Jump Start Prep Phase Training

Silver Sage sponsored Reno WheelWoman and O2-fitness athlete, Michelle Faurot shares her strategy to jump start her preparation phase of training.

After a busy holiday season I knew it was time to jump-start my training.  I had a huge year on the bike last year training and racing RAAM and masters road nationals, but the holidays with lots of family visiting put a real dent in my time to train.  Peak training months during last year averaged over 50 hours/month on the bike.  By December last year I was down to 6 hours on the  bike.  All indoors, by the way, as we finally have snow here in Reno.  Early January wasn’t much better.  I had five hours on the trainer before I departed last Friday for an epic event called The Coast Ride, a three day point to point from San Francisco to Santa Barbara.  That’s about 125 miles per day.  My group of seven women from the Reno Wheelwomen team brought two vehicles to support us, so I knew we would all have to share the driving.   My hope was to be able to do at least one full day.


After Day 1 with 68 miles and 4,500 feet of climbing I wasn’t so sure I was going to be able to achieve that goal.  The weather was cold and rainy and after initially feeling good on the bike, I got tired and wasn’t recruiting my glute muscles properly so my thighs started to cramp.  A good lunch helped me feel better and remember all I had learned from coach Julie Young.  While I hadn’t been on the bike much, and no time outside, I had been doing regular strength training and outdoor activities.  I also realized that this was going to be a mental battle more than anything else.


Day 2 I rode 68 miles, some on Highway 1 through Big Sur.  Still rainy and grey, the coastline when you could see it remained spectacular.  I rode easy for the most part, focusing on form.


Day 3 was the big day.  128 miles ahead of me. Still rainy and now muddy. I knew I needed to ride with a big group, and I found one almost right away.   It was nice to be with the pack, riding together at a reasonable, fast clip.  Now I needed to focus on staying with the group. The pace in my group picked up on the way to the lunch stop.  The group got split by cross winds, and I was happy to stay with the lead group. We then started to hit some long climbs, and now the first mental battle kicked in.  A couple times  I thought I was sliding off the back for sure.  I hung in, thinking at times of all the squats and leg press I had done over and over,  It became kind of a mantra.  I was really pleased to have stayed with a solid group of guy bike racers up those climbs.


Post lunch was more of the same  mental battles, knowing I had a solid group, and working hard to make sure I stayed with them.   No cramping and our group rolled into the hotel with a 17.7 mph average for the day.  7,000 feet of elevation gain.  A huge thanks to Julie for helping me believe I could do this. It was a fantastic way to start the season!


Final stats for the weekend: 264 miles, 16 hours,  and 16, 620 feet of elevation gain. Post ride pic, all smiles!

The Scientific Method

Silver-Sage/O2fitness athlete,  JT Teerlink shares sincere reflections on the opportunities afforded when we continue to be willing and open to observe and learn. This perspective helps us to continue to improve and avoid the pitfalls of preconceived notions, leading to stagnation. Thanks JT for sharing.

I love teaching the scientific method.  I teach my students that scientists are always collecting new observations that have the potential to disprove not only their own work but also that of their colleagues.  A theory that can withstand decades worth of interdisciplinary observations is one you can truly rely on to interpret the world around you.  But even those, on occasion, must be altered to accommodate for new data.

I always take a moment to stand on my soapbox and urge students to do something not covered in the syllabus.  An underlying agenda I have in my moonlight career as a community college professor is to mold my students into better citizens, or at least my idea of what that looks like.  ‘Scientists are always open to new observations and new data, particularly if it does not support their view.  This is a good policy in life.  Always be open to new data to shape your perception of your friends and family, drive your consumer choices, and inform your political leanings, particularly when the new data challenges your current view.’

I’ll leave consumer choices and politics aside, but how often are we truly open to seeing our friends and family in a new light?  Allowing them to change and grow without holding them to some prior expectation.  Even worse, how often do limit our own growth by a preconceived notion of what we should be?  What our strengths, weaknesses, abilities, passions, and dislikes are.  What limitations do we set by neglecting to collect new data?

As 2015 wound to a close I wanted to take a look at my own preconceived notions about who I thought I was and who I thought I was not.  Attempt to let go of expectations.  Was I too attached to any particular view or habit?  This was a broader exercise, but who I am as an athlete was an easy target.

I’ve collected data over the years about my relationship to athletics.  In recent years my time has predominantly been spent cycling.  Skiing, running, whitewater kayaking, yoga, triathlons, all take rotation, and of course my first true love; swimming.  The data all support a singular conclusion: my brain is clearer after my body has been pushed to the point where I am able to silence the constant, bustling, unending mental chatter.


Junior year high school

As a high school and collegiate swimmer I was convinced it was all about getting faster.  I poured myself into every workout, focused on technique, obsessed over the numbers all with the intent to be as fast as I could possibly be.  With retirement looming, midway through my senior year I realized that 1/10th of a second really didn’t matter in the grand scheme.  It was a bit of an identity crisis. I had so much of my character wrapped up in those fractions of seconds.  My life would go on whether I shaved those fractions or not, and I would be forced to look towards new horizons.

sad about 1st

Visibly crying on the podium over not achieving time standards for senior nationals despite winning state championships in the 100 yard backstroke (and also 100 fly).

It was challenging to find a new equilibrium with athletics.  It took close to a decade for me to realize that what I had truly loved about swimming wasn’t the competition against the clock or opponent.  It was the daily effort, the practice of exertion.  I like trying hard. I naturally crave heading out and hammering up hills.  It is something that calls me.  The value is in the day to day and any outcome is ancillary.

I ‘retired’ from swimming 15 years ago, and since that time I have completely avoided ‘training’.  Too often I hear people talk about training as a chore, a dirty deed that must be done in order to enjoy some future event that it is ‘all about’. This doesn’t resonate with me, and so I have avoided calling it training or having any sort of organization.  The data I had gathered suggested ‘training’ wasn’t for me.  I just like riding my bike, skiing in the mountains, swimming in lakes.


Co-founder of the Dirt Birds women’s cyclocross team.  (photo credit Jim Elder)

Two years ago I found cyclocross.  I love it.  I love the intensity.  I love the opportunity on each lap to improve on a line or a skill.  I love the community.  I love competitors breathing down my back pushing me harder, and those dangling just out of reach in front me.  I love executing a pass and not being certain if I’ll be able to maintain it.  And most of all, I absolutely love that for an entire 45 minutes I do not think about anything else.

I have grown so attached to the idea that I am not a person that trains and that I am not a person that is an ‘athlete’.  But if I am a careful observer, I know how much I love it when fitness and skills mesh and I am able to dig a little deeper, stick a line, execute a pass, put the hammer down.  I want to chase that feeling of when things ‘click’ but this is a vague goal of improvement.  I know that whether I surpass my competitors or they improve over me none of that makes a difference in my identity or character.  Because of that I have been adamant about not ‘training’.

It is time to collect new data; I make the conscious decision to let go of who I think I am.  My initial conversations with Julie made it clear she would be a great advocate in providing organization in the day to day, while keeping the focus on enjoying the process even more than that outcome. Embrace challenges to my body and mind day in and day out and accept that it is possible to enjoy even when it is organized into ‘training’.   Embrace that with some forethought I could have more of those moments where it all clicks and the constant chatter in my brain falls away.

From an initial email to determine if we would be a good fit as an athlete-coach pair I immediately felt at ease. ‘Truly in my mind it’s not at all about competition or proving, its simply an amazing venue to express our talents. Artists have art, we have athletics. We absolutely want to find the balance so this athletic outlet provides a positive balance to your life. And I think when we love it, training and workouts are not work, but again just an opportunity to keeping improving, honing and polishing our art.’

The Epic Coast Ride

Contributed by Silver Sage Sponsored Reno WheelWoman and O2fitness athlete, Lucie Oren.

A couple of weekends ago, I was on the Calif. coast riding with six of my teammates. We were participating in the Coast Ride and riding our bikes from San Francisco to Santa Barbara in 3 days. This meant an average of 128mi. per day.  Living in Reno with the epic snow we’ve been getting meant most of us have been limited to riding indoor trainers.  Therefore, we all went into this ride with low mileage in the saddle.  But, everyone did so great!  We had two of our own sag vehicles and split the riding days. Three of the girls were rockstars and rode one of the full days!  Despite the near-constant rain and headwinds we had an epic time!


 In addition to minimal mileage, I was still dealing with occasional residual low-back pain. Julie had been carefully leading me through a modified training schedule the weeks prior to the ride due to throwing my back out twice!  I must say, listening to your wise coach is a wise decision!  Julie was concerned about me tackling the mileage; therefore I took full advantage of our sag vehicles by riding half days and sagging the other half.  At the end of the second day, I reluctantly decided to jump in my car with only 18mi. to go, but I could feel the inflammation flaring in my back.  I was so upset at my body and majorly bummed out!  But more importantly, I really didn’t want to mess things up!  Julie had helped me to continue training through the back issues, got me to where I was, and I wanted and needed to come out of this adventure stronger.



Now that I’m back in Reno, I’m happy to be back in the gym and continuing the strength training. I even got to ride outside once this past week!  It sure was a nice change from the trainer!



TBF MTB Kickstart – 1st MTB race of 2016

By Silver-Sage/O2fitness athlete Travis Boucher…

When I woke up, I didn’t really feel like racing although, once I got to the race, I knew I wanted to be there. It was a nice day and I felt great. I had 27 days of “green” on Training Peaks (greens=completed workouts) so I felt good.I accidentally lined up behind the girls, so I almost got left behind for my race. Luckily, I got into my class but unlucky that I got a third row start. I got a terrible start but pedaled hard and was able to get to the top five before the start of the levy. I rode very smoothly up to 1st and 2nd. I caught up to them at the start of the long hill to the bench, just off the road. They were stuck behind a big group so I was able to catch them easier. I passed them together before the bench. They both seemed much stronger so I tried to put as many people as possible between us.

Photo credit: Craig Dvta

The Julie Young training worked so well that I felt that I had unlimited energy during the race. The course was crazy smooth and awesome because of the recent rains. I saw a few people pushing or carrying their bikes because of mechanical issues but thanks to Roseville Cyclery, my bike worked great. I felt super good during the race and finished first in the Novice HS class. I was very surprised but happy

I thank Julie Young, O2 Fitness, for the incredible training and Roseville Cyclery for keeping my bike in good shape. Thanks also to Castelli for the comfortable kit. Congratulations to Team Roseville Cyclery racers and the new Placer Foothills HS racers on their first race.

Winter, Bring it On

Winter, the perfect opportunity to change it up. Below, reflections on winter training by Silver Sage sponsored Reno WheelWoman, Heidi…


WINTER!  We’re so fortunate to have so much snow here in the West (FINALLY!).  It’s been a joy to spend Sunday endurance days with friends and with my dogs doing snow sports.  With two Huskies, I’m guaranteed to have great companionship and they turn any snowshoe or hike into an all-body workout!


As much as I love riding my bike, change is good for the soul and I believe it’s helped my fitness, as well.  There’s something exciting about being a novice at a sport… in my case, Nordic skiing.  I love the idea of breaking out of what I normally do and adding to the skill set.  It keeps my mind challenged and my body adapting to what’s new. Plus, it’s just such a fun sport!  Never mind that it’s probably the hardest workout I’ve ever done!  You don’t really notice that when you’re outside looking at the beautiful scenery.  Sure beats the heck out of sitting on the trainer for hours and, I have to say, I’ve NEVER been so tired after a workout.  You can consider me to be a new Nordic skiing addict (I’ll be buying equipment as soon as I can afford it).


Thanks to Mother Nature for providing the opportunity to get outside and really change it up this year.  Keep that white, fluffy snow coming!

Embracing Winter

Winter training inspiration by Silver Sage-O2fitness-athlete, Sian Turner-Crespo

For those of us living in regions that experience a real winter, November can signify the start of hours of slogging away indoors on a treadmill or trainer, or alternatively a period of exploring new outdoor sports and activities.  While there has to be a certain amount of sport-specific training through the dark and cold winter months, at the same time not everything has to be done indoors.  On this subject Julie of O2Fitness is very much in agreement.  Now we’re into January, with race season already feeling closer each day, my training schedule includes a few key specific trainer workouts each week, but there is a healthy variety of outdoor options sprinkled into my week still.  We at last have a cold and white winter here in the Sierra’s so I’ve been able to work on my cross country skiing abilities, both striding and skating, as part of winter training.  In addition, instead of hours on spinning on the trainer, warm ups have included an outdoor run before hitting the quality specific time on the trainer – something which a selection of my 4 huskies have been more than happy to join me on – the colder the better for them!

Outdoor running does not have to stop for snow, ice, dark, or cold, and this winter I’ve been fully embracing all conditions.  With spiked running shoes, or one of many possible traction devices that can hook to any shoe (Kahtoola microspikes, YakTrax, or full snowshoes – yes you can run in the right kind!), even the slickest of ice roads and trails are more than manageable.  Wear enough layers, cover your mouth and nose, and even single digit Fahrenheit temperatures are no problem when running.  I’ve even braved the dark this winter; with snow on the ground and even a sliver of moonlight, visibility isn’t a problem.  When there is no moon at all or cloud cover just grab a head-torch and/or blinky light for you or your dog, plus a dog or two makes you feel more than safe from mountain creatures for a pre-dawn or after-dusk run.  For added strength work, throw in some snow shoveling and firewood hauling/stacking to compliment indoor weights and gym-work soon becomes far less repetitive and practical at the same time!

If you miss your bike and the open roads and trails, even winter biking is now a possibility with many trail options now available for fat tire bikes.  I haven’t fully explored this option yet with my recent obsession with improving my skiing, but it’s there for if and when I need even more options!


The sun setting on an evening run.


Ski’s – my current favourite form of locomotion!


Rehydration the husky way.


Shoveling strength session


A head-torch lit night run with the whole pack.


Holiday Special

SS_151663 - Christmas Facebook Campaign_p1.2_Page_3

Give the gift of fitness. 

This month, give the gift of fitness and performance and you’ll be rewarded all year long. Let us know you’re buying your package as a holiday gift and we’ll give you 10% off the total!

To order your gift certificate and get your 10% discount,

please contact Julie Young at jyoung@o2fitness.net.

Cannot be used in conjunction with any other offers. 

The Leadville Trail 100 MTB- 2015

Now that we days are shorter, and weather curtails our endless outdoor adventures, perhaps you find yourself with a bit more time for reading? Below is a well detailed retrospective account of this year’s Leadville 100-mile Mtn Bike Race, by long-time Silver Sage-o2fitness-athlete Andy Buckley. Maybe too, this read will provide some mental visuals to motivate your current transition season, strength and endurance training. Enjoy with your favorite cup of coffee…

start 2

When one’s purpose is to achieve a particular outcome and that outcome has importance, it can be wise to look inward toward the “why”.  Why is that outcome so important?  As a man trying to meter ego, I am struck by how often my insecurities are drivers of achievement in my life.  Being ok in the present moment is a different thing for me altogether, being at peace with where I am without judgement is a challenge.

To understand the male ego you could perhaps consult with your therapist friends, read those analytical self-help journals on the bookshelves at Amazon, or you could just go watch the party that the Leadville Trail mountain bike race has become.  You will see every manifestation of insecurity as some of us, the males; endeavor to purge ourselves of the demons that have plagued us since, for me, junior school.  Just how deep can we dig or how fast can we go, can we keep up with the other guy, and if we can’t what’s our reason du jour.

OK, perhaps that is a bit dark, but that’s one perspective of an amateur armchair analyst.  As a my friend Shane tells me, “your always looking for meaning”. (the subtest may be- just ride dude)

For me it’s been about outcomes for most of my life.  Proving to myself that I can do the next thing, that I am worthy and often living in the future thinking of the next finish line.  This year’s outcome was to be sub nine, that is, home to the finish within nine hours of the start.  What does that get the man? A bigger belt buckle of course!



Training to simulate Leadville, here atop Sardine Peak with the Usual Suspects

One of the great things about Strava is that you see with great clarity data on your annual efforts, hours and miles in the saddle and on each bike.  Recognition of now having tens of thousands of miles in my legs over the last twenty years gives me a great sense of the limits of my body and when I am fit versus not.


Atop the world on Babbitt Peak

This year I worked with more patience in the early season, putting in slow miles, them moving to the road bike for pace-line and spikey interval work.  By the time I got to July and coupled with a bike change (the hard tail plan just did not work out for my back), I felt quietly confident.  In fact on my practice race the weekend before the Northstar Leadville qualifier, I did really quite well testing the new full suspension.


Tahoe Trails start

Then came our Tahoe Trail 100 qualifier, a reminder that quiet confidence can be washed away like a temporary tattoo in the shower.  I struggled in this race, the whole 5h35m felt like a push, even with the pacing aid of my friend and trainer Julie Young.  What I did learn was that even when I feel the dead legs, I can still force myself to push on.  I didn’t get to my imagined 5h15m, but panic did not ensue, which is a good thing for me.


Tahoe Trails Finish

Leadville the vacation


No road trip is complete without a Starbucks in Elko

I had decided early to make a longer stay in Leadville for 2015.  I wanted to get used to the altitude, and soak up a little more classic Colorado riding.  I traveled there with my cousin’s son Ollie Sanderson, who himself is a young rising talent on the bike.  We joined other friends a week early (Andy Tuthill, Josh Fonner, Zander Higbie) for a mix of Leadville and Aspen riding.


Andy-squared taking it all in, atop Columbine

What was truly fantastic was to experience Powerline and Columbine with those friends and get the chance to appreciate the natural beauty that is the high open country around Leadville.  Being at 12,500 feet and feeling the chill air while seeing the amazing wild flowers was such a gift to the spirit, oh and the other thing, we rode the bigger climbs and in process de-mystified their power over us, they seemed so much shorter and easier as stand-alone efforts.

lad 2


August 14, 11am

“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth”-quotes Ken Chlouber of Tyson.  Ironically I had spent an hour and half early this week formulating a plan with my team mates, pacers, and friends Julie Young and Sian Turner Crespo.  We had discussed many “what if” scenarios, little did we know there was a punch coming.


Sian all smiles at the start

August 15, 6:30am

I never sleep the night before, but on the start line I feel complete calm; there is absolute certainty about what will happen next.  I always love the national anthem, as I did this day; I’m calm and relaxed as I watch the Stars and Stripes fluttering in the light breeze, while Ben Wiens hammers those tougher notes and key changes.

Then we start-I am leading the three of us (sorry Josh if we left you) staying safe and left of the fast moving riders on the pavement.  The warm air in town is replaced by damp very cold air in the lower valley as we hit the St.Kevins Climb.  Our pace is not blistering, but it’s up there.  For the first time in four years, I can actually still see the leaders ahead of me on the dirt, which means we are with our good pace.  Once over this first climb we hit pavement and find our own pace in preparation for the climb up toward Hagerman and onto Sugarloaf pass.

julie leadville 2015 sweep

Climbing toward Sugarloaf

Once back on dirt is seems so fast to get from graded dirt road, onto rocky jeep road and then in no time we were on the descent of Powerline, looking for the best lines, threading the needle where we could to pass the “dirt roadies” – I selfishly really like this part of the course, we had agreed to back off and not take any silly risks, but still, passing people means so much to the fragile male ego.

julie leadville 2015 decent

Powerline descent

When we got back to pavement we were a little separated, but quickly re-formed our threesome, and slowly added riders to a strong pack to start our way across the flats.  It is so important to have folks that will work a pace-line with you, road technique can really shave lots of time off, and working together can be good for all as we race the clock.  Having a strong coordinated group of ten, we felt lucky to be charging down the pavement.  I did my turn on the front for thirty seconds and guided us through the first right hand turn, then gently slipping off to the back of our pack.

A couple of people made short pulls and started to move back.  Then, what looked like a friendly hand tap to the shoulder from upstream to downstream members, turned into slow motion carnage; here was our punch.  In a split second two riders went down and it seemed like everyone but the guy on the front and a couple of us at the back ran into and over them.  The sounds that I heard were so unfamiliar; I have never been in a road style pile up and the mixture of bikes colliding with bodies along with groans of exhaling air was quite traumatic to experience.  In a flash I was off my bike and trying to pull bikes and humans apart.  The guy at the bottom looked bad, and furthermore Julie immediately said “I’m hurt”…”my hip”.  I stared at the big guy on the ground, shirt in shreds around his shoulder, and felt that urge to do something to help, he was already attended by a friend, but it is what I do at work right so shouldn’t I just take over?  Then Julie yelled – “you guys gotta go”…”you gotta go now”   and so we did, Sian and I jumped on our bikes and off we went after being “punched in the face”- a new plan.  Sian had twisted handlebars and had lost her Garmin, but luckily for her she landed mostly on people versus bikes and ground.  We peddled and I swore a little, we were both struck with disappointment I think, but we were also trying to re-process a strategy.

The so called flats from Pipeline to Twin Lakes are really deceptive in terms of opportunity.  You can soft pedal or hard pedal, but smart racers tag into a train for maximum gain of time.  We grabbed a train or two and we regained our composure and focused on the next segment as coached.  After dropping off a group as we got close to the single-track section on this part of the course, we had a huge surprise to be joined by our trainer, Julie (hard as nails) Young.  She was back on her game and would go “as long as she could”.

Twin Lakes Crew

Twin Lakes Aid Staion

Twin Lakes came very quickly; our pace was almost exactly the same as my 2014.  I was determined to take stop time at aid stations down to three minutes from ten in 2014, so the camelback was off and replaced in a flash, chain was lubed and I was ready to go with a musette full of food and a coke. So note to self here, watching guys on the Tour De France grab bags and transfer their stuff to pockets is not training.  It’s actually quite difficult on a mountain bike to balance, pull baggies, open baggies, eat a peach, pop a coke and pocket stuff.  It did make aid faster, though trying to fish a boiled egg out of a mass of cliff bar and shot block segments did not work.  Scott, Ollie and Zander did an awesome job as crew, but mushy boiled egg was a miscommunication from me to them.


Probably most racers missed the opportunity to appreciate the Columbine view

On to Columbine.  I had ridden Columbine Mine with my good friend Andy Tuthill, Ollie and David Campbell the week before.  I had felt great on the climb, easily riding third gear with a 32tooth up front.  Once back at the bottom Andy suggested a second lap and I reluctantly said “well ok” .  It was striking how much harder the same time climb felt, enough for me to switch to a 30 up front.  Now we were on the climb and I felt good, Julie pushed ahead as bait, always just in sight, something to aim for.  Sian dropped back a bit at first, but as usual her strength builds as she climbs and she was soon alongside as the road kicked up to the goat trail climb.  Perhaps for some this could be a challenge, for me to see Sian climb ahead of me was the carrot I needed to ride where in the past I have walked, my only goal here was to keep her in sight as a pacer.  She inspired me to pedal ninety percent of the hill this year.

When I reached the peak point where the air feels so thin, where every micro effort seems to push you very close to your redline.  I came upon Julie smiling on her way back, “catch us on the downhill”!  I whispered a “gottcha” and went on to that looping point, for the first time not stopping for a coke and just pedaling back away toward home.  Julie and Sian were a few minutes ahead and I was determined to reconnect our group, so with tires dancing over the rocky descent and some nimble maneuvering I was back on by the end of the goat trail hits the real road.  Our strategy was to use my extra body weight to draw quickly down the descent, it worked to an extent, but not as well as we had hoped with a few sit ups to re-gather ourselves.

When you reach the bottom of Columbine, it always takes a few for your legs to readjust to real pedaling again.  On this occasion, my legs felt like lead, I knew my crew and aid was so close now and still it is a psychological push you have to make to get the legs going.  It’s not a hurt, its an adjustment through discomfort since they don’t work like they just did; you always know it passes, but it is still always so hard. Guess that’s where “shut up legs” comes from!

it hurts

The journey home really starts right after seeing my crew at Twin Lakes.  It is such a powerful recharge to be cared for with the little stuff; new camelback, new bottle, more food, lube and a big push and you’re away again with a “love you, see you at the finish”.  Good tacticians now look for groups, saving energy while maintaining speed is important for all, but for nine hour tipping point people like me, critical!  We were three already, so we had that advantage and as we added three more, we got to be pretty fast on the first part of the fire road home.  The wind was blowing a little and the combined effort allowed us to make good time with a final spurt as a giant guy came by with super legs; we tagged along for the ride.

Riding back up to the plateau on the short single track is always harder than it looks, the trail feels long and slow and on this day the sun was starting to feel warm.  It’s probably only ten minutes, but it caused the three of us to split up and arrive at the plateau separately.  Julie waited and we tagged on to the first dip with the short sharp pushing climb back onto the road real.  Once on the road I am actually unclear what happened, but somehow we got split up, Julie and I from Sian.  (Sian later told me that this was her low spot in the race) I guess we got on the back of a group and before we knew it, we had dropped Sian off the back.  We backed off our group and slow pedaled and then joined another group later hoping to re-connect.  We had a lot of debate over what to do as the minutes passed one at a time.  Julie said, “you should go ahead, I will grab Sian”…”jump on that group or the next”.  I sheepishly moved off on my own, looking for groups, not finding any, pushing the wind myself.  What is really difficult for me in this type of situation is my “ideal story”.  That is we all planned together, qualified together, rode the last five and half hours together and in my mind the perfect outcome was to cross the line three abreast at 8:50, hands raised in unison.  My sense of responsibility toward others plays out often in my life, and there it was again.  So I made a gamble, I sat up and took it easy for a while,  I stopped at Pipeline for a coke knowing that my friends would soon re-join and we would be back together again.  Note to self here, when stopping for coke, do not turn your back on the race line, your friends might just ride right by.  Ok they did do that! And I didn’t know.  I swished my coke and pedaled on seeing a couple of folks ahead approaching the pavement road. I thought, well I guess I should catch them for the road segment, and how surprised was I to see Julie and Sian.  We did talk this out later on how Julie was yelling my name and I had not heard, but to be totally honest in that moment I did have a WTF thought.  Remember I am tired by this point and not my perfect self.

julie leadville 2015 solo

Short single-track section

As we group up on the road with another guy and a single-speed guy I ask if they want to work with us.  Sure, but Mr. Single speed cannot guarantee he can help much on the flat.  With the greatest respect for single speed guys and what they do on a race like this, selfishly we needed was meaty road guys with gears to block the wind.  We made the best of it and formed a pace-line and then an echelon and eventually we three pulled ahead and dropped them, right at the point where I expected the Strava Coke folks (who were not there-and everyone else that expected them knows what I mean, you look forward to little things), on to Powerline.

Powerline at mile three is really so, well easy.  I had ridden it twice the week before and had been stunned by how much shorter it seemed than my memory.  Also, rode the whole thing twice with only a single dab.  However, at mile eighty it’s a different story.  I am not sure the actual temperature on Powerline, I know it was less than 100, but more than 65.  Ok probably upper seventies to low eighties.  In my experience, this is hot for this course, so hot that the drinks volunteers were already running out of water with the first couple of hundred up the hill.  As we started the climb I knew that Sian and Julie would try to ride the whole thing and I really wanted to go with them.  I made it up the first third of the steep first segment, until I just had to dismount.  I just thought, keep them in sight, that is all you need to do as pace.  That actually worked too, as they grabbed a Dr. Pepper atop the steep climb I got close again and I used the ladies as pace the whole way up, only dismounting for about ten more yards as I lost my balance on a rocky segment.  The climb is brutal at this mileage, but it did feel ok compared to past years.  I was just sweating so much and starting to expect cramps at any time, you can kind of feel them off in the distance getting ready to strike.


The fresh air at the top of Powerline felt so good and I was now on a mission to reconnect with my team.  Last year I had bragged about riding the Sugarloaf descent fast, now it was time to do it again.  I figured I would push past Sian and onto Julie, which I did and soon we were off the rocky road and on the gravel road.  We pushed on toward the pavement and Julie pulled me for a while and then went back to grab Sian.  I pushed on as I was sure they would catch me on the other side of Turquoise Lake on the pavement climb to Carter Summit.  My cramps did the usual kick to my right then left adductor with alternating cycles and I pedaled as best I could through each cycle.  Then there they were, back on me and past and I could use the same technique to pace.  Just keep them at twenty yards, then fifty, then one hundred, ok keep them in sight and eventually we were at the Carter Summit.


View from Sugarloaf

Fantastic! Ollie was there for me with a fresh bottle and another Coke, I threw off the Camelback and away I went.  I was back on the girls in a couple of minutes and Julie tagged on to me as I enthusiastically pushed toward the top of St. Kevans.  This part of the trip home has a couple of kicker climbs that add pain and cramp to the legs right when you want to quit, but again this year I pedaled through and found some ancillary strength knowing the descent was coming soon.  At Carter I had looked at my watch to see how much time was left for sub nine.  Guidance I have heard is to have one hour from Carter, I had gone through at about 2:37pm, leaving fifty three minutes to get home.  Could we do that, or could I do that?  I would give it my all.


View from St. Kevans looking toward the finish line, aka Leadville

In our planning conversations we had talked about one particular scenario, one big “what if”.  What if, we are really tight on time, who should Julie pace with?  We had decided to try to get whoever seemed strong at that time to the finish.  When Julie and I got to the top of St.Kevans, we didn’t talk about the plan or about what now, we just went, and really fast.  In unspoken fashion we broke up our group which makes me sad as I think of it.

I took a number of risks on the descent and passed a number of people, Julie was right behind me.  What I do remember is getting to the valley floor and feeling a bit of wind on our backs as we rounded the corner on the dirt road.  Julie said, “can we make it”-  I said something like” unlikely, but maybe”, she told me to grab a guy’s wheel that was passing and I had a moment of doubt, I told her I was all in and couldn’t go (that actually wasn’t true it was just a mental block of ten seconds).  She pulled ahead and I bridged to him using her wheel.  We were on and without talking I knew we were going to give it all to try to make it.  All I thought about was the wheel in front and how to conserve, I did calcs based on the time and distance left.  We needed to ride home at an average of about sixteen miles per hour.  I looked down and we were almost at twenty, maybe we could do it!  Pedal Pedal! Pedal!  At the bottom of the dirt road that leads to the boulevard we had fifteen minutes and three miles.  Ok re-calc, ride at twelve miles an hour, not possible for the first two hundred yards, but soon we were at twelve to fourteen with a couple more guys.  This last slow draw up to town goes so slowly uphill, I really thought we could do it.  The other guys in our group started uttering stuff, “darn we were so close” …”we were almost there” – Julie yelled at me, forget the time, let’s just go.  We dropped those guys and we were on our own, hitting the pavement I got a yell from Heidi Colley, “you can do it Andy” and with a minute to go I pushed so damned hard up the pavement to the finish.  Every single pedal stroke was hard to the finish this year, and without emotion I pushed every last ounce of energy out as the red LED clock came into view.

finishing with Andy

Julie leading Andy in to the finish line

Nine oh three and thirteen seconds (9:02:48 Chip time), as I crossed that line, into the arms of friends, colleagues and loved ones.  Josh held me up on my bike as I told him “I gave it everything”, I told Marilee how good it was to see her, and Dave Wiens, “darn, so close”  they all hugged with knowing compassion.  Then I held my sister trainer Julie Young and thanked her for everything.  And together we waited for Sian.  She was there in a couple of minutes and I said “I hope I didn’t screw anything up for you”, which was maybe a silly thing to say, but I did hope that.

sian finish

Sian hitting the finish line

I didn’t get emotional until Ollie and Scott grabbed me to say “sorry”.  They understood my intent, my goal, and just briefly I let go as they held me up.  Things get a little time confusing here, I was on the edge for about ten minutes, but I talked to other friends, found shade, almost passed out, etc.  But one thing really stands out for me.  I saw Andy and he looked right at me and said “its ok man, you did a great time; it was hard, it’s not about this time today, it’s about the process, and we shared this”  the point being that this special shared experience with its stories, fear, romance and panache is what it really is about.  Now, either in that moment or on the phone later (and he would repeat it again the following day) Andy said “I love you man”, four simple words that in the moment surprised me, but so completely captured the why benefit of doing these crazy races.  Andy’s openness captured the very “why” that this is worth doing, because of the bonds that are formed through race anxiety and adversity, training and the love for the bike that we all share.  The English in me didn’t tell him “love you too man”, but I do.

So does intellect conquer ego, and see process as the victor over outcome.  MaybeJ  we will see next year?

Back to Basics

Below, Kristin Barnes, aka Rosie, from the Silver Sage/O2fitness-trained and sponsored, Bike Like a Girl winning and record-breaking RAAM 2015 team, reflects on her RAAM winning preparation.


Three members of the RAAM team, and alternate member

Having been a lifelong athlete, I’ve had significant experiences with coaches of all kinds, yet they all seem to agree on one thing: that technology is one of the best things to bring into you training plan to give you an edge.  My first coach was my Dad; I can still hear him as a cross country coach extolling the virtues of this brand new gadget call a “heart rate monitor” back in the mid-80s.  It seemed very cutting-edge and a very scientific way to train back then.  Today, we’ve progressed to the point where you’re very old-school if you don’t use a HRM and incorporate technology into your gear bag.  There’s no end to the gadgets we currently have available to help us train and perform: metronomes, power meters, apps, computer programs with videos, race wheels, carbon frames, etc.  The list is exhausting and if you’re on a budget, perhaps you feel behind the power curve.

Coaches are completely on board with whatever gadget may help an athlete improve; it makes sense that taking advantage of science and technology are in the best interest of the athlete.  And frankly, I’m all in as well.  Or at least I was.  My most recent endeavor training with O2Fitness for the Race Across America made me re-think that notion.  For something of that magnitude, you’d think we’d want the best that science and technology have to offer.


RAAM transition

But do we?

Interestingly, I’m no longer convinced we do.  In the end, I don’t think you need a power meter, Sufferfest, or Spinervals.  Carbon bikes help but I managed to complete the Race Across America this year with one bike that’s 10 years old and another that’s 6.  Ancient based on today’s bicycle technology.  What’s the key, then?

Going back to the basics.  That’s it.  But what do I mean by that?  You mean long, slow, miles slogging it out in the summer heat?  No, again.

Let me back up slightly by saying at the time I started training with Julie, I was also seeing a chiropractor and a physical therapist for chronic back injury.  I was also newly introduced to something called Foundation Training.  It took very little time for me to hear a common thread: I needed to go back to the basics.  A 45-year old athlete who always does one plane of motion left me sort of broken.  Basics meant structure. You can slog out all the miles you want with all the cool toys money can buy but if your base structure is out of balance, weak or damaged, you’re going no where fast.  The interesting thing is you may not even realize it.  But keep up long enough and you will eventually be headed for serious chronic injury.  So the Foundation Training, my chiro and PT all said strengthen and, more importantly, activate the structure.

So how did they tell me to activate my structure?  The body is designed to move in a very specific and coordinated way.  All the muscles of the posterior chain are team members and have specific roles to play on the field.  Much in the same way people preach to pick up heavy objects with your legs (use your structure properly!), my chiro and PT were saying, train your structure to perform the moves functionally, get the team back working as a team.  My back was doing all the work minus glutes, piriformis, etc.  After literally a lifetime of one dimensional movement (running/cycling all forward – nothing side to side), my entire posterior chain was non-functional.  It doesn’t matter that I could still squat and dead-lift like I could when I was 25. If they aren’t firing when I need them to on my bike or on a run, they might as well not be there.  My end result was a chronically injured back.


Spring Cycling Camp

Fast forward back to last January when our team started working with Julie.  When I first looked at the training plan, I was nodding and saying. “YES!” at the computer because she clearly got it.  No cyclist is able to develop to their full potential unless they are starting with a healthy, functional structure and maintain focus on a healthy structure throughout training.  The foundation to her training plan was simply working on activating the entire team (posterior chain/core).  Continuously throughout the entire six-month program — she had us do core and posterior chain activation and stability, as well as global mobility and regeneration, every day.  Her emphasis on structure sent a clear message on what was important.


Spring training camp, pre-bike workout mobility and stability work

Notice there was no mention of gadgets.  (Moments of true confession, some of her workouts I did on my mountain bike with no HRM and had a blast while still remaining true to the session’s goal.)  Many coaches still prescribe to the long/slow miles doctrine with power meters and rigid adherence to heart rate zones and for those, I say, have at it.  But that wasn’t working for me because while the coaches were focused on getting the most out of technology and science, the old-school basics were missing.  The O2Fitness interval program (prescribed based on power, HR or perceived exertion, based on what worked best for each individual on the team),  built on a solid foundation of structure activation was one of the best I’ve ever done.

Thankfully I now have six-months worth of logged sessions so I can go back and review all the work we did not for the intervals but for the foundation work. Now that RAAM is over, I’ve dropped down to only a few, short rides a week and maybe a jog or two.  While I’m not currently the endurance athlete I was a few months ago, the one concept that I have continued is structure. The O2Fitness, science-based activation exercises faithfully remain in my repertoire.  In this way I maintain my daily focus on those things that contribute to being a balanced athlete (and functional human being) which have nothing to do with long slow miles or speed I can buy online.  In the future, there’s always potential for more races and more challenges and even the potential for buying some great technology to boost my performance.  But thanks to O2Fitness, this will all be possible with just a little, consistent focus on the basics.

The End is Just the Beginning

Contributed by Silver Sage sponsored Reno WheelWoman, Hanging-in-there-tough-Heidi Littenberg

USA Cycling Masters National Championships, held September 9th through the 12th, marked the end of my 2015 racing season.  The dates have been circled on my calendar since exactly one year ago.  In 2014, I registered, but couldn’t attend because I was sitting behind a computer monitor all summer and couldn’t really ride, let alone train.  The sudden decrease in riding time was clearly visible on Training Peaks. Instead, I sat at work for something like 12 to 14 hours a day almost every day of the week.  I looked at friends’ Facebook and Strava posts with envy.  Riding and racing passed me by.


Fifty two weeks…. 365 days.  I was anxiously awaiting this year’s event, mostly because it meant I could participate, unlike last year.

However, as August approached, I started feeling late-season burnout.  July included a couple big races and the training for those pretty much fried me.  After a good conversation with Coach Julie Young, she tweaked my training plan so I could train and manage the burnout as much as possible.  This included more group rides for much-needed social contact, the Reno Wheelmen Tuesday Twilight races, some regular solo interval sessions, and a renewed focus on quality over quantity.  Some days were better than others, but she helped me head to Ogden, Utah with the bulk of my fitness and desire to race intact.

I went to Nationals with two simple goals for the races – race hard and have fun.

Our time trial course reconnaissance gave me reason to be concerned.  A steep, somewhat long climb awaited in the last five kilometers of the 35K race and I was worried my legs wouldn’t be up to the challenge.  Time trialing is new to me and I didn’t expect much in terms of results, but the course was intimidating anyway. On race day, though, I found some focus amid the pre-race butterflies and I pushed myself as hard as I could.  I didn’t set the world on fire, but that wasn’t the point.  I was able to sit back after it was done and reflect on the past year.  The main point – I got to do it.  That’s as good as a win in my book.


The criterium awaited three days later and that’s my bread and butter.  I had time to recover from the TT, help my teammate during the road race, cheer for friends, and do some fun riding.

On race morning, a quick course inspection and warm-up got my juices flowing.  The course looked to be as fun as I hoped it would be.  I lined up at the start and told myself, “You are here to have fun.  Do that and the rest won’t matter.” When the starter’s whistle blew, my mind immediately went into “race mode” and stayed there.  Crits require laser-like focus because things happen so quickly. I wasn’t sure I would have that focus after being all over the place mentally in August, but I did. Even though I missed the medals by about six inches in the sprint, I felt exhilarated.  It was FUN and it was exactly why I’m so addicted to racing.

So, the first moral of this story is talk to your coach.  Julie did an excellent job of helping me maintain focus and fitness despite low motivation.  Burnout is tough to manage, but it’s doable when you make sure your coach knows what’s going on.

Even better, I’m ending my season with the desire to go after it again next year.  I’m already looking forward to all the fall and winter cross training Julie will dish out, so I can be stronger and faster when things start up in the spring.  So, the cycle continues.  This season’s end has become next season’s beginning.