Hammer or Nail

christine fletcherComment

Many people get into endurance sport, or sport in general, for the social aspect of spending time with others while also getting fit. We meet new people, we bond, we hurt, we laugh and we come back for more thanks to the camaraderie of others being there for us and us being there for them.  For athletes entering endurance sport or returning to fitness an audience can positively influence compliance and consistency.  Studies show that athletes train harder and focus longer when in the company of others. Athlete reliability skyrockets when they know someone is depending on them to show up.  The benefits of “exercising” socially cannot be disproven. So then what could ever be the problem with having training partners? The answer lies in context.


Over the years I have been apart of many training groups, clubs and teams. In my twenties I wore a “road racing” helmet and couldn’t imagine a ride without the company of twenty other cyclists dressed in the same kit and wearing the same socks with coaches at the front and back end of the group chomping at our wheel.  The team would end at the same café for a post ride latte and jam session.  Our goals were team-based sprinkled with race tactics and strategies to win as a result of a group effort. The comraderie was exceptional and when things came together in races, we knew the hard work in training together paid off.  Each season had a plan and each session had a purpose.  The whole was definitely greater than the sum of its parts.


Over time, my focus evolved, as did my desire to realize personal improvements and compete against the clock (gross simplification of 10-15 years).  To honor this desire, my training partners had to evolve, as did my training sessions and the specificity of each one. It was wildly motivating to train knowing that each session fit into a bigger picture and gratifying to experience unique improvements. Group rides at random speeds and punchy watts continued to be a huge part of my training. In fact, the more fit I became with solo workouts, the more I could enjoy some of those Hammerfest rides and even test a few riders that always tested me in past years. What changed was the approach and timing of group rides. What changed was who the hammer was and who the nail was.


All of you have goals for the season, for next season and even beyond. Whether you are doing haute route, gran fondos, staged mountain bike events, ironmans, half ironmans, du-athlons or marathons, having training partners can be a key ingredient to squeezing out more effort and pushing your power, pace or volume to new limits.  Group dynamics can also simulate race conditions by having others surround you, maybe uncomfortably so, forcing you to find comfort with proximity and the pressures of keeping up, holding your line, taking a pull or maintaining mental fortitude despite depths of fatigue and bleeding eyeballs.  For those observant few, riding with seasoned well-conditioned road tacticians offers an incredibly opportunity to learn and apply in your own training.  Whether you know it or not, chances are those seasoned riders also do, or have done, a fair amount of solo training to get where they are today. 


So back to my earlier comment about context. The use of training partners and social dynamics gets slippery for endurance-focused athletes when used as a crutch to deviate from their plan and what it really takes to go after real goals. 


As humans, we often look for the easy way to navigate challenges and do the least amount of work with the highest return on investment. In training, we are no different.  Sometimes training partners help make things easier for us. For the record, I’m not calling the kettle black - I have been there too, we all have. 


Here’s the thing…


Setting goals, having dreams of qualification, wanting to “race vs. complete” and becoming a competitive athlete is hard. It demands more of us, physically, emotionally and mentally, than we realize until the going really gets tough.  Using training partners to make things easier on us – be it to help us get out the door, to draft off, to chat with for long rides or runs (at their pace), to use them as an excuse not to do your prescribed workout that was written based on your goals (this is one I hear a lot) or to simply make the training session less uncomfortable for you - will only result in one outcome...comfort zone with no depth for physical or mental stamina. When you hit the front lines in races and the gun goes, you get what you trained for. The more you use social training as a crutch to color a box green, the more foreign racing will feel. 


As we head into the spring and the days are warmer, dryer and sunnier, you will have opportunities to train with others. Consider whether you are the hammer or nail? Some days you may even want to be the nail to practice responsiveness and get pushed. Some days you may want to be the hammer to push others and drive the pace. Some days you may need to opt out altogether and do what is right for you and your big picture.  Either way, keeping perspective and avoiding the trap of using training company as a crutch or dissing the prescribed session altogether because you choose to ride with others that had a different agenda (and thus you were obliged to follow).  When you do decide to “never mind” your training, no need to apologize to the coach. It is not them that miss out, it’s you. 


Remember this: The best training partners are the ones that support your goals and give you the freedom to get your work done even within a social dynamic.  Great training partners are few and far between.  If you take your goals seriously, also take time to screen those you might be spending long hours with on a bike. Best be on the same page about who is hammering and who is not. 


In closing, have a watch of a video posted from the 1970’s on David Gerth’s (Brite Coach & owner of Continental Repairs) blog.  It’s fair to say that bikes, gear, apparel and video capabilities have come along way. Athleticism was at an all time high!



The Grit Equation

christine fletcherComment

This year more than ever I have been having conversations with athletes about the mental game in sport and specifically in endurance sport. As ultra endurance athletes, the mental is maybe the most important aspect of your training process. How you set your goals, how you envision your season, how you engage in the process, how you prioritize training and how every week, day, training hour fits into YOUR bigger picture. Lucky for me, I get to see many of you in a cycling studio under bright lights a few times a week. I can look into your eyes and see the wrinkles on your forehead as an insight into how you are doing on any given day. Some days I can tell that the athlete is “on” and working towards something greater than one pedal stroke. Some days I can tell that the athlete is completely disengaged and checked out. Those are always “red flag” signs of fatigue, distraction or temporarily lost passion. For athletes I can not see throughout the week, I poke a little further into their lives to find out more about their level of motivation and perspective. [Allow me to be a broken record in saying that the more detailed feedback we, as coaches, can receive from athletes, the more we can help grow you as an athlete seeking performance. When you allow yourself to be open and honest with your coach, the more you will get out of the relationship. You can rarely say too much in your log.]


This takes me to the topic that I wanted to cover in this “Brite Bite” email and that is passion vs perseverance. Some of you may have heard of Angela Duckworth’s book called Grit which I will loosely define as the combined of passion + perseverance. I recently finished reading this book and it really spoke to me as a coach to incredibly driven athletes. 


From an ultra endurance perspective, passion is expressed by athletes when they set a goal and press enter on their keyboard to pay buckets of money ;-) and put their name on a start line. Athletes are fired up and ready to rock = That’s PASSION. Huddle, huddle…1-2-3 go…PASSION overflows!


Perseverance…well, that’s the work. That’s the daily grind over a long period of time and staying connected to the passion of the sign up moment. However, preparing for ultra endurance events is rarely gratifying instantaneously.  One week is up, one week is down. So let me remind you that ultra endurance training is about the passion for the event, for your goals, for your potential, for what you see yourself doing and for the perseverance of following through on that passion. Perseverance is hard. Hence the term GRIT! When some days are not going in your favour but you continue to put your best foot forward and make it happen to the best of your ability = That’s PERSEVERANCE. Staying on top of your game and what you committed to on a daily basis = That’s PERSEVERANCE. When the alarm goes off at 5a.m. = That’s PERSEVERANCE


Now here is the kicker…Perseverance is the coaching part of the equation. No one else can ignite your passion, not even your coach. Maybe you and your coach discuss your goals and piece together what the best plan looks like but the fire burning in your belly comes from within you. Coaching is helping the athlete persevere day in day out, through the good and the rough, to progress further towards your goals over a long period of time. When an athlete lets go of that perseverance then you lose the benefits of having a coach as a resource and how much can be done together as a team.  Heaven knows the coach can’t train for you nor race for you. They can only help to prepare you to become your best performing self. 


With every athlete that comes on as a Brite star, the coach assume, rightly or wrongly, that “we” will persevere together towards that desired outcome. When the perseverance is unsettled, the athlete is the losing party since the coach is 100% focused on bettering them and they can’t do that without the athlete’s equal commitment. They have ZERO self interest in this incredible relationship. It is all about satisfying you, the athlete.  A nice opportunity to have all the attention!


For the next few weeks, tune into both your passion and perseverance. Get gritty and honest with yourself and your coach. Be vulnerable, bold and courageous. Let your goals and dreams have life even if it means saying no a few times to influencers in your life that don’t share your dreams. It starts with passion but can’t thrive without perseverance. 



Cycling Economy

christine fletcherComment

Thanks to a few Brite Stars asking me great questions recently about improving cycling this season, I decided to share my dialogue with all of you in a succinct write up. 

Note: this can also apply to those of you doing stage races like Haute Route or multi-day mountain bike races where you need to ride efficiently for repeated days on end. Economy and fuelling is critical.

Cycling Economy - What are we looking to improve?

All of you have different modalities to train the bike. If you are lucky enough to live in a warm climate, you mainly ride outside and get your interval work done on the road. For the others, we ride indoors throughout the winter in a studio environment or on your trainer at home. Enter Zwift, Trainer Road or any of app that wants to attempt to compete with them and we have entertainment at the same time. Either way, you are getting the work done. If you have not been formally tested for your threshold/zones, now is the time of year to get that done. The benefits we reap from knowing your zones helps both you and your coach determine the exact intensity to focus on for each workout. Getting tested in a lab environment is ideal but not essential so if you are wondering how to test yourself on the bike or run, please ask.

Day in day out you are all training. Some days you feel a little less motivated than others. Usually that happens when you a) get tired or b) you are disconnected from the “why”…why is your coach having you do these crazy efforts or why am I doing all this watt stuff etc. The list can be endless if mind chatter gets the better of you and when you have temporarily exited stage left from the process and your juicy goals set months ago.

When an athlete gets test results, they are provided with “zones” or training intensities scaled based on easy to aerobic to anaerobic to max effort. For endurance athletes we are largely interested in your aerobic threshold, aka: Zone 2, as well as your lactate threshold, aka T1/VT1. We are also interested in your max aerobic power (MAP) however this effort is used sparingly for endurance athletes. All the values are extremely important to know, honor and respect. I have simplified the terms above for ease to follow. Sports scientists would cringe as each terms means something very different to them. To the athlete, some terms can almost be interchangeable. Here is a quick overview on brief definitions of each.

Where things get complicated for an athlete is understanding what the long range goal is with training, how hard to train and what values to place emphasis on. Many of you look at the numbers and think the only sign of progress is the improvement of these values: i.e. if your threshold (T1) values do not increase, my training has not improved me as an athlete. 

For most developed athletes, if improving your lactate threshold value (T1) was the only marker of improvement, they would have stopped improving years ago. Most start a season at XXX watts and progress to only 3-7% higher. But, for some ODD reason these same athletes continue to improve in endurance sport without watts increasing. For under developed athletes, the goal is likely to improve all values and thus a different approach to endurance development would be applied. 

Here’s the kicker, for endurance athletes we are not looking to get “stronger”, we are looking to get more efficient and economical. For triathletes, this becomes even more important as they are running off the bike to the best of their ability.

What does this mean? It means 4 simple things/goals/outcomes:

1) We are looking to ride the bike in a triathlon at a lower cost. The lower your lactate accumulation below threshold T1 (flatter curve), the better you can hold wattages/efforts for a longer period of time below that marker. If you ride “better” below T1, you will get to the bike/run transition feeling better, and you will have a much higher likelihood to hold your usual training pace for running vs. the slog many of you see/feel on the run. This is all about lowering the cost at T1, not pushing it up.

 2) We are looking to hold a higher wattage relative to threshold T1. For example, if your T1 is 300 watts and you rode Ironman at 255 watts last year. Your goal is to push that number to 260, 265, 270 watts in the years to come. T1 may not change one watt yet your ability to sustain power with less lactate accumulation in the blood for longer is improving. Its called cycling economy: basically watts per pedal stroke. The balance between watts per pedal stroke your muscles can handle at a cadence your cardiovascular system can sustain.

3) We are looking to improve our ability to ‘tolerate’ surges and rollers within the race better: As we get more comfortable working below T1 wattages/effort, our ability to withstand relatively longer periods at above T1 increases. Why? Because our ability to hold a higher wattage/effort relative to T1. Therefore rollers, surges or short stretches in races do not knock us out when we are above T1 HR/Watts, nor do we feel intimidated by being there for a bit – we know we can recover and return to a longer, go all day effort without blowing up. This is the basis of any workouts you have that require short surges or subtle changes in intensity. You will face these demands in races (and group rides).

4) We are looking to determine an effort/intensity at which we can still maintain our nutrition and hydration: This is a key ingredient to our racing success. If we are riding at a lower cost, if there is less of an accumulation of lactate, if we are in optimal balance of muscular power producing pedaling force and the cardiovascular system delivering oxygen, fueling the muscles and removing waste products such as lactic acid, THEN our stomachs’ ability to process food, calories, electrolytes etc. is greatly improved. Think of that pace where all this remains in balance…wattage, HR, nutrition & hydration….THEN think of gradually increasing that pace…..through training. You have all been there: going a bit too hard to properly process the food. Then get to the run….and oops: bloated, sick or empty with no energy.

In sum, the training does NOT revolve around improving T1, it revolves around getting more efficient and economical at it. Each and EVERY one of you will have a GREAT season if you were to ride efficiently and effectively just below T1. It means a solid bike split (faster than you think!) and a solid run (one that you’ve always felt you are capable of but have not yet had)…

If T1 increases: Sure, this is an added benefit, but it does NOT mean you will be racing at a higher wattage/effort. Because we will still want to be in that efficient and economical ‘zone’ where all the above takes place. An increased T1 means we have plenty more work to do in the months and years to come.

As always, let your Brite Coach know of any questions.



christine fletcherComment

Many athletes I encounter think there is a magic bullet. They believe that if they work really hard, almost kill themselves in training and aim for their best average watts every workout, their goals will be realized. It's just not so.  I remember telling one of my coaches years ago, "for this race, I am going to give 110%. You watch! I'm done with clowning around. I'm giving MORE than I have." He laughed at me. "Ok, Chrissy. Good luck with that cuz you only have 100%. There is no such thing as 110%." In single sports, it is easier to see what sessions affect others positively or negatively. High volume, intensity and load will eventually lead to fatigue. Typically you can build more load into an athlete in one sport since their energy isn't being reserved for anything else (other than life of course). In multi sports, we have competing disciplines demanding energy in completely different recruitment patterns thus becoming less clear what sessions affect others. Through trial and error, experience, some research studies, historical data, physiology and athlete feedback, we get a fairly good sense of how much one athlete can handle vs the next. The one theme that is repeated time and again by olympians, elites, and high level amateurs is that consistent application of training stimulus on a regular basis with some consideration to intensity, volume and frequency is the best formula for improved performance. Sebastian Kienle was interviewed by Bob Babbitt on his show last week. Great interview - Seb is hilarious and very thoughtful in his response. Bob kept asking him about his "turning point" as a professional athlete (he was after the "story" from a media perspective). Seb corrected Bob on multiple occasions, being a two time World 70.3 Champion and one time World Ironman Champion topping the heaps of other results and accolades he has accumulated over more than 15 years, that there was no turning point....rather there was a turning evolution...all his performances happened in due course and deservedly so. He credits his consistency to training (years and years of it) for his outstanding performances. Seb's website is: 

Consider your training methodology and how frequently you practice the skill of movement, train your aerobic system and develop movement efficiency. Consistency rules. Its the volume and intensity that become the moving targets.


One More Decision I Don't Need to Make

christine fletcherComment

I'll start with a podcast I recently listened to between Tim Ferris and Seth Godin. I have never really followed Tim Ferris much. He impresses, go figure. Seth impresses even more. I love his clarity, vocabulary, insights, brilliance and vision. I also love his principles around value, time and how to use precious resources, namely time. Tim asks his what he eats for breakfast. Seth replies "ah, one more decision I don't have to make...I have a frozen banana, hemp seeds...ever single morning." Seth talks about his top audiobooks (including one of his own). Of course I scurried to the world wide web to look them up and order. That's how much I trust his option. He says they each "cause something to flip in your head" and prepare you to take your life in a new direction. Check out the list here.

Athletes, business executives, grandmothers, writers, everyone will gain some insights into the world around them by listening to this interview. Seth is paid to "notice" things. As athletes, we must notice things about ourselves, how we process our training load, how we balance our time with training, work, relationships and family and how we experience other athletes that we train with or are surrounded by.  The more we can shed pressure and useless drains of our energy, the more on task and fulfilled our athletic journey will be. 






Let's Begin

christine fletcherComment


For years (I mean 20 of them), I have been training indoors on a bicycle. From spin classes in the 80's to wind trainer rides with Troy Jacobson (Spinervals) in my living room to computrainer sessions in my garage mixed with indoor cycling workouts at my own studio. Environment and entertainment has been a big part of getting through these sessions. I used to listen to carefully crafted playlists or invite sorry suckers over to sweat, chatter and bond. When Spinervals came along, I had Coach Troy and his televised clan to bond with. Over time, I started to train more and more on my computrainer for the power feedback and consistency of training stimulus. Music started to bore me or irritate me if the beat wasn't just right for the tempo of my heart beat. So I turned to podcasts, Ted Talks and some times...audiobooks. Some days, I will listen to 3-5 podcasts on subjects of interest. It's a two in one - build fitness and learn. No time wasted. Every once in a while, I listen to an interview that changes my perspective. I've had many ah-ha moments at 200watts and always yearn to share that new learning with the people I care about. In this blog, I will share with you the amazing podcast episodes I have heard, books I have read or people that have rocked my world. Maybe, just maybe, they will rock yours too.