Q&A with Coach Rob – Cycling and Running

CoachQanA1-300x168I get lots of questions and many of them are ones I have answered in the past. However I have some with new twists and some new questions that are because of new coaching services I offer such as running and bike fitting.

So I thought I thought I would share some of the most recent questions from readers and athletes.

Q. Can I hydrate quickly?

A. No, not really. In the case of the reader who asked this question she was heading out on a long 2-hour run in preparation for an upcoming marathon and had some cramping in the last hour. So what is a runner to do when going out for a long run where carrying a bottle or wearing a camel back just isn’t going to work? I explained that proper hydrating begins days in advance and that making sure that the sports drinks being consumed contain quality Electrolytes. With some advance planning you can take a 20oz bottle on run and sip from it every 5 minutes and do really well. On really long runs you may need a hand up of a fresh bottle or stash one somewhere safe for the return trip. I will often start my run from my home so I may run home drop my empty bottle and pick up a fresh one. I have also done this very thing on long beach runs.

Q. How do I deal with strong wind conditions as a cyclist?

A. This question comes up every spring by lots of new PPC athletes and readers. When we are talking about winds we are talking about head winds, cross winds, tail winds, gusting scenarios and or a combination of 20 or more wind direction scenarios.

In most cases when riding a road bike in windy conditions the best place to be is hidden and low unless it’s a tailwind.

When dealing with headwinds, cross winds and Head to Cross Winds you want to be in the drops with a firm grip but not to tight. Elbows bent and shoulders relaxed. You will want to have a little more room between you and the shoulder of the road and between you and other cyclists.

If you get a tail wind or a cross to tail wind you want to sit up in the saddle with hands on the hoods and imagine your back is a sail! Enjoy the free speed and improved avg. speed.

Equipment choices are also a big concern on windy rides. Things like clothing and wheels can make a big impact on your comfort, safety and performance. Make sure clothing is snug and will not whip in the wind. If it does your drag will be increased significantly and you will have to produce even more power to maintain modest average speeds. Wheels probably play the largest role in making decisions about windy rides. Do I ride my aero wheels or my low profile trainer wheels? The only way to know if a wheel set will do well in windy conditions are to try them. Just be prepared to have your low profile wheels ready if it becomes a loosing battle on the rode. Not all aero wheels are created equal. I have a set of the newer 44mm aero wheels where the face of the rim bulges at the brake track and have large bladed spokes. These wheels have proved to do very well in most crosswinds so far. I also have an older set of 50mm that are the old v style aero rim shape but have thinner bladed spokes that are OK in steady cross winds but will get pushed around in gusting cross winds.

When riding a TT/Tri bike you are going to want to know how your various aero wheels will be have in all kinds of wind conditions so you can make smart choices before the start of a race. I find that flat solid discs are amazingly fast in low wind conditions or in light tail winds. They are however an absolute nightmare in gusting crosswinds. Solid discs are great for drag race style TTs and Out and back course but if you need handling I found that HEDs discs are a much better choice and when dealing with crosswinds the HED disc designs do a great job of buffering the effect. Front wheel choice for TT/Tri in windy conditions probably has the greatest impact on cyclists. I love my HED tri spoke and have become comfortable in most wind conditions riding it as I have had several 100 miles in training and racing with it. I do recognize however that it is highly unstable on several courses that I ride when there are strong crosswinds. The types of winds come out of seemingly nowhere and make it feel like your entire front wheel is being pushed and pulled back. Quite an unsettling feeling when you’re hurtling down a descent in the aero position at 40+ mph! So I take my 50mm and 44mm and will try the 50 first on the course before committing to a wheel choice in a race.

Q. As a runner what can I do to improve my performance in windy conditions?

A. Several of the above answers for cyclists also apply to runners. The biggest one would be clothing choices. Most male runners I know and work with do not like wearing snug fitting tops. Time to get over that if you want to have better splits in windy conditions! The one item not really mentioned for cyclists but apply to them as well is to pick your course! If this is a training run start off in a head wind and head back with a tail wind. If you can’t manage this sort of course then make sure your course has lots of tree coverage. I would also recommend that even on overcast days to wear sunscreen, as windburn can be as bad as sunburn for runners working on long steady mile.

Q. What can I do about numb hands when riding?

A. The first question I ask is how old their riding gloves are. Gloves today are often made from synthetics but some still use natural materials and can shrink. This shrinking will often cut the circulation of blood off between the webbing of fingers leading to numb hands. If gloves are not the issue then its riding posture and more than likely bike fit. If you are straight arming your handle bars and are not keeping your elbows bent or can not keep them bent you are putting quite a bit of upper body weight on the bars. This will lead to numbness. If you cannot bend your elbows it could be a simple saddle adjustment or you may need a shorter stem to change your reach and comfort. Please see me or you’re local bike fitter for assistance.

Q. What can I do about a numb bum?

A. Just like the above question it could be a simple clothing issue. Bibs, shorts, tri suits and skin suits are items that have natural and or more likely synthetic padding called a chamois. These are good for 1-2 seasons before they “pack out” and need to be replaced. Saddles can also “pack out” and be ready for a replacement. If you can push your thumb into the padded surface of your saddle and it either doesn’t go down or doesn’t quickly rebound its likely time for a new saddle. If your saddle is newer and or not “packed out” then it could be the position of your saddle and or you may simply have a saddle that isn’t right for you. To know for sure please see me or you’re local bike fitter for assistance.

Q. What can I do about a sore knee?

A. This is a tough question to answer as a sore knee can stem from an old injury, new injury, overuse, poor bike fit or newly added components that the body has not adjusted to yet. So rather than try and outline every possible issue I am going to cover the typical fit/overuse issue. If your knee mysteriously starts to hurt figure out where it hurts. If it’s the kneecap area then it’s likely that your saddle is to high. If your knee hurts towards the back of the leg then its likely it’s your saddle is to low. To determine what are the proper heights I once again recommend that you visit me or you’re local bike fitter for assistance. I or your bike fitter can ascertain what is the proper height of your saddle by measuring the joint angle of each knee and each hip angle. If you attempt to do this yourself you will also need to adjust the fore and aft of your saddle. If you drop the saddle height you will need to move the saddle fore. If you raise the saddle it will need to be set aft. Also do not forget to keep the saddle level when making any adjustment. Or better yet please see me or you’re local bike fitter for assistance.

Q. What power meter should I buy?

A. I have this talk with almost every new athlete I coach. However now the new athletes coming to me will ask which brand is better over another. I most certainly have my opinions on which is better. Primarily based on where power is being measured, cost and the discipline of the cyclist. If you would like to learn more about power meters measuring power and training with power check out the clinic bundle here.

Q. What does it take to join a cycling team?

A. I have written about this topic here but want to reiterate a few things. Spring is not the time to look to join a team, primarily because teams will have already ordered the team kit/uniforms. Teams rarely have extra kit lying around and only order enough kit for those members selected at the end of the previous year. Usually in the July-Sept time frame in the USA. I also strongly suggest that you contact the team’s leadership to ask when tryouts are and what the teams required membership policies are. Most teams should have this on their website. However never be afraid to ask.

Q. How can I become a better sprinter?

A. Sprinting is often thought of as a talent you either have or don’t and there is truth to this but sprinting can still be improved over time. When working with power a sprint is broken down to 1 sec, 5 sec, 15 sec, and 30 sec on a Critical Power Curve. So when I work with athletes I look to see how much power they can produce at these intervals in training and racing. Then I look to see how much their given power fades between these durations to see if one time frame is stronger or weaker. Then I will prescribe both on and off bike workouts that can address these weaknesses. Workouts like jumps, micro bursts and sprints over varying terrain will al help cyclists improve their sprints. I have also prescribed plyometrics for developing explosive power and core exercise to improve or build up a core to better leverage existing power. I have also prescribed various skills drills to better utilize the sprint power that is already in place to learn hoe to better execute a sprint in a race setting.

I love great questions!

Feel free to reach out on twitter, facebook and here if you have some of your own questions.

Until next time,

Train Smarter Not Harder

Coach Rob

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