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Pre-cooling for hot weather events

As a cycling coach, I am often asked about how to prepare for racing in extreme conditions. In hot weather, heat is your biggest enemy. Recently it has become normal to see pro cyclists warming up for time trial stages on trainers, stripped down to their base layers, water bottles in hand and towels draped over the handlebars. What has changed is what they're wearing. When preparing in warm weather, they will now wear ice vests or "cooling vests" from manufacturers like KewlFit. These vests contain removable chemical cool packs designed to help keep the wearer's core body temperature stable during warm-up. The idea behind this is that, while it is important to warm up one's muscles prior to a hard effort, increasing one's core body temperature is detrimental to performance. A cooling vest allows the athlete to warm-up without overheating and compromising their effort.

There is solid science behind the idea as well. Studies have shown marked hot weather performance increases in pre-cooled athletes (Sigurbjörn Á. Arngrïmsson, Darby S. Petitt, Matthew G. Stueck, Dennis K. Jorgensen and Kirk J. Cureton, 2004, Cooling vest worn during active warm-up improves 5-km run performance in the heat, J Appl Physiol 96:1867-1874 and Webster J, Holland EJ, Sleivert G, Laing RM, Niven BE, 2005, A light-weight cooling vest enhances performance of athletes in the heat, Ergonomics 48(7):821-37). The methodologies vary, with some studies using vests, and others using cold baths and/or ice beverages. The most practical pre-cooling technique for most cyclists, however, remains a cooling vest.

So, how do you pre-cool? It's simple – strip down to your base layer (or bare skin) and wear a cooling vest while you do your normal warm-up protocol on the trainer or even on the road. Make sure to also drinking cold fluids and set up your trainer in the shade. In extreme heat, without a cooling vest, it's often better to skip your warm-up entirely. The heat you generate by warming up will only contribute to overheating and become a detriment to your performance. Wait as long as possible before removing your vest, and store it in an insulated bag (often included) so that you can use it to cool down afterwards. Stay cool and you will perform better.

Chicks on bikes radio–Girl Parts/Bike Parts

This month I had the pleasure of co-hosting another great edition of Chicks On Bikes Radio.  We talked about fit issues related to women and interviewed five great guests:

It is a great show and well worth a listen:

Listen to internet radio with Chicks On Bikes Radio on Blog Talk Radio

Marin Camp 2013 a great success!

It was a great year for Marin Camp, with a fabulous group, excellent weather, and a new assistant coach.  The following companies provided super support:

  • LifeCycle Adventures – water bottles, spares and second vehicle
  • Corsa Concepts – demonstration wheels
  • Quarq – the world's best power meters
  • SRAM NRS – On road and mechanical support, along with a huge dose of comedy
  • KewlFit – cooling vests so good that Alberto Contador uses them
  • Kate's Real Food – whole, natural, and organic nutrition for athletes
  • Nossa Familia Coffee – Portland coffee, family-farmed in Brazil and roasted in my 'hood

Next year's camp is slated for March 25-29, 2014 so mark your calendar and put your deposit down as space is limited.

If you want to check out the fun, have a look at these photos.

The importance of the warm-up

-originally published in RaceCenterNW Magazine

It's likely that it has happened to you. You're late getting out the door and you're pressed for time. You start your interval workout straight away. About 30 seconds into the first interval, your legs are leaden, your breathing is labored, and the metallic taste in your mouth is telling you that you went too hard, too soon. You didn't warm-up.

These uncomfortable sensations are your body reminding you why it's important to warm-up properly – to prepare yourself before the real work begins. Several things happen when you ease into exercise – your muscle and body temperature increase, your blood vessels dilate, and there are slight hormonal changes. Warming up your muscles allows them to contract and release more quickly, giving you faster response and better recovery (no leaden legs!). The dilation of your blood vessels reduces your relative blood pressure, enhances flow to your capillaries, and increases your body's ability to cool itself, while hormonal adjustments optimize your body's ability to use carbohydrates for fuel.

A good warm-up is easy to do. For run workouts, walk briskly for 5 minutes, then run progressively harder over a 5 minute period, so that your last minute is at your Threshold (half-marathon) pace. For bike workouts, spin easily for 5 minutes, then do 5 fast-pedal efforts (100+rpm) for 1 minute each, with 1 minute between efforts. Alternatively, after your initial 5 minute spin, ramp up to your Lactate Threshold heart rate (or power) over a period of 5 minutes. Spin easily for another 5 minutes and then you're ready for your main set.

All of this adds up to better high-level workout performance as well as recovery between hard efforts. It also means that you recover better day-to-day as your body doesn't spend as much time getting rid of the excess waste products that saturate your muscles when you go too hard too soon. Thus, when you warm-up properly, you can train more effectively each day, and get stronger faster!

In a future article, we'll talk about race-specific and climate-specific warm-ups.

Chicks on bikes radio Lit edition–part 2

Today I again co-hosted Chicks on Bike Radio.  April and I spoke with Kelli Refer, the author of Pedal, Stretch, Breathe: The Yoga of Bicycling,  and Susan Meyers, who wrote The Hamster Ride & 25 Other Short Biking Stories.

We had a great conversation about cycling, balance, friendliness, and life.  Have a listen right here:

Listen to internet radio with Chicks On Bikes Radio on Blog Talk Radio

More Radio! I co-host Chicks on Bikes Literature edition

Listen to internet radio with Chicks On Bikes Radio on Blog Talk Radio

Radio Interview–Chicks on Bikes Radio

Today I had the pleasure of speaking with April Lemly of Chicks On Bikes Radio.  We chatted about coaching, women's cycling and camps:

Listen to internet radio with Chicks On Bikes Radio on Blog Talk Radio

Radio Interview – Over the Top Radio

I was recently interviewed by George Thomas of Over The Top Radio.  We talked about how I got into coaching, how I work, Marin and Italy Cycling Camps, and where we're headed:

Listen to internet radio with overthetop on Blog Talk Radio

Preparing for CX Nationals over the Holidays

The holidays can be a stressful and disruptive time for athletes. There are often loads of travel, relatives that are stressful to be around, and sick people sneezing on you. It's not ideal for training, but normally that's not a problem as it is the off-season. For those who plan to race CX Nationals, however, it's peak season!

If you're headed to Madison in mid-January, then right now you're in your final preparation phase as you gear up for the big event. In the next couple of weeks, you will want to hone your form to a sharp edge and peak for your big event. There are a few things you can do over the holidays and on your way to Wisconsin to minimize the disruption to your preparations and maximize your chances of a great result:

1. Get plenty of rest. When you're doing those tough intervals (more on those later) in cold and wet weather, you will be a bit more run down and more likely to inherit Uncle Elmer's cold. So, make sure you sleep well and often, taking naps if necessary, especially after workouts. Naps are also a great way to avoid hanging out with boring relatives.

2. Stay warm. Shivering can burn as many calories as a nice L2 ride, and you want to save that energy for training and for your race. It is cold in Wisconsin and it is cold on airplanes. Bring your warm layers, a cap and gloves, and wear them before and after training and while you travel.

3. Go easy on the sweets. The holidays are for feasting, but if you plan to be at your best in January, it will benefit you to stick to eating your fruits and veggies and some good protein. Save the sweets for while you're on the bike. Stay lean and mean.

4. Do your intervals. As you get closer to Nationals, your workouts will get a bit shorter, and a bit harder. By now, you have done the bulk of the LT work you need to do, and you should be honing the very top end of your form. This means a couple of days each week of Anaerobic Capacity (AC) intervals as well as some VO2 Max work. The key to getting the most from this hard work is solid rest (see #1!).

5. Minimize your stress level. This goes hand-in-hand with getting lots of rest. The holidays can be stressful for lots of reasons. Stress lowers your immunity to illness, wears you out, and makes your training less effective. Try to go into these weeks with a relaxed attitude. Channel your inner Dalai Lama and let stresses roll off your back. Focus on your objectives, and don't worry about your in-laws or whether or not you'll miss your connection.

Following these few simple bits of advice can help get the most out of your Nationals bid. Good luck!

Athlete Profile – Starla Teddergreen

Women's racing is experiencing a huge boom and one rider that has long been at the forefront of it is Starla Teddergreen.

Starla began her racing career on the streets as a bike messenger in Seattle before moving to San Francisco in 2003.  Known for her sprinting prowess, she worked her way up the ranks and in 2010 joined the women's professional team Vanderkitten.

Starla strikes a pose

The road to pro cycling wasn't easy for Starla.  Growing up in a quiet northeast Washington town, she had virtually no opportunities for racing (besides the ones her somewhat disinterested sister occasionally provided).  She soon found competitive outlets in running and soccer, but it was her move to Seattle after high school that changed everything. 

With no experience, but with a load of her trademark enthusiasm, Starla found a job as a bike courier.  Two wheels suited her well, and the excitement of the job led her to to explore Seattle's alleycat racing scene and, eventually, to the Cycle Messenger World Championships. 

A move to San Francisco in 2003 introduced her to road racing and planted the seed for her future as a pro athlete.  With her knack for reading a race and a fantastic sprint, Starla quickly moved up the amateur ranks, landing on the elite SugarCRM team for 2009.  This led to her debut in the NRC Series as well as to a month of kermesse racing in Belgium, where she was able to sneak into the top 10 in what is known as some of the world's toughest racing.

2010 brought with it mixed fortunes.  Starla began to mature as a rider, landing a spot on the Vanderkitten Professional team.  A solid entry to the NRC Series was cut short when she ended up at the bottom of a huge finishing crash at the Tour de Nez.  The hip injury that resulted was to plague Starla throughout the 2011 season.  This didn't stop her taking home a few wins, but by autumn it became clear that, without intervention, the injury was not going to get sorted out.

In the winter of 2011, it was determined that Starla had a torn labrum and that surgery and a long rehabilitation period were required.  This is where Starla's maturity really shone.  Instead of trying to rush her rehab and bike training program as so many athletes do, she showed the patience and dedication of a real professional and by April was back on the bike.  It took the better part of 2012 to be able to train and race without pain.  During her recovery, she was able to indulge her enthusiasm for supporting women's racing by riding as a team mentor for the Early Bird Women's Developmental Team. 

Starla digging deep

With the 2012 comeback season under her belt, Starla has high hopes and solid goals in 2013.  In her own words, she wants to "win races and/or a race series, support a GC rider to victory, and stand out to be a rider with potential to race successfully in Europe again." 

Find out more about Starla here:

and her graphic design and bike fitment work here: and here:

Cyclocross Basics, Part 2

Cyclocross is great training for cycling and in endurance coaching circles, widely respected as not only a winter training sport, but a specialty in and of itself. It is technique-heavy, as cycling disciplines go, so it's a good place for roadies and the like to keep their skills sharp. A few weeks ago, we covered the basics of cyclocross training and technique. Now, we'll delve into one of the more difficult aspects of technique - dismounting, carrying and getting back onto your bike. Of course, the best way to learn this is with the hands-on instruction of a coaching ride.

The key to developing good bike handling skills is to practice being smooth and relaxed. Your dismount, transition to carry, return of the bike to the ground, and remount should feel like one fluid motion. At first, it will likely feel like the opposite, but this smoothness is something to strive for. Let's go over the specifics:


The key to dismounts, like comedy (which sometimes results), is timing. The speed of approach, type of obstacle, and traction conditions all play a role in deciding when to dismount. It's generally best to ride as close to the obstacle as practical, or in the case of a run-up as far up it as practical. Some riders like to set their brakes up "Italian-style," with the rear brake on the left, so that they can eliminate the chance of locking the front wheel in loose terrain while they are halfway off the bike. Let's outline the steps, one at a time:

  1. Gauge your speed appropriately and slow down smoothly as you approach the obstacle
  2. Swing your right leg over the saddle and bring it behind your left leg
  3. Square your hips with the handlebars - perpendicular to the frame of the bike
  4. As you continue to slow down, release your right hand from the handlebar and grab your top tube, pushing your weight into it to offload weight from your feet
  5. Twist your left foot free of the pedal as you land on your right foot first (behind your left foot). Alternatively, you can "step-through"- instead of planting your right foot behind the pedal, step between your left leg and the bike and land in a run with your right foot in front.
  6. Pick up your bike!
The dismount.  Notice the weighted hand on the top tube


There are two main ways to carry your bike: the "suitcase" carry and the shoulder carry. For short sets of barriers or stairs, the suitcase usually will suffice. For longer run-ups and triple barriers, it's better to shoulder your bike.

Suitcase-style Carry:

This one is easy. Once you have stepped off your bike, with your left hand on the brake hood and your right hand on the top tube, simply pick the bike up, like a suitcase. It's best to avoid the temptation to tuck it close to your body.  You can love your bike, but this is a good time to keep it at arm's length.  Also, you only need to lift it high enough to clear the obstacle. Riders often lift their bikes higher than necessary, thereby wasting valuable energy. As long as the wheels clear the obstacle, that's enough.

The rider in front is lifting his bike higher than necessary, while the second rider just clears the barrier – saving a bit of energy along the way

Shoulder Carry:

This one is slightly more complicated, but still not hard. The dismount is very similar to the above, unless it's really smooth, in which case you may be able to skip grabbing the top tube and simply pick the bike up by the down tube as you dismount.

    1. Gauge your speed appropriately and slow down smoothly as you approach the obstacle
    2. Swing your right leg over the saddle and bring it behind your left leg
    3. Square your hips with the handlebars - perpendicular to the frame of the bike
    4. As you continue to slow down, release your right hand from the handlebar and grab your top tube, pushing your weight into it to offload weight from your feet
    5. Twist your left foot free of the pedal as you land on your right foot
    6. As you begin to run, release the top tube, reach down on your side of the bike, and pick up your bike by the down tube. Slide the top tube up your arm to rest on your shoulder with your arm under the down tube.  Do this in one smooth motion, ending with your right hand holding the bottom of the handlebar
    7. Tuck your right hand into your chest - this will keep your saddle from hitting your helmet
    8. Run, using your left hand for balance if necessary.
Barton 2012h
Running with the bike on the shoulder.  Notice how the right arm is wrapped under the down tube and the hand holds the end of the handlebar


This is basically an exaggerated "step" onto the bike. Ideally, it is less of a jump and more of a smooth slide over the bike and back into the pedals. The key to this, as with the above, is to be as smooth and fluid as possible. Here is the breakdown:

  1. After placing your bike back on the ground as smoothly as possible while you run, step off your left foot as you begin to bring your right leg over the saddle
  2. Envision simply placing your right foot back into the right-side pedal.  Aim for it
  3. Slide your right thigh over the saddle, still aiming for the pedal with your foot
  4. Find your pedals, clip in, and keep pedaling!
Stepping onto the bike.  It doesn't look like I am running in this photo, but I am!
Barton 2012i_sm
Sliding into the saddle

All of these techniques require practice to master. You will know you have it right when you're racing and not even thinking about the next obstacle or what you are going to do to get over it. Focus on staying relaxed and strive for smoothness and fluidity. The smoother you are, the faster you will be.

Park me at Barton

Barton Park is always a fun day out.  Despite (or, perhaps because of) being held in a gravel pit and adjoining county park, the venue offers a host of challenges for cyclocross racers.  There is deep mud, shallow mud, gravel, pavement, puddles like small lakes, steep drops and two run-ups that feature a unique mix of mud and somewhat large stones!

I showed up feeling a bit off my game and, having missed too many Cross Crusade races to score points, started at the back of the 70-strong field.  My teammate Brook and I had a nice warmup spin, but we kept it short as the temperature was approaching 70 F degrees already – unusual for Oregon in November. 

Barton is a fast course, and so it is tough to start at the back and have any hope of making up a lot of places.  Despite this, I got a decent start and really made sure to relax and not give too much in the first laps.  This strategy paid off as I began to feel much better later in the race.  Once the field thinned,  I gradually caught several small groups of riders.

On the last lap, I put in a hard effort over the triple barriers and got a gap on the group I was with, which I managed to keep to the finish.  This was enough to net me 19th place on the day – one spot out of the points.  Normally, this would be a bit frustrating, but with having arrived feeling a bit unfocused and starting at the back, I'm happy about it.

Sadly, there is no data to report or analyze, as my Garmin decided to take a holiday.  Although it showed the data on-screen during the race, it did not record any of it. 

Here are some photos from the day:

Barton 2012a
In the beginning, the sun shone


Barton 2012d
It was hectic the first time up the second run-up


Barton 2012i
Remounting at the top of the first run-up


Barton 2012h
I'm beginning to get used to this running thing


It's faster to ride, but it's more fun to fly…

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