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Old 03-12-07, 07:59 PM   #1
JCrain
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Coaching/Racing

What should I expect from a coach (how much should I expect to pay, what do you get for the money, etc.) Riders that have used/are using a coach right now, did/do you notice a big difference in your overall cycling abilities?

I have been riding for about 3 years now. I have a Trek 1500. I am 28 years old and I think I would like to get into the racing scene before too long (well, I know I would, I just don't really know where to start, how to train for it, how to know when I am "ready" to race, what kind of pace is to be expected in a Cat 5 race.. etc..) I ride a lot on my own and I ride with the local bike club about 2 times a week. I ride about 70-100 miles a week right now, but that will increase as the days get warmer and longer.

Any comments/advice will be appreciated.
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Old 03-12-07, 08:09 PM   #2
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Personally, I would enter a race and see if you actually like it before hiring a coach.

Some people will disagree with this statement; that you don't have to be a racer to have a coach. And, I actually agree with them. But in that situation, you can still make drastic improvements without spending large amounts of money. While that one on one interaction (if you get a good coach) might help, it is definitely not necessary to improve yourself.

Basically, enter some races before you throw down the cash, because you might not want to take your riding in that direction. And that is cool as well.
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Old 03-12-07, 08:14 PM   #3
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I also believe that when you're just starting to get serious about it, just riding a lot more with more intensity w/adequate rest will pay pretty big dividends by themselves. Once you start to plateau, then hiring a coach might seem more compelling.

That's what I'm telling myself anyways...
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Old 03-12-07, 08:20 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by branman1986
I also believe that when you're just starting to get serious about it, just riding a lot more with more intensity w/adequate rest will pay pretty big dividends by themselves. Once you start to plateau, then hiring a coach might seem more compelling.

That's what I'm telling myself anyways...
I'm kind of in between. I wanted some help with structuring my workouts so I got the "virtual coach" at trainingpeaks.com. It's only $10 a month, and I definitely feel like I got stronger over the winter using it.

I agree, though, that the learning curve is pretty steep early on, and any combination of reasonably smart training/rest/nutrition will lead to big improvements. I could definitely see the motivation advantage from having to answer to someone, though. I guess peer pressure from a good team is another way to get that.
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Old 03-12-07, 08:55 PM   #5
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Depends. If you put in the effort, you can learn enough to coach yourself rather effectively. There are tons of books, articles, and resources out there that will help you take your riding to another level.

That said, you might have certain time constraints. If you have other responsibilities, or feel like you might benefit from a one-on-one relationship, then go for it. Some people are able to find the drive / motivation themselves. Others thrive on having someone structuring and pushing them. It's really a personal thing.

It's also a money thing. If you want an actual coach, be prepared to spend $100+ a month.
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Old 03-12-07, 09:09 PM   #6
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I agree that having a coach can help you motivate yourself, and push you in your workouts.

But is he going to be riding along with you in your races? Will he be next to you on that 3 mile mountain TT? I'm going to go out on a limb and say that in almost every situation this will not be the case. Robbie Ventura , a former USPS pro and now owner of VisionQuest coaching services is a coach now, and during the races he was in, he was most certainly not prodding the guys on our team to new and higher levels (he coached our elite team last year). Along those same lines, I pushed my body well above my supposed limits (based on PT data) this past weekend chasing for my team, which was a far greater motivating factor than any single person yelling, cajoling, pleading with or pressuring me.
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Old 03-12-07, 09:24 PM   #7
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as dr. pete said, the learning curve is sharp the first couple years. i'm going into my third season this year and i went from last place in the cat 5 field to a few top-tens in the cat 4 field last summer. if i start feeling like i've hit a wall then maybe i'll consider getting some coaching.

regardless of whether or not money is an issue for you, it's probably wise to do a few races and see how you like it before jumping in with both feet.
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Old 03-12-07, 09:48 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by DrPete
I guess peer pressure from a good team is another way to get that.
So how do you get a team to let you ride for them? Do they come to you or you to them?
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Old 03-12-07, 09:57 PM   #9
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just look up the local teams and then go check out thier team rides.
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Old 03-12-07, 10:00 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Duke of Kent
Along those same lines, I pushed my body well above my supposed limits (based on PT data) this past weekend chasing for my team, which was a far greater motivating factor than any single person yelling, cajoling, pleading with or pressuring me.
Good point. Everyone has different motivation. I don't want anyone yelling at me, but I personally really like knowing that there's going to be someone reviewing my training files and race files. Knowing that I'm going to have a conversation with "Coach Todd" after the race or after a hard week of training helps me work hard and gets me out on the bike during days when I might not do so.

Lots of you guys don't need that extra encouragement/incentive/motivation, but it helps me.

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Old 03-12-07, 10:05 PM   #11
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i dont really want anyone yelling at me either. i will be looking at getting a coach mainly to develop a program and schedule first. i get frustrated trying to do those things myself. Once that is all worked out I will decide what I want to use a coach for next.
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Old 03-12-07, 10:22 PM   #12
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I don't understand why everyone feels a huge need to have such a structured training plan, especially (assuming this) pretty early in your riding career. If you can't get to Cat3 by just riding your bike hard and pushing yourself, a coach probably won't change that. After that, sure, it becomes more useful as much smaller gains in fitness will help with bigger results.

For me, my motivation was such:

Team Leader: "Hey dude, I need you to ride hard tempo at the front."
Me: "Sounds fun. Who else is working?"
TL: "I talked to Rider A. He's putting two guys up there with you and a teammate."

I then proceeded to throw huge pulls and bring back the guys up the road. I didn't finish in the points, but without my work, our team would have had a lot fewer as that break definitely had the power to stick if we didn't work to bring it back. One of the guys up there was a state Pro/1/2 TT placer so it needed to come back fast. So instead of a break up the road with the top couple of places taken and a dodgy field sprint for points, as soon as we got close to the last guy up the road, our "GC" guy countered with a couple others, and the race was essentially over. It is kind of demoralizing knowing that I have only one real purpose in the races so far this year, to chase, but also good to know that I can help the team and get stronger for my Cat3 races this summer. So, that, and the hope of team nats, has me plenty motivated.
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Old 03-12-07, 10:33 PM   #13
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Personally, I think you benefit more from a coach early in your racing. It's like driving. Yes, you can read some books, jump in a car and figure stuff out, but it's a lot quicker/easier if you have someone who can point things out to you vs. driving around with the emergency brake on for a week. A good coach isn't about yelling, it's about getting feedback and avoiding pitfalls that will delay your development, or burn you out all together.

Go race for a few months, decide if it's something you really want to do an get proficient at. If it is, strongly consider a coach.
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Old 03-12-07, 10:51 PM   #14
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Search, read, enjoy.
coaching
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Old 03-12-07, 11:38 PM   #15
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Well I think it's pretty simple: a good coach, a really knowledgeable coach, is going to know much more about the sport than you can possibly absorb by reading books in your spare time. It's his profession, after all. I really like that about my coach, that I feel I can trust him. That feeling is based, of course, on my own investment of time and energy in the sport: I don't abdicate my responsibility to learn to him. But, for me at least, it takes the doubt out of my preparation. We talk about my fitness and plan every day. When it's time to toe the line, I'm confident that everything possible has been done to help me do my best. I don't think you can really optimise your performance on your own unless you're a truly extraordinary person. To me, I think the lesser part of the coach-phobia that goes on is due to financial reasons, and the greater part, to ego: we wish to be the experts we're not.

On the other hand, I do respect and accept the explanation that, for some, coaching takes the fun out of riding and racing. I think that's true for some people; however, at the same time, I invite riders to consider that they might not yet have met the right coach for them. And, of course, the financial aspect really is totally convincing as well. Some people can't afford it. In those cases, I think club mentorship is really important.
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Old 03-13-07, 05:29 AM   #16
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I went to a coach because I don't ever want to say that "If I had a coach, I coulda done...." I also got tired of "guessing" my way around the training program to meet the volume I might/maybe could fit into my schedule. I find that when I tell the coach what my schedule is going to be, he fills in the empty slots and I use up every bit of it.

That being said, my first couple months actually saw me plateau a little with a coach. Only the last two-three weeks have I felt/seen any sense of reasonable improvement. At first I was looking for constant interaction, but I realized that all I really want is the structured program. I get one-two emails a week from him at the most and usually only send one a week back (when I send my powerfiles to him).

On the other hand, with the plateau - a shift from base/threshold improvement over to the build area of higher intensities I shoulda kinda expected a semi plateau.

Finally, the coach schedules workouts I wouldn't otherwise do - because they hurt. I complete workouts I wouldn't otherwise complete, because even though they hurt I know I've gotta send the powerfile to someone else and explain why I didn't do a set. And for my money, gosh darnit, I'm completing the set.

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Old 03-13-07, 09:40 AM   #17
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Like the others have said, JUMP IN. I too am new to racing and did not expect to be competitive. These first races for me are to make sure I liked it and to see what it takes to be competitive. I have seen that it is ultra competitive and I need to put more into training. Once you have decided this is something for you and want to put the effort into the sport, either find the aid of a coach or become real good freinds with some one who will allow you to be their apprentice, " This young Skywalker needs much training - may the force be with him."

I may never be competitive, but I AM going to try like hell.

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Old 03-13-07, 10:13 AM   #18
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Good coaching can save you a ton of time, wasted seasons. But think of coaching more in terms of learning how to race vs. learning how to train. This is where you will gain the advantage over a "self taught" racer.
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Old 03-13-07, 10:23 AM   #19
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Good coaching can save you a ton of time, wasted seasons. But think of coaching more in terms of learning how to race vs. learning how to train. This is where you will gain the advantage over a "self taught" racer.
+1 It's great to have someone observe you ride and race and perhaps even do race simulations with you. They might see inefficiencies or tactical moves you are making that you wouldn't notice you are doing wrong until someone tells you.
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Old 03-13-07, 10:59 AM   #20
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It can go much deeper than that. I came to racing a little late (late 20's) and did the usual routine. Kind of got in shape, joined a decent (I thought) club, started racing. Based on past athletic history (a runner) I was pidgin holed as a "TT" guy. Training and racing under this assumption took me all the way to Cat 4 (when cat 4 was the lowest) where I sat for several years.

Eventually I started riding with and being coached by a very accomplised rider and protege of possibly the best coach ever in this region. Almost immediatly he noted that I had more speed than 95% of the people he coached (dude was a 1 on the Track, so I listened). Long story short, simply recognizing this strength, training to it, and teaching me how to race to it moved me up to Cat 2 in 3 seasons. Had I not received this evaluation and guidance I guarantee you I would have remained a career 4. All because I was training with well meaning people who in the end knew absolutly nothing.

Would I have gotten there on my own, who knows? Would I have gotten there much sooner and possibly gone higher if I would have had the guidance sooner, without a doubt! Find a coach.
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Old 03-13-07, 11:35 AM   #21
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I'll echo that a new racer can benefit most from a good coach. My 1st year, I self-coached following the Friel training bible, took all the self evaluations, planned out my year and training schedules, etc. I found it confusing to decide what my real limiters and strengths were, and in hindsight, ended up missing the mark a bit while training. I achieved a greater level of fitness than I'd ever seen before, but wasnt really firing on all cylinders.

Last year I started working with a coach, who really helped me identify what I do well, not so well, and it helped take the guesswork out of designing my training plan, as well as tweaking when things were going awry. My coach also helps me alot with strategy, handling tips, nutrition, recovery, etc. I am an advocate of using a local coach. Mine is local so she can tell me which races suit my abilities, tell me by name which riders or teams are gunning for certain races, who to watch, where to attack, where to sit in, etc. Based on my experience, working with a good coach is the best thing you can do to improve your racing. All the more sexy doohickies like power meters, heart rate monitors, and tricked out gear are fine, but a coach can pull all those things together and help you actually get results.
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