Items filtered by date: July 2012
Wednesday, 25 July 2012 00:00

Endurance Research Symposium

Endurance_Research_SymposiumAfter a long weekend supporting Pete at the National 24 hour, it was back in the car to visit the folks at the University of Kent as they presented the Endurance Research Symposium to mark the formation of the endurance research group at the university. It was also a chance for Professors Louis Passfield and Sam Marcora to present their inaugural lectures, long overdue it has to be said as it's been several years in both cases since they were granted tenure!

After considerably less sleep over the previous few days than I'm accustomed to, the prospect of concentrating for the whole day was not one I relished. This was compounded by the sudden heat wave that led to a rather hot and stuffy venue, albeit a rather grand one! (see pic). I'm not generally a fan of extensive note taking at these events, instead preferring to give the presentation my full attention and write up the day afterwards. With heavy eyelids, I wrote down a lot more on this occasion to avoid missing anything. Here are a selection of 'soundbites' on what proved a fairly diverse range of topics relating to the latest endurance research.

It's easy to get fixated on 'the aggregation of marginal gains' but sometimes this eclipses the most important aspect in endurance performance - consistent hard work over a prolonged period of time. Professor Passfield is in the position of having extensive data on elite cyclists - pooling lab data with the EIS, Louis was able to show a 17% improvement in 'Rider H' over a 17 year period. Along a similar theme, Andy Galbraith analysed training data from a group of runners and found that 40% of the improvement in 'critical speed' was explained simply by distance run.

Take home message: train a lot over an extended period of time to get good!

Nutrition and immune function saw some attention from Dr Glen Davison, with a simple two stage process to maintaining immune function outlined. First avoid dietary defficiency in the major macro nutrients (no evidence of benefit from consuming extra, except in the case of carbohydrate). Beyond that, there is evidence of a benefit for a few 'advanced supplements'; bovine colostrum, probiotics, echinacea, beta-glucans and quercetin coming in for special mention.

Professor Frank Marino also paid a visit from down under and presented new data that undermines the classic dogma that dehydration negatively impacts endurance performance, exhibiting as yet unpublished data that dehydration of up to 4% has no negative impact on 5km TT perfromance in the absence of heat stress. For sports that place a premium on weight saving (e.g. running, cycling uphill) that suggests that dehydration may actually confer a performance advantage. This says nothing about the impact of dehydration on recovery, or subsequent adaptation or any other of the multitude of questions that this raises but it does force a rethink on so much of the practise we have taken for granted.

There was so much more over the course of the day but these are some of the nuggets that have a more practical application. The final point on dehydration leads on to a final observation from Dr Stuart Mills as we left - so much of what we have assumed to be true and so many of the explanations that sports science has offered in the last few decades are now being questioned. As I type this the GB men's pursuit squad have just clinched gold in another WR time and Jamie Staff is explaining the process of questioning every tiny detail in the quest for perfection. Both observations serve as a reminder that sports science is a process of systematic questioning rather than a means to provide absolute answers.

Published in Blog
Wednesday, 25 July 2012 00:00

The yellow jersey

This weekend just past was a momentous one for British cycling with Bradley Wiggins and Team Sky creating history on the roads of France. Equally exciting on the domestic front, was the belated arrival of summer and the chance to set some fast times in the many TT events up and down the country! The first part of the season has been a very frustrating one for UK testers. Despite a focus on improving power outputs and targeting process goals that are indpendent of external factors such as wind and rain, in a sport governed by the stop watch it's very hard when inclement weather means that times are minutes down on previous bests. Even if the numbers (other than time) show that the athlete has great form and has moved on to a higher performance level. Fortunately this weekend saw the opportunity to put those slow rides behind us, here are a few of the highlights:

Lisa and Chris started the ball rolling with PBs on the G10/57 course early Saturday morning. Both of the Scarlett's have had a tough early season, with Lisa overcoming inumerable setbacks on her road back from injury and Chris not reaching his goal of 70.3 Worlds qualification. Personal Best performances are always great, but in this case all the more so given the hardships of the last few months.


Next up was a slightly more mixed bag in the '50' at Newmarket. Oli set the ball rolling by smashing his PB with a rapid 1:48:03 and Jill then followed that with 2:08:27 to come within 2 seconds of her lifetime PB set over 9 years previously. Jill's result was made all the sweeter in that it justified our decision not to finish the EDCA 100 6 days previously when it became clear that a fast time was not on the cards. Pulling out of a race through choice is not something that either of us would normally choose to do and we both admitted to feeling a little uneasy and 'fraudulent' in doing so but with the benefit of hindsight and a fast 50 time it looks as if we made the right call. Sandra came in with another super quick 2:01:32 but the dark cloud on the day was Dan suffering a freak mechanical that prevented him finishing the race. It doesn't bear thinking about what he might have done but the SRM file suggests he was on 'a ride'. Gutting.

Meanwhile, over in Bermuda, April was not to be left behind and a fantastic 3rd place saw her continue her improvement against the clock.

Last and by no means least, Pete and I travelled up to Shropshire for the National 24 and his number one target for the year. The aim was to improve on last year's 443 miles and 10th place set on Sussex roads, and Pete delivered a truly outstanding performance to finish with 471 miles, 4th place overall, a new Eastbourne Rovers club record, and in the process becoming VTTA National Champion! The magnitude of this achievement is still sinking in but once all the facts and figures are in I will give it a little more attention in it's own blog post in the not too distant future. Over a celebratory curry following the event Pete expressed his relief at finally putting the 24 to bed and his excitment at the prospect of returning to a normal race program next year. Breakfast the following morning was another matter entirely...

Congratulations to everyone and long may this barmy weather continue!

Published in Blog
Thursday, 12 July 2012 00:00

L'Etape du Tour



I'm sitting writing this in front of the TV as the pro peleton begins Stage 11 of the Tour de France from Albertville to La Touissure. It's always exciting when Eurosport get to show the whole stage and the skimishing to get in the break of the day is currently underway. This is a stage I've been particularly looking forward to as it featured as this year's Etape Acte 1 and so it's one that I've studied closely as I've had the pleasure of supporting a number of cyclists preparing for this stage (which they attempted on Sunday). Acte 2 features the Pyrennean stage from Pau to Bagneres du Luchon which will offer another great challenge with the added bonus of being ridden on Bastille Day. Expect the whole of France to be en fĂȘte!

Tour de France 2012: Stage 11 profile

The Etape is an event that I am particularly fond of. Having come into cycling after following the Tour for a number of years (and dare I say it, becoming a bit of a Lance fan...) the thought of completing a stage in the biggest sporting event is a mouth watering prospect and a terrific challenge. Fast forward a few years and being now emmersed in the world of coaching this enthusiasm has not dimmed and the experience of working with a number of riders attempting this challenge over the past years has only intensified my love of this event.


This year for example, has been a fantastic year for the people I've met as a result of the Etape and while many of the stories are similar in the goals and motivations for attempting a stage, each person has their own challenges and motivations. In my opinion, the Etape is very close to replacing the London Marathon as the most high profile mass participation sporting challenge. Each year I speak with a number of cyclists with common themes for attempting the Etape: a high profile goal to mark a return to cycling after a number of years off the bike, a catalyst to lose some weight and improve body composition and health, a novice cyclist looking to challenge their new found riding skills and fitness or a racing cyclist looking to see how they stack up against the very best. For one event to appeal to such a diverse group of cyclists is a key factor in it being such a great event.

A huge well done to all the cyclists who've worked so hard in the first part of this year and put in such a great effort on Sunday and best of luck to those riding on Saturday. A special mention to Alex who has the entire Cycling Weekly readership waiting to see how he gets on!


Published in Blog