Tag Archives: Coaching

Thanks, Coach. Thanks, Friend.

Over the last several years I’ve had the privilege to be coached by Jim Cunningham. As I look back at any success I have had, I can attribute a lot of that to Jim. Where I haven’t done so well, I can attribute that to me not listening to Jim! Now in 2012, I’m moving in a different direction. As I do so, one of the things I’ll miss is having Jim covering my back.

I couldn’t believe that in all the photos I have of me cycling, I don’t have one with Jim! Here is the closest I have to it — this is a photo of Chris Hartzler wearing a Low Cadence kit standing next to Jim. Chris had just attended a hill climbing clinic that Jim was holding on Paris Mountain.

The coach

Jim Cunningham and Chris Hartzler

This is the one thing that brings a little pang of regret. Not having Jim pushing me along means that the official coach/athlete relationship comes to an end. I’ll have to admit, I’m not so much going to miss the coach structured training as I will Jim the coach.

The same thing goes with the decision not to race on a team this year. I definitely know it is for the best, but that doesn’t mean that I won’t miss that feeling of “belonging” that comes with having mates in the peloton. Sure, it isn’t like I’ve been disowned, but it just isn’t the same.

It is going to be interesting finding my spot in the cycling world. The bicycle was the primary connection that I had with most folks in the community. My “other life” moves in a different sphere than most other two-wheeled junkies.

Now I’m going at it a little bit alone. I’m hoping that Jim will still be willing to give me some pointers and kick me in the seat on occasion. He definitely has the knowledge and desire to see those he helps succeed. Take a look at his recent article over at CarolinaCyclingNews.com.

I highly recommend his services. If you want to improve as a cyclist, one of the best ways is to get yourself a coach. The knowledge and accountability it brings will definitely move you to a different level. If you can’t get Jim, then let him point you to someone he knows can help improve you.

Thanks, Coach! Thank you, my friend!

I hate my coach

He calls it the “3 & 2 Minute VO2 intervals and 30-30’s.” It was the workout I did last night. It left me clawing for my next breath!

I don’t know about you, but I was somewhat of a stubborn, rebellious son. For the most part I kept just enough out of trouble to be thought of as a relatively good child. However, I definitely had my issues and looking back, I cringe as I think of what I put my parents through!

My parents loved me very much. They loved me enough to set boundaries and expected proper behavior from me. In an odd sort of way, it gave me an amount of security to push against the walls. Deep down inside I knew that the love would always be there.

Of course, that didn’t always show on the surface! In my immaturity there were often times when on the inside I would yell, “I hate you!” Probably, I may have done the same out loud. They were causing me to feel uncomfortable. I wasn’t getting my way. I didn’t like it!

Looking back I know that even then I knew I was wrong. I knew that what my parents did was because they loved me and they were teaching me discipline and self-control. The easy way out for them was to just let me have my own way. They loved me too much to do that. So, they took my verbal and emotional slaps and kept loving me… but not giving in.

You probably know where I am headed. Now, I’m not saying that my coach, Jim Cunningham, loves me! I am saying that he has an end goal in mind. He knows what type of discipline and suffering I need to experience to succeed.

So, as I was finishing my final set of 30-30’s after a hard hour on the bike, I may have been spitting out between gritted teeth, “I hate you, Jim Cunningham!” I didn’t really mean it. Sometimes the suffering just calls for an object at which to direct the overflow of pain.

I’m far from perfect today, but I can say that much of what character I have was nurtured in me by my parents. The times of pain and discipline helped make me. Now that I am more mature (at least a little bit) I recognize the love of my parents more and more… and I am amazed that they kept me!

No doubt as I look back over this season, I’ll be thanking Jim. Not only has he laid out the plan that has brought me this far, he has also held me accountable and made me do hard things. I can say without hesitation that I would not put myself through what I have gone through since November if I didn’t know I had to tell Jim whether I did it or not.

It isn’t really Jim that I hate. It is the suffering. However, someday when I feel that rush of crossing the finish line first… I’ll love it!

Pay off?

Friday night my coach gave me a call to discuss Saturday’s race. It would be the first since I started training with Jim Cunningham. He started out asking me if I felt ready to go. My answer was that I just didn’t know.

What I meant was that I was neither overly positive or negative — I was feeling pretty neutral. The point is that physically I feel like I have the ability and power to finish strong. On the other hand, my weakness is my technical and tactical abilities. “I can see myself riding as strong or stronger than all the other riders out there, but work so hard that I don’t have what it takes at the end.”

Jim gave me some good advice. Basically, he said you have to consider the mathematics. The math tells you that statistically the early breaks aren’t going to survive. On the other hand, the math tells you that the more riders in a break the greater the probability of success — unless there is infighting. So, success could come down to simple addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.

Another important piece of advice was to make sure I understand the course. That means knowing where the pot holes and train tracks are. It also is important to notice the wind and positioning yourself to stay out of it. You’ve got to have an understanding of these things before you start to race. You don’t want to be trying to figure that stuff out during the race.

My coach’s confidence was a big boost to me. Obviously, circumstances and situations play a role in a high finish. However, Jim expressed a confidence that was infectious. I won’t talk about the rest of our conversation just in case the competition reads this before we get out there! 🙂 I’ll talk about it afterward — especially if things work out!

If you follow me on Twitter and you have it notify you when I post, you might want to turn it off. I’m going to be tweeting a bit during the day. If you aren’t following @LowCadence, then follow and keep up with what’s happening during the first day of racing in the Upstate — at the Greenville Spring Training Series.

Trust the plan

As the new season comes upon us (the Greenville Spring Series is only a bit more than a week away), I find myself encouraged with where I am.  Sure, race day performance will really tell the tale, but at least I’m excited with the possibilities. There is one thing to which I have to attribute this new confidence.


There is no way I would be at the fitness I am without the employment of a coach. It isn’t that I have learned something earth shattering. I could most likely have found a training plan online, learned more about the TrainingPeaks software, and gained the knowledge to see progression. It still wouldn’t have made the difference that I am seeing now.

Why? Accountability. All of that stuff has no human interaction. How many times have I climbed on that trainer and completed my drill when I would have rather been somewhere else? How often when in a drill did I feel like cutting a corner here or there to avoid the pain? The powermeter doesn’t lie. I knew my coach was going to see the data and he would know I wasn’t giving my best.

Encouragement. I’m not saying my coach is a slave driver. There have been times when he has sensed a struggle and has adjusted my training to help me over the hump. More than that he has simply been a cheerleader to keep me “trusting in the plan.” When I’m lost in the data, he comes along to explain it in ways that keeps me seeking to improve it. When recently I struggled with team dynamics and frustration with my lack of riding skills, he came along side to teach proper tactics and pull me out of the funk.

Experience. It is one thing to have knowledge. I’m learning quite a bit about the science and equations of training with power. Sometimes I can anticipate what my coach is going to say as he assesses my power data. However, it has been said that wisdom is knowledge with experience. My coach has been there and done that. How does all that information translate into real life? Coach knows.

I’m sure that if you have a coach you think I’m describing yours! These points are not exclusive to just mine. Where ever you are, if you want to move your game up several levels, I encourage you to consider a coach. If you are in the Upstate then you’ve got to consider Jim Cunningham at the Greenville Cycling Center. Even if you aren’t in Greenville, he can coach you — whether you are a beginner or a professional.

Was this a commercial? I’m sure it comes across that way, but it is a sincere testimonial. I was skeptical as I entered the relationship. I knew having a coach could help, but I figured I could probably do nearly as well on my own. Looking back over the last three months, I realize now how naive I was. Wow! Has it only been three months? How much farther can I go in nine more? Jim has me believing! All I have to do is “trust the plan.”

An iPhone view of the GCC open house

Saturday I had the opportunity to drop in on the open house for the new Greenville Cycling Center presented by Jim Cunningham Coaching. Jim has put a lot of work — and investment — into this new business. It was great to see many in the cycling community come out to show their support.

I wish I could have stayed longer, but I had to rush off to another event. Saturday evening was the return party for the Palmetto Peloton Project Challenge to Conquer Cancer Ride. It was great to see everyone again.

It was a pretty busy weekend — as you might have noticed from the lack of blog posts and the not so good video editing in the above clip! Hey, there is more to life than this web site… like making sure I complete all the training exercises Coach Jim is sending my way. 🙂

40 year-old Junior

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.

Do a little learning off the bike

Thursday night I don’t believe I will be out riding.  I’ve decided that I am going to attend a cycling seminar presented by Jim Cunningham and Stephen Keiser, M.D.  Maybe I might be able to learn something off the bike, seeing how I can be pretty slow trying to learn on it.

Why don’t you join me on Thursday, August 13 at 522 N. Church St., Greenville SC 29601? It is the Criminal Law Building located behind the Bi-Lo Center.  Don’t worry, there is plenty of free parking on the premises.

There are two sessions – the first (starting at 6:30 PM) by Dr. Keiser is a PowerPoint presentation followed by a discussion and questions and answers.  I probably need to go to this one since it will be covering “Common cycling injuries and their care.”  The way my body is feeling now days, that would be a good one!

However, it is the second session with Jim Cunningham that interests me the most.  It is a similar presentation structure, but the topic will be “Criterium racing and its skills” as well as “Bike selection and set up for Criterium racing” and “Training specifically for Criterium racing.”  With all the crits we do around here, it seems like you basically HAVE TO attend this session.

I’ll be following up this session with a visit with Jim to go over my power files for the last year.  I am evaluating whether it would do me good to enlist his help as a coach for my 2010 season.  I feel I have reached a plateau with what I am able to pull out of myself.  I’m thinking I’m going to need someone else to come along to squeeze anything more out of this lemon.

Still, this session will be a good start.  Why don’t you join me?