A Weekend Of "Extreme" Cross Training

This past Memorial Day weekend I was in Colorado Springs working with my coaching mentor.  He's a Level 3 USAT coach and has been a wealth of knowledge for me as I progress up the coaching ranks.  I'm in constant contact with him and the time I spend working with him is invaluable.  A weekend of coaching and training was just what I needed.

It was a great 4-day weekend for my wife, JL, and I.  Amazing running and riding.  Great food.  Stunning outdoor atmosphere and views.  The takeaways for me, however, were the lessons learned as an athlete – and how these lessons will impact my personal training as well as the training of my athletes.  There is much to cover, but I'll try to keep this short and highlight the primary events that resonate from the weekend.

The Bike
We had two serious mountain bike training rides while I was in Colorado Springs.  Living on the east coast, I now understand that what I used to think was mountain biking is really "trail riding".  (No offense to any of my friends that mountain bike here on the east coast).


The technical skills that can be gained are immeasurable.  I’ve never worked that hard to control my bike.  Ever.  I have to admit that when I got back to the east coast and went out for a ride on my TT bike…..well…..I was never so comfortable throwing that rig around corners at speed.  I didn’t once think about taking a quick turn, or navigating around potholes or gravel.  My confidence in being able to control my rig was completely boosted.

Additionally, the effort involved and required is amazing.  Two hours on a road bike can yield anywhere up to 40 miles for a training ride.  Two hours on the mountain bike up near Ramparts Reservoir?  12 miles.  Huge aerobic workout (especially at 9,000 feet of altitude).  I almost can’t wait for the off-season to get here so I can mountain bike more.  And have I mentioned the technical skills required?  Let's just say that I dug in, on more than one occasion, like Wile E.Coyote .  My new nickname may or may not be “Digger Dave.”

The climbing while we rode was amazing.  There’s nothing like mountain biking to work on your climbing skills.  I've never been so happy to be riding a triple crank-set than this past weekend.  As mentioned, we covered 12 miles on our Friday ride.  In those 12 miles we climbed 2,500 feet.  I was shattered.  Well, it's tough to say if I was shattered from the climbing or the aforementioned crashing like a cartoon character.

Those of you who do serious mountain biking are well aware of the benefits (and pure enjoyment) of getting a little dirty while you ride.  Those of you who aren’t –this is something to really consider.  The gains in technical ability and climbing strength are huge.  The “hills” back east seemed easy in comparison.  That’s not to say they didn't require effort, but they certainly seemed much more manageable.

The Incline
If any of you have been to Colorado Springs, you know what The Incline is.  One mile of hill work - at an average grade of 41% (and a maximum grade of 68%).  There are people that do this climb (and then run down the 2.5 mile trail back to the parking lot) on an almost daily basis.  The benefit of this workout was obvious as soon as I went on my first run back on the east coast, the hilly sections didn’t seem so bad.  At all.  In comparison, they were speed-bumps.

Hill-work.  We all know it’s important, and, just like speed-work this needs to be included regularly in a workout plan.  I realize this is completely obvious, but running The Incline made me realize how much more I need to add hill-work into my (and my athletes’) plans.

At the top of the incline, my coaching mentor immediately asked me the question: Why, if his PE (perceived effort) was the same, was his heart rate 10 beats lower than it should have been?

I had the answer, but was slow to get it out due to being exhausted and trying to suck in oxygen at 9,000 feet.

What do you think the answer is? Would love to your thoughts on this in the comments below.