Sunday, December 28, 2008


I wanted to post a link to this article on Alwyn Cosgrove's blog before I forget it. It's about stretching yourself and comparing activities that are difficult-difficult with those that are difficult-easy. Good stuff.

I'm nearing the end of my "transition" period of the off-season. I've been staying pretty active, but not taking things too seriously. Training resumes in earnest tomorrow. I will be following the Morris plan for 2009. It will be interesting to see how it all goes.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Confidence and Cleaning

I've been officially on vacation for the past few days. Unfortunately, I've still had to check work email a little and I had to call in to one meeting. Now I'm really on vacation until Jan 5th, as my customer's office is now closed. I've been spending most of my time cleaning up around the house. The family is all coming over for Christmas, so we needed to get the house in order. I can't say it's been fun, but it's nice to have a clean house.

My workouts have been pretty sporadic. We've been getting dumped on with snow, so I'm at least out shoveling, but I haven't done much else. That's OK though, I've only got another week or so of "transitioning" before I get going on the '09 training.

I had a decent hockey game on Sunday night. I ended up with two goals and a couple other good chances. I'm starting to play with more confidence, even though my skills (skating, puck handling, you name it...) are not where I'd like them to be. I think the confidence thing is key, even if you're just faking it. Fake it 'till you make it...

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Suzie Q, Space Dog!

10,000 Hours

There's sort of a pop-pyschology theory floating around that says to become a world-class performer at any skill, you need roughly 10,000 hours of practice. Most recently, this theory has been publicized by Malcolm Gladwell, but it originated elsewhere. I'd heard about this before, but it came back to my attention due to this T-Nation article (note: T-Nation is not at all a work-friendly site... I'm almost embarassed to admit I read it, but they do post some very good articles).

The interesting bit in the T-Nation article (if I scared you off from reading it yourself) was that, in the original study, they didn't find exceptions. That is, there were no "naturals", people that were elite that put in significantly less than 10,000 hours, and there were no "grinders", people that put in 10,000 hours but were not elite.

Relative to cycling, there also seems to be anecdotal evidence to support this. There are plenty of stories about pro cyclists who rode many many hours in their youth. Interestingly enough, the pro cyclist stories usually are told with the idea that they probably rode too much. Maybe in hindsight they do feel like they rode too much, but I really wonder if they would have become pro's if they hadn't done it.

OK, so we're coming to my main question. If something like the 10,000 hour theory is correct, should we really be using low-volume, high-intensity training schedules? On the face of it, you'd have to say no. Low-volume means that you'd have to train much longer to hit your 10,000 hours.

Under further examination though, the answer isn't so easy, because I think not all training time is equal. To give a slightly absurd example, let's say I spent my 10,000 hours only riding on the trainer. Would I become an elite bike racer? Obviously not, I wouldn't have any handling skills. What about 10,000 hours doing LSD rides outdoors? Not as easy to answer, but probably still not. 10,000 hours racing or doing quality efforts? I think you'd have to answer yes there (although I don't know how long it would take to accumulate that time).

This suggests to me that there is some separation between the strength / conditioning aspect of racing and the skill of bike racing. (In fact, Jeff told me as much earlier this year, "You're finally starting to look like a bike racer..." What I didn't write in that post was his other comment, "Putting down power is easy.") So, the issue is the quantity of quality hours, not just the quantity of hours.

For the high-intensity plan, I see two ways this could benefit you: 1. You should spend more of your training hours training at race-like conditions. 2. The lower volume of hours spent working on the conditioning aspect of cycling could free up more time to work on other skill aspects.

Sorry for the long post, but there was a lot to cover...

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Screw Shoes Update

I've gotten in a few runs now with the screw shoes. The first run was on very hard-packed snow and ice. These are probably ideal conditions for the screw shoes. You definitely still slip a little (and I was being careful), but the screws slow down the rate of slip considerably. Even though everyone says it's fine, I was worried about feeling the screws poking me through my shoes; everyone is right, you don't feel them. The shoe is not real comfortable running on bare pavement though, since your weight is entirely focused on the screw heads. Probably more screws would help with that I guess.

The run I did last night with the screw shoes was a little different. There was a lot more unpacked snow on the ground, and the shoes didn't work quite as well. It felt like the sole of the shoe would pack up with snow so the screws wouldn't bite and it got a little slippery. Still, most of the time, it was vastly better than running on unmodified shoes.

Win Every Shift

There were a lot of good quotes in the local papers when Steve Yzerman retired. I thought one of the best discussed his desire. It went something along the lines of "... he wanted to win every game, every period, every shift."

On Sunday night, I decided that I should use my hockey games as an opportunity to practice mental preparation techniques that I also use for cycling. I thought I'd keep it simple and just come up with a few goals for the game, just like I have goals for my races. With the basic goals in mind, then the technique is to come up with a short, powerful phrase to get your mind in the right state to achieve them. Then, I used what my Mental Edge book calls a "success history search" to associate some emotion to them.

My phrases for the skate were:

  1. Win every shift
  2. Own the corners
  3. Get open (I had a little trouble coming up with a good #3)

Doesn't sound like too much when you read it, but, when you've spent 30 minutes in the car attaching emotions and positive images to those phrases, it gets you pretty fired up. In the game, I found that my phrases worked really well. One surprising result was that my focus during the game was much better than it usually is. Since hockey isn't my "main" sport and it's a pretty informal group, sometimes on the bench near the end of the game, I'm getting tired and I'm watching the clock and I'm just ready to go home. This week though, even though I was getting tired near the end again, my focus was much better. I didn't have any thoughts about the clock running out and going home, and I actually felt stronger near the end of the game.

Assuming that my fitness this week wasn't noticeably better than last week, you have to put the difference down to my attitude. Interesting result.

After some reflection on the way home, I think for next week, goal #3 will be "move your feet".

Tuesday, December 02, 2008


After watching the Lions get spanked at home on Thursday, the family headed out to Nebraska for a wedding on Friday. The trip down on Friday went very smoothly, my daughter was pretty calm for our first flight (Detroit to Chicago) and slept the entire second flight (Chicago to Omaha).

The time we spent in Nebraska was fairly relaxing, aside from keeping my daughter up past her bedtime every night. We stopped by the bike shop in Grand Island, NE. It was a pretty decent shop; they had a cool kids tricycle that caught my eye. Maybe a first birthday present for someone? (I think this photo doesn't do it justice. I will try to upload the picture I took with my phone at the bike shop.)

I was pretty happy to not be trying to stay in shape on the trip for the race next weekend. I managed to get some exercise in one day out of the three. I had planned to play hockey Sunday night also, but...

Our trip back Sunday was pretty brutal. We left at 8:30am, and didn't get home until about 10:00pm. Both of our flights were delayed, and we sat on the ground in planes for quite a while waiting for gates to open up. Our checked bag also didn't make it to Detroit on our flight. It arrived at our house at midnight (!) last night. My daughter did OK on the planes, but it was a long day of traveling for everyone.