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Digging into the Pain Cave- Part 1

By USAC Level 1 ALP Coach Jennifer Sharp 


Last month, Alison and I attended the TrainingPeaks Endurance Coaching Summit held at Colorado University in Boulder. The Summit brought together over 150 coaches, physiologists, psychologists, business and thought leaders based in the field of endurance sports. During the break out sessions, attendees could choose between different lectures, depending on their interest. While there, I attended Carrie Cheadle’s The Psychology of Suffering lecture. Carrie is a certified consultant through the Association for Applied Sports Psychology and is passionate about educating others on sports psychology. The following are my observations from her talk, broken into three parts. (Part 1 is below.)

Pain is complex because it’s a subjective experience. Your pain differs from your teammate, from your spouse, from your kids, from the person sitting next to you. Everyone experiences their own unique reaction when it comes to pain.

So what is pain? Pain is a signal from your brain that you’re suffering (either a real physical danger or that you’re pushing close to that edge) and our brains try to shut down the source of pain. It’s a warning signal our brains excrete that as athletes can prevent us from preforming to our potential. But there’s a difference between pain and suffering.

If you examine pain in the form of fatigue, it’s experienced as a limiter, which affects your brain to make decisions.

When we have expectations of pain, it can change our behavior. How hard or how easy something is will affect what we experience. Like a self-fulfilling prophecy: If you think it’s going to be hard, then guess what? It’s hard.

When we’re afraid and have fear it’s often that we’re weary of burning all of our matches. And therefore we always hold something back, which can mean not racing to our full potential.

pain caveThink of your pain threshold as a combination of body and mind experience. Your body sends a message to your brain and your brain sends a message back to your body. How you deal with pain is up to you. Some athletes can push their pain thresholds to the extreme, while others struggle with it. And if you struggle with it, you’re not alone.

Ready for the good news? You can increase your pain threshold using mental skills training.

Want to learn more? Stay tuned for the additional five tools you can use to grow your pain threshold.

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ALP Cycles Coaching is located in the mountains of Colorado, and is a cycling coaching company with over 25 years of professional sports experience. ALP Cycles Coaching is unique in that it has 3 female coaches, Alison Powers, Jennifer Sharp, and Patricia Schwager. Each brings her own coaching strengths and personal experiences. We work together to create a training plan that works for each and every person.

As an athlete of ALP Cycles Coaching, you will receive monthly training plans, phone calls, e-mail updates, and “hands on coaching” with athlete training rides and/or workout sessions. You also receive discounts toward ALP Cycles training camps, skills clinics, clothing, and race/team tactics lessons.

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ALP Cycles Coaching Inaugural Climbing Challenge

Join us for this fun (and challenging) 4 day event.
Climb as much as possible in 4 days, but you much do it in a timely manner. Just like with cycling fitness and bike racing, the goal is speed. This means you not only have to climb a lot, you must do it within time constraints.

The 4-day challenge is highlighted by our ALP Climbing Ride on Saturday the 26th. We start in Boulder, climb up 4-mile to Logan Mill, up and down Arkansas Mtn to Sugarloaf, up to the Peak to Peak, and finish with the shelf road to Eldora Ski area- a 26mile ride with almost 5,000ft of climbing and sections up to 17% on dirt roads. It will test everyone’s fitness, bike handling, and comfort zone. i.e.- a chance to make yourself a better and more complete bike rider. Here is a link to the route on Strava-https://www.strava.com/segments/10356632?filter=overall&gender=F

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The details-
If are you under the age of 30, you have 10 hrs in 4 days to climb as much as you can.
If you are 31-49, you have 10.5hrs in 4 days to climb as much as you can.
If you are 50+- you have 11hrs in 4 days to climb as much as you can.
You must have a Garmin or an on-bike computer that has GPS and can be uploaded to Strava
You must create a basic Strava account (it’s free)
You do not have to live in Colorado or come to the ALP ride on the 26th. That’s the cool thing, no matter where you live you can participate (as long as there is something you can climb on your bike).
You do not have to do the challenge in order to come on the Saturday ALP ride.
This challenge and the ALP ride are open to everyone. So invite your friends, family, teammates, etc. The more the merrier! This is our way of motivating people to train for a fun/hard event in September and giving non-ALP athletes a chance to ride with us and see how cool our little ALP community is.

Prizes-
We will have prizes for the 4-day challenge. These prizes include-
A free month of coaching ($225 value)
A one hour skills/clinic with your ALP coach of choice ($85 value)
ALP Schwag (hats, T-shirt, Pactimo Jersey)
Osmo products

If you are interested in joining us and/or would like more info- please email Info@Alpcyclescoaching.com

USA Pro Challenge

One week ago, the very first Women’s Pro Challenge started in Breckenridge, Colorado. We were happy to be part of it.

In addition to ALP Coaches Patricia (Team TIBCO) and Jennifer (CWCP p/b Sparks Cycling) racing in the Pro Challenge, ALP Cycles Coaching supported and sponsored the Colorado Women’s Cycling Project p/b Spark Cycling Team. This was our first time to support a team in this way and it was exciting and rewarding. We had our ALP Cycles logo on the team car and team mini van and on the riders cycling and race clothing. We also provided (ALP Coach) Alison Powers as the team’s director for the weekend.

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The weekend started on Thursday with a pre-ride of the Time Trial course in Breckenridge. All our ALP riders and CWCP p/b Sparks Cycling team had already seen and ridden the course several times. Today was not about figuring out the course, that had been done already, today was about dialing in our bodies, race strategy, and equipment.

ProChallenge TT pre ride

Friday was TT day and the start of the 3-day stage race. CWCP p/b Sparks Cycling rider Gwen got to be the very first racer on course and it was awesome. The crowd was cheering and the atmosphere was amazing.

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In addition to making sure things went smoothly for the CWCP p/b Sparks Cycling women, Alison was in ALP athlete Abby Mickey’s follow car. Thanks to having a race radio, Alison could make sure Abby was executing her race plan, staying focused, and finding speed at every section of the road possible. Abby had a great TT and finished 4th overall in addition to winning the QOM section of the TT– which was not in the race plan. The plan was to race to Abby’s strength’s and limit her loses on the sections of course that didn’t necessarily favor her.  The race plan was executed to perfection. Great job Abby!

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Lessons learned from today included making sure each and every TT bike is set up to UCI specifications.

Day 2 brought the road race from Loveland to Ft Collins. We knew today would be tough. Just like with the TT, the girls had already pre ridden the course and had an idea of what to expect.

We had a pre race meeting to talk about the race and team strategy. Then the girls were on their own for warm-up and final preparation.

RR team meeting

Katie, AP, Abby- stage 2

We (CWCP p/b Sparks Cycling) were car 12 in the caravan. As you can see, we didn’t get to see much of the front of the race. But, we still had plenty of action with feeds, navigating dropped riders, and giving general support to all the riders.

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Lessons learned from today included paying attention to the wind direction and how to get out of the wind and using the team cars to navigate your way back into the peloton.

Day 3 was the final day of racing in Golden– a hilly, technical, criterium. Just like yesterday, we knew today would be tough. This type of “attrition” course doesn’t offer much as far as team tactics and strategy. The CWCP p/b Sparks Cycling girls just needed to be smart with their energy and where they expended it. They could help each other by making sure they were out of the wind, or offering up a wheel. They raced their hearts out and it was cool to see.

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The day was finished with tired legs and champagne to celebrate the fact that they got to race in the USA Pro Challenge and ‘cheers’ to doing it next year.

A quick trip to Denver to visit the awesome people at Pactimo ended the day. Pactimo supported the CWCP p/b Sparks Cycling team with kits and skin suits for the Pro Challenge and they are a continuing sponsor of ALP Cycles Coaching.

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Lessons learned from today included being thankful for the people and sponsors who get you to a race, and support you in that race. Bike racing is so much more than the racer and the actual race. Without the people who aren’t actually racing (race organization, sponsors, teams, staff) the race would not happen at all.

It was a great weekend of racing and we were psyched to be part of it. Here’s to a 2016 women’s edition of the Pro Challenge.

August ALP Ride- Bike Handling Skills

Bike handling skills are an often neglected part of a training plan. Watts, cadence, speed, heart rate, are all important parts of training and racing. But, if you can’t handle your bike and have a big tool box of bike handling skills, you will never see what your are truly capable of while riding your bike. The person with the good fitness and the good skills will have more fun on the bike, have more opportunity to ride and race their bike, and they will have more success in bike racing. This is why, for our August ALP Ride, we focused on bike handling skills and drills.

Our first drills were designed to teach us how to properly look ahead- both while going straight and when turning. From there, we talked about riding the bike athletically and what ‘attack position’ means and looks like (body position). We took our attack position to the pump track to work on being dynamic and aggressive on the bike. You must be athletic and active in the pump track in order to keep creating speed. Arms and legs must move.

From there, since we were on CX bikes and CX season is right around the corner, we dialed in our dismounts and re-mounts.

We ended the evening with a fun game called Duck, Duck, Goose. Yes, the same grade school game you played, except we were on bikes and dialing in our dismounts and re-mounts while laughing.

It was a great time, and as always, makes me (Alison) proud of our athletes and to be a coach for ALP Cycles Coaching.

Descending- How To

By Swiss Miss, TrainingPeaks Certified, and ALP Coach Patricia Schwager

 There is no better feeling than flying down a descent on your bike. At least for me- I just love going fast and the feeling of (high) speed on my bike. Good descending skills are an advantage; races can be lost or won on descents. I think I’m allowed to say that I’m good at descending fast, but that wasn’t always the case. Of course, many years of racing experience play a big role. But, I also had to put in some work in my descending skills; my skills weren’t just there from one day to the next.

Here are some tips on how to descend better and faster.

Like any skill, the best way to become better at something is to really work on it. Ask someone that is good at descending to ride with you- follow that wheel while descending. You can learn a lot of things that way: how to choose a good line, when to brake and how to move your body on the bike.

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It’s mid August and that means CX season is right around the corner. ALP Coach Alison Powers has created an 8-week training plan that will get you in the best shape of your life to start the CX season strong and prepared- and it’s only $100. http://home.trainingpeaks.com/products/trainingplans/plans/alp-cycles-coaching-cyclocross-8-weeks-until-cx-season-intermediate-to-advanced-rider

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-Trust yourself and your bike. Start small and at low speed- go to an empty parking lot, set up some cones or water-bottles and train the basics. Get your cornering dialed in before you ride long, fast and tricky descents. 

-Hold your handlebars correctly. Have your fingers at brake levers but don’t cramp- relax. Place your hands in the drops, elbows bent and tucked in, if you aren’t pedaling keep pedals level, knees slightly bent and tucked in too.

-It is very important that you stay relaxed. If your body is tense it will transfer to your bike and makes it much more difficult to control and steer.

-Don’t try any crazy aero tuck positions. It looks cool and is very fast but it isn’t safe, and doesn’t allow for much recovery.

-Steep descents: sight slightly back in the saddle to move the weight more back.

-Pedal as long as you can- if you are running out of gears then you can coast. This is also better for your muscles- it helps to keep them warm.

 -Look/ think ahead and that means far ahead. Looking just in front of your wheel is a bad choice when descending fast. Because of the speed, you need a lot more time to react. Look through a corner- put your focus on the exit of the corner. Your bike will go where you focus your view!

-Brake late but brake before the corner- and use both brakes.

-Lean your bike not your body. Lean your bike in the direction the road bends and you will go through turns nice and smoothly. No need to turn the handlebars or lean your body more than your bike.

corneringline-Choose a good line, outside- inside- outside. Approach a corner from the outside. Going to the outside of the road helps you to have better visibility as you process where the apex of the corner is and start looking for the exit.

Then hit the apex (center of the turn) on the inside. This allows you to take the straightest line and maintain the highest speed through a corner. Take your line to the outside again at the exit of the corner.

-Cornering: brake before the corner→ pedal position: inside pedal is up/ outside pedal is down (very important is to put pressure on the outside leg/pedal!)→ going into turn- push inside hand →keep head and shoulders over outside foot!

We are happy to help! ALP Cycles Coaching offers skills clinics (1-on-1, group, team, club). We can teach you proper descending skills on the bike and at speed.

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ALP Cycles Coaching is located in the mountains of Colorado, and is a cycling coaching company with over 25 years of professional sports experience. ALP Cycles Coaching is unique in that it has 3 female coaches, Alison Powers, Jennifer Sharp, and Patricia Schwager. Each brings her own coaching strengths and personal experiences. We work together to create a training plan that works for each and every person.

As an athlete of ALP Cycles Coaching, you will receive monthly training plans, phone calls, e-mail updates, and “hands on coaching” with athlete training rides and/or workout sessions. You also receive discounts toward ALP Cycles training camps, skills clinics, clothing, and race/team tactics lessons.

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Continuing Education

Here at ALP Cycles Coaching, our goal is to continually try to make our athletes better, faster, and stronger. We give them training plans, we teach them, we analyze their ride data and post ride comments. We want to make our athletes better. On the flip side, as coaches, we must also want to make ourselves and our coaching better. Continue to learn, or get left behind- dropped off the back of the coaching peloton.

This is why, we make learning and teaching our coaches how to do things better a big priority. We do not want to get dropped. We want to attack and stay off the front solo.

Last week, ALP Coaches Jennifer and Alison joined 150 other endurance sport coaches for the TrainingPeaks Endurance Coaching Summit at the University of Colorado. It was a 2 day event focused on the science and business of coaching endurance sports (running, cycling, triathlon). Topics covered were:

TP summitThe Psychology of Suffering
Developing the Next Generation of Endurance Athletes
The Power of Big Data in Endurance Sports
Hydration and Performance

A Philosophic Look at Performance Modeling
The Scientific Preparation and Monitoring of the Elite Athlete
What’s Next in the Science of Coaching

Armed with this new knowledge about coaching and science, we can start to apply it to our own coaching. We now have new tools in our coaching tool box to share with our athletes to make them better.

Other ways we continue to learn is by working together. Coaches Jennifer, Patricia, and Alison all come from different backgrounds, have different racing and training experience, and have learned how to coach from different areas. Patricia is from Switzerland and had her first cycling coaching training there. She was able to share that international knowledge with Alison and Jennifer. In addition to coaching for ALP Cycles Coaching, Jennifer works for USA Cycling in the Coaching department. Every other week, she leads coaching webinars for USA Cycling Certified Coaches. She is up to date on all new ideas, philosophies, and skills that other coaches are teaching and preaching. Alison has 6 years of coaching experience as well as having raced and won at the very elite levels of road racing. All three coaches work together, give each other ideas, and share information for one common goal- making ALP Cycles Coaching the best coaching company there is.

We will continue to learn, we will continue to teach, and we will continue to make ourselves better– all in the name of having better, faster, stronger, and happier athletes.

______________________________________________________________________________

ALP Cycles Coaching is located in the mountains of Colorado, and is a cycling coaching company with over 25 years of professional sports experience. ALP Cycles Coaching is unique in that we have 3 female coaches, Alison Powers, Jennifer Sharp, and Patricia Schwager. Each brings her own coaching strengths and personal experiences. We work together to create a training plan that works for each and every person.

As an athlete of ALP Cycles Coaching, you will receive monthly training plans, phone calls, e-mail updates, and “hands on coaching” with athlete training rides and/or workout sessions. You also receive discounts toward ALP Cycles training camps, skills clinics, clothing, and race/team tactics lessons.

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How to stay Motivated for Racing in the Summer Months

By USAC Level 2 and TrainingPeaks Level 1 certified ALP Cycles Coach and Owner Alison Powers

It’s finally summer time.  The weather is nice and the days are long. However, for many bike racers, July and August are tough months, motivation wise.  Early season races have come and gone, goals have either been met or not quite achieved, you pretty much know how your race season is going to turn out (or it’s over), and the motivation to train and race is weaning.   Just as bike riding is at its best, people are tiring of riding and training.

The question becomes how to stay motivated to train and race through the entire race season which can last until September.

For most of us, having a goal is the #1 motivation to ride our bike.  This goal can be as simple as finishing a charity ride or Grand Fondo to something more intense such as winning a national caliber stage race or Master’s Nationals.  However, if your cycling goal is in the spring or in the beginning of the summer, once your goal ride or race is finished, it’s easy to lose the motivation to keep training.  This is why it’s important to have another goal in mind for later in the season. This way you keep your bike riding and racing motivation going strong.
Before training for goal #2, it’s really important to take a mid season break. After 6 months of solid training and racing, our bodies and our minds are tired. This mid season break usually comes in June (depending on race goals) and lasts in duration from 5-14 days. My “recipe” for a mid season break is 4-5 days off the bike (no hiking or running either), 1 free day to ride as much as you want to, then 2 more days off the bike. By the end of this mid season break, the athlete is fresh, motivated, and most importantly, excited to ride their bike.

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It’s the end of July and that means CX season is a couple short months away. ALP Coach Alison Powers has created an 8-week training plan that will get you in the best shape of your life to start the CX season strong and prepared- and it’s only $100. http://home.trainingpeaks.com/products/trainingplans/plans/alp-cycles-coaching-cyclocross-8-weeks-until-cx-season-intermediate-to-advanced-rider

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While training for goal #2, it’s important to keep it fun.  By this time in the season, most of us are tired of doing intervals, and are tired of riding the same roads over and over.  The best ways to beat these “midseason blues” are to find ways to mix up your riding.  Try riding new routes with new people or riding at different times of the day.  Mix up your interval sessions by doing them up a hill or change the length of each interval and rest period.

My favorite way to keep training fun is to ride different bikes.  If you are a roadie, summer is a great time to hone in your bike handling skills (not to mention build great seated power) with mountain biking a couple times a week.   You can even throw in a short track race here and there to take place of your VO2 intervals.  If you are a mountain biker, spend some time on your road bike and add in a road race or two to test out your fitness and race tactics.

Cyclocross racing is a great goal #2 or goal #3 to have.  Cyclocross mixes both road racing and mtn bike racing and is a fun way to stay in race shape and work on your skills in the fall and winter months.  Come July, if you are tired of racing and training, it’s the perfect time to take a break from racing, spend some fun time on your bike and aim to ramp up for the Cyclocross season that starts in late September.

Here are a few workouts to keep training and motivation fresh-

-Bottom to top intervals- using the terrain available; ride hard from the bottom of a climb to the top of the climb. Really push it all the way to the top. Recover on the back side.

– Hour of Power- put that power meter away and just go out and ride hard. Sprint to speed limit signs and push the pace after the sprints.

-Friendly attacking or group rides- Ride with a friend and take turns “attacking” each other as you would in a race or join a spirited group ride that challenges you with city limit sprints or climbing out of your comfort zone.

Happy training and remember to enjoy each bike ride.

________________________________________________________________________________________

ALP Cycles Coaching is located in the mountains of Colorado, and is a cycling coaching company with over 25 years of professional sports experience. ALP Cycles Coaching is unique in that it has 3 female coaches, Alison Powers, Jennifer Sharp, and Patricia Schwager. Each brings her own coaching strengths and personal experiences. We work together to create a training plan that works for each and every person.

As an athlete of ALP Cycles Coaching, you will receive monthly training plans, phone calls, e-mail updates, and “hands on coaching” with athlete training rides and/or workout sessions. You also receive discounts toward ALP Cycles training camps, skills clinics, clothing, and race/team tactics lessons.

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