#1 pitfall in self coaching

About a week and a half ago I had a little mishap at the gym. I was about to finish my 4th set of squats when I felt this small sting in my groin. It turned out to be a slightly pulled adductor. This whole thing did not come out of the blue. I had already been given an early warnings few days before (small cramp in the same area) and a red flag (tightness in the adductor) after the 3rd set that very same day. Why did I fail to listen to those early warning signals?

IMG_1908The other day I read an article about Do’s and Dont’s of coaching. The punchline “the training session begins the second the athlete walks in the door” caught my attention. The accompanying text discussed about coaches’ need to probe the athlete’s readiness – physical and mental – to define the best training session for the athlete today. I couldn’t help feeling a little sting when thinking about discussions I’ve had with myself at the gym door. The topic has rarely been about should I do the planned session or not. If I have one,  it is to give myself a swift kick in the butt in order to reach the desired state of mind.

Why is it so hard to listen to yourself? And even harder to adjust, or totally alter the plan? For a self coached athlete the time for discussions and plan changes has long passed when you’re at the doorstep of the training facility, all pumped up and ready to go. In general, to me any discomfort related to plan adjustments are related to what the plan stands for. It is the path to an achieved goal – to win something or someone, usually myself. Doing anything less would mean you’re not up to the task. Recognising this personal attribute hopefully helps me in further increasing the built in wiggle room in my own planning. The other side of the coin, equally important one is the nature of the sport. Being a stressed out wreck makes a killer cocktail when combined with heavy sprints or barbel training. I learned this the hard way.

What about those red flags during a training session then? This late mild groin injury of mine is a perfect example of why those red flags are meant to be taken seriously. In a worst case scenario I’d be working my way through a significant adductor tear. The initial recovery and rehab period would probably be two weeks or so. I’d be on the second week now. supercompensationThen I’d face a period, maybe from few weeks to couple of months, trying to get back to the point where I was before the mishap.
Instead of missing a set at the gym and perhaps a tiny bit of super-compensation, I’d be looking at missing several weeks to few months of steady progress. How about that for a trade off.

So heres a mental note to self: In the case of mid session red flag the answer to the question “Should I try to finish the session as planned?” is always “NO!“. End of discussion.

 

 

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Time trial performance

I’ve had it! No more aero bars for me. And this time I’ll stick with this decision.

Why the outburst? Last year in Manchester I rode my 750m TT on sprint bars. And I just sucked. My time was .5 seconds slower than a year before.  After a quick analysis of the data (the 2013 and 2014 lines in below graph) I managed to convince myself I’d do better
with aero bars. Everyone else rely on them relies on them so why not I.

TT performanceThis year I did ok. Not as well as I wanted to, but ok. In addition it felt like I had a decent start so I was anxious to see my splits. Unfortunatly it seems to take forever for the official results books to appear online. A friend of mine had taken a video of my ride so good, I was able to hand time my sections. The data I got out of it speaks volumes.

The above graph illustrates the average speeds for different 125m sections of the 750m TT.  The green colour line represents this year’s race. As you see my top speed has improved quite a bit, which quite frankly is not a huge surprise considering where the focus of my training has been: 60% of my training volume has been in short sprints. Back in 2013 I spent a lot of time doing 45-60 second efforts to develop my anaerobic capacity. That is the story behind the red tail not declining quite as much as the other two. Comparing the red line to the blue led me to believe I’d be better off with aero bars. Seemed like I was able to hold the speed better when on skies. That was a good theory. Unfortunately 2015 data does not seem to agree with it. Now my current theory is I was better holding the speed towards the end because back then my anaerobic capacity was relatively better than my anaerobic power, not because of the equipment.

TT powerBefore I had the 2015 splits I put together a graph of power duration curves comparing the 2014 ride against this year’s data. There’s one thing to understand when reading this chart: This year I missed a good 4 seconds from the start, due to the recording delay of the SRM. Because of that I’m lacking few data points that would most probably lift the tail of the green line just a bit. If you compare the info from this to the info from the split chart you can clearly see the what an impact of my focus on short sprints have had on the entire speed graph.

Comparing my performance with the competition it is clear that aero bars are not the solution to my biggest problem in the 750m time trial. A 21 second opening lap is not going to cut it, especially when my competition is at 19 seconds. Why the hell I am so slow then? Poor start technique is surely one reason. Another is the gear. Time trial setupEach year I have added one teeth to the chain ring. The third, and final, takes me back to handlebars. My arms are really long. Therefore it is really hard to create a setup in which the base bar is low enough to ensure my torso, which is not that small either, does not act as a sail when trying to collect speed.

So back to sprint bars it is. This time for good! If nothing else, at least I feel at home with them. Something I cannot say about the aero bars.

 

Quick wrap up of the season

My racing for the season 2015 is now officially over. Good that it is, as the past week came at me with the gloves off. I’m sore all over, strained, bruised and patched and do not remember needing an off period as bad as I do now.

The last race, Master’s World Championships in Manchester was packed with action. The action part started already during my first F200m effort. I was cruising through the first bend and suddenly the rear wheel slipped under me. I walked away with stiff leg and extremely frustrated.

This moment is yoursThe second incident and a defining moment took place during my second heat. The riding style of my opponent was really aggressive from the beginning. We started the 3rd lap running at about 45kmh when he suddenly decided to rail me in the 1st corner. I hit the wall and slide down the track. Getting off my bike I felt absolutely furious. The last time I’ve been that bent out of shape was 20 some years ago!

That evening at the hotel I was sure the crash ended the comps for me. Getting to bed was agonizing. My right side was a mess: I had a strained back and deltoid, bruised piriformis and gluteus medius, something really weird going on with my knee, mild whiplash strain in my neck and severe road rash. I was not sure if I’d have the strength to get up.

The morning came and so did the will. This is what we Finns call Sisu, pure determination. Not giving up. Freddy Mercury’s “I face it with a grin, I’m never giving in, on with the show…” in my mind I decided to grit my teeth, keep my cool and not give away any glues about my condition.  Armed with a bunch of 800mg dozes of ibuprofen I head to battle.

IMG_2074 (1)I was able to ride through semifinals with two straight wins. The gold medal battle was tough. In the 3 rides for the gold I was able to put up a decent fight. Eventually my win was not the race itself, but rather over pain. The Silver medal in M45-49 Sprint now symbolises this mind over matter victory.

Despite all the incidents the Master’s Worlds was a great event! It is well organized, gives an opportunity to meet loads of great people and make new friends. Racing alone is a lot of fun, but racing with friends is such a ball! I do not know any better way to end the season!

In my next post I’ll dig in to my results and see what the numbers tell me. Stay tuned!