Heidi Hits her Cycling Stride

Heidi Littenberg’s weekend race report

Heidi_MaderaCritI did the 3/4 race at Vacaville yesterday and wanted to say THANKS for all the intervals and advice. That course has a nasty little hill in the middle. During my warm-up lap, I was reminded how difficult the hill actually is. My memories from last year were that it wasn’t as long or as steep as it really is. So, when the race started, I was trying not to be too stressed about having to go over it 16 times, especially since going uphill has been a weakness of mine for ages.

The first couple laps, I kept finding myself getting nudged into bad pack positions in the turns that precede the hill. On the hill, I easily passed all those people and caught up with the front of the pack. We eventually dropped about 1/2 the pack, which made it easier to be in a good position. Early in the race, someone tried for a lone breakaway (silly in the winds, I say). After a couple laps with the lone rider off the front, I went to the front of the pack with the intent of pulling the group back together. I dropped everyone on the hill, which is something I thought would NEVER happen. I did about a 1/2 lap pull and then we started taking turns and reeled in the rider.

Every lap I felt like a rock star on that hill. I was able to do all this seated while just about everyone else was standing and working really hard. My pedal strokes felt like magic. I never struggled against my bike. I kept thinking about all the laps up Big Springs and how much those have helped.

The race only turned on bad tactics on my part on the last lap. I was thinking about powering over it and down the other side to get a gap with the hope of holding everyone off to the finish, but I didn’t trust myself to be able to go off the front in the wind (there was a very strong headwind in the final straight). I’m bummed about not going for it. I ended up 6th, but with the win I got in July, the 3rd I got in August and that fun breakaway I was in at the Wheelmen Air Center race a couple weeks ago, I’m now feeling like something’s going to happen and soon. It’s all going in the right direction.

SF has a similar hill and it’s a Cat 3 race, so I’m aiming to execute on the tactic (or something similar) I messed up yesterday if I’m feeling good and the race plays out well. I’m done with not trusting my ability and now I really want to go for it. I may be bold and be one of those people who animates a race. Now there’s a thought!

Just wanted to send a big thank you! Your coaching has helped me immensely.

Race with Abandon

This past Monday, I worked with the Rio Strada Women’s cycling team providing race tactics session for the upcoming Victory Velo circuit race at Sierra de Montserrat. (What an exciting, Euro-style course, lots of opportunities to  for tactical racing, not too mention a series of short taxing power climbs for the added-attrition factor.)

Tactics make cycling exhilarating. As cyclists we definitely need a deep base of fitness – and racing provides the fine tuning to training fitness. Once we have attained that polish we are ready to be players in the game – let the fun begin.

When I began racing, I did not have a team and raced as an individual. During this time, I raced on intuition – when that small voice said go – and I went – it was magical and results followed. When I hesitated and did not act – I regretted it.

When I joined professional teams – Saturn, Timex, Autotrader and the US National team – the plan was much more contrived – and it was hard to reconcile the individual intuition in a split second to insure it was in line with the team plan. Race radios made riders even more minion-like puppets, with strings pulled by team directors remotely located in caravans – paralyzing that creative intuitive tactical racing.

When I was out this past week with the Rio Strada women – the technical course and limitless tactical possibilities – evoked the thrill of racing – going with that intuition with no regard to doubt, question or hesitation. For sure, we want to be very clever in our tactics – and make every move count, not to make a move for the sake of a move. But we also want to see races as opportunities and not accept that self-imposed performance pressure – lets face it in most cases we are not getting paid to race our bikes.

In my opinion, the first step in successful bike racing is to learn and train to stay at the front, consistently through a race – this is where opportunities are made. Not too mention – once riders become efficient at maintaining position – it provides energy savings and is safe. Did I mention it was safe!

I also advise my riders to settle in – let attrition take its toll – and then unleash the intuitive tactics. I encourage them to try, try and try again. Every time we try – we learn and gain fitness. Nothing ventured nothing gained. And no pressure of loosing a multi-million dollar contract, right?

Another key element to racing is visualization and determination and persistence to make it happen. This mental aspect is supported by our ability to control thoughts versus feeling subjected to them. Then all we need for that break-out performance is a leap of faith, to shut out what the body is telling us and act purely on intuition. Performance and results follow, igniting confidence and momentum.

Seize the Day – race with abandon




Triathlete Todd Turns it Up

I think the question for me is what has made me a faster, stronger triathlete. I got a coach because I knew I lacked knowledge and experience in certain aspects of training physiology, form and experience. Also, I comnitted myself to becoming better. More succinctly, I wanted to get faster.

Some core learnings I have taken away: A significant amount of training needs to take place near or at race pace. For an Olympic Distance triathlete, that is at lactate threshold. I currently had done this, but Julie’s o2fitness program has longer sets (so more time spent at LT) and higher frequency of those type of sets. The results have been obvious: my ability to ramp up to race pace has gotten much easier and that type of effort has become significantly easier to maintain. It is like flipping the switch now, whereas in the beginning it was very difficult to attain and hold that effort.

I have also realized that a comprehensive training plan is just that: comprehensive. Training needs to include technique drills, strength building sets, aerobic days, maximum effort days, etc. I came to Julie very strong aerobically. But, I lacked strength, so I was unable to get my HR high for extended efforts because my legs would not respond. In addition, technique is often one of the main components separating great athletes from good athletes. Watch any great athlete perform and the difference is obvious. They are not always stronger; they just do it better.

We see in print often the statment that to get faster athletes should work on their weaknesses. This is too true. I knew that my cycling, while not weak, had significant room for improvement. I also made the hypothesis that by improving the longest, middle leg of a triathlon, my run would improve as well. Now, I see Julie’s credentials in the cycling world are clear, proving a huge advantage for me! And, I was correct: both cycling and running legs have improved together.

The last thing that has been re-introduced to me is the concept of the highest adherence and greatest intent on each workout. Do the workouts as prescribed. More importantly, if the day prescribes a low heart rate and technique drills, do THAT workout the BEST you can. We often make the assumption that harder and longer are always better. I tell myself that whatever the plan is for that day I am going to attempt to truly excel at that workout. Conversely, if a really hard day is planned where a maximum effort is needed, I want to go to a place I have never been. No time like the present to break down barriers in terms of maximum speed, hear rate and pain. Rest is part of this adherence to the plan as well. I know that I will not be able to perfom personal bests in workouts unless I am resting adequately. There is little value to having little energy in a workout that requires maximum effort. To me, that is a lost opportunity to get better.

It is always good to measure things quantitatively to see if we have really improved. I took a race that I do every year and here are the time improvements with the past 10 weeks of training.

Bike: -2:22 Run: -:25

Course PR: -2:30

National Age Group Ranking: 2011: #85
Current Age Group Ranking: 2012: #28