Potluck Discussion: Racing Without a Coach, Why Runners Use Pace, and Focusing on One Event

For this week’s potluck, we discuss what athletes lose when they don’t have a coach, Grant gets on his soapbox about running and pace, and then asks about training specifically for one event.

FTL EP 309

Welcome to another potluck conversation with Grant Holicky, Rob Pickels, Trevor Connor, and new host to the show, Griffin McMath. In these discussions, we bring you topics that we’re currently working through, and break them down using a mix of science, humor, and our own experiences.    

What Do You Lose Without a Coach? 

Like many of our listeners, Dr. Griffin McMath is starting to navigate the world of endurance sports training. Though she listens to the show and also benefits from our one-on-one advice, she still wonders what she’s losing out on by not having a dedicated coach. So, she asked the team that very question. Sure, athletes now have access to sophisticated data, AI suggestions, and free tips from content creators, but is there a level of interpretation and support that only a coach can give?  

Why Do Runners Run by Pace?  

There’s a lot of ways to set training intensity. Cyclists use power. Many endurance athletes use heart rate. But the favorite of runners is pace. The problem is that running seven-minute miles uphill is very different from downhill with a tailwind. Yet runners often seem to ignore that fact. So, Coach Pickels asks why runners continue to doggedly stick to this metric. Coach Holicky has a very strong opinion on the topic and is probably going to get himself in trouble with the response.  

Should All of Your Training Focus on Preparing You for One Event?  

Often our target events have specific needs. A cyclocross race in the mud requires one very specific set of assets while a hilly road race requires another. So, the question asked by Coach Holicky is whether athletes are putting themselves at an advantage or disadvantage focusing their season on building the specific set of skills needed for their A race. The team takes it a step further and asks the question: should we target specific races at all?  

We don’t hold back, and neither should you. After listening to the episode, jump over to our forum and join the conversation.  

Get ready for another potluck, and let’s make you fast! 

Episode Transcript

Trevor Connor  00:04

Welcome to another episode of Fast Talk, what’s the rest of the line Rob?

Rob Pickels  00:08

Your source for the truth.

Grant Holicky  00:10


Trevor Connor  00:12

Wow was that bold? I am not standing behind that.

Grant Holicky  00:15

I was gonna say I’m about to leave the sound like it’s truth seeker podcast speak

Rob Pickels  00:19

the truth here people oh no you know hey I realized the truth this morning What’s your truth great nine like two versions of the same person

Grant Holicky  00:27

we are we have been close no

Rob Pickels  00:30

no because of this grant texts at 845 this morning guys I’m going to be a little bit late because it’s a late start Wednesday right I’m also freaking out like how am I going to get all this stuff done so then Griffin Thank you Griffin for actually being on top of the calendar is like hey, our recordings at 10 o’clock in the morning. And what does grant respond Great. I’m gonna get breakfast which is exactly well good. Now I get a chance to eat before we record down then what happens you pull up in a silver SUV with a black ski box on top and you park right next to my silver SUV your car Hart today on Filson maybe there’s a little different.

Grant Holicky  01:07

Same there’s a yin and yang with our fashion but that’s the whole point. It’s

Rob Pickels  01:10

just it just makes me laugh so much grew

Griffin McMath  01:12

up and I’m a little scared. I wish I was in the room with you guys just missing this camaraderie here. Um,

Rob Pickels  01:17

the short hair version of grant and grants the long hair version of me. I’m

Grant Holicky  01:21

down with that right? Yeah, I’m okay with that. I am okay being compared to rob pickle.

Trevor Connor  01:28

So if anybody hasn’t figured it out yet this another potluck episode. We’re off. It’s perfect. Perfectly. Griffin’s

Rob Pickels  01:36

not here because I’m putting my legs up on her chair. Thanks, Griffin.

Griffin McMath  01:40

You’re welcome.

Trevor Connor  01:41

Just to get everybody excited about this episode. We have picked a question that grant has already said is going to get him killed.

Grant Holicky  01:48

I’m gonna get in trouble. Absolutely gonna get in trouble for this. Are

Griffin McMath  01:51

we talking pitchforks? What’s the repercussion? Here?

Grant Holicky  01:55

Probably metaphorical pitchforks. Okay,

Trevor Connor  01:57

so this is gonna be fun, everybody, hang on. I’m ready.

Chris Case  02:02

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Trevor Connor  02:47

Griffin, we’re going to start with your question. So what do you have for us?

Griffin McMath  02:50

Yeah, so I was thinking about this and heading into the potluck, about athletes and some of the interviews that we’ve had in the last few months with these professional athletes and their journey. And when they decided to say, no, it’s time that I worked with a coach. And I think that point is different for each athlete, and also based on their experience. And now because of social media, you could follow anyone and just get little clips of free workouts here and there. And you can piecemeal together potentially a training plan, or you can listen to little motivational clips here and there that might keep you going after a hard day. But when we think about it, I really wanted to put this question to the three of you. What is an athlete missing out on when they’re not saying, Okay, it’s time for a coach? What are they missing out on by not having a coach to work with to rely on to have that one point of contact? Whose responsibility is to support them in this capacity?

Rob Pickels  03:44

Yeah, I think it’s an interesting question. And for me, in objectiveness, to training is one of the first thing that come up. I think oftentimes, as an athlete, there’s an emotional response to the things that you want to do the training that you want to do, and it might not be rooted in the most logical decision making. The other thing that I tend, and I’m just going to get myself out of the way, because maybe you too, are gonna have a deeper discussion. The other things that I tend to see are as an athlete who is not immersed in the information all the time, it can be very confusing, because you hear so much information, oftentimes, it’s conflicting with each other. And I think that coaches have a better grasp on that. And then, lastly, that’s it, I only have two.

Trevor Connor  04:24

Well, since Rob started this by saying we are the source of truth, which is, which is a new thing, we’re gonna have to adjust this

Rob Pickels  04:30

podcast. We’re omnipotent at this point. Gosh,

Trevor Connor  04:33

does this mean that we’re going to start getting into conspiracy theories? No, that can be fun. How

Griffin McMath  04:37

is the ego fitting in that small room right now?

Rob Pickels  04:40

There’s extra room with you doing this remote Rob

Trevor Connor  04:42

is kind of crowding us all out, his head’s getting big. So here’s my honest, unfiltered answer. You are losing reality checks. I think that is one of the greatest values of coaches because we think we have all this data we have all this information, and that allows us to coach ourselves but One thing that I’ve learned about data is, you can make it say what you wanted to say. And you can fool yourself or you can put a huge focus on getting the right data and actually do the wrong training. And a coach is the person that sits there and goes, you aren’t where you think you are, or you are putting the focus in the wrong area. And without that, coach, it’s really easy to go down that road and I have been coaching myself for years.

Trevor Connor  05:30

Mixed levels of success. Yeah, that’s, that’s where I was going. Opposite point. That’s exactly the point. And I can tell you, I have gone down that trap myself. And I’m even aware of it sometimes that I’m going I’m completely deluding myself here. And right now, I’m kind of okay with that. And you need that coach to go. No, stop that. Yeah,

Grant Holicky  05:50

I mean, I’ll agree that I did that to myself. Last year, wholeheartedly. We got back from the World Cup, and I put all my cyclocross athletes on a break gave him like three, four days off the bike, and I took two days off the bike and said, well, now I’m gonna, I’m gonna train, which was just idiotic, and it almost buried the whole second half of my season. I think the biggest thing for me the thing that screamed in my head, when he asked this question, Griffin was peace of mind. It’s a very broad statement, right. But as you guys both mentioned, the objectivity that a coach brings allows you to just kind of, alright, I don’t have to try to figure out where I am. I don’t have to try to figure out if this video I watched on YouTube is right or wrong. I don’t have to figure out what I read online is correct or incorrect, I can question my coach, you should question your coach, you should ask for more information, you should push them on things. But the whole point and having a coach is having somebody that you can trust having somebody you can lay into and then you can shut your brain down to some of those things so that you can focus on a training be your life in a different order. Now a your life be your training. Yeah.

Rob Pickels  07:01

I think the other thing too, is that the benefit that each athlete derives from a coach is different based on that coach athlete combination. Yeah, that’s a good point. And when I work with athletes, it’s almost completely different. For every athlete that I work with, there are some athletes, I sit down and I actually write training with them together, we work through it. There are other athletes where it’s a little bit more of a one way street from flowing from me to them. There are some athletes I don’t really even write training for, I just check and balance the stuff that they’re already doing. And so I think that people need to know that this coach athlete relationship can be whatever works best for them, it doesn’t have to fit into one mold. So the benefit you derive is really personal.

Grant Holicky  07:44

Well, I’m going to jump in. So I think that’s incredibly important. And I think it’s really important for people to realize that coaching can take on many of these various personas, right, you can hire somebody that just look over your shoulder and make sure what you’re doing is not crazy, that will offer peace of mind, you can ask somebody to come in and write the training and drive the direction, which also offers peace of mind. Interestingly enough, that’s really something that a lot of people who have huge control and other aspects of their life, want to give up the control in that aspect of their life, because they don’t have the time or the energy to think about it. Or it can be true, and I always think it needs to be collaborative, but it can be very, very collaborative. I’m at the point with a couple of my athletes that I’ve been with for five or six years, where we exactly do that, Rob, we sit down and we write training together, or they’re gonna come to the table, go, I don’t like that. Let’s do something different.

Trevor Connor  08:36

And look, I’m gonna flip this round. We’re right now talking about what do you lose? If you opt out or coaching? We’re assuming it’s a good coach. Yeah, that’s fair. I’m gonna flip it around and say there are bad coaches out there. And I’ve seen athletes work with coaches where it’s hard to say this, the athlete, I’m never gonna badmouth somebody, but it’s, you just look at the training plan go, you would be better off just going out and riding or running every day with zero plan than following this

Grant Holicky  09:01

plan. Well, and I think even you know, taking that to the other level, you tend to look at things the way you look at things, and I’ll look at it and go, you would be better off doing anything truth, not having this

Trevor Connor  09:12

relationship, you only give the truth, some of the time, you’re not here all the time. That’s true. That’s true. I

Grant Holicky  09:16

am, I always give that I’m partial truth. But to your point, right, you can look at a training plan and go that that training plan is not beneficial. But you can look at the relationship and go that relationship is damaging. And I think that, you know, we have to have this, this understanding of what it is that our needs are right, what are our basic needs as an athlete and as a person and we need to make sure that people in our lives are meeting those needs. And a coach is a really, I hate to say it, but it’s a fairly simple way to start or to correct you know, you’re not getting your needs from your spouse that okay, that’s a longer discussion that’s going to take a lot more not getting your needs from your coach, if they’re not open to hearing that a switch coach Just be if they are open to hearing that, have that conversation, get what you need, because it can do so much for so many aspects of your life,

Griffin McMath  10:07

if I may, what are the fallacies you see an athletes today who think they can do it on their own, especially because of social media and what’s available to them for free?

Grant Holicky  10:18

I’ll start with this because one of the first things I see is people that majored in exercise phys, well, I have a degree in this I can coach my son. That’s terrifying. No offense, but like when you combine that bit of knowledge, which is likely outdated, it’s not enough. Yeah. And you combine that little bit of knowledge, with the hubris that goes along with saying, I have this knowledge, you have enough knowledge to get yourself in a hell of a lot of trouble.

Trevor Connor  10:44

So I’ll take that a step further and say one of my biggest approaches to life as I make a saltist and summary of that is the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. So you can’t just take all these different pieces, add them together, and then say, you’ve got something great, you have to look at the whole as a whole, until you look at it that way. You’re just looking at the parts, and you can go in the wrong direction. So I know I’m not explaining this very well. But what I’m getting at is you do have a lot of athletes that go, Well, I’ve read all these articles, I’ve learned what TSS is I’ve learned what the various types of intervals are, you learn all these different things, you learn some of the physiology, and then you go, Okay, I’ve got all the pieces. So I can now put this together. And often it gets put together wrong. And it’s not an insult to the person, you’ve learned all the pieces. But what you see in a great coach is they have these underlying principles within which they frame all these pieces that allows all them to fit together and work well together. One of the biggest mistakes I see athletes make is they’ll read the studies and go, Hey, I’m reading all the research in this workout produces a 2% increase. And this workout produces a 4% increase, and this workout produces a 3.5% increase. So if I do all these workouts, I’m going to improve like 10% and kill everybody. No, you’re just going to burn out.

Rob Pickels  12:05

Yeah, no other thing to Trevor, I think building off what you’re saying is, in the self coaching individual, I often see people being a little bit, I don’t know, sporadic, they’re all being between training methods. And training takes time. And you have to have the confidence to continue down the path that you’re on, to eventually realize the benefits of that. And some people will go a month doing this, and then a month doing that, and they’re all over the place. Each one of those might have worked and been beneficial, but they’re not because you didn’t let that soak in. Well,

Grant Holicky  12:36

one of the big pieces on that topic is that the vast majority of us are really, really bad at self evaluation. More terrible at it. And yourself. Well, you may be one of those that’s just that enlightened. I

Rob Pickels  12:50

like that that’s a good term for me, or just self critical. Yeah, no,

Grant Holicky  12:54

I’m, we’re gonna go with enlightened for the next five minutes. But it’s really, really hard to look at yourself and not be too critical, if you’re going to criticize, and so a lot of people tend to not be critical. They don’t go down that road because they know how they’re going to beat themselves up. And so not leads the jumping around, right? This isn’t working and you try something else. This isn’t working and you try something else. And we need to have that patience. We need to have that trust. And we need to have that relationship back and forth so that we can question the trust and the patience and be okay with it in the end.

Trevor Connor  13:28

So this weekend, I did my first winter fatigue block in a couple years. Okay, and first of all, embarrassing that what used to be a typical training week is now my fatigue block.

Rob Pickels  13:40

I did if chi bought you I went skiing for three days and I’m wrecked right now.

Trevor Connor  13:44

I get about it. Okay, I was on the bike and I suffered. But I did Neil’s 40 p test, okay, and was trying to convince myself my numbers are not as bad as they are. So you should have seen all the things I convince myself of, first of all, didn’t even put the effort into the five minutes and I’m like, Yep, no, I know. I could do 60 Watts higher than you

Rob Pickels  14:07

  1. What did you do it indoor? I did it indoors. 15% Higher outdoor.

Trevor Connor  14:11

There you go. And when I got to the 20 Minute test, that was like 10 minutes in trying to suffer through the wattage I used to be able to do it. I’m like, I could probably hold this another 10 minutes. I don’t need to prove it. And the whole time going, I am an idiot. I’m just trying to fool myself here. I love you

Grant Holicky  14:28

first problem was choosing personally to do that 40 before, like just making that decision yourself that has to be prescribed by somebody else. The self loathing that is required to do that to yourself. I just I don’t see how it was some good self loathing I did the only person that really would do it to themselves over and over and over again is Neil. That’s part of why he came up with it. He loves to do that to himself.

Trevor Connor  14:57

Yeah, well, I did about the most Have four DP tests you’ve ever seen. And when I, a couple of days ago looked at my data to say, what are my numbers? I’m like, I don’t have any more clarity. I at least had the wherewithal to say that

Grant Holicky  15:14

you got something there, right? The mental calisthenics required for justification of those things is, yeah, it’s

Rob Pickels  15:20

a lot easier to just not even do any testing and just assume an FTP. Yeah, well, then you’re not lying to yourself. But okay,

Grant Holicky  15:27

in all seriousness, you know, what your FTP is? You don’t need a test to know what your FTP is? Yes,

Trevor Connor  15:32

I do. And I was trying to do the test through that what I know. That’s what this was about.

Grant Holicky  15:40

I totally understand that. Fair enough. Well, Griffin,

Trevor Connor  15:43

anything else we want to dive into? And

Rob Pickels  15:46

did your question get answered Griffin? Yeah,

Griffin McMath  15:47

I think it did. I think you had talked about the sun being greater than the parts earlier, Trevor. And I think that kind of answers to me, one of the biggest point of modern dilemma that the younger athlete may face because of all the resources available that they could piece together as, yeah, essentially, you can piece these things together. But you’re not going to have you know, to Grant’s point, the ability to self diagnose or look at the bigger picture and pull everything together or have that objective third party that’s going to keep you consistent, rather than just constantly switching plans or protocols or something else. So I do think we answered that question. Good.

Grant Holicky  16:25

Good job, everybody.

Trevor Connor  16:27

Well, let’s get to the spicy one. Let’s get to the truth. Rob, what’s your question?

Rob Pickels  16:31

Runners? Am I right? Yes, you’re right. You know, here’s a phenomena that we have your wife or runner she has, Oh, where do you think this question came from? Carefully tread carefully. This question is a legitimate argument that we’ve had in the past six months.

Trevor Connor  16:47

Before he even asked the question. I’m just gonna go I don’t coach runners, which isn’t true. But I’m just gonna back out of this question. So you to get into trouble.

Rob Pickels  16:57

Running is hard, not just because I’m a cyclist, but because when we’re talking about cycling, oftentimes, we’re doing workloads and things like wattage and wattage is ultimately pretty universal, right? It doesn’t matter how fast you’re going doesn’t matter how steep the hill is. Maybe it matters how steep the hill is, we can have that argument. But runners oftentimes, because they’re such a traditional group rely on things like I don’t know pace to do all of their workload quantification. And here in Boulder, we have this really interesting phenomenon where when you’re going west, the road no matter what slopes upward at like one to one and a half percent. And when you’re going east, it’s the opposite. Yet, a runner, like my wife will go out and just run seven minute mile no matter why no matter what, no matter what, it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter. Or she’ll do a workout and she’ll be like, Oh, my God, that workout like kicks my body, like it really shouldn’t have been that hard. And then I go back, and I look on training pieces, like you did all your intervals, going up hill also into the wind comes from the west. Yep. And then usually it’s on a dirt road north of town. So we’re going uphill into the wind on a dirt road. And that’s exactly the same as if she’s doing laps on the track. But Rob,

Grant Holicky  18:13

amazing. I was running at a pace.

Rob Pickels  18:15

Exactly. It’s all about that pace. Haste is

Grant Holicky  18:19

equivalent to effort, is it? Not? in some

Rob Pickels  18:22

regard, but not exactly. And this is, this is the point of my schpeel. And maybe there’s nothing to take home from this. It’s this. runners don’t rely on pace, it doesn’t necessarily quantify the external workload that you’re doing. And so my question if there is a question in here is, how do we better quantify the workload of a runner?

Grant Holicky  18:46

Oh, um, here’s the thing. I don’t even think we should ask this question. I think we should just back on runners. Oh, okay. We can do that for 20 minutes.

Rob Pickels  18:54

No, we’re all about the

Grant Holicky  18:56

runners. What do you what do you mean oh my gosh, Griffin. There is no sport there’s no sport out there that requires more self destruction. Like why would you run for that long unless you hate I actually that’s not true.

Rob Pickels  19:14

I know what I will say I am kidding. I’m no I love to listen to running this I’m married to a runner I run myself at times. I think I broke my foot like a week ago running

Trevor Connor  19:24

here. Here’s my one bagging on running because you know my soapbox is people under dress. There is nobody who is worse at under dressing than runners. That’s just where because of the short shorts. The short shorts when it’s like 10 degrees out No, no

Rob Pickels  19:41

they wear short shorts, a t shirt and gloves and a totally fine and

Trevor Connor  19:45

I kid you not I was snowshoeing in the mountains two years ago. I’m over by the flat irons. Going up on the trails. The snow is like a foot and a half deep. I’m like, looking like somebody from the Arctic completely been pulled up, face covered everything got snow shoes on. And he’s Canadian. And I’m Canadian. Yeah. And coming down the trail is a guy in shorts and no shirt.

Rob Pickels  20:11

Oh, that’s because he was Anton Krupa.

Trevor Connor  20:12

Yeah, you I mean, I would expect no less. And you don’t know how hard it was for me to resist as he passed me just saying, dude, you’re a moron.

Grant Holicky  20:25

You should have said it. I would love to see what his reaction was. I

Rob Pickels  20:27

think he should have said, Dude, you’re a monster. But whatever.

Griffin McMath  20:29

I don’t think it’s all about self loathing, though, you know, like, I definitely don’t run consistently, at a long distance. And I actually do the thing where, a few times a year I put my shoes on, and I’ll go out and run 13 miles out of nowhere. And I wasn’t even running two miles consistently before that. So I’m not necessarily smart. But there’s something about being able to push yourself in that capacity. I don’t know why, but running does it I think more than having to use a bike or other equipment, just there’s something about that it’s immediately accessible. Whereas, you know, waters swimming isn’t. So all

Grant Holicky  21:01

those things are true. But this is exactly to my point, like, here’s this thing you can do on a bike. It’s amazing. And you still travel forward, it’s called coasting. And you can’t do that when you run like running is by nature and all joking aside, it’s very, very hard. You don’t get a break. You don’t get to rest you don’t really get to recover you ran

Rob Pickels  21:21

and Healy’s just broke your logic there, buddy. Yeah,

Grant Holicky  21:27

that would be pretty sweet. Me a little rest. But I will say that in all seriousness, running requires an understanding of your body to do it. Well, that isn’t really required in other things. Because in swimming, we stopped when we do intervals and recycling, we coast, those things really aren’t available that much and running. But that is part of the problem with running to in the same breath. It’s very, very hard to get runners to slow down or to stop or to walk on the recoveries on their track sessions. It’s very, very hard to get runners to slow down. And this is, to me the crux of the problem with running. And it’s very true in other sports, too. It’s very true. And cycling is very true in swimming. When we start talking about what’s unquantifiable and running. The same issues are true in swimming, you can’t really quantify anything in swimming other than pace. So you run into something where you go, I have two metrics, I have my heart rate, and my pace. Unfortunately, I think athletes, we see everything come full circle, but I think we poo pooed heart rate so hard over the last 20 years, that we’ve actually pulled it out of its role in determining our zone, to be completely honest. Like we use wattage over heart rate now, and I understand the benefits of doing that. But remember that if you’re trying to get into a sub threshold zone, you’re talking about total body function, you’re not talking about pedal power, you’re talking about respiration rate, you’re talking about heart rate, you’re talking about all these other things that we can’t necessarily measure, or can’t rely on all the time. So we rely on watts, we don’t have that and running. I remember when stride came out. And everybody’s like, Oh, this is great, we’re gonna be able to measure wattage and running all strides really is able to tell us this efficiency of running. If you’re putting out more watts, you’re being inefficient? Not necessarily I’m going harder. I know there’s caveats to that and don’t take I am not trying to be the harbinger of truth, as Rob would say. But to me, what drives me crazy with coaching runners or triathletes is that they are so married to the black and white, they are so married to the pace as a measuring stick of where they are good or where they are bad. And they have a lot of trouble letting go of that. And they love to compare themselves with other people. The most idiotic workout that any runner ever does is the Sunday long run in a group. It’s moronic. It’s supposed to be long. It’s supposed to be a long aerobic run. And people are out there hooked in edit 530s claiming they’re going aerobic they’re not going aerobic they’re beating the snot out

Trevor Connor  24:06

of one another. And we don’t ever do that and bike rides and group rides. No, we do that

Grant Holicky  24:10

all the time in group projects, which is why hate

Rob Pickels  24:12

but I also will say though, it is easier for cyclists to hide you can sit in, you can sit and be at base if you’re not taking polls on the front even though you’re going faster. Yang grande it’s really interesting that you know, heart rate is not a common metric in runners, right. And heart rate is an amazing measure of the sort of the internal workload versus the external overground. And, you know, I know for me when I’m writing workouts for runners, and I do this so much more than I do it with cyclists. I really focus on what it should be feeling right, absolutely right. This is what you should be experiencing during this interval as opposed and I also will give a pace or whatever as well, but I want that checks in imbalances I want that system. Because I think that the runner is oftentimes a little bit more in tune to RPE than the cyclist is have to be exactly, you know, and so for me, I don’t know that it’s another metric, like say normalized graded pace, They normalize graded paces may be a bit more accurate than straight pace, if you’re on something that’s a little bit consistent, you know, you’re running on a normal 2% incline. And it’s been that for 1000 feet, I don’t know that the stride running pod is the way to go. I don’t like a calculation of something like that, at least with like cycling wattage, we’re like actually measuring the torque. Yeah, you know. And so for me, it’s pace, because that is just the commonality that a runner is going to use and to speak a language other than pace is very foreign to them, and also really describing the feeling of what they should be experiencing.

Grant Holicky  25:52

I think it’s so hard because in running really the only thing that matters is the effort level, right? And you have to have a clear understanding of what the effort level is. And when often when I’m giving them a run workout to triathletes or two runners, I’m in a place where I’m like, I want this at Marathon effort, not marathon pace. And they’re very different things. It’s even a little bit of like the difference between FTP and LT, which is to me blows me away that there’s not a clear understanding of that functional threshold power means that it’s variable, it can change based on your functionality in that day. And this is something that runners have, and cyclists are bad at too, right. But what I think is really missing the boat. This is also incredibly true in swim training is the coaches are missing the boat in this aspect. The coaches are overtraining runners massively, because there is not a very good reduction of workload. As we go through this. There’s rarely rest weeks again, very true in swimming, swimming is hard every day. Swimming is the quintessential sport where there’s no bodyweight load. So we just go harder. And in running, there is a bodyweight load. And so they just go harder until they break. And I’m sorry, any sport, where it is socially acceptable, and not just socially acceptable, but sport wide acceptable, that you will have a stress fracture, at some point is wrong, that is wrong. And there’s no way around that that is wrong. And this is where I’m gonna get passionate. And this is where I get so so angry. You think the mental health of these athletes is not being destroyed by the fact that a coach is being told to is telling that athlete, if you don’t get hurt, you’re not training hard enough. At some point, if you’re not doing water running, you’re not doing this, right. And every athlete that cross trains, or does something different in the running world gets vilified and gets told that they’re not going to be as good as the one that’s able to do the workload is a monumental problem. It’s a monumental problem in the structure, the social structure the sport. Sorry,

Trevor Connor  27:49

everybody. You said you were gonna go there, and you went there? Look, I think let’s just shift gears slightly, I think it’s important to give a little bit of history here, from the science side for a very long time you look back 80s 90s, all the research was on running. And there was a reason for that, because you need an external metric whenever you do an intervention. So you have your intervention. And then you need some way of measuring performance. And so that way of measuring performance, it isn’t heart rate, you can’t go Oh, their heart rates better after six weeks of training. It’s not how it works. The external metric, that thing that they can use to measure performance is pace, did their pace improved, it did not improve. So we had this pace thing in running. And for decades running was the gold standard for endurance sports research, because you had this thing that you can control and you could measure, and you look at all the research from back then everything was based on pace, because that was their external measure. Then they invented power meters on the bike, and all of a sudden research all shifted over to the bike saying, Oh, my God, this is even more controllable, even more scientific than pace, and really allows us to see the impacts and what’s happening with the athletes and control the intervention. Personally, no base is behind this. Sorry, Rob are not necessarily the truth here. I think this is some of the impetus behind inventing power meters for running, which I just I can’t wrap my head around. It doesn’t work. I don’t think it works. But I think it’s the well we got to catch up to cycling. Now we got to find something as scientific as with cycling as let’s invent a running Power Meter. Well, sorry.

Grant Holicky  29:27

And I’m gonna get on another soapbox here. And here’s the problem across the board with exercise physiology, no offense to the hard science people in the room. You take an A moderately trained individual as defined in science as what a moderately trained individual is, which by the way to everybody listening in this podcast is essentially an untrained individual. That’s how we would see the moderately trained individual. You take them and you do a whole bunch of training with them, and the ask them to go faster. Of course, they’re gonna go faster, they spent more time doing it mentally they’re more prepared. wired for it mentally, they’re more comfort with the uncomfortable. We have to accept the fact that there’s a huge psychological piece of all of this. So again, we’re looking for that metric that measuring stick that number, that becomes more and more and more objective. And as we know, heart rate is limited in that way. Because if you gotta go to the bathroom, it’s going to be five beats too high and low

Rob Pickels  30:24

dehydrated, it’s going to be hot. Yeah, sleep, there’s

Grant Holicky  30:26

so many things that can influence heart rate, the

Rob Pickels  30:29

four shots of espresso I’ve had this morning,

Grant Holicky  30:31

it’s going to influence heart rate. The None that I’ve had this question is influencing my heart rate. But I think when it comes to all of these things, we keep looking for this gold standard. And you see it talked about in the literature, and you see it talked about amongst scientists, we’re not going to find the gold standard, because there isn’t anything purely physical, that defines the ability of an athlete. And we have to, when we enter into training, and we enter into evaluation, there has to be this blending of the soft science and the hard science because neither of them explain it well on their own. So

Trevor Connor  31:06

I want to share a story here that I think really exemplifies what you’re talking about this using pace. So I think I’ve mentioned to you before, my nephew last year, he’s 24 decided he was gonna go and run a marathon, which he had never done before. He was kind of more a strength athlete, one to try this endurance side. I offered to help him he’s like, No, I’ve got it all taken care of. So he read some stuff on this. And by the way, the conclusion of that story was me saying to him, next time, let me coach I was expecting

Rob Pickels  31:33

I told you so close and close

Trevor Connor  31:36

enough. And so he read all this stuff. And he read all the stuff about pace. Yep. And just like you were saying, he just went out every day and ran marathon pace. And all he did building up to the marathon, which is increasing the distance, he could run a marathon pace. And one of the questions I asked him later, is you’ve never run a marathon. How do you know your marathon? I’m like, what was your heart rate during those riots runs, he’s like, I don’t know, I didn’t have a heart rate monitor. He never once looked at his heart rate. So he ran what he thought was his marathon pace, which was much more of the, here’s what I would like to run my marathon at, here’s the time I’d like to do, here’s the pace for that. So that’s what I’m going to run at all the time, whether it’s a 30 minute run, or a two hour run, I’m just going to run at that pace. Long as he ever did, leading up to the marathon was about 25 kilometers, 30 kilometers to fairly long, goes to the marathon, he did a marathon in Scotland, and two kilometers from the finish. He literally just passed out hit the ground, they revived him he threw up all over the paramedics who were taking care of him, and then slowly walked the remaining two kilometers. And when he finished, he did finish. Okay.

Rob Pickels  32:49

Oh my gosh, wow. He is a corner through and through.

Trevor Connor  32:54

Preparation was not right. And when I was talking to him, I’m like, did you ever do intervals or intensity? Nope. Oh,

Grant Holicky  33:01

I was just gonna say he just needed to run a marathon before he ran the marathon. Anyone? Okay, right.

Trevor Connor  33:06

There you go. He had no idea pacing. So it goes back to what you were saying if he had had heart rate, and we had figured out what are your zones? It could have been good old, you know, do most of your time in that zone one, zone two. We know generally, where marathon runners, you know what heart rate zone, they do a marathon. And so we could do a little bit of running at that pace to get them comfortable with it, do some interval work. And I think he would have been far, far more prepared. But he got obsessed with

Grant Holicky  33:33

pace. Yeah. And I think one of the things that’s missed this, you know, we’re really lucky in Boulder because a lot of runners come here to train. And you can watch these really elite marathoners out there doing a 10 minute mile shuffle. And yet, nobody really leans into that. It is time on your feet. Yeah, it’s adding muscular and bone distress, which is good and time on your feet for runners is good. It’s probably a good thing. But when you’re running at that super high pace, you’re gonna beat yourself up. And I think what we need to be using heart rate for with runners is a cap, I want you below this when you’re running at zone one or zone two, and isn’t going to be perfect. No, it’s not going to be perfect, but an honest measuring stick of okay, heart rates, one of the things I can use here, so is RPE. And so is a clear understanding of stride, Cadence, some of these other factors that are going to limit the ability for people to go super super hard, when they’re supposed to be going fairly easy. And good. Coaching requires all of this stuff. I’m very sure that we’re going to start seeing a and I’ve said this before, and I’m waiting for it to happen. We’re going to start seeing the lawsuits coming out of athletics, from athletes towards coaches for abuse in things that could be perceived simply as training, not sexual abuse, not mental abuse, but you abused To me as a person and my body because this is what you prescribed, you were the expert, I follow through in the expert and I am now broken because of what you prescribed. And it’s going to get abused, but it should be happening. Because what some of the coaches are doing and swimming, and running, and you see it in cycling, too, it’s abusive. And to finish out this point, what you’re saying, Trevor, about what your nephew did, yep, we see it in cyclists all the time, they go out and they see how long they can hold threshold or how long they can hold tempo. And I’m going to add another 10 minutes at threshold just to see if I can get ready for this 40k DOCTORA. I have an

Rob Pickels  35:37

hour today. So I’m going to ride as hard as I can for an hour, three hours tomorrow. So I ride as hard as I can for three hours, right? But

Grant Holicky  35:43

it comes back to this whole thing of like it is kind of pseudo logical, right? If I can hold this pace for longer, then I’m going to be able to hold this pace for longer. But that’s where the understanding it just comes all the way back to griffins first question this is comes back to the understanding of why you hire a coach that objectivity. And that knowledge. I

Rob Pickels  36:03

love how my question boomeranged and morphed all the way back to Griffin’s question. That’s because interesting journey. Your question

Grant Holicky  36:11

was just fantastic, wasn’t it? Yeah, truth as was Griffin’s truth. Sorry, true.

Rob Pickels  36:18

Burn winner, there is cold. But again, back to conditioning and looking to rev up your training. If you haven’t already, now’s a great time of year to reflect on the past season. Specifically, when it comes to data and recovery to very important metrics and endurance sports. Visit Bastok labs and take a look at our pathways on recovery and data analysis. These two in depth guides can help you get the most from your offseason. See more Bastok labs.com/pathways Grant has a question. Yeah, I

Grant Holicky  36:53

almost feel like we got to stop recording for a second so I can calm the you know what down? Because

Rob Pickels  36:58

no question here today. It would just be too much truth this find your questionable?

Grant Holicky  37:03

I have kind of like forgetting my Oh, I remember my question. Okay. Do I’m gonna read it for you? No, I got it. I got it. I got it. So my question is comes back to a training and coaching question. And it’s, it’s kind of pushed out to you guys. And it was it was brought up for me. I was excited cross worlds this weekend. And it was an incredibly heavy course. And it’s really fun and you have watched top or on TV a million times you get there and you ride I rode more laps than I can count of this course in coaching. It is the second hardest cyclocross course I’ve ever seen in my life. It was the hardest Valkenburg world that was an absurd worlds here too. Yeah,

Grant Holicky  37:42

I mean, top bar in the dry is hard because there’s elevation, it’s difficult. Tavar in the Frozen is hard because there’s elevation and is really, really fast. Tabar wet and heavy. It’s next level, it’s so so difficult. We walked out of this race with a couple of my athletes going, Okay, this is something we need to work on. If we want to be successful in Europe, that low cadence, mashing the pedals, being able to handle that structurally being able to put up power in that place that’s crossed in Europe, no matter what we’ve changed about the bike, she’s tough to be able to do this. So my question is, when you’re training an athlete or preparing an athlete, do you become that singular in the focus that you’re training an athlete purely for one event, purely for one thing, one day one focus? Or do we spend our time broadening the athlete across all the spectrums? So the put this in a technical place of using Neels 40 P? Do we train one aspect of 40 P that is going to be relevant for the race we’re going to? Or do we try to bring all the pieces of 40 P up so that we’re more well rounded athlete and can be successful in lots of different conditions?

Trevor Connor  38:52

You already know my opinion on this one? It depends. No, that’s mine. That is your first of all, my opinion is broken into two parts First, well, then then you have two opinions. No, two parts of the same. I’m

Rob Pickels  39:05

sorry, I’m just being a pre opinion. And they’re just being a jerk. Sorry.

Trevor Connor  39:08

You haven’t gotten off of that soapbox yet? No, I’m

Grant Holicky  39:11

fired up, man. Stay there.

Trevor Connor  39:14

We’ll see here. Here’s my first part. I always think there’s a big danger in being solely focused on one event because of how much can go wrong. And I’ve seen that so often. I can’t tell you how often I’ve seen athletes really focus on one event, that event goes poorly, or horribly sometimes. And then you just send them to another race that they haven’t been thinking about the next weekend, they win that race, and that’s what they remember from the season. So there’s just a huge danger in being that solely focused on a single event. And I even remember a friend who went to the Olympics who got crashed out in the final lap, her only take home from going to the Olympics was I will never focus exclusively on an event even the Olympics like that again. So that’s my first my second is sorry, I’m gonna I know some of Our listeners don’t like gonna use car analogies, but they just work. Whatever the event is, I would rather have a Ferrari than a Honda Civic that’s really customized to the event.

Grant Holicky  40:10

All right, I love Civic. Is that true? I love me sick

Rob Pickels  40:14

you have in your car, sir, if you have an Off Road Rally Cross sort of thing. I take suspension over, it wasn’t quite going

Grant Holicky  40:24

out on the road. I

Grant Holicky  40:25

was worth thinking about the hatchback space and a Civic. You get your bike in it?

Rob Pickels  40:30

Who? Nice. I like that. You know, Grant, it’s a tough question that I think can be answered many different ways. I think that the majority of training that you do the long term, the big picture stuff has to be tailored to the needs of the sport and the event in general, right? Like if we’re talking about like, a crit racer versus a grantor contender, probably train those people in two very different ways. Yeah. And I think that we understand what the needs are for cyclocross, right. And so I think that the majority of training ought to be focused on the needs of cyclocross in a situation like this. But I do think that we do have to be specializing a little bit, but I think that that comes much, much later in training. For this reason alone, you can make an assumption tabular in February, probably frozen or muddy, probably, but you don’t know that for sure what happens if it’s 75 and sunny, and you did literally all of your training to be good at 50, RPM grinding, then you probably missed the mark, because you made a guess now as you get close, more than anything for me, it’s if the person is well trained physiologically, then really what you need to be focusing on is training them psychologically, the specific work that I would be doing prior to that race is to get them comfortable in those conditions, not to rewrite their physiology to be optimal in those conditions. How do they feel confident, right? You talked about athletes having crashes, and then it just laptimes just being destroyed after that, right? Because it gets in your head? How do you get somebody comfortable in Frozen muddy conditions? How do you mimic that tension you feel in your legs on that heavy course. And cyclocross racers are probably dealing with this throughout the season at various times. But we want them confident in that I don’t necessarily need to change the length tension relationship of their muscle, I need them to go in knowing they can perform well. And I think that you can do that relatively quickly, relatively close to the event.

Trevor Connor  42:38

I would agree with that. If you have an event, that’s one of your target events, doing a little customization leading up to the event. There’s nothing wrong with that. But I’m always hesitant to the put the whole season on a single event. Yeah, everything around that one event. And I think the

Rob Pickels  42:52

other thing too, right is you know, let’s say you have a road national championship, you know, what the course is going to be weather is not going It’s not me like it’s a heavy condition. And let’s say there’s a one minute climb that you really think is gonna be really decisive. Can you do a little extra training to be good there? I certainly think that you can. But you also still need to focus on things like FTP to make sure the athlete is getting to the one minute climb with the group. Somebody like myself, my FTP is so bad, but my one minute is so good. I would be flying up it for 30th place, you know, so the general fitness does matter.

Griffin McMath  43:27

So am I hearing you essentially say Cornell customized later?

Grant Holicky  43:32

Yeah. And you know, one of the things I was going to kind of add on to this question is bigger picture like looking at, you brought up a crit racer versus the tour, right, when we bring somebody into a sport, we also have a tendency to look at that person and try to project and guess at what they’re going to be good at, they tend to be slim, or they tend to be small. And when we get into cycling, we’re like, oh, they’re gonna be a climber. Or they tend to be bigger and stronger, and we look at them and go, they’re gonna be a Flatlander, a roller or whatever. Right. And I think there’s danger in that too. Because I have many an athlete that, and this is a little bit to what you’re asking Griffin is, if I were to look at this athlete at 18, or 19, and decide they were going to be a climber, and put all of this effort into them being a climber climbing is very psychological and how you do it. It’s a very specific set of skills and how you do it. And it’s not just weight to strength to weight ratio, right. So I do think at the beginning, what we have to be trying to produce is very well rounded athletes. And as we get closer to an opportunity as that athlete hits 2122 or something they they’re starting to close in on a discipline maybe the we sharpen the sword toward that discipline or toward an event. I couldn’t agree more with you, Trevor as I think it’s a terrifying idea to put everything into one all the eggs in one basket because there is just so much that can go wrong and then what it does to you psychologically Oh, My gosh, most people can’t handle that. And it takes a lot of practice to be able to handle that. So yes, I think part of what you’re saying Griffin is 100% true, like I would, I would start very broad with the brush and then try to get closer and closer to this fine line of what we’re trying to do. I’ll even

Trevor Connor  45:17

take this a step further and say, even if you’re focused on that one event, and it’s really key, I have seen cases where athletes get so focused on that event, they don’t build skills that actually are crucial, or assets that are crucial to that event, because they’re so focused on one particular aspect of that, that event. So let me give you a couple examples. And I might be remembering this wrong. But as I remember the first Tour de France, that Pogo char one there was a cobblestone fav stage and that and all the contenders were worried about the mountains worried about the time trials, he was the only one that built those cobblestone skills that I remember, it ended up splitting up, he ended up in the lead group, and a lot of his contenders lost the tour that day. Yeah, because they weren’t focused on that. Give you another example. My nephew was a really good climber, the first time he went to Canadian nationals, same marathon nephew, nephew, different every freaking gun, I got seven, he was a really good climber. And there was a big climb at Nationals. And so he was completely focused on that. And it was all about, I’m gonna get to the climb, and I’m going to drop everybody. We finally saw the course map a week before nationals. And there was this out and back, where you just go out this flat, straight road, there’s a cone, you do a 180 around the cone. And I’m trying to tell him cam, be wary of that be ready for that you need to be at the front of the group. But all he was focused on was a climb because he was going to win the race on the climb. He got to the cone, he was about 7/8 wheel, the guys who knew what these cones are like, or at the front, they came around, they pinned it, they absolutely shattered the field. And by the time he got to the climb he was in the third group race was over?

Grant Holicky  47:03

Well, you know, one of the things that I look at with this, too, is this also in terms of training and training, plan development, this singular focus on one aspect of the training can make us very myopic, and miss a lot of the other pieces right and even miss some of the research that comes through this. Trevor, you mentioned it a couple of weeks ago, when we were talking about should we focus on one type of training or many types of training in your life. But we do know that even when we’re focusing on one type of training, we’re focusing on lots of different types of training all at the same time. Or it was it’s more the other way around. But I tend to look at things and sit there and say I am a strong believer, if we can raise the high end, we raise everything up, we create room for everything to come up if we’re singularly focused on time travel, and all we’re thinking about is their threshold threshold threshold, FTP, FTP, FTP. We’re missing out on some other factors for sure. I think what we’re then missing is that there, you know, we get focused purely on Time Trial, right purely on FTP purely on LT, then we’re spending all our time there, we’re forgetting that if we push the high end, we’re going to be able to raise the availability there of some of those things. So getting super focused on one aspect, like you said, focus on Sprint, you don’t get to the line, focus on the climb. If you don’t get to the climb. There’s so much more in preparing for across the board with some sharpening on one piece of the puzzle. So

Trevor Connor  48:27

I remember reading this book on building your cycling skills in the field. So it wasn’t anything on training. It was all How do you pace line? How do you strategize? How do you ride in a peloton? I’m sorry, I’m blanking on the name of the book. But they had this great story at the beginning of these two older meaning our age riders who jumped into this fairly big US Pro Res, and all the pros, they’re being shocked that these guys who are not as strong as them, yeah, were there the whole time and stay at the front and they couldn’t get rid of them. And the point they made in this book was these guys had built so many skills they knew so well how to ride in a field. They could compensate for lack of strength by that experience by that knowledge that they could stay at the front. And so that to me is that generalist, build all the assets, build all the skills, you’d be amazed what you can compensate for and make sure that you’re in position to win and I

Grant Holicky  49:24

will say I’m constantly blown away and road racing of how little skill set is placed in the forefront of what we’re trying to do for these athletes. I’m blown away at how little these athletes watch cycling. And like watch where these people are in the last 5k coming into the line if they’re coming into a sprint, how little they watch European small road classic type cycling before they go over there and try to participate in this and you know I’ve gone through this with many athletes of like, yeah, these are general skills but how we apply If those general skills specifically to an event becomes really one of the ways we can be successful, and

Rob Pickels  50:07

grant, I want to clarify something, because I think that you’re right. But I also think that it’s a watch with the intent to learn, right? And yeah, not just watch to be entertained not watch at a superficial level, yeah, but to observe and to understand and to dissect and to make better decisions, because of it is a skill that a lot of people don’t have. And I even see with athletes prewriting, a course, there is out there mindlessly hot lapping, they’re not testing, they’re not observing what other people are doing, they’re not feeling the ground under their tires and trying to learn. They’re just trying to remember what turn comes next. Well,

Grant Holicky  50:42

and hence this is one of the things that we run into it at Worlds is I think athletes spend way too much time on the course, I think they should spend one really specific day on the course learn the course learn the specifics of it, learn whether you need to turn and then understand the conditions are going to be totally different than a day or two days later,

Rob Pickels  50:59

especially a green course like cyclocross, yeah, right? You

Grant Holicky  51:03

can’t expect to know what the answer is going to be in two days, coming back tomorrow is not going to help you do that. And athletes spend way too much time at the course at the venue doing those things. And it’s emotional energy suck fits next level.

Trevor Connor  51:19

So let me give a different analogy here to your question, I think is better than my car analogy, which is better if you have a job to do showing up with a really robust toolbox, where you’ve got every tool imaginable, or showing up with a toolbox that’s somewhat limited, but has one amazing tool that you know, is the tool you’re primarily going to need for the job, which is better, you need

Grant Holicky  51:45

the one with all the tools because you never know what you’re going to run into. You might not get a chance, though, can’t do what

Rob Pickels  51:50

you can’t show up with 1000 pound toolbox. Truth. I mean, and this is the other side of it too is that’s fair. We have to make decisions with training we, we literally cannot train everything. And oftentimes training our sprint is detrimental to training FTP at the opposite end of the spectrum. So I do think we got to pick and choose. I think you’re right. That is awesomeness. The truth. That’s the truth. That’s the truth.

Griffin McMath  52:16

It’s knowing your athlete, right? Like that goes back to the beginning. It’s knowing your athlete.

Grant Holicky  52:20

Yeah, yeah. And knowing yourself, right? And then coming down to that relationship between the athlete and the coach that the athlete can say I need to be able to do this better. And the coach going well, yeah, you do. But you also need to do these other four things really well, too. And we can’t, you know, not see the forest forthe trees. That’s knowing the truth right there.

Grant Holicky  52:41

This has been another episode of Fast Talk. The opinions expressed on this show are not those of Fast Talk, but instead of the individual hosts. For more information, look at our social media sites, and yeah, we’ll talk to you next time. Peace!

Rob Pickels  52:57

Best outro I’ve ever heard in my life.

Trevor Connor  53:00

We’ll leave it at the vague social medias.

Rob Pickels  53:02

By the way, this is the end of the episode.

Trevor Connor  53:06

For all of us your-

Grant Holicky  53:08

I’m Grant Holicky!

Trevor Connor  53:09

Thanks for listening!