Do You Need a Mentor? With Coach Connor’s Mentor, Glenn Swan

Mentors help athletes by providing guidance, teaching a philosophy, and serving as a confidante. Do you need a mentor to reach your full potential?

Glenn Swan

If you’ve listened to Fast Talk for any length of time, you’ve likely heard the name Glenn Swan. That’s because Glenn was Coach Connor’s first and, arguably, most influential mentor in the sport of cycling. Trevor has gone so far as to say that without Glenn’s influence, he probably would not have become the cyclist he became. Thus, Trevor often refers to lessons he learned from Glenn on the show.

We’re excited to have Glenn on this episode to discuss many facets of mentoring, including his definition of that seemingly simple term, as well as the benefits of having a mentor, and the differences between mentors and coaches, plus much more. Glenn’s influence wasn’t focused solely on Trevor, of course. He served as a mentor to many in the Ithaca, New York cycling community where he lived and trained. He helped shape the careers of many great cyclists, and we’re very pleased to have him share his wisdom today.

We’re also joined by a collection of several wise athletes and coaches today, including pro roadie Erica Clevenger, former elite cyclist Adam Wisseman, endurance coach Daniel Matheny, legendary coach Joe Friel, and author and coach Jim Rutberg.

In the episode, Coach Connor and Glenn describe one of the most influential lessons Glenn taught a young Trevor. The “graph” is pictured here:


Moen, F., Olsen, M., & Bjørkøy, J. A. (2020). Investigating Possible Effects from a One-Year Coach-Education Program. Sports, 9(1), 3. Retrieved from

Episode Transcript

Chris Case 00:12
Hey everyone, welcome to another episode of Fast Talk your source for the science of endurance performance. I’m your host Chris Case. If you’ve listened to Fast Talk for any length of time, you’ve likely heard the name, Glenn Swan. That’s because Glenn was Coach Connor’s first and arguably most influential mentor in the sport of cycling. Trevor has gone so far as to say that without Glen’s influence, he probably would not have become the cyclist he became. Thus Trevor often refers to lessons he learned from Glenn on the show. We’re excited today to have Glenn on this episode to discuss many facets of mentoring, including his definition of that seemingly simple term, as well as the benefits of having a mentor and the differences between mentors and coaches. Plus, much more. Glenn’s influence wasn’t solely focused on Trevor of course, he served as a mentor to many in the Ithaca New York cycling community where he lived and trained, he helped shape the careers of many great cyclists and we’re very pleased today to have him share his wisdom. We’re also joined by a collection of several wise athletes and coaches, including pro roadie Erica Clevenger, former elite cyclist Adam Weisseman, endurance coach Daniel Matheny, legendary coach Joe Friel, and author and coach Jim Rutberg. Let’s make you fast.

Ryan Kohler 01:37
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A Clarification On CTL

Chris Case 02:25
Hey, everyone, we’ve received a lot of interesting feedback from our, the good, the bad, and the ugly of chronic training load or CTL episode that we put out recently. We want to respond to some of that, there is a clarification that Trevor needs to make, so I’ll let him start with that.

Trevor Connor 02:47
So we can call it a clarification. I’m just gonna call this what it is an apology. In that episode, I got the definition of TSS wrong. I said that TSS is based on time in zones and that is not the case. Now there are some metrics of load that do look at time and zones. So actually, I’m thinking a lot of the work of Bannister and going back to the I trim concepts. But that’s not TSS works. And we were talking about the TSS concept that was created by Dr. Andy Coggan and Hunter Allen. And there’s a formula online, I’m not going to read the formula to you here- there’s a whole bunch of brackets and everything in it- so it’s gonna be confusing. But, the key point is, the formula for TSS is continuous. So the harder you go, even if just a few watts higher, you’re going to be generating more TSS it is not based on training zones. I knew better, I can give you a lot of excuses. But the fact of the matter is I come to every one of these episodes, trying to do my research trying to be ready, Chris, and I really pride ourselves on coming with the correct information. And I didn’t do that on that one, I do know better. So my apologies to you the listeners for getting that wrong. I think the other thing that we want to clarify is just- and again, thanks for everybody who sent in feedback both positive and negative, we love to get that- I don’t think we potentially got the full message of what we were trying to communicate with that episode across. So I just want to clarify that was not an attack on CTL. We are not saying that CTL is a bad metric. As a matter of fact, we have done episodes where we’ve talked about it. We’ve talked about the value of CTL particularly the value of the PMC, which is performance management chart of which CTL is just one part of it. We didn’t dive into that in the episode because we had already done multiple episodes on that because I’m not looking at the numbers but I think we had a couple episodes and a video.

Chris Case 04:56
Yep, we had an episode -and that was episode 119- where we sat down with Tim Cusick. Who is the creator and the mastermind behind WKO. And we talked quite a bit about PMC and other things. We also have a video workshop on our website entitled How to use the training peaks performance management chart. And that goes into ATL, CTL, and TSB, training stress balance, and all the interactions between those metrics. So check those out.

Trevor Connor 05:26
So again, just want to emphasize CTL is a powerful metric and can be used very effectively. The reason we recorded that episode is because we’ve been getting a lot of questions about CTL. And we were just seeing hints that some people might not be using it the way it’s intended and so that’s what we want to address with the episode. Our concern is not the metric, our concern is how the metric is being used. And if I could just summarize that it’s using CTL, as saying, This is my performance level, this is how strong I am. And the higher I get that CTL, the better the athlete I am. That’s not what it was designed for. That’s not the way it works. And we really just wanted to raise that concern, because we’re seeing people do this, directing your whole training around raising that CTL number, because that’s what’s going to make you better. Especially when that training starts to ignore physiology and starts to ignore what sort of gains you’re trying to get. Just doing work that’s a big CTL raiser. That was our concern because we were seeing some of that. And if there’s just one message from that episode that we’d like to give you is use CTL, use it the way it was designed. Don’t direct your training around just trying to raise that number, you might be disappointed with the result. It should be the end product of good training, not the sole goal.

Chris Case 06:55
Very good. Thank you, Trevor.

Who Is Glenn Swan?

Chris Case 07:00
Well, I don’t want to embarrass you, Glenn Swan. But a lot of people out there on this Fast Falk podcast, have heard your name, and a lot of stories about you. It’s a pleasure to have you actually on the show today. Welcome.

Glenn Swan 07:15
Thank you very much. It’s a pleasure to be here.

Trevor Connor 07:18
It’s really exciting for me to have you on the show, because I would probably not be a cyclist at all right now, if it wasn’t for the help you gave me and the patients you showed because I was not easy to work with. I know.

Glenn Swan 07:33
Well, I know I helped you get started. But you’ve gone a lot further than I’ve ever gone. So you took what I started with, and you’ve run with it very well.

Trevor Connor 07:42
Well, I will say and I’ve said this before on the show, I’ve worked with some amazing coaches, some amazing people have taught me a lot of things. But there are fundamental principles I know about cycling that you taught me right at the beginning, -that are still the foundation of my own training, of my own coaching, even after all the research I’ve read everything, I’ve learned,- they’ve never changed.

Glenn Swan 08:09
I am happy to hear that.

Chris Case 08:12
Well, as you can tell, these guys do have a long history with one another. I think we should dive right in and get that origin story perhaps for those that don’t know Glenn’s name and don’t know the relationship you have. And don’t know the extent of it and how meaningful it’s been. maybe to both of you who wants to start? How did this relationship first form and how did it evolve over time?

Glenn Swan 08:37
Boy, it was a long time ago. And the first time I was really aware of Trevor was during one of our Tuesday night races. In Ithaca, we’ve had the Tuesday night road races for – Good grief -what is it 30 years now?

Trevor Connor 08:53
at least.

Glenn Swan 08:53
And I have to admit, my first impression of Trevor at that time was that he was kind of a Pillsbury Doughboy…

Trevor Connor 09:02
I might have weighed 190 at the time. Yeah.

Glenn Swan 09:05
And he certainly wasn’t a threat from the standpoint of the “A” racers. But we did a lot of what we call spring seminar series. Where we talked about bike racing, we talked about fitness, we talked about a lot of relevant topics. And Trevor was there and he obviously was listening and he came a long ways.

Trevor Connor 09:33
So Glenn is been very nice. I will share my version of the story -of my not listening and then- the start of Glenn being my mentor. Which was, I had done the Tuesday nights for a year, or a year and a half, and I then moved to Boston. I got serious about my cycling and was trying to self-coach and I knew nothing about training. I had all these ideas about how I was going to be just the best cyclist ever, with these unique training techniques and I visited Ithaca a lot. So, I was up at Glenn’s shop and was explaining to him the new crazy idea I had for my training.- I can’t remember what it was, I think it was training with ankle weights or something stupid like that.-

Chris Case 10:17

Trevor Connor 10:18
I remember Glenn being so frustrated, he tried to diplomatically express to me why that was such a bad idea. But he couldn’t get the words out, so he’s finally just goes just wait here and goes into this back room behind the shop and comes out with the graph. And I do think we should have Glenn explained the graph because the graph has been the foundation of my coaching and my training. I’ve actually never explained it on the show because I really feel it’s Glenn’s thing. So I hope we can get him to explain it on the show. But he explained the graph to me, and I made one of the dumbest choices of my life, which was I listened to him and said, Yeah, what is the old guy know. I didn’t listen, did my thing -if you want to know what happened, listen to our episode on overtraining because I had a severe bout of overtraining.- After I came out of that, and I had moved back to Ithica, I reached out to Glenn and said, would you mind explaining that graph to me again. At which point Glenn said, Sure, meet me at the pizza place, treat me to a slice of pizza and I will teach you. This time, I took copious notes, and I listened. And basically, for the next year, I didn’t have any formal training plan, I just used the graph- you could actually use the graph to map out some your season.- And that was the year that I went from a guy who was getting popped in cat four races up to a cat two and had been invited to the National Center. And that was all Glenn.

Glenn Swan 11:55
Well, I wish I could take credit for that. But the graph that Trevor is referring to is from Jack Daniels,-he was a noteworthy running coach. I know he was coached for Alberto Salazar, who was the cross country and track coach for Cortland State track team. -He had given a lecture that just made things so simple that all of us could understand what the principles were. And I think these principles underline a lot of the technical training that goes on now, the understanding of different levels of intensity, and well, Trevor’s the expert on all that sort of stuff now. But it was, I wish we had a graphic so I could show the line,

Trevor Connor 12:47
What I’ll actually do, I’ve drawn this graph, many times, I have a version we can put on the website as part of the page for this episode. So if anybody wants to see it, pause right now, go to that page on our website, and you’ll be able to see the graph.

Glenn Swan 13:04
And it’s basically a curve that has on the vertical axis, fitness, and on the horizontal access miles. And what you see is, that as you start training your fitness improves rather rapidly. As you increase your mileage, it continues to go up. But as you get farther and farther to the right, that graph levels off. And it’s pretty easy to get up to a good level of fitness. But to get to absolute peak fitness, where the line is very much leveling off, you’d have to increase your mileage and your intensity so much that you are at risk of burning out. So on the same graph, there is the line that I guess we would describe as the likelihood of burnout. And there is a point at which the two lines cross. And that’s the point of self-destruction. To get 90% of your capabilities, you do a good bit of training, but you’re not too close to burnout. To get that last 5% or so you are very close to the crossing of the two lines. So just understanding that if you want to peak, you put your mileage and your intensity up and you can squeak up into those last few percentage points of your potential. But then, if you want to make it through a whole season, you’d better back off, get back down into a much more of a safe zone where you can maintain pretty darn high level of intensity, but you can maintain it for a long period of time. So to really peak enter an area of effort, an area of difficulty that’s pushing you pretty close to burnout.

Trevor Connor 15:08
So the other thing I have discovered about this graph,- and I found a bunch of research to back this up- is that first part of the graph, which is nearly vertical. So basically, it doesn’t take that much load that much intensity, to see those big improvements. That’s really your base work. And what I’ve discovered is, that part of the graph can be modified, you can make it taller, you can make it shorter, it really sets your level for the season. Once the graph starts to arch to the right and starts to level off, that’s kind of 10-15% of your form. That part of the graph is always the same shape. So the way I explained this to athletes is once you start doing that high-end work, once you start doing that intensity trying to build to that peak. That part of the graph is always going to be the same. So if you don’t get your base, if you don’t build that aerobic level first, and then you start hitting that intensity, your graph is actually going to be quite short, and your potential for the season is going to be reduced. Where if you get that good bass, get the graph up high and then start to move to the right, then you have a lot to work with. And the nice thing is, if you do that bass and get your level quite high, you can stay pretty far left on the graph pretty far away from overtraining. Because your level is so high, you don’t need tons of intensity, you don’t really need to get to that peak. And then you just go out on that graph, get to that peak once or twice in the season, and nobody can touch you.

Chris Case 16:41
So I’m gonna jump in here guys because to me, it sounds like this is coaching. But Glenn, I want to ask you the question. As I understand it, you were never Trevor’s coach, you were more of a mentor. So can we get into that discussion there a little bit about what’s the difference and why you wouldn’t coach but you would mentor?

Trevor Connor 17:06
And just, you know, when we had that slice of pizza I asked Glenn, would you coach me? And he said I don’t do that.

What Is The Difference Between A Coach And Mentor?

Glenn Swan 17:12
Well, coaching and being a mentor, there certainly is a lot of overlap there. The best coach is probably going to play a role that’s very close to a mentor. But the way I see it, coaches are much more about mechanics and specifics. Whereas a mentor is a little more of a general guide. My role in the local cycling community was one that I would consider to be more of a mentor,- encouraging riders in general, dealing with some specific questions, but I never wanted to put somebody on a program.- I never wanted to tell them do this and you will get that. Because there’s so much variation from one rider to another, whether it’s their natural ability, whether it’s their interest, whether it’s their brains or their smartness in racing. I didn’t really want to coach per se, but I wanted to guide or inspire. And I think that may be the difference between a coach and a mentor, at least for me.

Trevor Connor 18:30
Joe Friel needs no introduction. He’s a legendary coach and author of the cyclist training Bible. He gives a great explanation of the difference between coaches and mentors.

Joe Friel 18:40
Yeah, I would say a mentor is a subset of being a coach. Every coach should be a mentor to their athletes. Mentor means that they’re providing examples of how to do whatever it is we’re talking about. I would hope that the coach is a mentor in that he or she also maintains Fitness improves fitness as goals that they’re trying to achieve that have to do with, with fitness, with performance, with sport, with themselves, as just individuals. That I think is the key role. Quite honestly, there are a lot of mentors out there who don’t know they are mentors. There are a lot of folks who are being followed, who are being watched by others who don’t know this is even happening because there’s no conversation that ever goes on. Nobody ever says well, you’re my mentor, it is something that just sometimes happens for each of us. I can recall thinking back to my days as a young athlete, my coaches were mentors. But I never told him they were my mentor. I never, you know, brought this tough subject up. It was just a sort of thing that I realized later on in life that I was actually patterning my behavior after my coach or coaches, for those many years and found the best of them to be the best mentors I could possibly find. They were people who were involved in all the sort of stuff I was involved in myself and that I enjoyed. But they showed me how to do it, how to perform in that particular arena. And that doesn’t necessarily mean they were always winning things, they knew how to how to accept, for example, defeat. They knew how to interact with other athletes. And so they had a big impact on me with probably not ever knowing they were even doing that, they had probably no idea what they were doing to my life at the time this was happening. But to this day, I can think back to coaches and people in general, who were my mentors, gosh-50 years ago.- And to this day, I still hold them in very high esteem and still pattern my lifestyle in many ways, shapes,and forms after what I learned from them. So it’s a subset of being a coach, I think bottom line. And I’ve always talked -when I had assistant coaches- we had conversations about this, about providing the mentorship for your athletes, because that’s extremely valuable to them and make for a good coach-athlete relationship.

What Made Glenn Such An Impactful Mentor?

Trevor Connor 21:38
I would say, Glenn, to me,- and I’m glad we have you for this episode,- you are just representative of what a mentor is. So Glenn has a bike shop that he runs out of his house. When I was learning to ride, it’s the shop I went to and you learn very quickly, you didn’t just go up there to buy something and leave. If you walked in there, there was a good chance they were going to serve you dinner and keep you around for an hour. And you’d go up there and you’d talk cycling. And Glenn would tell you things, tell you stories explain things to you, you talk about the previous nice race, and he would give you pointers and advice. So you were kind of going up there and almost getting a class. Glenn also has a couple miles of trails on his property that people come up and ride and ski in the winter. And you set up the Tuesday-Thursdays, we had a Tuesday night race and a Thursday time trial. And there were unspoken rules that you set about how these were raced.

Glenn Swan 22:34
The fundamental point of our Tuesday night races in particular was to race hard, to earn the respect of your peers by the way you raced. We really didn’t give a damn about who won the race on any given week. If you sucked wheel all day and won a sprint you didn’t really earn anybody’s respect or friendship. But if you ripped everybody’s arms and legs off all night long, you made the race for everybody else. So we were racing for the respect of our peers. And we also had an incredible group of guys, I wish I could take credit for the Tuesday night race reputation for producing a lot of great racers. There were a number of guys who were willing to -we spent the first month in the springtime doing coaching rides,- as opposed to getting right out there and racing. So we were teaching people how to ride in pacelines, we were teaching them how to be alert to what’s going on in the overall pack. We were teaching people how to think in races, and how to ride safely and how to support each other. We don’t have as much of that with the current crop of Tuesday night guys. But this is one old guy who’s saying- gee, my era was the golden era.- But for everybody, I’m sure their era is the golden era. But bottom line was, there were a bunch of guys that set a very good tone. And we’re emphasizing that a race should be better because you were part of it. And not that we were out there because each one of us wanted to win every race.

Trevor Connor 24:27
There was certainly a tone and Glenn said to me,- this is one of the biggest compliments he ever received. -It was at a race in New England. And a race organizer or official came up to you and said you can always tell the Ithaca riders.

Glenn Swan 24:42
Yeah, they raced in a way that was actually noticeably different. We made races happen.

Chris Case 24:51
It makes me want to know a little bit more about why you had this attitude and maybe that has to do with a mentor you had in your life?

Glenn Swan 25:04
Well, there was a very influential article, I still have the original copy of it in my desk at home. It was from the New York Times. And I’m forgetting the name of the running doctor. -But it was back in the era of, well, my housemate Jack Fultz and Bill Rogers and all – play is where life lives where the game is the game. And that it was recognizing that when we are in a race, when we are in a game, the world melts away. And the game is everything you play as hard as you can. And you try as hard as you can, to win or to do what your goal is. But when the game is over, everybody rejoices in the game that took place. Whether you won or lost didn’t really matter. It was just that you played as hard as you could, the world was just a game for that period of time. And then we got back to the real world and that very much influenced me.

Trevor Connor 26:07
So I’m going to actually use right now -I looked to see if there was any research on mentors versus coaches. And interestingly, I only came up with- one study that was from 2020. That was a study of a mentoring program for coaches. So not quite there, but still quite interesting. And they had a definition of mentoring that I think, is probably worth bringing up right now because this is what you’re hearing from Glenn. Which is mentoring is the process of receiving guidance and support by a more experienced person. Mentoring can be executed both informally and formally. Informal mentoring is spontaneous, not managed, structured, or formally recognized. Whereas formal mentoring is sanctioned, managed and structured by an organization. But, you know, the key to me here is the word guidance. It’s somebody that’s more experienced. And when I read that informal mentoring definition, that’s really kind of what you did. But everything you’re describing is, you had this tone, you had a philosophy that you wanted to bring to the whole cycling community here and you really did. And this isn’t a, here’s your training plan do these intervals do that intervals. And to give you an idea, -I always love this and people make fun of me for this, but I love this. -The other thing that Ithica riders were known for is a lot of us didn’t use handlebar tape. And that was because of Glenn and because of Glenn’s philosophy as you wear gloves. Why do you care about handlebar tape? Why do you need that? Which it sounds a little silly. But the point that Glenn was always making is you show up to a race, every Tuesday night, your legs talk, not your gear. You don’t sit in the field and try to sprint everybody at the end, you show up and it is that trying to win everybody’s respect. And you don’t do it with equipment.

Glenn Swan 28:07
My daytime life is a machinist. So my hands are pretty tough. I didn’t really need gloves, I didn’t really need padded handlebar tape. Point is, it’s not what your bike looks like. It’s not what your uniform looks like. It’s how you ride. I remember early in my career, particularly some races that we would go to in Canada and we would see these teams, all these guys on identical bikes and nice uniforms. And oh man, that was intimidating at the start line. But in my early years, I was kind of a big dumb horse, I just rode really hard. And after 10 or 15 miles, none of those uniforms, none of those team bikes were around, it was just me and a handful guys that were strong enough to stay with me. And they would all of course out sprint me at the end. So I got a lot of seconds, thirds, fourths, fifths every week It took me a long time to learn how to sprint, took me a long time to learn some of the tactics that you need to be actually successful at racing. So I had guides, I had mentors never had a true coach, but learning the basics from things like the Jack Daniels method, that sort of understanding. When you’ve got that kind of understanding, you really can guide your own training back in those days. That was back in the Stone Age. We didn’t have power meters, we didn’t have a lot of the data that people use now. And that’s useful stuff, but without a global understanding of what that data is telling you and how to use that data. I see it often as the gateway to overtraining.

What Does Glenn Get Out Of Mentoring?

Chris Case 30:08
Hearing you guys go back and forth. And there’s two perspectives, of course, on many of these stories. I’m just wondering if we can explore a bit about the benefits here. What benefits do you gain, Glenn, from being a mentor to anyone, not just to Trevor, but to anyone what is it benefit to you?

Glenn Swan 30:36
I am very proud that Ithaca, a small town in upstate New York, has a very vibrant biking community. I’m proud of Ithaca, I was pretty thrilled when it was Outside Magazine that rated Ithaca among the top 10 towns for outdoor activities. Our cross-country ski trails on my property were actually mentioned in an article. So to make a difference in our community, is really pretty cool. To actually have the recognition that Ithaca is a good place to live, in part because we’ve got a good cycling community, we had a good skiing community global warming’s making that a little bit tougher these days. It is Good to be part of a community.

Chris Case 31:31
Yeah. So Trevor, I want to flip it around and ask you what are the benefits of being a mentee? And you know, I hope it doesn’t hurt Glenn’s feelings. And I’m sure you’ve shared this with him, but he’s not the only mentor you’ve had in your life. You’ve had several

Trevor Connor 31:47
At the beginning we asked the difference between a coach and a mentor and there is a lot of overlap. And Glenn even said, you know, a good coach is probably also a mentor. And I agree with that. I like having Glenn on this episode, for a couple reasons and one is you’re the person who was a pure mentor. After Glenn helped me out I worked with who Shang Amuri and Shang Amuri is your consummate coach. We do training rides twice a week, and he was behind us in the car. And he built training plans for us. And it was it was a very structured program that he built out in Victoria, British Columbia. That was fundamentally different. But I would say, you know, I was very lucky to have Glenn as a mentor, I was very lucky to have Shang as a coach. But you see some of those differences. And I think the biggest benefit of being a mentee was Glenn gave me the philosophies that I needed. And until I had those, I was off track. Like I said, I went into severe overtraining, because I was doing stupid things, Glenn taught me how to look at things differently and gave me what I feel is the right attitude towards racing, which is earn everybody’s respect. Show up to every event, not to sit in and hide, but to show what you can do, to be in the moves to make make the race be part of it. And that’s always been my philosophy ever since. What Glenn taught me what that graph has always been my philosophy ever since. And I think having that taught to me and seeing all this in action go into every Tuesday night, and living under the philosophy that Glenn gave to all of us, and then going and working with a coach who could give me- the here’s the sort of interval work to do, here’s how to structure your week, but do it in the context of -what I had learned and the perspective I had gained, was enormously helpful. And I’m not sure if somebody gave me a training plan and I didn’t have that context, if I didn’t have that philosophy, I could have taken that plan and done much with it. If that makes sense.

Chris Case 34:00
Yeah, it does. Absolutely.

Trevor Connor 34:04
Daniel Matheny with Matheny Endurance Coaching, obviously has a lot of experience as a coach, but he also believes in the benefits of mentoring. Let’s hear him describe some of those benefits.

Daniel Matheny 34:14
It’s a good question, I guess to define mentor would be like somebody that you look up to and that you go to for guidance and tough decisions. So I think to answer that knowing if I define it that way, the coach could serve as a mentor and I think maybe my background and I really enjoy working one on one -or not even one on one but actually face to face- and that’s a tough thing with coaching especially in the last few years. I haven’t been able to run my debo team last year because of current state of affairs and even the talent at ID camp. I wasn’t able to run because everything was shut down with USA cycling Junior talent ID. So the one thing I say to most athletes is I like to work with athletes that I can at least meet and ride with, or ride or run or do other type of sports. So it’s like I spent a month at a time in Hawaii working with outriggers and out on the boats paddling from channel to channel. And if I go out on a bike ride with somebody, it’s amazing what you can see instantaneously that they may not have a single clue what’s going on. It’s almost like if you want to improve on something video it. To me the mentor or the coach can serve as that. The blunt person to say like, I just videoed you with my eyes. This is what I see. It could be somebody’s form on the bike, how they accelerate things that you can’t coach on a virtual platform. I can put all the workouts I want in training peaks. But I could go out and ride once with somebody and be like, how did I miss this. And so working a ton of camps, like previous days with CTS and USA cycling. And even what I do now, I’ve done a ton of Leadville camps and destination camps for athletes wanting to recon and get better. It’s amazing, you know, bring a guy from Texas or Oklahoma that wants to ride at Leadville and haven’t got on the course and how they approach that. Sometimes they’re almost like the junior example, bottle rockets are so excited to be at that event where they’re not being efficient with their just overall body posture. So not to sound like a yogi, but it’s almost like the intention to the attention or vice versa. Because if you can bring their attention to what that is, and they can make the intention to correct it. And I think that’s what a mentor can do is they can always tell athletes, like I may not be your best friend, you may hate me now. But hopefully you love me later for it. Because the thing that you may need to do is what you don’t want to tell yourself right off. Or I may be blunt with you, because it’s what you need to hear. And I think that’s a big part of the mentorship is they’re willing to tell you what will get you to the next point in that progression. And so I’d say the coach can serve as a mentor. But also if you have a buddy that is well versed, then they can actually serve as that mentor too. But a lot of times they don’t want you to get better either, because you’re going to beat them if that’s the case, and they don’t want that to happen. So there’s this, you know, they don’t want to hurt your feelings of the friend. So that’s got to be somebody that can be blunt with you. In that standpoint, that’s usually when you’re paying a coach or when you have somebody in that role, then that’s where the mentor can come in and say, you need to be aware of this right now.

Chris Case 37:34
I wonder if it’s worth exploring whether you and others like you- or there’s something about someone or some people- that benefit more for having a mentor and others don’t really, quote unquote need one. I’m not sure how to really phrase the question. But does everyone need a mentor? Does everyone benefit from having a mentor? In the same way do you think?

Do I Need A Mentor?

Glenn Swan 38:01
That’s an interesting question. I think there are people who are highly motivated, and who can come across the principles themselves, -whether it’s reading, whether it’s videos- there are people who have a good worldview, and can distill principles from their own experience. I think a mentor, who shares his experience and shares what he has learned from his own mentors can certainly make it easier for people to gain that overall understanding. But I agree with Trevor that the role of a mentor is more sharing, or helping to understand principles, rather than specifics. And the role of a coach is to delve a little more into those specifics, especially in the current world with so much data so many devices that we can use to monitor our fitness and monitor our efforts.

Trevor Connor 39:07
To continue with what Glenn saying the answer I will give- and I’m probably going to upset a whole bunch of our listeners here because we get questions all the time.- I would say 20-30% of the questions that we get. It will be something very specific, you know, how do you do this particular intervals? What’s the recovery intensity for this interval? Or how many times a week should I do these intervals? You know, something like that very specific that’s more a coaching type question. But they’ll give enough of a context about how they’re training and what their approach is that I listened to that and go the question doesn’t matter. The particulars of those intervals don’t matter, what I’m reading in your email,- and I’m being very arrogant here to say I can draw this conclusion but- when I read the email, I go I’m not sure your overall philosophy is right. I’m not sure you get the principles. Just teach you how do these intervals just that little bit better, isn’t really going to benefit you, you need to go back. So I always use that metaphor, This is football because there’s a famous football coach who always started every meeting by holding up a football and saying this is a football saying you always got to go back to the fundamentals, doesn’t matter how good you are, always go back and revisit the fundamentals. So I often will get these questions. And then instead of answering their specific question, -or at least waiting to answer their specific question,- get into the what’s your overall approach? What are your principles here? what’s the philosophy you’re training under? And I’m sure that probably frustrates some of our listeners getting that going I just asking you for recovery length, what’s this all about? But that’s probably being more the mentor than being the coach. If I was being a pure coach, I just go Here you go, here’s the specific prescription, I’ll send you a fit file and off you go.

Chris Case 40:58
I don’t think- it might be slightly arrogant.- But I do think I understand what you’re saying. A lot of times you can read between the lines of what’s being asked, and that specific answer is what they’re looking for, because they’re missing all of that context, that philosophy, the underlying principles that would be far more important to understand then how to execute five by five intervals. And your answer might take them a little bit farther down the road. But you know, like you say, an explanation of the underlying principles or more of a mentor answer towards philosophy would take them far further. Because it would essentially teach them something about understanding the answer to begin with, if that makes sense. And my final point is, I think I’m going to have to start calling you Vince Lombardi, Trevor, because you talk about this is a football thing so much these days that I think that’s just a fitting nickname for you.

Trevor Connor 42:15
Our marketing director, Dave, is so tired of my this is a football thing that when he hears it you can almost see him cringe a little bit. And he actually sent me a message a couple of days ago going Oh, no, Trevor, that’s another this is a football, isn’t it? I actually have a question here- that I was thinking about as we’re discussing this- is for a mentor relationship to work how open and how receptive does the athlete need to be? Because a coach can hand somebody a training plan that says do five by five intervals it has full prescriptions, it’s pretty easy to follow that you can turn your brain off go, yep. Here’s what I got to do Tuesday, here’s what I got to do Wednesday, here’s what I got to do Thursday, plug it into my computer, and I’m good to go. And I don’t have to think. But I think back to the first time Glenn, you tried to mentor me when they frustrated the hell out of you that one day and you went and got the graph. And you would have saved me years had I just listened. And I didn’t and paid a pretty hefty price for that. I’m assuming that’s going to be the case for everybody. A mentor can’t be effective if the person isn’t willing to listen, Glenn, I’m sure you’ve had experiences with a lot of athletes.

Glenn Swan 43:36
Yeah, the athlete has to buy into principles. I for many years, was disappointed to see athletes who had coaches and were on the program. But they didn’t have an understanding of principles. So they would skip Tuesday night races because well, my coach says I’m supposed to be doing level two or you know, something else at that time. And it just seemed so stupid because their goal was to become a better racer. And the way you become a better racer, is by racing and learning. How hard to go in races, you ride harder than you’ll most likely ever ride when you’re doing your own intervals. And you’ll learn all sorts of tactics, at the end of every Tuesday night race, we would kind of break the race down and talk about it. Talk about what was in one person’s mind or another as they did things. And it just seemed so wasteful to me to have a rider who was skipping out on the most useful learning because their coach said you’re supposed to be doing something else today. A good coach to me would have incorporated the racing into the whole training plan. And if you don’t have some of that global perspective, then you can’t second guess your coach. You’re not looking to improve on the plan, you are simply doing what you’re told. And a good athlete shouldn’t be on autopilot. A good athlete should have the internal knowledge or the internal philosophy to evaluate how things are going to know when to take rest days, when to alter the plan.

Trevor Connor 45:37
So I’ll give an example of that, that I experienced. So back then I was really focused on time trialing, let’s face it, I was too heavy to be much of a climber. So I really wanted to be good at time trialing. And actually the year before, I finally sat down with Glenn and bought him the two slices of pizza and said, teach me, I did work with a coach. And this was a coach who was all about the numbers all about turning this into a science. So he didn’t want me going to the Thursday night time trial, because his issue with the Thursday night time trial was, well, there’s hills in it. Hills affect your data, and I’m not going to get good data to analyze. So he wanted me -and if you’ve been to Ithaca, there are no flat roads here.- So he found a two-mile stretch of flat road. And he wanted me to go out and do my intervals on that two-mile stretch, just going back and forth. So he could get good data.

Glenn Swan 46:31

Trevor Connor 46:33
right? And not all that effective. And it did not help me It did not make me a better time traveler. The next year I started going out to the Thursday nights. I didn’t have a training plan. It was just a Thursday night-time trial. Glenn, you’re what a three-time national champion in the time trial?

Glenn Swan 46:51
for our master’s nationals Yes.

Trevor Connor 46:53
I had a decent engine-and Glenn saw it And Glenn likes to have something to chase.- So Glenn set the order every night and or every Thursday night, and decided to put me right in front of them. And for a month and a half. I just kept having Glenn blow by me, and blow by me, and blow by me, it was getting really frustrating. So finally, one day I just said, I’m going to puke. But I’m going to make sure Glenn doesn’t catch me and absolutely killed myself and Glenn didn’t catch me. And that’s what started to turn me into a time traveler wasn’t a particular interval. It wasn’t a plan or anything else. It was just obstinance. I’m tired of getting past.

Chris Case 47:33
The next question that comes to mind maybe takes us a while off that track a little bit. But as you’re describing the benefits of being a mentor, as you’re describing the benefits of being a mentee, as you’re describing this rich relationship you have. I’m curious, -I think this is going to be a challenging question to answer in some ways, because not every community has a Glenn swan. -So if you’re listening to this show, and you’re asking yourself, I really do think I could benefit from having a mentor. How do I go about finding one? Do you guys have any answer to that?

How Can I Find A Mentor?

Glenn Swan 48:09
That is a tough one. And one of my philosophies in bike racing was to know the people that I was racing with. There were those that referred to me as the mayor, I would be going around before races or after races and just hanging out and talking to people. Didn’t matter whether they were fast guys or newbies. It was good to get to know them. And the more you communicate with people, the more you may encounter somebody that you could learn from or that you could share your experience with. So the social aspect of bike racing, is probably the place to be looking for the person that you can share with.

Trevor Connor 48:56
Having moved around a lot of places there are usually people who serve that mentor role, who will get a group together and help out a lot of athletes. It just can be harder to find it. Ithaca was unique that Glenn kept it very open and everybody knew about it. In everybody showed up other communities, you have to ask around and find out about it. So I’ll give you an example of an athlete. I’m coaching up in Boston who is a cross rider, and I told him you’re Boston’s big on cross, there’s going to be groups up there that are doing skills work doing training races. You just have to ask around and find out who it is. And the funny thing was,- so this is just two weekends ago,- he found the group and went and rode with him and said it was amazing And I said great. So where did you find this group? And he goes Oh, yeah, it was a guy you having the show Alec Donohue just a couple weeks ago. So, you know, I remember Alec was great he was very helpful. Well it sounds like he has a small community that gets together and because of COVID, they’re keeping the numbers small. So it’s by invite only. But that’s one example. I think there’s in every community there are people that get cyclists together. And there’s often a mentor who’s who’s helping out the athletes, you just might have to search for it.

Chris Case 50:18
Trevor do you consider yourself a mentor?

Trevor Connor 50:23
Well, Glenn’s nodding his head.

Glenn Swan 50:25
I’m nodding my head. I think Trevor has helped an awful lot of people. So yes, I’d say Trevor is a mentor for numerous riders.

Chris Case 50:35
Do you think of yourself that way Trevor?

Trevor Connor 50:38
You know, it’s a good question. I’m not sure I’ve still been,- you know getting ready for this episode, I was -wrestling with the what is the difference between the mentor and the coach. And I do think that’s where I land is the mentor teaches more philosophy and approach and it’s more informal. Where the coach is more the, or the peer coaching, is more the specific implementation. And I do find myself jumping back and forth, I find when I’m working with an athlete that is very experienced, and they seem to have the right approach. I’m pure coach, I’m just, here’s your workouts, here’s what I want you to be doing. Again, when I find those athletes who are really focused on the details, but haven’t figured out the forest yet, I probably tried to shift more into the mentor mode. But I have seen that’s often when people get frustrated with me, they’re like, I just wanted to get an interval workout from you stop telling me all this philosophy stuff.

Trevor Connor 51:36
Sometimes a person could start as a coach and become a mentor, or the other way around. Jim Rutberg, an endurance sports author explains the value of this transition.

Jim Rutberg 51:46
My career has been more in the working with coaches, as opposed to working directly with athletes. Helping out coaches to communicate and know a little bit in coaching education and things along those lines. So one of the things that I think in terms of mentoring is that the coach-athlete relationship changes over time. And you see coaches, who have been working with the same athlete for two years, five years, 10 years, and the relationship moves from day to day, what am I doing in training kind of prescription and accountability type relationship, to eventually the athlete kind of knows how to train, they know what they need to be doing and things like that. And it becomes almost to what I would consider a more mentor-mentee type relationship. Or at least the emphasis of the coach-athlete relationship shifts to being a bit more like a mentor. Where you’re guiding the athlete, in their lifestyle, in their relationships, in their overall approach to sport and approach to life and things like that. And the day-to-day training aspect and the workout analysis becomes a more minor component because the athlete is smarter or has mastered a lot of those skills themselves. The other aspect of mentoring that I think is really important in coaching -And that I think might not be happening as much as it needs to -is coaches mentoring coaches. I think that the industry of endurance coaching has gotten very fractured in the sense that it’s individuals hanging out a shingle and being a coach. And they are then considered an expert or the expert. And coaches need mentors in order to be better coaches to continue learning and continuing advancing within their own coaching practice. And I think that that’s one of the things that is probably most important to driving the industry forward.

Chris Case 54:09
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Chris Case 55:25
You, maybe dance between coach and mentor. And so the line is blurry between those two in your mind a little bit more, because you’re always utilizing both skill sets,- I guess you could say,- when you’re working with an athlete so closely. But from the outside looking in it’s clear that you’re serving in that mentor role and teaching. It’s not just about the specifics, it’s about philosophy and some style, if you will, and work ethic and etiquette and all of those things, I think come from more from a mentor than a coach, or a person that possesses both of those qualities. I guess the next question that comes to mind then, -and this is interesting because you say you maybe not always aware of it,- I guess if somebody out there is listening and saying I would really like to be a mentor to some people. Is there a path they should take? How does one become a mentor? Is it similar to finding a mentor?

How Can I Become A Mentor?

Trevor Connor 56:38
Well I throw that to Glenn,- Well, I’ll start by just saying- interestingly, this study, and again, we’ll put the references up. But the study is called investigating possible effects from a one-year coach education program. This was, I believe, in Norway, and Norway actually had their sports program or governing body, actually had a specific program to teach people how to be mentors. So I’m sure they had education for coaching, but this was interesting that they had an education program to teach people how to be mentors. And they talk about what’s different in the education for mentoring, which is, it’s much more almost like teaching someone to be a psychologist. It’s all about teaching them to listen, having open-ended questions, things like that, where coaching, is, you know, here’s how you build a training plan it’s much more of those specifics. It really seemed like mentoring was all about learning to engage the individual and learn the individual. So I wanted to throw that out. But Glenn, what are your thoughts on the question?

Glenn Swan 57:48
I think having charisma,- those people who do tend to surround themselves or create opportunities for people to be together- that’s the way you would earn the respect or earn the attention of your potential mentees. I don’t think anyone would want to force themselves on a group. Hey, I’m new here and I’m, I’m so intelligent you guys all ought to listen to me. That certainly wouldn’t go over. But earning respect, That’s a tough question also. I had an advantage I was performing at a high level, I had the respect from my physical abilities, and got people’s attention that way. It would be a little harder to break in as a mentor If you were a relatively low-performing athlete. Some of those relatively low-performing athletes do have a lot to share. But it is definitely a tough question as to how one becomes a mentor, how you get the attention or the ear of athletes I don’t think I have a good answer.

Chris Case 59:09
It does seem like one of those roles that you organically fall into rather than creating a plan and yeah, you know, it just happens, if you will. Again, saying this from the outside looking in, because interestingly, throughout this discussion and throughout the previous discussions that Trevor and I have had about mentors versus coaches and all of that. I cannot really say that I’ve ever had a mentor in my life. I’ve had my father who is influential in a lot of ways. And perhaps depending on how you define it, how broadly to define it. A father figure is often a mentor but within the cycling world. I can’t say I’ve had one That said, I feel like I have served as a bit of a mentor to some people. I’d like to think that even somebody like Janna, our producer, who’s new to this sport. She certainly looked to me and Trevor and Ryan, as mentors, I would say, and hopefully, she gained a lot from us. Hopefully, we didn’t give her bad advice.

Trevor Connor 1:00:26
Absolutely. When she joined us, she was sweet and innocent. Now she curses like a sailor.

Chris Case 1:00:30
Well, that’s very true, we had some kind of influence on her I don’t know if that was good or bad. That might take her places, who knows where that’ll take her. So yeah, to get back to that question. I asked it just out of curiosity if you had an answer. But it does feel to me like it’s not a role that you can actually plan to have and seek it out. It’s just something that happens because people or peers or race teammates or others just naturally elevate you. I don’t know if that’s the right word.

Glenn Swan 1:01:08
It is a relationship.

Chris Case 1:01:09

Trevor Connor 1:01:11
I think Glenn had a really good point. That the respect has to be there, I do agree if somebody has not- So somebody is trying to be a mentor in the cycling community, or the running community or traveling community, and they have no accomplishments, -it’s much harder for them to fill that role. They can be a coach, they can go and get certified and get their coaching credentials. Say I’m a level one, level two coach, and people respect them for that. But I think the mentor, there needs to be some sort of inherent respect. And I certainly saw -obviously that was the case with Glenn every once and a while Glenn would just destroy us on a Tuesday night to remind us who was king, – when I went to the center and Victoria, Shang was very good at using some of the athletes to serve in that mentor role. Because he’d be back in the car, we’d be riding for five hours, he needed some of the athletes in the group to set the tone. And it was always the strong guys that we respected and somewhat feared. And he would make sure every once in a while, those guys absolutely ripped our legs off, just to remind us that they were the ones they knew what was going on. But I’ll add to that, and this goes back to Dr. Seiler’s point of study what the top are doing to understand the best ways to train. They were the mentors because we respected them because they were so good. But they also had good philosophy. So I’ve always been interested, amazed, by when you talk to athletes at that level, how homogenous their opinions can be, or their approach and philosophy can be. So I do think there are certain approaches, certain philosophies, certain principles that are common. And if you want to get to the high level, you have to see it that way. You have to take on those principles and philosophies. So it’s not a bad thing to look at the best and say, well, there’s somebody that I hope will be a mentor to me because they have learned how to do it right.

Chris Case 1:03:10
Yeah,- I think, you can’t,- I don’t think you can be a mentor without a vast amount of experience behind you. And, maybe this is a generalization, but I feel like a mentor is often someone who is maybe on the backside of their talents and is seeking to share what they’ve learned throughout the years to the next generation. Not always the case, certainly but I feel like that does happen quite often.

Glenn Swan 1:03:46
Yeah, it definitely has to be someone who has confidence in their position or in their abilities. So many of the young guys are on their way up. So they see everybody else’s competition, and they might not even want to share some of their secrets. But to a person that is at a high level or, like you say has been that high level. It is much better, much easier to share.

The Danger Of Not Having A Mentor?

Chris Case 1:04:14
Right, you’re not giving away your trade secrets if you will. let’s dissect this coach, mentor dichotomy a little bit more What what are the dangers, I guess you could say, of only having one or the other and Not both? Or someone who can see both sides of the same coin. What are the dangers of just having a pure coach that’s all about the numbers. And likewise, what are the dangers of having just a mentor who doesn’t teach you some of those specifics? I know that’s a big question. But let’s pick that a part of it.

Glenn Swan 1:04:52
If all you are is focused on numbers if all your coach does is give you a program You may achieve a very high level of fitness. But if your evaluation of success or failure is your race results, being really good at the numbers, doing very effective interval training isn’t going to make you a good bike racer, it’s not going to get you results. So I think the mentor is an important role in helping you to achieve your overall goals, rather than just the structure of your physiology, which is only a small part, an important, but small part of being successful as a bike racer.

Trevor Connor 1:05:45
I will second that, when I’m working with a very high-level athlete, that’s where you get into the eccentricity of should they do this interval? Or should they do that interval? Because those things will make a difference in them. When I’m working with a newer athlete who’s just getting the sense of cycling, To be honest with you, the interval work doesn’t matter all that much. It’s more, are you getting a couple intensity sessions through the week? Are you getting a lot of long slow volume? Are you getting the right mix? It’s those big broad strokes. They’re more about what is the philosophy of your of your training? Are you polarized? Are you sweet spot? Are you going into the races and just sitting at the back? Are you trying to be part of the races? Those are the things that make a bigger difference. Not should I be doing five by fives or four by eights doesn’t matter. Like I said, once you get to a very high-level cyclist as somebody who’s trying to be world tour, those little things can make a difference. And you get into those eccentricities. But by then they’ve established their whole philosophy, they understand their whole approach to training. So yeah, I completely agree with Glenn that if all you’re getting is coaching, you don’t know if your overall execution, you don’t know if how you’re putting everything together is making a difference, because you’re getting too obsessed about all those little details.

Glenn Swan 1:07:02
And then on the other end of the spectrum, there are people who may have the physiology to excel. We had a noteworthy kid at Cornell, who was an all-American swimmer, amazing machine, great time triallist. But he definitely did not want to be on any kind of a coaching program. He rode for sheer enjoyment, and it would horrify me to see him go out and do 120 mile ride the night before a big race. Knowing that, okay, he’s not going to be peak for that day is going to be a little toast for that race. But he was much happier because he just loved riding his bike. And whether he won a race or was pack fodder it wasn’t that important to him. But if what you were doing is really evaluating your success or failure on your race results. Well, a coach could have reined him in and helped him to peak when he needed to peak.

Trevor Connor 1:08:10
Yep, I actually had just had that experience with a kid, I’ve been helping out a bit. Who I’ve been going out and ride with and I’d say I’ve been more a mentor role. He hasn’t asked me to coach him. So I haven’t helped him out too much. But then I did a training camp at the end of March And he joined me for a lot of it. He did a big amount of training. And I told him, you need to get some rest after this. But I wasn’t his coach I couldn’t monitor that. I saw him a week later, like how was your recovery week and he was like, oh, it was fine. I did about 12 hours and my jaw just dropped. Oh you’re gonna pay for that. And that’s where being a coach and saying you’re not touching your bike for five days would have helped. And unfortunately, he ended up pushing into some overreach some overtraining and took them a long time to get out of it.

Trevor Connor 1:08:59
We don’t want to make it sound like the only thing we need is a mentor. I had a chance as one of my old athletes Adam Weissman, winner of the amateur race of the tour healer, what he’d rather have if you came back to the sport.

Adam Weissman 1:09:11
I think it would want that structure again. I think it’s nice to take off some of the cognitive load, you know about planning your training, how to peak at the right time, when to do what. Even if I did have the interest in you know, researching all that stuff you know, there’s enough other stuff going on in my life like work and all that sort of stuff. It’s nice to have someone else who handles that for you, you trust that they will get you on the right track and know how to adjust based on your feedback. So I think if I was to get back into it, I would probably come back and look for that more structured approach from a knowledgeable coach such as yourself.

Chris Case 1:10:04
I do want to go back for a second to something I briefly mentioned earlier. That is this fact that for you, Trevor, you’ve had multiple mentors in your life. I’m not saying Glenn isn’t currently one. But for a time, it seemed like he was very influential. You were at a point in life where you needed to learn a lot. I don’t think that’s to being too critical of you. You would admit that.

Trevor Connor 1:10:30
Oh absolutely

Chris Case 1:10:31
But then you’ve also had other mentors in your life. And I guess I’m curious why you had those other mentors? Was it something Glenn couldn’t offer you? Was it outside of the cycling realm, but you were able to apply what they taught you back to cycling? I just wanted to explore the ongoing relationship you have with the multiple mentors you’ve had in your life?

Can I have Multiple Mentors?

Trevor Connor 1:10:57
So I think my answer to that is,- and this is for anybody listening right now who is saying, Well, I haven’t had a mentor, I’d really like to have a mentor,- the best thing you can do is ask questions, listen, take notes, and process it. So it did have a profound impact on me to realize I didn’t listen to Glenn when he gave me the best advice I’ve ever received as a cyclist. And I lost years because of that. And when I did listen, how dramatically that changed things. So it wasn’t long after that, that I moved to the cycling center in British Columbia and just said, I need to listen. I’m exposed to all these people who are much better cyclists to me they have been doing is much longer. And I probably annoyed people, but we’d be out in the rides. And I just asked questions. What do you think about this? What do you think about that? and when any of them were willing to talk and share any sort of wisdom or thoughts that they had, I would just sit there and listen and take notes. And I still have a whole binder of just all the notes I took out there talking with different people and learning from the different people. And it’s amazing the impact that has I kind of went from no mentor not listening to Glenn set me on the right path. And then basically anybody who was willing to step within five feet of me making them a mentor, whether they wanted to be one or not. And just taking all these little nuggets of wisdom from everybody and pulling it all together. I think that was the biggest change that I have. And that would be my recommendation ti everybody listening, which is, obviously, if you’re listening to the show, you’re wanting to learn, which is great. And hopefully, we’re giving you a whole bunch of wisdom. And that’s why we bring on- it’s not just Chris and I talk and- we bring on all these guests, so you can hear from so many different people. But even beyond that, you’re out on a ride, you’re out in a group ride, if there’s somebody there who you have some respect for just go and talk to them, ask them. How do they train, what their approach is, try to get them to talk to you about what has and hasn’t worked for them. And you’d be amazed how much good information you get, you also be surprised when you get those little nuggets that are just profound that completely alter how you approach everything.

Chris Case 1:13:19
Do you have an example of one of these nuggets, Trevor?

Trevor Connor 1:13:22
I mean, so the one that always comes to mind for me, I remember when I was out in Victoria. I thought I put everything together and said I’m training about as hard and as smart as I can. And we had a center dinner. And Roland Green showed up- who a lot of our listeners might not know who he is anymore, but Roland Green was a two-time world champion in mountain biking.- And he ended up sitting beside me at dinner. So of course, I’m like, I’m gonna get every little bit out of you- I hope this is good dinner-because usually you’re gonna feel sorry, sitting beside me. But got him talking. And one of the questions I asked them was, what was different about the two years that you were a world champion. And he just looks at me and goes simple. I did four things, eat, sleep, ride my bike and core. And so I went well explained core. And he was like, I realized that when I was at home watching TV, I was sitting on the couch, I was missing an opportunity. So it’s like, when I was home, if I was watching TV, I was on the floor. I was doing core work, I was probably doing hour or two of core work a day. And he said that’s what got him to the next level. And I left there and went, Okay, I thought I was training really hard, but I do 10 minutes a core every day. So I’m going to try this and started doing a ton of core and it made a huge difference. You know, that was just a little thing. That wasn’t the philosophy. I would say the biggest philosophical change was finally listen to Glenn about the graph, you know, it’s best two slices of pizza I ever bought.

Glenn Swan 1:14:57
But learning that little bit about core is, that’s a great example. Because as much as we think we know, there’s a lot more to know. And you will hear things, you will experience things. So you keep your ears open, you find something that’s interesting. You follow through on it. So there’s a lot for all of us to keep learning.

Trevor Connor 1:15:24
You have to be open, because some of this advice that you get, can really counter what you believe initially. Especially if you’re new to cycling, because I keep trying to tell this to people, correct training, the best ways to train are incredibly counter to intuitive. It’s not what you think it should be at all. And so another nugget, I’ll give you an example of that. When I arrived at the center, there was probably about 40 of us at the center there’s probably 10 that were -if you mentioned the names, you would know every single one of these names,- and then 30, that if you gave the names, you wouldn’t know any of these names. And what you saw on our group rides was it was the 30 that we’re always getting to the top of the climbs first. We hit a climb, they go and attack, they go crazy. And I didn’t know any better, I wasn’t that smart. So attack up this climb, I started to go and the best thing in the world was Aaron Willick -who we just had on the show-just practically grabbed me by the jersey pocket and went, Trevor, Don’t be an idiot. And stopped me. And that’s when I started to pay attention and went, Oh, all those big names they’re holding back, they’re staying back. It’s all the other guys who are attacking on the climbs. And what you saw was, the big names were riding smart. This was in November and December, this was not the time to be attacking up every climb. So they were just going steady. They were doing their base work. And you saw it flip by the time we got to march. All those guys who have been attacking in the fall, we’re actually starting to get a little cooked. And now the people that really knew how to train were on form. They were starting to do their top end and then you started to see when got to the top of the climb. The big names are getting up there first, and they weren’t going that hard to do it either. It was just that little thing that moment of Aaron going, Trevor, Don’t be an idiot.

What Happens If A Mentorship goes Wrong?

Chris Case 1:17:16
Let’s flip this all around. Because to this point, we’ve talked about all the great things that mentors can offer mentees and the benefits of these types of relationships. Any stories to share on when things go a little sideways when it comes to a mentor-mentee relationship?

Trevor Connor 1:17:37
Oh, I’ve got a story to share here that doesn’t quite fit, but boy, I want to share this story. So we have somebody here I’ll just give his first name Andy, who Glenn has a long history with. Andy is a very strong writer, but might not always have figured out the full philosophy or what Glenn was mentoring. And I will never forget the night we are doing a Tuesday night race and Glenn was on great form doing what Glenn does. So we started the race two minutes into the race Glenn had broken away solo and just dropped all of us because every once and a while Glenn likes to show just how strong he was. So Glenn’s out in the lead, but there’s some guys chasing and not too far behind them. So Glenn has his tongue out absolutely killing himself to make sure these guys won’t catch him. Andy decided to take a shortcut to the finish line. So we have this climb up a hill called Ellis Hollow and by the time Glenda got there, we’re 50 minutes into the race, Glenn’s hurting trying to hold off these two riders. Andy is fresh as a daisy. And Andy goes up this entire climb beside Glenn talking nonstop to Glenn How are you feeling Glenn? You’re looking good. They’re getting pretty close. But man, you’re looking great. And Glenn is just, all he wants to do is just say, shut up Andy. They were so tired and so focused on time you couldn’t say it. I remember 10 minutes to the finish line Andy just beside you just never stopped talking.

Glenn Swan 1:19:16
I remember.

Trevor Connor 1:19:19
So that’s a little bit of the mentoring, not quite working out.

Trevor Connor 1:19:25
Let’s finish out this episode hearing from Erica Clevenger, a pro-road cyclist with Team DNA and her description of the importance of mentors in her life.

Erica Explains The Importance Of A Mentor

Erica Clevenger 1:19:35
Well, I think that in terms of cycling and many sports, but cycling in particular, it’s really a community and it’s really another language almost when you’re learning. I think that there’s a lot to be learned from someone who’s been doing it for longer than, or even someone who’s only been doing it a year or two longer than you. I’ve had mentors, even through collegiate cycling, was really where I found fantastic people around me that really helped me Learn the sport. And they obviously weren’t coaching me. But they, I can think of like one, in particular, Joey, who was the club president at UVA cycling, and he just was a great mentor to everyone. And he really encouraged people to try out new things. And not in a way that was pushy, or saying you really you have to race if you want to be a cyclist, but just encouraging people to try new things and really demonstrating some of those cycling etiquette, things that are just not obvious If you haven’t been in the sport for a long time. Like, I almost think that sometimes we’re a little too hard on people who don’t know some of those things, who are the you know, quote, unquote, friends or whatever it might be. But you know, there’s a lot of things about cycling etiquette that aren’t obvious, having someone to sort of teach you those things without having some agro guy at a group ride. yell at you about. It’s just so much more welcoming to the sport,- maybe doing a bit of half wheeling, or pulling off just right in a paceline, or keeping a good distance of the person in front or pointing things out,- There’s a lot to know. And I think we take it for granted a little bit. Those of us who’ve been writing for a long time, we sometimes don’t realize how much, how many little things there are. The other thing that’s great about mentorship, especially if you’re kind of really reaching for the higher levels is it’s at least for me, I found it a bit difficult to navigate because it’s sort of unclear how it all works when you’re new to the sport. I mean, especially with when you’re talking about how races work, like literally one of my first few crits, I did not know what a prem was, I like didn’t understand why everyone was going fast all of a sudden. When you’re sort of itching for those higher levels, I think that navigating racing is actually quite tough. Like even if we are just thinking about how we do our categories and stuff like that’s very confusing. I still find it confusing. And I am at USA cycling. But yeah, like I mean, the categories, and then also the different levels of racing, like if you’re talking about, you’ve got an elite level, and then you’ve got a UCF like a continental and then a pro. But it’s not the same for women. And that’s all really confusing. And if you’re trying to get on a team, like how to approach that, that’s something I’ve really leaned on mentors for. Having introductions to new teams, that’s part of the sport is also huge in terms of mentorship. Like, it’s really hard to know how to navigate that. I’ve actually had people at times reached out to me who are new to the sport and been like, how do I do this? And I’m like, let me help you out. Because I had a lot of people who, who helped me, and it really is tricky to navigate. Like, there’s a lot of unwritten rules about, even just like, teams in general and how you should act on a team. Like that’s another thing! A lot of teams, especially when it’s on like the women’s side where you’re really jumping from like an elite to a pro-level or from a three to an elite like those are really big jumps. And sometimes the expectation is that you know what you’re doing on a team immediately. But like, there’s not a lot of learning or growth, there’s not a lot of opportunity for growth in between those huge leaps, especially on the women’s side. And so at least from my perspective on the women’s side of things, yeah, absolutely. Having a mentor is key to really doing well.

Take Homes About Mentors

Chris Case 1:23:22
We like to close out every episode with some take-home messages we go around the table and have everybody offer theirs up. Glenn, I guess I’ll start with you. What would you say is the most most important message from today’s discussion?

Glenn Swan 1:23:40
I think the most important message I would give to your listeners is that you really have to think about what you’re trying to get out of your sport. And it has to be fun for you to work as hard as you’re going to work, you’d better be enjoying it, you’d better have a goal that is realistic so that you get satisfaction. That would be my philosophy and my biggest take-home from coaching or being a mentor. That you need to enjoy what you’re doing because you’re going to put a lot of time and a lot of effort into it.

Chris Case 1:24:18
Trevor, what would you say?

Trevor Connor 1:24:21
I came into this episode, really trying to think about that. What is the difference between a mentor and a coach? And can they be the same person? Can they be separate? So first, I’m going to answer that second part, which is I actually think after our conversation here, a really good coach has to be both. So somebody can be just a mentor. But I think for somebody to be a really good coach, they have to be both and here’s why. I think being a mentor is about teaching philosophy it is about teaching approach. It’s about teaching principles. I think when you talk about a pure coach, coach is about a plan and it’s about a program. But I really do feel without the right philosophy without the principles. Without the right big picture, a plan can go dramatically awry. So an athlete needs the mentor first and then the coaching second, Chris?

Chris Case 1:25:23
Well, I think one thing that I’d reiterate, or expand upon, is something you mentioned late in the episode Trevor. Which is, you started picking the brains of all of these people that were more experienced than you, were better riders than you. You wanted to ask questions, you were curious, you wanted to listen, you wanted to process all of that. I think that a lot of endurance athletes generally have an attitude.- And again, total generalization here, but- they have the attitude that they do know everything, that they can’t necessarily gain anything from other people because they’ve got it all figured out. And perhaps those are the types of people that never end up having a mentor because they A) don’t feel they need it. B) They don’t be seek it out. C) They don’t necessarily pick the brains of people around them. But it seems to me that not only would you just gain more, perhaps friends in your cycling community, but potentially learn a lot of interesting stuff and perhaps discover a mentor right there, within your, group of mates on the rides that you do. And as we’ve discussed today, a lot can be gained from all of that and those relationships. Very good. Well, it’s a pleasure to finally have a conversation with you, Glenn, we’ve heard your voice on the program many times, we’ve heard Trevor mentioned your name many times. But thank you again for joining us today.

Glenn Swan 1:27:10
Thanks for having me. It’s been a pleasure.

Trevor Connor 1:27:13
Been really excited for this. So happy to have you on the show. And thank you for everything you’ve done for me.

Chris Case 1:27:22
That was another episode of Fast Talk. Subscribe to Fast Talk. Wherever you prefer to find your favorite podcast Be sure to leave us a rating and review. The thoughts and opinions expressed on Fast Talk are those of the individual. As always, we’d love your feedback. Join the conversation at to discuss each and every episode, become a member of fast talk laboratories at and become a part of our education and coaching community. For Glenn Swann Erica Clevenger, Adam Weissman, Joe Friel, Jim Rutberg, Daniel Matheny and Trevor Connor. I’m Chris Case. Thanks for listening.