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Week in Review: Marian University Spring Training Camp

2017 Marian University Spring Training Camp Athletes

2017 Marian University Spring Training Camp Athletes

By ALP Coach Jennifer Sharp

Last week I had the privilege of joining the Marian University collegiate cycling team for their 5th annual spring break training camp representing ALP Cycles Coaching as a coach. Roughly 30 fast, young, and incredibly quick to recover collegiate athletes took to Smokey Mountains of Tennessee and rode 10,578 miles, climbed 899,792 feet, burned 413,915 calories, and ate 36 dozen (!!!) eggs. 

All smiles at the top of Happy Valley climb at the Top of the World on Day One. 

All smiles at the top of Happy Valley climb at the Top of the World on Day One. 

This is the biggest camp I’ve been a part of and I learned a lot not only as a coach, but also as a working athlete. Good friend and head cycling coach Dean Peterson had already dialed in the logistics of getting all of the kids down to the Townsend, TN area, arranged lodging, picked up groceries and had someone create a shift schedule so that the kitchen wasn’t overloaded with dirty dishes and all the while keeping everyone well fed. 

With a group this size, it’s important to lay some ground rules otherwise chaos ensues. For some kids, they’re still learning how to function without their parents cooking or picking up after them. (Wait - you mean dishes don’t just clean themselves?) Below are some of the highlights from camp that can be applied to both training camps and setting out for longer rides. 

The Senior/Junior squad heading out to ride the Cherohala Skyway. 

The Senior/Junior squad heading out to ride the Cherohala Skyway. 

1. Be on time.

If the ride is scheduled to leave at 10am, that means we leave at 10am. Making sure you’ve got the appropriate layers, nutrition, hydration, tires inflated, etc. all needs to happen before the start of the ride. Cycling is a team sport and respect toward your teammates is demonstrated by your ability to show up on time. 

Wednesday's Cherohala Skyway ride: 115 miles with 10,015 feet of climbing. The pavement was recently resurfaced once you cross into North Carolina. Perfect for descending for 15+ miles at 50 mph! 

Wednesday's Cherohala Skyway ride: 115 miles with 10,015 feet of climbing. The pavement was recently resurfaced once you cross into North Carolina. Perfect for descending for 15+ miles at 50 mph! 

2. Riding in the mountains can be dangerous.

It could be a sunny 70 degrees down in the valley and then have freezing rain on the mountain passes. If you’re planning on climbing to higher elevations, being prepared means taking a rain jacket and additional layers to prevent hypothermia. It’s easy to underdress and what goes up must come down. So while you’re comfortable on the climb up due to the heat you build, you can easily get chilled on the descent. Be smart - always take a jacket, especially in the mountains. 

A well stocked pantry means fueled muscles!

A well stocked pantry means fueled muscles!

3. Eat and drink regularly.

I cannot stress this enough. Day one of the camp saw one of the kids with severe cramping to the point of where he had to back it off a lot and limp home. A great rule of thumb is a water bottle with some sort of electrolyte every hour (sipping every 10 minutes) and eating 100-150 calories every 40 minutes, accompanied with water/mix. This applies to all rides over an hour - and should continue throughout the duration of the ride. You’re not only fueling for that day’s effort, you’re also setting yourself up for the following days. Get behind on your calorie intake and you’ll quickly be off the back. (Speaking of, the day before our 115 mile ride, we made four batches of Benjamin’s chocolate chip, craisin oatmeal cookies. I prefer solid, homemade foods for the longer endurance miles. And any excuse to eat cookies is a good excuse to me! YUM!)

Thomas aka "Mini-Shleck" demonstrates how to dress a salad with tomatoes. Knife skills are important too! 

Thomas aka "Mini-Shleck" demonstrates how to dress a salad with tomatoes. Knife skills are important too! 

Cooking for 30 is easy when you have access to a commercial kitchen and helpers!

Cooking for 30 is easy when you have access to a commercial kitchen and helpers!

4. Research your routes.

Make sure your group leaders as well as the riders have a general idea of where they are going that day. Should an emergency arise, you’ll be able to make smart decisions knowing the group knows how to get back to the lodge as well as any shortcuts back to safety.  

 

5. Tell stories face to face verses Chat Snap.

I know, I know. It’s SnapChat. There’s something to be said about social media having an impact on the art of conversation. I walked into the recovery lounge room multiple times to see about 10 kids relaxing next to each other but all on their phones. During our nightly meeting, phones were required to be piled on the coffee table, face down. We then shared our favorite scents, vacations, grade in school and more. The stories we heard said a lot about individual values and their dreams of who they want to become. 

As is tradition, Head Coach Dean Peterson snaps a selfie with the graduating seniors.

As is tradition, Head Coach Dean Peterson snaps a selfie with the graduating seniors.

6. Go to sleep.

Getting 8+ hours of sleep is important for recovery. Everyone was expected to be in their room by 10pm each night and lights out by 10:30pm. Breakfast was somewhere between 7-9am (Dean put a big pot of oats on and athletes could cook their own eggs). Pro tip: Lodges tend to be loud - so make sure to pack some ear plugs to quiet out the creaky floorboards.

The Absolutely Stunning Smokey Mountains of Tennessee. 

The Absolutely Stunning Smokey Mountains of Tennessee. 

7. Have fun!

Training camps are all about learning about your teammates and continuing the foundation of trust. After spending six days with these kids, I know whose wheel I can count on to set a steady pace, who I need to be next to when the hills point up and who I can scare on the descents (sorry Blodgett!), and who I can count on to help with a cookie bake off (thanks Marta and Gabby!). I'm already looking forward to next year's camp.

We made 4 batches of cookies - enough to feed this small army of cyclists! Thanks Marta and Gabby.

We made 4 batches of cookies - enough to feed this small army of cyclists! Thanks Marta and Gabby.

Happy to have found a dog in Tennessee that doesn't chase... and instead gives kisses. 

Happy to have found a dog in Tennessee that doesn't chase... and instead gives kisses. 

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How To Build A Team: Trust, Confidence and Guidance

The 2017 ALP Cycles Women's Race Team. 

The 2017 ALP Cycles Women's Race Team. 

Written by ALP Cycles Coach, Jennifer Sharp

Deliberate practice. You can apply it to anything you're trying to learn: musical instruments, racing cars, martial arts, any newly acquired skill and of course, bike racing. But practice is more than just riding a bike - deliberate practice is a method of acquiring and learning a skill. It's breaking down movements with rigorous skill assessment, doing that movement repetitively, getting specific information feedback and working on better skill performance. 

Alison put together the ALP Race Team with a goal in mind: to change the way local race teams train and race. Each ALP Race Team ride has hands on coaching and we provide the direction and skills to better each rider. The biweekly group rides build trust between riders, creating a foundation of skills that will serve them throughout the race season and their cycling careers. 

Last weekend we worked on team pursuit riding around the upper half of the half gravel, half road portion of the Boulder-Roubaix course. Since roughly 20 women attended the ride, we split the group into their various race categories so they can get used to riding with their teammates: Pro 1/2, Cat 3/4 and Masters 50+. Doing so builds trust and confidence with your peers so you know that come race time, you can trust your teammates wheels and know how to communicate to each other. 

At the start of each ride, Alison gives the riders the specifics of the ride and what skills we will be addressing. Questions are always welcome and encouraged!

At the start of each ride, Alison gives the riders the specifics of the ride and what skills we will be addressing. Questions are always welcome and encouraged!

Racing is about increasing your odds. Effective teamwork happens when you communicate before, during and after the race. Being on the same game plan as your teammates increases your odds and figuring out how to ride well with your teammates is critical to the group's success. How do you do that? You guessed it - deliberate practice. Not only did all of the groups work on specific skills, but we provided them with immediate feedback and post skill discussion on how to execute those skills at a high level. And we practiced, a lot. 

Caution: We brake for coaching opportunities. 

Caution: We brake for coaching opportunities. 

Here are some things you can work on when you're deliberately practicing:

Awareness. 

Where's the wind coming from? If you're bridging across to a breakaway, are you creating a draft for someone else to get a free ride? Or are you aware of where the wind is coming from and decreasing your draft by riding close to the gutter. What's the terrain like that's coming up? Is it technical and transitioning from road to gravel on an off camber turn? If so - you better be at or near the front or you'll find yourself off the back before you know it as the leaders accelerate. 

Practice. 

Practicing these skills in a race simulation will give you an opportunity to figure out what works and what doesn't without having a number pinned to your back. Don't be afraid to fail and get dropped - you can actually learn more from those situation then if you find yourself off the front by yourself. 

Ask Questions.

Ask questions when you have them and gain the knowledge and wisdom from other experienced racers, mentors and coaches. Figuring out when and why you employ certain tactics is a part of learning how to race and for some may not come instinctually. Ask a coach what they would do in a situation and then practice it to see how it works for you.

I'm already excited for the weekend where we get to do more deliberate practice (and coaching!) and hone our sprints. 

 As a new team, ALP Cycles Race Team is practicing each chance they get to learn the art of bike racing.

 As a new team, ALP Cycles Race Team is practicing each chance they get to learn the art of bike racing.

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Tucson Training Camp - Riding Hard and Recovering Harder

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Tucson Training Camp - Riding Hard and Recovering Harder

Just noodling along to the coffee shop....

Just noodling along to the coffee shop....

Everyone at the camp has been working hard with long endurance rides with pack handling skills, how to get up and over punchy climbs, technical fast downhill cornering, climbing in and out of the saddle and eating cookies at the Cookie Shack atop Mt. Lemmon. Add in some bonus mechanicals (broken chains, flat tires and a broken derailleur) and everyone was ready for a rest day. 

But what is a rest day? And why do you need one?

Skills drills - a great way to spend a recovery spin and to stay on top of your bike handling.

Skills drills - a great way to spend a recovery spin and to stay on top of your bike handling.

Humans are not machines. In a robotic world you could just keeping your body to the same level of intensity day after day after day. But we're not robots. If we keep pushing our bodies to a high level, eventually our fatigue level would be so high we'd either fall over, get injured or dig ourselves into a hole so big we may never get out (interested in reading more? Google "Overtraining in cycling").  So in order to reap the benefits of all of the hard work we've done over the past several days today was an easy rest day. 

Recovering on the bike is actually harder than it sounds. I like to think of easy rides in terms of not letting my power exceed my heart rate. But if you don't have a power meter, it should feel like taking an easy walk on the bike.

Recovery rides can also be referred to as noodling. So all 17 of us noodled on down to Presta Coffee Roasters in downtown Tucson after a quick stop in a park to do some skill drills: emergency braking, cornering, bumping, wheel touching and cone pick up drills. We split up into four stations where each coach taught athletes a specific skill they can incorporate into their training. 

We then noodled back to the condos and enjoying a few extra hours of downtime before our nightly coaching meeting followed by another delicious meal cooked by Chef Patricia. 

Recovery days are important. And sometimes taking a easy active recovery day is just what the doctor ordered. We have one more day with a long ride on tap with some sprint drills thrown into the mix. 

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