you she’s 52, and she rocked it. Maybe it’ll convince you to join us next season. It’s never too late to try something new!

Dear Liz:
I want to thank you and the other coaches and helpers for giving us all a unique, memorable, worthwhile and purely fun experience at the Girls on Track Clinic.  Two days later, and I’m still smiling –  I can’t remember an equivalent serving of joy in my life since I was a child.  Like some others in the group, I had my (self-) doubts and questions about what I was getting into, but your organization and professionalism quickly put them to rest.  I was very impressed at your skill in instantly learning names, assessing skills, and constantly checking in with how each individual was feeling.  It’s almost as if there was a Liz there for each of us –watching, helping and cheering us on.

I thought the program was very well structured and though the hours flew by even faster than Ainhoa sprinting out of my slipstream, I felt I got a real taste of the fundamentals.  I’m enthusiastically recommending it to my friends and riding partners, and I only wish I could do it all again next week.

Most of all, it was inspiring to be around women athletes, both accomplished professionals and amateurs in the truest sense of the word – people who love what they’re doing and generously share the joy of it.  I was in high school when Title IX was passed, and in my graduating class there were only one or two young women who were serious about sports (and this was in San Diego!).  While I’ve been happy to see the culture change in the years since, it was only six years ago – when I found cycling – that I began to realize for myself the beauty, power and pleasure of participating in sport, not just spectating.

I’m extremely grateful to have been able to push beyond my comfort zone within this committed, supportive and encouraging group, and at a facility the caliber of the Valley Preferred Cycling Center. I’m sure you (and the rest of the organization) understand the value of this, and I hope you’re able to keep doing it, and more often!

Best regards,
Donna

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Come ride with us!

Starting tomorrow afternoon, Lath and I are leading bike rides in Jim Thorpe as part of the Fall Foliage weekends, sponsored by the Jim Thorpe Chamber of Commerce. If you’re in the area  . . . come join us!

I can’t wait to see how many people we have. It’s so beautiful here right now. This past week, all the merchants were busy decorating store fronts, getting ready for thousands of visitors expected to stream into town.

We took the dogs up Mt. Pisgah this afternoon, to mark Indian Path, the trail Lath’s ride ends on. I may be biased, but the best way to see fall colors is from the seat of a bike, floating along, on the trail, with sunlight illuminating the trees. 


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Does it take for two girls to do a track workout? Four, gorgeous, beautiful bikes. That’s how many. Two Giants, one Scott and one Blue. And how many times can 3 girls eat in one day? Last time I checked, we were at 13 (4-5 times apiece). But who’s counting? 

Here was the scene today as my Verducci-Breakaway teammate Kacey and I were waiting to head to the ADT Center. Every day is a masterful display of logistics. Sometimes we’ve got 4 girls and 4 bikes. In a few days’ we’ll have 4 girls, maybe 6 or 8 bikes, a few pair of race wheels, some food, lots of bags, and one very dedicated Team Manager and one very dedicated Team Director. 

It’s been awesome to get back to LA to the ADT Center. The track feels like home to me. It’s gorgeous, and it’s effortless to ride on the boards. 

Today we did warm-up with Lanell & Dave, plus DC Heather. On the boards, you can cruise at 44, 46 kph with the same effort you might use at 40, 42kph on the cement at T-Town. 

Getting here was a breeze. Been doing a whole lotta TV watching, hydrating, and getting ready for racing to begin on Thursday.

It’s great to be back!

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Just a few pics to give it up to my training partners who made getting ready for elite nationals productive and fun. Gorgeous weather, great training partners, excellent equipment. We’ve had a good month. 

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