Yesterday I visited with Jim Cunningham. Jim is a Greenville area coach who has been helping cyclists perform better since 2002. He can also be found mixing it up in our group rides and races – doing quite well at the later, I might add. I guess I was just wondering what he could do for me.
I zipped up my power files from November until now and sent them over. Jim analyzed them with his WKO+ and had everything ready for me when I arrived. It was also helpful that Jim had seen me riding in some of the races in the area so he was able to add that to his understanding of my current status.
So, what did I learn? I learned some things that encouraged. I learned some things that discouraged me. Mainly, I learned (and this is what I was wanted to know) that I can be a lot better.
We discussed my approach to training — which is I have no approach. That is not good because it means that my fitness is basically built by riding my bike. What is wrong with that? It means that you ride to a certain level and then, well, you level off. That is exactly what I have felt happening to me. I have plateaued and can’t seem to improve. That tends to send me heading south mentally.
By bringing in structured training I can push myself beyond what it takes just to stay with the guys. I have to get beyond that level if I want to finish ahead of the guys. This explains why at the end of races or hard group rides I don’t have the stamina left to seal the deal.
We also discussed my power numbers in the form of a power profile. This shows my strengths and weaknesses. According to Jim’s analysis, I fall into the mid to upper range of power typically put out by a Category 3 rider. He used a watts per kilogram number to create the profile.
5 sec. = 16.70 / 1 min. = 8.28 / 5 min. 4.81 / functional threshold = 3.73
It was the “functional threshold” that threw Jim a bit. My numbers show that I should be an “all rounder.” This typically is viewed on the graph as basically a straight line across the four pieces of data listed above. The problem for me is that that the first three show up pretty much as a straight line, but then the FT dips down.
We talked about why this might be. We came to the conclusion that it is two things. 1) I typically am not riding enough – rides with sustained efforts longer than an hour – to build higher numbers. In other words, not enough data is being collected to get a proper average. So, most likely, my functional threshold is higher than the chart displays. However… 2) The fact that I am not training would show up most here in this area. So, while my FT is probably higher than the chart shows, it is also probably lower than it should or could be.
All that was sort of discouraging. It wasn’t surprising because I kind of figured out where I stood. However, there was plenty to be positive about.
What I really wanted to know was the answer to this question… “Do I have the natural tools and potential to improve enough to see a noticeable change in my results?” What Jim said was that the numbers suggest solid Category 3 capability. That is where the discouraging data turns into positive thoughts – I have made it to that level without any type of structured training.
Jim encouraged me by saying that he wouldn’t even have to coach me in order for me to see improvement. “I could just give you a simple plan to go out and do 3 X 20’s and you would see yourself get better.” Of course, there is more to it than just the physical side. Notice that I have category 3 capability, but I have amassed very few category 4 points over the season. It is because racing is more than just being able to turn the pedals fast.
I call myself the 40 year-old junior. Actually, there are junior racers with more experience than I have! The truth is, I’ve started this whole business a bit late in my life – as far as cyclists go. I may be more experienced in life than a lot of the guys I’m racing in category 4, but I’m not more experienced with the nuances of racing. If I want to improve, it is going to take a combination of training my body and my mind.
So, the conclusion of the meeting yesterday is this… Do I want to make the committment to train to see the improvement? It will certainly change my approach to cycling. I’ll lose out on some of the group aspect of the sport as I train according to a schedule given to me. However, that is offset by better participation when I do find myself with a group.
I’m considering it. Of course, a coach has to understand the pressures and committments of life off the bike. One of the first things Jim and I would do is sit down and discuss my priorities and where the bicycle falls on that list. That then would determine the amount and type of training. The results on the bike would then be proportional (to a degree) with that priority.
Whatever the case, I’ll be keeping you informed here at LowCadence.com. Any testimonials out there of riders who have found that coaching has helped you? I’d love to hear about them.