I had aspired to doing these monthly, but well, it’s the beginning of March already. The past nine-ish weeks of training with Coach Greg Henderson have been incredibly rewarding, both in terms of getting faster but also just in terms of really enjoying the sport in a new way. While I’m obviously performance-driven, I’ve done sport for long enough and at a high enough level that it really does need to be fun for me now. My idea of fun if maybe a bit different. I love the attention to detail and the immediate feedback of the track. But I also like that it’s super normal to ride 55kph or faster on a tiny wooden loop that is two-stories high at the banking. And it’s also extremely fun working with a coach who, instead of writing very typical, precise, and quantitative workouts like, “5x5min Threshold” writes workout titles like, “Attack These Dudes…” It’s been super refreshing to work with someone who keeps me out of my own head and who is especially fond of reminding me, “Mate, it’s just exercise…” (cue Kenny Powers). Most of the training focus over the past two months can be split into two categories, which I’ll go over below.
Really Big Gears
By “really big” I mean, in track parlance, 114″ (front-chainring * 27″ / rear-cog) which a triathlete would know as 55×13. The purpose of this was twofold. The first was, most important, being able to feel how the power gets applied on the track. This varies from track to track, but in Carson, because of how it was built, it’s very slow in the corners. You put out more power to go slower. Riding the track is not about being steady with your power, it’s about being steady with your cadence, which means – because it’s a single-speed-fixed-gear bike – being steady with your speed. You can really feel how this translates into power on a super heavy gear. As a triathlete/TTer, I’d always thought of steadiness of power. Which you can do over long time scales (like 4.5hrs) and sub-threshold efforts. But you can’t on a 250m track with high banking at maximal-aerobic output.
This is how I started pacing – trying to be steady with power and slowly fading. This is not how you should ride the track.
Coach Hendy said early on, “Mate, it’s not just about power; it’s about where you put that power out on the track.” This sort of made sense. I thought. But it wasn’t until I started riding a big gear that I really understood what he meant.
It’s pretty amazing just how “asymmetrical” the power output is. Carson is, apparently, rather extreme here. But this is more, rather than less, typical of the track. Faster tracks tend to minimize this – that’s part of what makes them fast – but it’s still uneven power output in search of even speed. This was quite a revelation. All it took was a heavy gear and a bit of wisdom from a 5-time Olympian…
The second benefit of a big gear was in learning how to start. It’s way easier to start a 104″ gear when you practice starting a 114″ gear. My start was by far the weakest part of my pursuit. It’s a lot better now.
Really High Cadence
The other strange thing about the track is reframing cadence. I raced most Ironmans about 80rpm. 90rpm was “fast.” 100rpm was “crazy.” Now? 110rpm is normal. 120rpm is fast. And it’s not until you start talking about 130rpm+ that I’d say you were crazy. For cadence work, it’s only cadence that matters. Pick a cadence target and hit it. I do cadence work both on the trainer (either a smart trainer or RevBox – though usually lower cadence stuff on RevBox rather than high) or on the rollers. Rollers are just for cadence technique. The trainer is for cadence & power. But in all cases, when working on cadence, it’s all about cadence. If you can’t hit the cadence, lower the power or lighten the gearing. It’s been pretty transformative. Here I am not dying riding 5min at 122rpm on the rollers. This is all because Coach Hendy made me do it… But again, the impact has been profound… I still hate him though.
All The Gainz
The last piece has been weights. I now do weights two days a week. This deserves a post on its own talking about the details of what I’ve done. But, basically, squats. Everything else is pretty much gravy. Squats are 90% of any good lifting program for any sport and probably 99% of a good cycling lifting program. I’m also somewhere between 76-77kg (168-170lbs) now, which is 15lbs over what I raced Kanza at. It’s the heaviest I’ve ever been while being fit and healthy (no excess beer weight as in college or water weight as when I would get overtrained). My skinny jeans may not fit much longer…
Now we’re starting to get into the speed specific stuff. Motorpacing and race-pace specific work are the key workouts now as I work to get comfortable at the sort of paces I’ll need to hold to be competitive over 4k. It’s still a long way to go, but the process has been going in the right direction. Mostly I’m just grateful to have found a coach who has such an easy and simple way of communicating such complex ideas. The coach-athlete relationship has been the most impactful one over the course of my life as a whole, and I’m extremely glad to have a chance to work with another great coach and mentor. Thanks Hendy!
If you’re interested in some of Hendy’s pre-made plans, you can purchase them off of his website. I get nothing out of it other than supporting a coach who I believe in!