October was a whirlwind month at Big Wheel Coaching. We rode alongside a number of our Athletes as they tackled the Westlake Village Century, The Grapes of Wrath & Raisin Ride and the Patriot Ride For Our Heroes.
Each of these three rides was a blast and incredibly demanding in their own way, but the best part was being with our Athletes as they put in solid efforts and experienced Personal-Best performances.
Following on this momentum, and despite the winter months looming, we are not slowing down, at Big Wheel Coaching HQ!
We hope you will consider joining us at the following events:
The gravel roads are pretty sweet in Temecula at the SPNDX Stampede, if we do say so ourselves! Photo Credit: Joy McCulloch
SPNDX Stampede Gravel Vol. 2: Sunday, November 12th
Coach Joy went out to the SPNDX Stampede Vol. 1 and "smashed" on the Temecula gravel roads with a few of her Athletes and everyone loved the event!
For those that have yet do a Stampede, the SPNDX is an incredible ride, but it’s more than just a great time on the bike. After the ride participants are treated to a post-ride party fellow Stampede’rs that is not to be missed!
For Vol. 2, Coach Brian is heading to Temecula with another batch of BWC hammerheads to tackle the notoriously technical and fun gravel roads of the SPNDX!
As a bonus, we are leading a special SPNDX Stampede pre-ride this weekend, Sunday October 29th, in Temecula!
If you have ever been interested in trying gravel riding and want the benefit of having a coach on hand when you do, this is the weekend to do it. So come ride with us!
Complete details can be found on the event Facebook page, here.
We are excited to bring our years of racing experience to the CBR Resume Builder Series. Photo Credit: Cathy Fegan-Kim, Cotton Socks Photography
California Bicycle Racing Resume Builder Series: Sunday, December 10th
We are very excited to be working with California Bicycle Racing (CBR) and their Resume Builder Series!
For those unfamiliar, the speed, atmosphere, and fun of criterium racing is a SoCal tradition, one that CBR is building-on to create premier family-friendly events for racers of every skill-level.
As long-time racers and coaches we are most excited to help developing riders, teaching them the fundamentals and strategy side of racing.
Because, what good is building a super-fast race car without a driver that can take it to the limit?
Note: In this analogy, think of the car as your fitness and driving it as the strategy and skills side of your performance.
Through CBR, we are developing a one-day criterium skills and tactics “boot-camp”, Sunday Dec. 10th using our coaching and racing experience to help participating Athletes gain the most success from their day at the races.
For more details, stay-tuned to our social media accounts!
Even Coaches practice skills work, like those learned at the USA Cycling Level 2 Coaching Clinic. Photo Credit: Joy McCulloch
Coach Joy Goes To Camp
When this edition of the BWC Newsletter goes to ‘print’ Coach Joy will be working amongst her Coaching Cadre to lead another USA Cycling Level 2 Coaching Clinic.
She will be sharing her experience with other coaches looking to take their coaching to the “next level”. Presentations from the Coaching Cadre will address the physiology of endurance sport, the business of coaching, training plan development, and skills sessions.
In particular, Coach Joy is excited to share her experience in the business of coaching to help this crop of coaches develop their skillset!
At Big Wheel Coaching, helping our Athletes achieve their best goes beyond an individualized training plan. We are always looking for ways to support the events our Athletes participate-in and enrich their experience along the way.
With that said, we hope to see you at any of these upcoming events!
And when you come, be sure to tell us you read about the event in our newsletter and we’ll thank you with a special-edition BWC draw-string shoe bag as a gift!
November is the time to ride!
Until Next Time, Be Safe, Train Hard, & Have Fun!
-Brian and Joy McCulloch
Big Wheel Coaching
To Wrath Or Raisin? A Look At The Fun & Shenanigans At The Grapes of Wrath & Raisin Ride
What is it about a mixed-terrain event, AKA a “gravel ride”, that makes them the fastest growing segment of cycling?
And furthermore, what kind of equipment and fitness is necessary to have the best experience possible at these notoriously epic rides?
To answer these questions and address the curiosity many Athletes have about gravel-riding, we have put together a special edition of the BWC Newsletter that features the Grapes of Wrath & Raisin Ride in an ‘event profile’ of sorts.
There was no shortage of beautiful scenery, and friends to share it with, at the Grapes of Wrath & Raisin Ride. Photo Credit: Dillon Clapp, Leyzne, Engineered-Design.
The Basics: What Was The Wrath & Raisin All About?
Most gravel events feature epic routes with plenty of grandeur that make them a hefty challenge for all. Even the most experienced bike riders will have a ‘gut check’ moment at a gravel ride.
As you would guess, the SamBarn Promotions Grapes of Wrath & Raisin Ride in Bakersfield was no exception to the aforementioned ‘grandeur’.
With two ride distances featuring more dirt and gravel than pavement, plus a freakishly-long 35-mile dirt road climb that hallmarked the 135-mile ‘Wrath’ route, the event met all the criteria for an epic day on the bike.
What’s more, the event featured free camping and was fully catered (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) by SamBarn Promotions and the Gear Grinder Grill crew to ensure all riders could simply focus on riding their bikes and enjoy the event to the maximum.
A great meal amongst the finishers and their families was had courtesy of the Gear Grinder Grill. Photo Credit: Dillon Clapp, Lezyne- Engineered Design.
Community: It’s The People That Make These Events Memorable
Without question, both rides were hard! Even the Raisin ride took finishers upward of five-hours to complete the 78-mile route, but what made this a memorable weekend of riding was the riders and families that attended!
As one would guess, there was no shortage of excited, and slightly nervous, bike riders on the pre-dawn starting-line, Saturday morning.
But what Sam and the event crew knew was that when those riders returned to the start/finish area, and serenity of the grape vineyard campground that served as event headquarters, there would be plenty of ride stories to share!
However, what was not forecasted was how the riders would finish.
Despite the significant challenges each rider had faced along the route, nearly all finished in small groups, arm-in-arm, supporting each other all the way to the line.
The camaraderie developed on the road was palpable and the friendships forged on this epic day of riding were only strengthened once the post-ride party started!
The 35-mile dirt-road climb on the Grapes of Wrath route was beyond epic, it was absolutely ruthless! Photo Credit: Dillon Clapp, Lezyne- Engineered Design.
Equipment Choice: How To Wrath, Raisin, & Gravel Appropriately
The first question folks often ask when deciding to tackle their first gravel-ride is: Do I need something gravel specific, as in a new bike?
Short Answer: No!
However, don’t let us stop you from getting a new bike! We are certain you won’t regret purchasing a gravel specific steed.
All kidding aside, although a dedicated gravel bike with wide tubeless tires (35c or bigger) and disc brakes makes for a smoother day on the technical sections of an event like the Grapes of Wrath, it is not absolutely necessary.
At this years Wrath, there were nearly as many road bikes with 28-30c tires as there were dedicated gravel set-ups.
Sure, tackling a 135-mile ride of mixed-terrain madness will be easier on wider tires and with the benefit of disc brakes, but with some patience and a little off-road experience, a road bike with fat tires will absolutely get you to the finish.
Beyond equipment, the most critical element to have a successful day at an epic gravel ride like the Grapes of Wrath is grit.
Although specific training can take you a long way, everyone will encounter adversity on the gravel roads, the promoter designed it that way…
But with stalwart determination and the commitment to overcome, you are certain to complete this epic day in the saddle!
The sign may read "Pavement Ends", but that's where an epic ride starts! Photo Credit: Dillon Clapp, Lezyne- Engineered Design.
If you have ever been interested in attending a gravel-ride or curious why so many cyclists are taking their road bikes off-road, we highly recommend you consider attending an event like the Grapes of Wrath & Raisin Ride.
Rides like this are on the rise, and for good reason, as they inspire us to get outside our comfort zone and regular routine to show us what we are capable of.
We leave you with a quote from Sam Ames, the event promotor of the Grapes of Wrath, at the start of Saturday’s event:
“When I think of the Dust Bowl Migration that marked this area in the early 1930’s, those folks were HARD SOULS. Today I hope you can glimpse into your own HARD SOUL on our favorite gravel roads!”
Want more Gravel-Ride fun? Check out the event that started it all. The Rock Cobbler, here.
In closing, BWC would like to give a special "shout-out" and thank you to our friends at Lezyne- Engineered Design for a full weekend of support and incredible photos. Check out Lezyne and there line of incredible products, here.
Until Next Time, Be Safe, Train Hard, And Have Fun!
Brian & Joy McCulloch
Big Wheel Coaching
Interval Work Without A Power Meter: 3-Tips To Maximize Your Next Interval Session
Interval training and performing high intensity workouts have become much simpler for cyclists of all abilities with the proliferation of power-meter technology.
However, despite the availability of cost-effective power-based training solutions, many Athletes still rely-on, and benefit from, training exclusively with a Heart Rate Monitor (HRM).
Although it is true that power-meters allow for the prescription of more complex and challenging workout protocols, every Athlete can benefit from having a deeper understanding of the ways in which Heart Rate and Rate of Perceived Exertion influence workout quality.
In order to help Athletes using HRM’s get the most from their training, as well as aide power-meter users in the event that they must rely on Heart Rate data to train, we have compiled three-tips to make your next interval session more focused, potent, and effective.
Stay focused on the workout and don't rush to get your H.R. in the 'zone' during a steady-state interval, let Perceived Exertion be your guide at the start. Photo Credit: Doug Earnest, Inland Sports Photography
#1: Let Your Heart Rate Build Gradually
Because Heart Rate Values do not immediately respond to our physical output, as there is a lag of up to 15-30sec. (or more in well-trained Athletes), it is best to start any steady-state interval using the Perceived Exertion Scale.
An easy tip is to begin each interval by applying the power output (pressure on the pedals) that will raise your H.R. to the prescribed level, not more.
Although it is easy to do so, do not fall into the trap of increasing the intensity excessively in order to elevate your H.R. to the prescribed level. Your H.R. will get ‘in the zone’ in due time.
Instead place your emphasis on developing the self-awareness to gauge the appropriate output that matches the prescribed effort. Don’t make the interval session harder than it should be, just to get your Heart Rate ‘in the zone’.
Remember, each interval starts and ends with your legs, not when your H.R.M. reads the entry and exit of the prescribed zone.
Note: For those unfamiliar, the Perceived Exertion Scale is a 1-10 scale that utilizes our own self-awareness. Level 1 is equal to minimal output, while Level 10 is akin to a maximal output for the prescribed duration.
#2: Aim For A Consistent Effort & Even Output
Executing successful steady-state intervals using Heart Rate and Perceived Exertion requires consistent pressure be applied to the pedals.
This requires the Athlete to shift to harder and easier gears during an interval as the terrain undulates.
Shifting regularly will allow you to both maintain the steady-state effort and better accomplish pedal cadence targets that may be prescribed in a particular workout protocol.
This technique will become increasingly important as fatigue sets-in during long intervals or when you begin to tire through repeated interval work.
One way to make a steady-state interval easier is to select a portion of road that is as even and consistent as possible.
By selecting steady roads and shifting regularly, an Athlete can modulate their output to create properly executed intervals without a power-meter.
The R.P.E. 1-10 Scale is adapted from the Borg 6-20 scale and is similar to the "pain tolerance scale" which is used in Emergency Rooms across the United States. Photo Credit: KeyWordSuggest.org
#3: Breath Deeply & Purposefully
Heart Rate Values are heavily influenced by a myriad of outside factors, which can make it difficult to compare the sensations of the same workout performed varying conditions.
The common influencing factors for Endurance Athletes include, but are not limited to, caffeine consumption, fatigue, hydration-levels, and even breathing rate.
Of all these factors, the most easily controlled while executing an interval, is breathing rate.
In order to execute consistent steady-state Heart Rate-based intervals, it is best to utilize deep ‘belly breaths’ focusing on prolonged exhales, rather than shallow "staccato" breaths that characterize breathing from the upper chest.
At Big Wheel Coaching, we think of this deep breathing work as, ‘purposeful breathing’.
For those that are familiar with yoga, the method of “Ujjayi” breathing is a useful comparison (Note: "ujjayi" is pronounced oo-jaa-ee).
Although “ujjayi” breathing in yoga is performed primarily using nose-breathing, Endurance Athletes should mimic this same focused deep breathing technique using both the mouth and nasal passages.
By taking full, consistently deep-breaths during an interval you will reduce erratic H.R. values and most-likely increase the velocity achieved on each interval too!
Bonus Tip: Don’t Judge The Day On Your First Effort
Whether starting your interval session as part of an early morning workout or after a long-day at work, it is important to keep in mind that the first interval is often perceived to be the hardest.
Although subsequent intervals won’t get easier (much to the contrary in many cases), the initial discomfort of interval training is most intense when the body has not fully 'warmed-up' for the effort.
This is especially true for those Athletes squeezing in a quick workout on a busy day, efforts performed with an insufficient warm-up, or any session that was not preceded by a rest-day.
Although this knowledge won’t make any interval-day easier to execute, it most certainly should give you confidence knowing that completing the first interval inherently makes subsequent efforts easier to conquer.
Simply put, if you get through the first interval, subsequent intervals are doable!a
Selecting a steady road is key to properly executing intervals, broken, cracked, or consistently undulating roads can add unnecessary stress to a workout. Photo Credit: Brian McCulloch
Although power-meters are making it easier to prescribe, evaluate, and perform interval training sessions, understanding Heart Rate training principles and how to use our own self-awareness (Perceived Exertion) to execute proper steady-state workouts cannot be undervalued.
This knowledge must be reinforced through personal experience and can go a long way to boosting training adaptation while minimizing the risk of over-training.
If you have questions about Heart Rate Training, the Perceived Exertion Scale, and how knowledge of each topic can help you achieve your best fitness, contact us to schedule a coaching consultation.
We would be glad to detail each topic as it applies to your fitness and training environment.
Until Next Time, Be Safe, Train Hard, & Have Fun!
-Brian and Joy McCulloch
Big Wheel Coaching
After a full season of stage racing that started in February at the Valley of the Sun Stage Race in Arizona and concluded at the Cascade Cycling Classic in Oregon, Joseph Garey was excited to have one final event on his calendar: The Red Rock Canyon TT.
As a local event, Joseph was excited to race on his home turf amongst his friends and training partners. What's more, he had continued to spend time on his TT bike following his stage race season in order to finish the year off with a solid result!
After posting the fastest time on course and winning the Pro/Category 1/2 race, while winning the mid-race KOM competition, Joseph was elated and humbled by his result having bested numerous well-respected and talented riders from the Las Vegas area.
He had indeed capped off his season with the exclamation-point he was working for!
Following his big win, we caught up with Joseph to hear more about the race as well as his goals for next season in our 4-question BWC Athlete Profile. Enjoy!
Primary Sport/Discipline: Road Cycling
Average Hours of Training Per Week: 18-22hrs.
Upcoming Goals: The 2018 USA Cycling Pro Road Tour
Jospeh Garey sped to the fastest time at the Las Vegas-area Red Rock Canyon Time-Trial, winning the mid-race KOM competition as well. Photo Credit: Joseph Garey
Question #1: Congratulations on winning the Red Rock TT! This TT course featured a climb, varying wind conditions, and a fast downhill. How did you pace yourself for the win?
Joseph Garey: Thank you very much!
My pacing coming into the race was somewhat conservative, but a winning formula. A ripping tailwind up the climb and slight headwind on the very fast downhill had me itching to smash the climb and hold on as long as I could to the finish.
However, after consulting with Coach Brian, that wasn't the best strategy. In the end, we settled on a pacing strategy that started out hard, to get up to speed, but not full-gas. Then once the gradient started kicking up, I would settle into a quick cadence and an effort level that was ever-so slightly over threshold.
It wasn't until the rollers, following the climb, that I started to claw back time, putting in an all-out effort to achieve the highest speed possible to carry as much momentum as I could over the rolling portion of the course.
Although the rollers were shadowed from the wind, conditions would shift so that downhill run to the finish would be a solid headwind. This part of the course was the "cherry on top" of my pacing strategy as I continued to build into the effort and maintain a very high speed where others began to fade.
Coming into the last mile I buried myself and emptied the tank to score the fastest time on the day!
Coaches Perspective/Coach Brian: I am so proud of Joesph for his effort at the Red Rock Canyon TT!
Successful time-trailing is more so about discipline than it is raw-power, so I was particularly happy that Joseph was keen to develop a detailed race plan with me.
Following our course analysis, we created a pacing strategy that was slightly counterintuitive, but we were confident it would lend itself to Joseph's strengths.
What I was most excited about was that Joesph, staying true to the pacing strategy we created, won the KOM portion of the days competition. For those unfamiliar, essentially there were two competitions on the road that day, the first half of the race was on a steady climb which was categorized as the KOM competition.
What followed was a 1-2 mile section of rollers and then a downhill headwind section to the finish. Joseph’s disciplined pacing and solid fitness propelled him to win both classifications which was absolutely incredible!
The facial expression tells it all, this win felt good! Photo Credit: Joseph Garey
Question #2: You also performed well at the Cascade Cycling Classic time-trial back in July amongst a field full of talented time-trialists. What is one piece of advice you would give someone wanting to improve their time-trial?
JG: Master the first half of the race. I have started too many times way too hard and let the adrenaline take over in the first mile.
Once the adrenaline wears-out, your'e in a lot of trouble!
I think of it like this: giving-up seconds in the first half of the race to scooping-back handfuls of time in the second half.
This doesn't mean it's going to be a "walk in the park" the first half, but nailing the perfect tempo or threshold pace in the opening miles will allow you to go very hard in the second half of the race.
On most courses this is a solid pacing strategy.
Coach Brian: This is excellent advice, I am glad Joseph shared it.
All too often we spend our best efforts early in a race only to find ourselves ‘empty’ when the critical moments of the event come.
This patience and discipline takes time and maturity to hone, especially when our Perceived Effort is low and power output is high. But as you can see from Joesph's success, the tactic is well worth the time to hone and fine-tune.
It is great to see that Joseph’s confidence with TT-pacing is growing, this will play a significant role we he tackles the big events on his calendar next season.
Achieving our best is a team effort and Joseph is thankful to have the endless support of his long-time girlfriend Pabla at most of the races throughout the year. Photo Credit: Joseph Garey
Question #3: What is one of your long-term cycling goals? And what is next on your cycling ‘to do’ list?
JG: My long-term goal is to make it onto a professional team and make a living doing what I love, riding my bike. Specifically, I want to improve as a stage racer and become a General Classification contender.
I want to stick with the climbers as much I can to limit my losses in the mountains. Then I will go about clawing back as much time as I can in the TT.
I've been working on my TT more than in recent years and I've made huge strides, so I look forward to improving my GC placings in the upcoming season.
My hope is to crack the top 20-30 at various events on the USA Cycling Pro Road Tour.
Then I plan to work my way up the GC standings as far as I can!
As for the next couple of months, I plan on attending the Tour de Tucson and hitting a few Gran Fondos in the process of building for next season.
Coach Brian: These are excellent goals, ones that I am excited to help Joseph achieve.
Placing in the top 20-30 riders in a time-trial stage of a PRT (USA Cycling Pro Road Tour) race is incredibly challenging, as teams always scour the result sheets looking for “the next big thing” in cycling.
This reality makes time-trial day hotly contested by nearly every rider in the peloton, but especially those that fancy-themselves to be a "TT-specialist".
With focused effort, dedication, and discipline Joseph can absolutely make his way into the upper-echelon of professional cycling and earn a spot on a professional squad.
Although Joseph has a big engine and strong pair of legs, his biggest asset to achieve these goals is his humble nature and desire to learn. As a “student of the game” Joseph is always looking to grow and improve, something that is not always true of riders at the professional level.
Jospeh Garey is working to make his way onto a professional team through his results in time-trials as well as in the G.C. of stage races. Photo Credit: Joseph Garey
Question #4: Describe your favorite workout in your training program, also, please share a ‘knowledge-bomb’ you have learned while training with Big Wheel Coaching.
JG: Getting ready for the Cascade Classic Coach Brian had me doing 3x 1-minute all-out efforts with 1-minute rest periods between intervals… every hour.
To make it more challenging, I was prescribed steady Endurance/Zone 2 work between sets.
Talk about a workout!
Although it sounds easy, the last set always had me screaming ‘uncle’!
Knowledge-bomb: Give your body the rest it deserves, it will work wonders!
Coach Brian: This “knowledge-bomb” is perfect!
I often tell my Athletes that the harder they train, the harder they must rest.
Although most Athletes don’t usually dedicate themselves to recovery practices with the same fervor and commitment they give their training regimen, proper recovery can single-handedly make the greatest gains for an Endurance Athlete looking to achieve his or her best.
And given Joesph’s enjoyment of doing multiple sets of one-minute all-out efforts, it is a good thing he has come to embrace his recovery practices!
We hope that you have enjoyed reading about Joseph Garey’s Red Rock Canyon Time-Trial success and that it has inspired you to seek gains in your own training program.
As with nearly every aspect of Endurance Sport, Joseph’s big win was the result of a full year of training, racing, and honing the craft of time-trialing. His success is a reminder to each of us that:
“For anything worth having one must pay the price; and the price is always work, patience, love, self-sacrifice - no paper-currency, no promises to pay- just the gold of real service.” -John Burroughs, American Essayist
Until Next Time, Be Safe, Train Hard, & Have Fun!
-Brian & Joy McCulloch
Big Wheel Coaching
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.