Losing a Coach – Gaining a Gift
In a previous post, I celebrated getting an opportunity to work with a coach. For years I have been reading various sources and incorporating workouts and ideas into my training, but it was not very well-planned and executed. My training was haphazard and random, and while I had some pretty good results in mountain bike races in the mid-90s, those were probably more the result of years in the saddle, some native skill and youthful exuberance.
I’m 58 now and have enough time and enough sense to know that to make the transition to road racing with the Masters Men, I would need to up my training game. So I contacted an old bike shop colleague to chat about a coach recommendation, and was delighted to have my friend, a long time cycling professional who has worked with many Pro-Tour and elite cyclists, offer to manage my training plan.
Our coach/athlete relationship was short lived. I won’t go into all of the details – a few will suffice. He wanted me to use Zwift. I did not like it at all. I live in Arizona and can ride outdoors almost every day of the year and I’m not a fan of indoor pedaling (I can’t call it cycling). He also wanted me to stop – or at least seriously curtail competing in events so that I would concentrate on training. Though I was hammered in the few road races I’ve entered so far, and this season’s mountain bike race results didn’t find me on the podium, I was still having fun. Yes, it would be more fun to win, place or show, but still, as I’ve read, discussed and experienced, racing is great training – infinitely more fun than any other way to improve fitness. At least to this amateur roadie and off-roadie. I see race data from my Garmin that I rarely see when I train. And racing – even racing for what seems like forever in the red zone – just doesn’t hurt like it does when you are in the same zone on a training day. Out there. Alone.
Moreover, I want to compete and I especially want to compete in road races, something I have never done, and so far, enjoy. I want to race as many times as I can this season and write about my experiences doing so. I will continue to train and won’t always show up to the start line with a week of tapering and race prep fitness – indeed I intend to use races as “fun” training days, rather than opportunities to divide and conquer. At least not this year.
This year, I want to learn to ride in a very fast group of gents who know how to do so, hence my desire to ride in the Masters Men category. Many of these guys have been racing for decades – they know the rules, spoken and unspoken of riding in a pack. I want to hone my skills, improve my fitness, perhaps make a few friends, and write about what it’s like to be a 58 year old man trying to add his competitive fire to the peloton. Sitting on the sidelines, watching and hearing about my cycling colleagues’ road racing exploits has often left me a little envious. I don’t know why I never tried it before now – I’m an avid fan and have nothing but admiration for Pro Tour and elite road cyclists – so even to me it’s a mystery as to why I never turned a wheel in a road race.
This year is about learning the ropes of the road, experiencing road racing firsthand, doing some mountain bike events, and working on my fitness. It’s also about learning about the finer points of training, nutrition, tactics and balancing cycling with life.
And writing about it all, in the hopes that others might learn from my experiences.
What I didn’t know was that my former coach wanted me to use Zwift and a smart trainer so that he could have power and heart rate and other data to design my program, to improve my power and efficiency. He also has little time and only likes to work at a very high level. I made decisions that did not meet his expectations and undermined his efforts. Part of his compensation for coaching me was that I would achieve some success and he did not see that happening with my choices.
Ironically, our separation has an unexpected silver lining.
So… I am back to coaching myself. I’m glad that I have started the process of learning more about coaching by becoming a Level 3 USAC certified coach. I realize that I have an opportunity now as a retired teacher to retrain myself, as I train my body, to combine two things that I love more than just about any others – teaching and cycling.
I just completed a 3 day USAC Level 2 coaching clinic. In my teaching career, I went to countless workshops and clinics, but none of them were as well-conducted as this three day, information-packed extravaganza. I learned the answers to so many of my coaching and training questions, but more important, I learned that the answers to training questions are often numerous and always contextual. What works for one cyclist, may not be the most effective method with another.
So, I am reading everything I can get my eyes on about the art and science of fitness coaching and training. I’m reviewing USAC webinars, USAC Coaching newsletters and getting to know the various apps and software dedicated to cycling performance. I have plans to get Training Peaks certified. I am studying to become a National Strength and Conditioning Association certified trainer.
My learning curve is steep, but I’m finding answers to my questions and I’m developing a list of much more informed questions. I feel that I am finding my way to a fabulous future – a future of coaching, learning and teaching, meeting and working with others who share at least one – if not all of my passions.
So here I am. Retired English teacher, fifty eight years old and finally following those oft-repeated words…
Follow your (pounding) heart.
Totally agree! Follow your heart, Mr. Hart. And I will follow your progress.
You’re an inspiration! I started mtb racing this year (we met at McDowell, my first race) with similar motivations. Just finished my 2nd race and am totally stoked. Keep up the blog!