As the year comes to an end, high performing individuals are presented with the wonderful opportunity of reflecting back and mulling over what we achieved, what we learned and how our experiences will shape us going into the next year.
Coach Britni Bakk and I have just returned from that wonderful and epic Coast Ride. While it sounds quite hard core, the pace we rode really isn’t. We are just getting from A to B, B to C, C to D, D to E and finally E to F every day on bikes. This leaves a lot of time for good conversation, reflection, reviewing and solving world problems. It would be fair to say that every day was a business meeting or strategy discussion between Britni and I about athlete development, progression and best laid plans for that individual. There is no one way for any one. There is only the way for every one.
The Coast Ride was really 4 days with a 5th day that carried us to San Diego through busy places and bike paths. The 5th day was a gravy day. It was the previous 4 days that really counted. Ironically, it gave clarity to how we approached our efforts and how it parallels that of a developing athlete. For us, it came easily since we have about 70 years experience between the two of us but for some, it would be a hard lesson if approached any other way.
4 Days of Riding the Coast = 4 Years of Developing as an Endurance Athlete
It’s fair to day that all athletes would be well served to take at least a four-year view of their training and goals. Sure, athletes will have goals and events within the coming 12, 9 or 6 months, and it is necessary to get ready for those events. But, I have always found that as a coach, looking beyond the next race is a pivotal key to success and longevity. Wouldn’t you agree?
Year One – Learn
For better and worse, endurance training is cumulative. On the positive side, this means the work you’ve done up to now has been gradually building upon itself, creating your current capacity.
There’s no substitute for experience because there is no shortcut to building that foundation. The downside is, of course, when you’re new to endurance sport you have to be patient while building the foundation.
Ramping up training workload to match your newfound enthusiasm is a recipe for burn out, over-use injuries or fatigue.
Coast Ride comparison: Any riders that went out too hard on Day One were shot out the back by the end of the day and soft pedalling to the hotel unsure how they would manage the next 3 days. Hard lessons to learn but lessons nonetheless. Those well paced, patient and willing to respect the magnitude of the 220 kilometres finished strong and were still smiling for more that evening.
Year Two – Train
Year two is about building the physical toolbox, and to do this, you have to train. With a year of generalized ultra-distance training in the bank, it’s time to pick a goal event and commit to a long training buildup.
This is often the year we encourage athletes to enter their first real endurance event, but perhaps not the hardest they can find. Compared to Year One, athletes might also complete in more varied events, including trail runs, fondos, swim races, etc. These events are key for developing the race-day habits you’ll need for your key event(s). Racing experience also breeds confidence in what you enjoy, excel at and gravitate towards.
Coast Ride comparison: this was the day a few riders would dig in and test their endurance. While it was wise to stay aerobic and play off attrition, it was also ok to play a bit and dig in. This was the day we rode through Big Sur with big climbs and harrowing descents. We needed wits, alertness, calculated caution and definitely endurance. It was also the day to learn what the body is capable of, bond with others and manage fuel. This day felt like there was meat on the bones for anyone willing to pace, rise up, hold back and push strong all in the same breath.
Year Three – Challenge
Year Three is a great time to go big. This is the year we encourage athletes to set more audacious intentions and challenge themselves to do something they might have not though possible in Year One. If the first two years were somewhat conservative in an effort to gain fitness and experience gradually, Year Three is the time to take bigger risks. If you finished your first ultra-endurance event in Year Two, leverage that experience by pushing yourself to complete a challenge with additional obstacles, like more climbing, higher elevations, or greater heat. These aren’t hardships just for the sake of hardship, but rather they are further steps in the process of learning to adapt to challenging conditions.
Coast Ride comparison: this was the day athletes started to show their true ability. Winds were up and not always coming from behind and fatigue levels were such that aerobic riding was almost the only option. Those that took in the first two days with patience shown through unapologetically and rose to new levels of riding abilities and endurance strength. The hardships we faced riding through Lompoc and away from the Coast tested our ability and our experience. Adaptation was at its best on this day.
Year Four – Optimize
Four years is a long time to wait for anything. But, if you’ve been patient, by this time you are ready to make a breakthrough. Year Four is when you dial in all the details with the goal of setting personal bests, winning a race, placing as high as you can in your age group and optimizing your performance. For aspiring elite athletes, this is often the year for breakthrough performances. For enthusiasts and age group competitors this is typically the first year when the basics of training, nutrition, pacing, and race day routines feel like second nature and culminate in the race of a lifetime.
This year is also marked by a crucial shift in mindset. There is no longer any doubt you’re capable of reaching the finish line, and once you are secure in the knowledge you can finish, your mindset can shift from surviving to improving and competing. You can start examining and scrutinizing previous tried and true routines and strategies in an effort to optimize them.
In training, Year Four is also the time for more advanced techniques. Early on, there is so much room for improvement you don’t need to get fancy. The best strategy is the simplest, and added complexity substantially increases risk for usually little reward. In Year Four, however, athletes have a strong foundation of training workload, experience, resilience, self-awareness, and perspective (usually). As a result, athletes are typically ready to add in advanced techniques such as heat acclimation, back to back interval days, block style training or other techniques often coined “marginal gains”, because they’ve reached a point where those techniques can actually deliver benefits above and beyond the fundamentals of endurance training.
Coast Ride comparison: Day Four was certainly the time to optimize, ride efficiently and hopefully finish with a breakthrough effort (as strong as or stronger than how we started). Traffic, navigation, winds, technical riding and longer than anticipate miles demanded experience on this day. We all needed the previous 3 days to create our unique 4th day.
So there we have it: Learn, train, challenge, optimize. It’s a simple formula with each piece building on itself to form a better endurance athlete. If you are patient and progress naturally, it might just be your key to a performance of a lifetime.
Today marks one week and one day since I made the eastern move to Mont Tremblant, Quebec (90minutes north of Montreal). For those of you that may not know, Montreal is my home town with Tremblant as a family weekend ski destination for over 20 years. Vancouver gave birth to so many incredible memories, opportunities, athlete interactions, racing, exploring, blossoming, career adventures and friendships. Thankfully, Brite Coaching was established and rooted in Vancouver with a global reach to athletes literally around the world. The timing for me to make a lifestyle change by relocating to a resort town with a bubbling endurance community, two incredible Ironman events and a strong Wifi signal allows for growth and newness to ensure. All Brite Athletes will be encouraged to come visit, race, train and enjoy this resort along with all the other locations we get to travel to for our endurance passion.
Brite coaches, Britni Bakk & Liz Cullen, keep the West Coast flares burning britely and offer our BC based athletes a physical presence and representation. Britni, Liz and myself will be seeing a host of you in Palm Desert at the Half Ironman on Dec 9th. This race is turning out to be very well scheduled for many of you not only from an early season trip to sunshine (Vitamin D) but also from a consistency and enjoyment perspective. Sometimes, goals matter and how we slide the timing of them does too.
If any of you have lingering questions about my move or can’t wait to come visit, let me know!
This is the time of year when athletes tend to forget how important training log comments are to yourself as the athlete and to your coach as the one seeking insights and guidance for your training. For newer athletes, you may not understand how to log comments outside of the obvious such as time, distance, pace and watts. We like to think a training files tells all but in reality it tells very little. It is your commentary that gives us the color, the view and the direction.
In reality, this time of year matters more than any other time of year in terms of commentary in the logs. Careful attention to your logs is likely one of the most important habits to adopt as an athletes seeking performance. Athletes that report accurately, honestly and with the mindset of being “coach-able” (open minded, welcoming of feedback, honest of pitfalls and successes) will always get more value, input, guidance and, frankly, attention, from the coach. Last year I wrote an article about Training Logs and what matters. Its worth another read over to refresh or to learn about how to get more from your coaching relationship and make use of the tools available to you grow as an endurance athlete.
Vision & Goals for 2019
For those of you that are still pondering your 2019, pondering the race schedules and wondering what’s next, take some time in November to write. Write out whatever comes up for you. Focus on what you would like to achieve in the next 30 days, 60 days and 90 days then extend it to next season. Be it a cycling stage race, ironman, mountain bike event, marathon, skate ski loppet or simply to keep in shape, contemplating what YOU WANT from the training journey will undoubtedly enhance your connection and your belief in your training. We must always oscillate between fitness, strength, health and skill development with careful attention to each at certain times of the year. One can rarely thrive without the other so if ever you feel like you don’t have the “skill” consider your fitness. If ever you feel you don’t have the fitness, consider your strength. And if ever you feel you don’t have any of it, consider your health.
Smart vs Dumb Training
More often than not, athletes are running into issues with their smart trainers. Pair mode, set up, mis-entry of target watts, software shut down…whatever the case may be. If that’s you, please communicate with your coach to prevent this from happening. These devices can be used in a few ways and certainly having them as a barriers to executing the planned session is undesirable. Whether it means taking time to learn their functions (on or off Zwift, Trainer Road or Tacx/Wahoo modes) or having someone that is adept at their capacities show you, is critical. Let your coach know if you are challenged by how to remove the barriers sometimes caused by these fancy devices and software systems, we will help you (and help us!). Old school has a place sometimes.
Real Food Recipes
Attached is a recent PDF I received with wonderful real food based recipes for endurance athletes.
In Kona, I lived on the “meal in a jar” recipe after finishing all my https://blendedforyousmoothies.com smoothies.
This recipe compares well with https://blendedforyousmoothies.com/products/the-athlete-blueberry
If ever there was an unsung hero, Britni Bakk would be one. Britni is our sports most humble legend banking well over 40 Ironman races, 12 of which in Kona, Hawaii. While she doesn't sing her praises on social media nor seek public attention, she thrives on sharing knowledge and coaching athletes to their own best self and tapping deep into their emotional, mental and physical potential.