Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Jarred Shoemaker talks the talk and HELP! The rollers are trying to kill me!

Last night Rach and I went to Belmont Wheelworks for a talk featuring Jarrod Shoemaker and his coach Tim Crowley on how the training "secrets" of the pros can help the average age grouper in their efforts to improve. Mr. Shoemaker seems like a terrific guy, and is very well spoken. I feel like I learned a few things from them, and I'm going to share some of that here.

Doesn't this pic help you feel like you're getting this all first hand?
The one thing I will say up front is that I was disappointed they led off the talk about the "secrets of the pros" (insert mystical music here) with the fact that there ARE NO SECRETS! Talk about putting it all out there. If there are no secrets, what were we doing there?! (I'm kidding, of course)

Turns out, while there are no secrets there are a ton of common sense things that professionals do the same way we do. Sometimes they just do more of it, and sometimes they do it in a more sophisticated way. And there are a couple of really important ones that most age groupers probably don't do (but unlike Jarred and his coach, I'm putting the "secrets" at the bottom of the list):
  • Track your training. They track and measure almost everything. Jarrod uses power meters to capture his cycling power output, running speed, etc. They track all of that information, and have the files for the past several years. So when he says something feels different in how his training is progressing, he has the files to go back and see how that looks in terms of exertion and results.
  • Sleep. Rest is so critical for the body to get stronger and just to recover from the workouts of the day. I'm as guilty of this as anyone, with my regular nights sleep usually at about 5-6 hours. In fact, Coach Crowley indicated that it's probably worth cutting some night workouts short if it's going to deprive you of sleep because your body really needs it, and the training won't be as valuable for you without it.
  • Recovery. This ties in with sleep of course, but also using some percentage of your available training time just to spin out your legs, take a light run, or cruise at the pool. One of the quotes I took away from the night was "You can't go really fast unless you go really slow, too". It would seem from this that I am on the verge of breaking several speed records, because I have been going really slow for a REALLY long time. 
  • Speed. Speed isn't just something that shows up in races, you need to train for it. A bunch of base miles is all fine and dandy, but if you put them in slow, that's what you're going to get out of them later too. Mix in speed work all throughout your training. You don't need to do it every day, but make it a part of the longer workouts, so when you're racing and you need that burst for a pass or a strong finish, you'll have it.
And now for the two big ones I took away from the night:
  • Confidence. When you schedule a race, do that race, even if you think you're not ready for it. If you've trained, and you're healthy, do the race. You might feel like you aren't as fast as you want to be, but the training is there, and the only thing that might make you feel like you can't do it is your mind. I can attest to this one personally. Do you think I felt like I was truly ready to do Timberman when i sat there in my wetsuit for 30 minutes before my wave went off? Do it anyways. 
  • Cross training. Most of the serious age groupers I know focus very heavily on swim, bike, and run as you might expect. But one of the key points Tim and Jarrod make is that burnout can come either physically or mentally, so training in the right ways, including mixing in other disciplines can go a long way to keeping you physically and mentally fresh. Even if those other disciplines are just different forms of the same things (cyclocross was the example Jarrod used), because it's a new challenge and teaches you new skills. Plus cross training might take an extra month or so off the time you have to spend cooped up in the basement. 
It was a great hour, and to top it off Rach won a pair of the most expensive race tires Trek makes! ($75 a piece). The look on her face was priceless. It's like someone gave her a can of motor oil or something of the like. And Jarrod even posed for a picture with me, which was nice because I'd asked him a tough question about the national championship (he was the first american but came in second overall in the race to an aussie), so I'm glad he didn't beat me up. If you ever get a chance to see Mr. Shoemaker speak, i highly recommend it.

Me and Jarrod Shoemaker

- My friend John from work has done it again. Previously he came to my aid when the bikes were stolen by giving me a nice 10 speed to ride. This time, when clearing out his basement he realized he had a set of bike rollers that were going completely unused and asked if I wanted them. With the winter looming, meaning several months on an uncomfortable bike trainer at the gym, I jumped at the chance to get these.

If you're not familiar with rollers, they're like a low-tech version of a bike trainer. 3 metal tubes connected by a frame. You put your bike on top, and start riding. While they don't offer the easy adjust-ability of a bike trainer, they provide a far more realistic feeling of riding, because you are actually rolling, just in the same place.

Therein lies the challenge: because you're actually rolling both wheels, trainers require you to use balance to ride just as you normally do, except what you're riding on is round, not flat. Here is a breakdown on my time last night:

Setting up and adjusting the rollers: 5 minutes
Time spent actually riding the bike: ~1 minute total
Time spent standing over the bike, trying to pedal with one foot, trying to get the second foot in place, pedaling for a second before losing my balance and falling off the bike, putting the bike back on the rollers and starting the process over:
about 20 minutes

So, yep, I need to work on my balance and get some practice with these suckers. I was smart enough to take the toe clips off my pedals or i probably would have broken some part of my body last night. The good news is that I worked up a sweat just trying to get this workout going, so I got some value out of the time. I'll give it another shot tomorrow, and I'm considering moving the rollers next to the bed (just in case).

- Tonight is the TRI Rowing event, where I will be physically abused in a completely different way. Hopefully tonight, I'll win the prize, so there will be no weird faces involved.


  1. I love my rollers!!! I almost never ride the trainer, except if I'm doing VERY high intensity sprint work. (rollers are just too sketchy when going all out like that.)

    I learned to ride rollers by setting them up in the doorway to my kitchen. That way I could get started by leaning my shoulder against the door frame and if I got off track I could use my elbow or hand to nudge myself back into position.

    Good luck! Riding standard rollers (rather than a trainer) during the winter makes you more hard-core than 95% of triathletes.

  2. omg! u got ROLLERS!!!! slighty, really, somewhat, COMPLETELY jealous. You better break off something crazy then this winter!

  3. Sam - I moved it to the wall in the living room, and it's made a big difference. I'm going to keep doing it until I can do it without worrying about the wall so I can just ride and watch TV. I need to find a video that looks like Im riding my bike

    Courtnee - I'm going to do my best with it. So far, 16 minutes in a given night is the best I can manage.