Coach Henderson Diary: A day in the life, a week in the life

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USA Cycling track camp in Los Angeles one day, Hour Record preparation in Colorado Springs the next. Then onto London for the world track championships.

What day is it? Where am I? Ah, it doesn’t matter. Just keep pushing forward. That’s what I keep telling myself.

Here’s a sneak peek at a day in the life, and beyond, during what’s been a very busy February.

Monday February 15, 2016

4:40am The alarm goes off. Time to get going. This day begins with a quick change of clothes, but without any coffee; the espresso machine at home makes too much noise, and I need to let my family sleep a bit longer. I grab my carry-on roller suitcase and backpack, head to the garage to grab Evelyn Stevens’ UCI Hour Record bike, and then to my car.

4:50am Depart for a 5am drop off of Evie’s bike at the APEX Coaching office, located in the RallySport health club in Boulder. Fortunately Rally opens at 5am.

5:00am Evie’s hour bike (a Specialized Shiv) is placed in the APEX Coaching indoor cycling studio so she can do some easy efforts on Tuesday and Wednesday. She’ll be arriving in Colorado later this day, from Tucson, Arizona. I quickly run upstairs to my office to grab my portable lactate testing supplies, which I’ll be using with the USA Cycling women’s team pursuit squad in the coming days in Los Angeles at the VELO Sports Center velodrome.

5:05am Leave RallySport, head to Denver International Airport for a 6:38am flight from Denver to LAX. It’s early, but at least the roads are empty. This will be my seventh flight of 2016. In 2015 I flew over 92,000 miles (148,000 kilometres) … this year that number may be even higher. #OlympicYear

8:30am Arrive at LAX and take a cab to the velodrome, located in Carson. The USA Team will arrive an hour later to start their first track training session since the Hong Kong World Cup in mid-January, where the women’s pursuit team earned the bronze medal. For the past 10 days, the ladies have been training on the road at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, just south of San Diego, a few hours from Los Angeles.

9:30am Phone call with para-cycling track and road world champion Jamie Whitmore, to discuss her upcoming training and racing schedule. She had a fall and concussion at the Team USA  paracyling world championships qualifying event a week earlier. She’s feeling okay, and was cleared by her doctor to continue training in her build-up to the UCI paracycling world championships in Montichiari, Italy, in mid-March. We will need to keep a close eye on Jamie in the coming weeks to make sure everything is progressing well heading into the Rio 2016 Paralymic Games. Jamie was the winningest XTerra (off-road triathlon) racer of all-time, and was 2004 XTerra world champion prior to having a cancerous tumor that required surgeons to remove her sciatic nerve and most of her gluteus muscles in March 2008. She’s a tough cookie. Read more about her here.

10am USA Cycling staff arrives to get set-up for the training session. I catch up with head coach Andy Sparks, and we discuss and review how the riders are doing. Sounds like things are on track! (Yes, pun intended.)

10:30am Women’s team pursuit squad arrives for the day’s first training session. The team includes seven-time world champion and individual pursuit world record holder Sarah Hammer, and four women who aren’t yet of legal drinking age in the U.S. — 2015 individual pursuit silver medalist Jennifer Valente (age 20), 2015 Pan Am Games individual time trial champion Kelly Catlin (age 20), 2015 junior road race and time trial world champion Chloe Dygert (age 19), and Ruth Winder (age 20), member of bronze- and silver medal-winning squads at 2015-2016 World Cup team pursuits.

11am The IBM jStart team arrives. We’ve been working with IBM, through a partnership with USA Cycling, to improve our technology integration and speed up data analysis. They’ll be testing updates to the software in the afternoon training session today. We also review material that I will be presenting on stage at their major IBM Connect conference the following week in Las Vegas. No stress, they say… there will only be a few thousand people attending, plus it’s being live-streamed to IBMers around the globe. As a coach, I’ve had a few brushes with big international exposure, such as live TV coverage of me calling splits while Taylor Phinney won the 2010 UCI 4K individual pursuit, and last year when Rohan Dennis set a UCI Hour Record in Switzerland. I’ll consider it good practice for the following week, when Evie attempts to break the women’s UCI Hour Record in Colorado Springs, and the entire event is live-streamed.

11:30am Team pursuit training session starts. My duties include making sure all SRMs are paired and zero’d, and that the speed sensors are picking up the data for each rider; taking and calling splits; recording the split data; setting up and starting on-board cameras for point of view data capture; and assisting the athletes and head coach Andy Sparks as needed.

Simulation Training Real-Time Dashboard
Simulation Training Real-Time Dashboard

1:30pm Training session ends. More meeting time, and discussion, with the IBM team for 30 minutes.

2:00pm Quick run to the outside world to grab lunch, catch up on emails, look at Twitter, etc.

3:00pm Afternoon training session begins. Similar duties to morning workout. The IBM team is collecting data during this session to compare to my analysis. Their method using enhanced technology take less than a second to analyze after the end of an effort. I’ll be analyzing for about four hours after the session ends tonight. I like what the smart people at IBM are doing as part of the USA Cycling relationship!

5:00pm Afternoon session ends. The team set a new best time ever time for the Los Angeles track …yes! Next, it’s time to pack up and head to the team hotel to get checked in. Fortunately, we’re driving in the opposite direction of the majority of the Los Angeles traffic.

5:30pm Errand #1: Quick trip to Bed, Bath, and Beyond to see if they have a Bluetooth enabled weather station to help communicate with the programs that we use to evaluate track conditions. Changes in temperature, humidity, and barometric pressure affect air density, which affects the speed that we can go for a given power. I have a unit that communicates via infrared, but we need Bluetooth. Unfortunately, no luck on this trip…going to have to order one online later.

6:00pm Errand #2: Replenish supplies for blood lactate measurements for tomorrow’s 4K test efforts. We’ll be comparing each rider’s post-effort lactate levels to previous training camps and races. Alcohol swabs, gauze, and lancets (little needles to poke the fingertip) are easy to find at CVS, near the hotel.

6:15pm Errand #3: Head to Trader Joe’s to pick up some food for dinner, tonight and tomorrow. We don’t have a team chef, but fortunately we do have cooking facilities at the hotel that we use for our LA camps. Tomorrow night will be Italian night with salami and olives as starters, then pesto stuffed tortellini with marinara sauce and parmesan cheese. There might be bottle of Amarone to go along with it.

6:30pm Back to the hotel, eat dinner, and start power analysis from today’s training session.

7-11pm Download all five riders’ SRMs, update firmware on head units, erase old data, and then do a detailed analysis of every effort of each rider. We record every 0.5 seconds on the track. After analysis in TrainingPeaks software, I then transfer values to a spreadsheet to compare with previous camps and competitions.

11pm-12:30am Check email (reply to critical ones), review training from my other athletes that they’ve uploaded throughout the day, and plan out training for the upcoming week or so for more APEX athletes. Normally I would have completed all my training schedules on Sunday night, but with the 4:40am wake-up today, I had to shut down earlier than normal, at midnight on Sunday, to ensure I wasn’t a zombie.

Four guys and a laptop: Analyzing data at the Los Angeles Velodrome.
Four guys and a laptop: Analyzing data at the Los Angeles Velodrome.

While this Monday was a little more busier than most, it wasn’t an anomaly. My schedule for the week that followed looked like this:

Tuesday LA Track Camp 7:45am-5pm (with full power analysis, video capture, blood lactate testing, and review of data with IBM), data analysis 7-11pm again.

Wednesday Still at the LA velodrome Observe bike fit and aerodynamics testing with Chloe Dygert; jump on the track for 30 minutes of riding between Chloe’s test runs. I haven’t actually ridden on the LA track in nearly 18 months, though I’ve been at the track at least six different times in the past 18 months. Fly home in the evening.

Thursday Leave at 9am for the 90-minute drive to Colorado Springs with Evie Stevens and Davis Phinney for Hour Record attempt training session. 11:30-1:30pm training session. 1:30-4pm media interviews and filming. 4-6pm drive home.

Evelyn Stevens, Hour Record practice session from cyclingtips on Vimeo.

Friday Back in the APEX office! Lead a cycling training session with APEX Coaching elite athletes from 10-11:30am, as well as a couple of one-on-one athlete meetings. Phone in for media conference call with Evie, 12-12:30pm. Pick up my daughter from school at 3pm…sneak in a little ride around the neighborhood

Saturday Back down to Colorado Springs with Evie for 30-minute trial run at goal speed to make sure everything is on target. Stick around to do some sprint racing at the velodrome myself. Drive home, meet a few other dads at 9pm for a beer after the kids are asleep. Had to set a 10:30pm curfew on myself, as Sunday is another full day.

Sunday Late morning flight to Las Vegas. Onstage walk-through with IBM folks, as Monday morning’s presentation is in front of several thousand people and many more IBMers via international live-stream.

Monday 10:30am IBM Connect Presentation on the big stage. 12 noon live webcast “The Cube” interviews with IBM jStart crew at the convention center.

Tuesday 8:30-9:30am Breakout Session of IBM presentation. More in-depth discussion of technology integration solutions that IBM is helping with. Fly to Denver Tuesday afternoon, arrive home in Boulder in the early evening.

Wednesday Normal office day at APEX Coaching office, including two-hour on-bike APEX Coaching cycling workout with elite cyclists and triathletes. Meet with CyclingTips U.S. Tech Editor James Huang to shoot Evie’s race bike, which is slightly different than the Shiv she rode during the media day last week.

Thursday-Friday Drive to Colorado Springs, where I’ll stay overnight Thursday and Friday. Final pre-Hour Record attempt training sessions with Evie on Thursday and Friday at noon each day, which is the same time she’ll race on Saturday.

Saturday The big day. Evie’s Hour Record attempt, 12-1pm. Drive back home in the evening. Planning on having dinner with Evie, her husband Brett, and my family back in Boulder on Saturday evening.

Sunday Afternoon flight to London to meet up with USA Cycling national team for UCI Track World Championships, held March 2-6.

Monday Arrive into London and get to work with Team USA, Directly to hotel, and then immediately to track for afternoon training session.

Quick question: Do they have Bed, Bath, and Beyond and Trader Joe’s in London?

About the author

Neal Henderson wears several hats in cycling, all related to sports science. In addition to working with BMC Racing, and as a high-performance consultant for USA Cycling, he also runs his own coaching business, APEX Coaching & Consulting, in Boulder, Colorado. He’s coached athletes at the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games. Follow Neal on Twitter.

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