The race against the clock is a dynamic blend: part performance art, part crucible for athletic and scientific experimentation—and then there’s the pure athletic challenge.
While some cyclists are naturally inclined to perform at the discipline, others must work incredibly hard to reach the top level. In either case, there are countless physiological, psychological, and technical aspects of time trials that are ripe for improvement.
Our main guests in this episode are arguably the greatest athlete-coach duo in the history of time trials. Kristin Armstrong won three Olympic gold medals and two world championship titles in her gilded career, and Jim Miller was her coach the entire time.
The pair dissected the discipline and dominated their competition. Their approach wasn’t necessarily traditional, as you’ll learn, but it was undoubtedly effective. Throughout our conversation, they offer a host of fascinating and fruitful messages about how they looked at and broke down the race of truth.
On a more practical note, we also hear from one of the greats on the men’s side, Svein Tuft, as well as Sebastian Weber, who coached four-time world champion Tony Martin during his illustrious career.
Finally, we get some sage advice from tech guru Nick Legan about how to bring speed to time trials even if you have a small budget.
All that and much more as we explore both the art and science of time trials in this episode of Fast Talk.
- Atkinson, G., & Brunskill, A. (2000). Pacing strategies during a cycling time trial with simulated headwinds and tailwinds. Ergonomics, 43(10), 1449–1460. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1080/001401300750003899
- Bayne, F., Racinais, S., Mileva, K., Hunter, S., & Gaoua, N. (2020). Less Is More—Cyclists-Triathlete’s 30 min Cycling Time-Trial Performance Is Impaired With Multiple Feedback Compared to a Single Feedback. Frontiers in Psychology, 11, 608426. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.608426
- Konings, M. J., & Hettinga, F. J. (2020). Preexercise Cycling Protocol Alters Pacing Behavior in Competitive Time Trials. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 15(9), 1303–1308. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1123/ijspp.2019-0763
- Oosthuyse, T., Bosch, A. N., & Jackson, S. (2005). Cycling time trial performance during different phases of the menstrual cycle. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 94(3), 268–276. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1007/s00421-005-1324-5
Chris Case 00:12
Hey, everyone, welcome to Fast Talk, your source for the science of endurance performance. I’m your host, Chris Case. Now, I’m not going to pretend to know much about time trials, I’ve done one, I also did an hour record on the track and that was fun. On the other hand, our main guests today are arguably the greatest athlete coach duo in the history of time trials, Kristin Armstrong won three Olympic gold medals and two World Championship Titles in her gilded career, and Jim Miller was a coach the entire time. The pair have a fascinating story about the way they dissected the discipline and dominated their competition. It wasn’t necessarily the most traditional method, as you’ll hear, but it was undoubtedly effective. Throughout our conversation, there are a host of fascinating and fruitful messages about how they looked at and broke down the race of truth. On a more practical note, we also hear from one of the greats on the men’s side, Svein Tuft, as well as Sebastian Weber, who coached four time World Champion, Tony Martin, during his illustrious career. Finally, we get some sage advice from tech guru, Nick Legan, about how to bring speed to time trials, even if you have a small budget. All that and much more as we explore both the art and science of time trials today on Fast Talk. Let’s make you fast.
Ryan Kohler 01:42
Hey there listeners, I’m Ryan Kohler, head coach and physiologist at Fast Talk Laboratories. As part of my role, I spend time answering your questions on our forum. So I’m excited to announce our new forum member level. Our new forum membership unlocks full access to the Fast Talk Labs Forum at an affordable price. You’ll get access to all our active topics like training concepts, physiology, workout lab, nutrition, races, rides, and runs, and more. So join the conversation, sign up at fasttalklabs.com. Join our forum member level by March 14, and you can try it out free for two weeks. Just use the discount code “podcast” during checkout. See you on the forum.
Chris Case 02:30
Welcome to Fast Talk Kristin Armstrong, Jim Miller, the dynamic duo of time trials. Gotta say probably the greatest coach, athlete time trial pair ever. What do you guys think?
Kristin Armstrong 02:47
I mean, of course, we’d like to consider you know, he referred to the greatest pair duo ever
Jim Miller 02:54
Think we take it.
Kristin Armstrong 02:55
We’ll take it we’ll take anything we can these days,
Chris Case 02:58
Kristin Armstrong 02:59
Thanks for having me. I really appreciate it.
Jim Miller 03:02
Chris Case 03:03
Sure, no problem.
Trevor Connor 03:04
We were excited for this one, I have to say, T-Team a little special to my heart still. We’re getting close to this episode, I was like, “oh, man, I gotta do a ton of research, I gotta get ready for this one,” and then realized, the two people we’re having, I just need to shut up and listen.
Chris Case 03:20
Exactly. Get out of the way.
Jim Miller 03:22
Chris Case 03:23
Where do we start with these two characters?
Trevor Connor 03:26
Well, I would say why don’t you tell us a little bit about, this could be the whole episode, but a little bit about your background with time trialing.
Kristin Armstrong and Jim Miller: Background with Time Trialing
Kristin Armstrong 03:34
I think I want to start off with this little snippet of a story, because it’s really where our relationship began, and a lot of people don’t realize how long our relationship has been there, and though I’ve come in and out of the sport, had a couple of retirements, I came back out. So the newer generation is like, what is happening? So back in 2002, I competed in the largest women’s cycling race across the World, it was called the HP Women’s Challenge, and I was just a local gal who was invited to be on this local, I call it a token invite team, where because we were local, we got asked to do the race. I took all my vacation days, and I used to have a headlamp on and I would go out at night and just do loops for training, and then on the weekends, I would go out and do the women’s challenge courses, and I would memorize the mile markers because I knew that when I got dropped from these amazing women, I would know how much further I had to go to the next town. I took all my vacation days, I was like, “Okay, I’ll do this for the local team,” I stepped in, and by the end of the week, I had three contract offers. One of those contracts was from the team that Jim Miller at the time was directing, which was called T-Mobile, it was the top women’s team in the nation at the time. This was back in 2002, and I had a contract offer from Saturn, I had a contract offer from Rona, But Jim, he figured out what was going to nudge me, which was he invited me to pretty much a 15 day stage race over in Europe. It was probably the hardest stage race that women could have, at the time, and basically got in it had some pretty bad Achilles Tendinitis, and I didn’t want to pull out because I wanted to prove to Jim Miller that I had what it took to be on his team. And one morning, we woke up and he said, “Listen, before this stage, if you pull out of this race, and have coffee with me, I’ll make you a contract offer,” because I was hurting that bad, you can even tell I had an Achilles tendon anymore. So that’s where it all began, and I remember in that conversation, he said, “you know, you’re super strong Kristin,” and he didn’t say I was super dumb as well, but I was. I sat on the front, I chased everything down, you name it. But he said, “Who’s your coach?” And I said, “I don’t have a coach. I just train hard.” And he said, “Well, one of my suggestions if you want to make it to the next step is that you work with a coach, and then we’ll take it from there, you’ll get race experience, and we’ll do what we need to do to get you to that next level.” And I was like, “Well, I don’t know anything about the sport, I mean, I haven’t been in too long.” And I looked down, I said, “Do you coach?” He goes, “Yeah, I coach,” I said great, “then you coach me, you’re my coach. You’re my director, we’re set.” And so that’s where it all started, It was back in 2002, in August, and he told me that in order to have him coach me that I had to take a month off the bike. It was kind of his rule, always was his rule, we always took a month off the bike. And as much as I told him, I was taking a month off the bike, I broke my wrist during the time I told him, I was taking a month off the bike, I broke my wrist cycling. And I learned that lesson and we went we went forward and onward. And before I knew it, you know, we’re at the Olympic Games, two Olympic Games, three, four. So yeah, it’s been a long relationship. But honestly, that’s how that’s how the coaching athlete relationship began.
Trevor Connor 07:05
So Jim is as a fellow coach, I gotta say, that’s about the easiest client acquisition I think I’ve ever heard.
Jim Miller 07:12
It wasn’t it wasn’t that easy, Saturn and Rona, both, I think came pretty hard. I was just lucky enough to win that negotiation.
Chris Case 07:22
We’ll probably touch upon your history again and again, and throughout this episode. The time trial became your thing, and you’re both known for it now as a as a pair. Shall we dive into some specifics about time trialing? What broad starting place would you like to take when it comes to the best practices for time trial training? Jim I’ll throw it to you first.
Best Practices for Time Trial Training
Jim Miller 07:52
Yeah, this is such a big one, and this is going to go back to a conversation we had probably getting close to being a year ago, about just building the engine, Right and, and I still come back to this, and this was really my original thought on building the engine was round time trialing. Anytime anybody ever had super form, they always time trial. Right? You never saw somebody with super form, and they didn’t time trial. So, really early 2000’s is really when I started figuring out that, that if you just build the engine, and you get you get somebody on that and that super form, then they time trial no matter what. So that’s probably where I start is just the just the build up to it the development of the motor, and then we get into the specialization of what the event itself may be.
Trevor Connor 08:41
Training for time trialing, is it just get strong and then learn how to time trial? Or does your training need to be really tailored?
Jim Miller 08:50
I would say yes. People approach time trialing, quite a bit different than we did. I think that was the really the key to our success for a long time as we approached it, I think entirely different than most people were approaching it. The whole get strong, throw it into big gear, get low, get long, that that whole idea was was pretty standard, right? I mean, everybody’s heard that anytime you start racing bikes, that’s like the advise you get, and you end up in these really weird long positions that you have no leverage in and, and can’t produce power. We always approached it, I think, much different, and that first and foremost with that without a threshold, you just can’t time trial. So make the threshold big, and and if you give up a little bit anero capacity on that, because you put so much effort into it, you get that back in spades over time in a time trial. Of course, if you’re racing a pursuit, that’s a different story. But if you’re racing a a time trial, then then you get that back in spades. So for me, it’s always the key marker for me is always threshold, but after threshold then it’s that ability to go back and forth, over threshold and back, and be able to recover quickly and, and maintain the power and maintain the speed.
Chris Case 10:10
And Kristin, you know, it sounds like when you first started working with Jim, you were, you might not have been a quote unquote beginner cyclists, but maybe your knowledge in some areas was of the beginner level. I was wondering if that’s true, but also to extrapolate from there, taking us inside the methods that, Jim, that you and Jim worked through to get you to the level that you you got to when it came to the time trial?
Methods Kristin Armstrong and Jim Miller used to Beat Competition
Kristin Armstrong 10:40
Yeah, I think that I was actually quite new to just cycling, to be honest with you, I came from a triathlon background, and filled with injury. I was a swimmer and a runner growing up and played soccer, but really, the bike was quite new, I had an engine, which is a lot of, you’ll find a lot of women in the sport in America have this engine because it came from a collegiate sport or high school sports, and they come and they are like a beast on the bike, and then you’re like, what do we do with this thing? Because maybe they can’t turn left or right very well, or they’re dangerous, and it’s like, how do you take this engine and make something out of it? And I would agree with everything that Jim is saying that we approach things this a little bit differently, I think that I was always amazed of how confident people were about how you do things, like this is how you train for time trialing, this is how you train for sprinting. “Oh, and by the way, this is how your bike should look, and this is how you should be fit on it.” I am such a outlier kind of personality, where I’m like, really, I’m going to go against this, I always had this feeling of like, doing things a little bit differently, But I would say that to add into what Jim is saying about training in threshold, that is 100%, I mean, you have to get an athlete to that threshold and, and know that you’re going to move that threshold dial for a while in those early years of an athlete and their development, but once you get an athlete through that development stages, you know, three or four years down the road, now you’re going to find that you’re just trying to hit that threshold, you know, every season, and then you’re going to build upon that, but most importantly, I’ve coached a number of athletes throughout my career as well, And what I would say is one of the big differentiators is how do you get an athlete to almost accept pain? How do you get an athlete to hurt? Well, that’s crazy, I mean, no, honestly, being able to turn yourself inside out on your own is something that is almost a bit of an art. I think that you and ask, you can ask an athlete, did you give everything you had? And they’re like, “yeah,” and I’m like, Well, how did you know? Did you fall off the bike? I mean, how do you know you gave everything you had? And so a lot of athletes that I’ve worked with, I talk a lot about what does digging deep mean? And how do you get to the point of pain? And what do you do when you feel pain? And so I think that there’s this other element on top of threshold and time trialing, because quite often, I would have teammates, who were great teammates of mine, and we would be doing a team time trial together, and and they were one of the strongest team time trialers that you had on the team, and they would say, “Gosh, why can’t I take us to the individual time trial? What is wrong with me?” There’s nothing wrong with you, it’s a matter of how you, How can you push yourself? So to me, it’s super intriguing, I think that there’s a mental side, but also there’s a physical side.
Chris Case 13:56
Some athletes have cues to know or to tell them that they’ve gone super deep. I think Chloé Dygert, for example, talks about, doesn’t she call her like a head in the garbage can type, like basically I will puke at the end of this, I know I will puke, and that tells me I gave it what I needed to that day. Other people don’t get to that point.
Jim Miller 14:27
Yeah, mouth puke is the mouth rinse of champions.
Chris Case 14:32
You just actually made our producer throw up in her mouth by saying that.
Trevor Connor 14:38
I was gonna, I’m really glad you brought that up because that was something I was gonna raise. I remember a very experienced top level time trialist saying he always had somebody waiting at the finish line because if it was a good time trial, he would basically fall over if there wasn’t somebody there to catch him at the end of the finish line. I know from my own experience back when I thought I was decent time triallist, I would start out, there would be a level of pain that I would go, “oh my god, I couldn’t handle another two minutes of this,” and then make myself do another 50 minutes of that level of pain. When I stopped being a good time trialist, it was nothing to do with strength that just wasn’t willing to hurt like that.
Mentally Preparing for a Time Trial
Jim Miller 15:18
That’s it. Yep. You know, with Chris, I’ll say there’s those mental cues, but we used to always laugh during time trial week, if it was a big time trial, World Championships, Olympics something, something of significance. For her, it wasn’t just the time trial day, it was the time trial week, and from about seven days out into the time trial, she was absolutely unbearable to be around for everybody. And for, you know, for me, I at least recognize that, that that was how she mentally prepared to go to this place. Right? It’s gonna be it’s it hurts, it’s uncomfortable, they call it endurance for a reason, because you have to endure it. And it took her five, seven days to mentally prepare to do this, but then on the day, she could always go to that far, far, far, edge of accepting the pain and working through it. It was never, you know, as much as she won, she won so much it’s unbelievable, it didn’t never changed, it was always the same from the very first time to the very last time she raced a time trial. And that week was just going to be miserable for everybody.
Chris Case 16:27
In what ways, Jim, let’s get some dirt on.
Jim Miller 16:30
Trevor Connor 16:31
You have a chance to defend yourself here, Kristin.
Jim Miller 16:33
Yeah, no, she can. Her husband would even say on time trial week, she was mine, and then after the time trial was over i’ll take her back.
Chris Case 16:40
Kristin Armstrong 16:43
I remember, there’s a few time trials where I didn’t win, and I would go back to you know, we all have our team bands and team tents, I had teammates literally hide from me.
Chris Case 16:56
She’s on a rampage.
Kristin Armstrong 16:59
I wasn’t like a an athlete who, you know, would scream at my team or anything that was very internal, but they were so scared, and they had no idea what to say to me. So to this day, I still have, you know, athletes that were to my teammates that they will continually joke about about that. Yeah, and, you know, I think that the preparation that Jim is speaking of is there is a mind preparation that you go through, and it’s not like I have it on my calendar, and I say, “Oh, hey, yeah, on Monday that 12th I want to start my time trial, mental preparation.” It’s not calculated, it just happens, and your body goes in this, your mind goes in this funk, you go into this focus mode, And it is unbearable. I mean, I you know, my husband, and Jim, were pretty much you know, we think about when we hear you know, people hiring psychologists, I’m like, my husband and Jim are my psychologists, I didn’t need a psychologist, they, they were given that gift from me, because he had to deal with these crazy emotional swings, but again, it was just on these big days preparing for that one event, and in figuring out how I was going to nail it each time.
Jim Miller 18:14
This was an interesting process, you can see other people be super relaxed, and then have a good time laugh, But on time trial day, they will start getting that mindset or, or start zeroing in on what they had to do. But it’s always funny, because I’ve looked at her competitors, and see them start going through this on on, you know, the day of and when we would show it to the race on the day of it was super simple, show up, get changed, get on the trainer, same warm up, straight to the start ramp, same discussion, basically, and then straight in the car, and we did our thing. And literally you we had this feeling of, of on race day, all that preparation had come together and it was the stress was over and now is just time to execute, is where you can see on other people’s faces that that on race day, the stress showed up. So I think that the process of getting yourself there mentally early was was really a huge success factor, and her career, as uncomfortable it was for everybody around her, and it was really, you know, she wasn’t grumpy to to everybody. It was really it was really her husband and myself, but that goes with the territory, right?
Chris Case 19:25
It’s probably the media.
Jim Miller 19:27
Yeah, maybe. But if you’re gonna if you’re gonna play in this arena, that but just that comes with a territory, so you have to manage and deal with it and and you just know it’s part of the process and and it is what it is. But but then come race day you’re it always paid off.
Chris Case 19:46
Can you actually take us inside this process? Kristin, what how did you how did you practice this in training?
Kristin Armstrong 19:56
Yeah, you know, I again, there’s so many unique pieces to how I train versus textbook. You know, some of the questions that you all sent over and that I knew we’re going to discuss today, I it’s interesting, because those questions are some of the general populations questions, and, you know, if I were, you know, living in the same time as Jim, I probably have a cup of coffee with him right now, and we probably just shake our heads and be like, gosh, you know, everything that everyone does around time trialing in my brain is like, this is just so traditional, like I had women send me their training and say, what’s wrong with making you look at my training? What am I doing wrong? I’m like, “everything”. I mean, it’s, I’m not the total geeky like, physiology gal, I know my training, I know my I know my physiology I majored in physiology, I can train people well. But at the end of the day, I think that there’s a lot of what people think, and or how people think they should do it, and there’s so many people saying that this is how you should train for time trialing that everyone does it, right? This is how it happens, it’s kind of like, when we chose tires, everyone’s like, “well, that’s the fastest tire.” I’m like, “No, it’s not.” Have you tested it? Or did you read an article? People send me links all the time. “Oh, look at this tire. It’s like the fastest,” I’m like, according to who? according to the person who made the tire? Or is it according to the third party that I had tested all the tires. This is kind of the level Jim and I took it to is, we didn’t accept that some company came out said this is the fastest chain, we tested the chain, we tested the friction. Oh, and by the way, the tests were done by us, like third party, we hired other companies that weren’t affiliated with these brands. Number one, most of my races that counted were between 30 and 40 minutes long in duration. When I did prep, when you talk about mental prep, how do you prepare for these, there’s not a lot of time trials on the calendar to prepare for these. So we had a time trial that we did, come it was mid-season to end-of-season, and it was a local time trial, and I’ll never forget the first time I showed up to it, I was in my head to toe race get up. I had my booties on, I had my time trial helmet on, I had my pre-race mix, I had my trainer, I had my skin suit, and people looked at me like I was crazy. They’re like, “Oh, so what are you doing? Like the local World Championships here today, Kristin.” And I was like, “every time trial is a World Championship for me.” And they’re like, “Whoa, okay,” well, guess what, three years later, everyone shows up from the in their booties in their aero helmet at this race, and it’s a local race, it’s about 20 to 21 minutes in duration, and so there’s something that happens on race day, and you can take your training, and you can take that effort to a longer duration.
Mistakes Individuals Make When Training for a Time Trial
Kristin Armstrong 23:00
So number one mistake that a lot of people do is they train the duration, Jim may or may not agree on this, but I’m pretty sure he’ll agree with most things I say. But I’m not gonna go out, and I mean, my Rio time was about 44 minutes, I never trained 44 minutes on my time trial bike, not once I can tell you that, I trained 20 minutes really hard, and I was able to expand because of that fitness box that Jim was talking about. My general fitness was so high through road racing, that I can extend that power in that time to 40 minutes, I got to the point where I can extend on training day, a 20 minute time trial to my 40 minutes. And so it was really important to train, I think that a lot of times what I see is when you’re training for a time trial, people are training almost in a zone that’s too long. So their training right at threshold, or sometimes subthreshold, because they’re not able to keep at 110%, right into that Vo2 for that long of interval.
Kristin Armstrong 24:16
So let’s just say somebody does, we’re gonna go out, we’re gonna do two by 20 minute because your race is 40 minutes long, it’s like, Well, why don’t we do one by 20 minutes 110%. So I feel like there’s a lot of people out there training between 95% and 105%, but when you get up to 110% and extend that duration to 10 minutes to 15 minutes and eventually to 20 minutes, that is the key zone for time trialing. It is critical, because training from 100-105% just isn’t enough. That’s my opinion. And that’s what I saw really was a differentiator when I look at other people’s training, when I look at what they’ve done for years, It’s missing. I also believe that throughout my career, people ask me all the time did you do weights? Now, strength training is really important, it wasn’t something that we did when I started. Do I regret do I wish I did more off the bike training? Yes, I do. However, I didn’t start that until I was injured. And so yes, I did off the bike training, but a lot of my training, that was strength, focus was strength work on the bike, low RPMs. I mean, Jim killed me with low RPM cadence, and if I were to choose one thing to come off of my foundation in my Winter training, so if I had base miles, and I chose one system to bring in to my very beginning of my seasons, I would choose strength endurance. Strength endurance changed my ability to time trial, it is, to me was one of my secret weapons on the bike. And now, what I find is there’s more and more athletes that are doing strength work off the bike, So they’re like, “oh, why don’t use strength endurance training, because I do it off the bike, like I’m good.”And so the specific to the bike training, I feel is still very relevant. So yes, off the bike strength training is very important. However, there is a time in place for strength endurance, and not strength endurance for three minutes, imagine doing strength endurance for 50 to 70 minutes, but broken up in 10 minute segments. This is strength endurance, okay, so you’re specifically recruiting those glute muscles, those hamstrings, those quads, that you need to have that raw power to push that torque and those gears when your time trialing. Um, so to me, that above threshold, getting into that Vo2 truly into that Vo2, in that strength endurance, I can tell you the physical side of training, I would say that those were two critical pieces to my success.
Trevor Connor 27:00
I had a mentor a long time ago who was a multi-time National Time Trial Champion. So a good time trial is obviously nowhere close to your level, but a very good time trialer.
Chris Case 27:09
We’re talking about Canada here right?
Trevor Connor 27:12
Chris Case 27:16
I had to get it in.
Trevor Connor 27:18
I had to race Svein Tuft every weekend, that was not easy.
Chris Case 27:21
He’s pretty. He’s pretty good.
Jim Miller 27:22
He’s pretty good.
Trevor Connor 27:23
I Well, I’m so here’s my thing, like I was never a great time trialer, but I used to go and do these 40K against Svein, finish like 50 seconds to a minute down on him and just like not be able to talk the rest of the day, I was so upset about that. Now I’m like, if I could finish within a minute…
Chris Case 27:40
Trevor Connor 27:42
So I was getting ready for my very first 40k time trial ever, and so I asked this gentleman, it’s like, all I’d ever done was this 18k loop that we had that we did every Thursday night. And I said, “What’s the difference between an 18k and a 40k time trial?” And he just looks at me and goes, “how easy it is to get out of bed in the morning?” It’s like no, I mean, in terms of pacing, he goes, “Yeah, I pase 40k the same as an 18k. It just hurts a lot more.” And Kristin, it sounds like that’s kind of what you’re saying don’t go and practice the, the 44 minute or the 40k, let’s do that shorter, learn that intensity, and then race day just learn how to extend that.
Time Trialing is All About Speed
Kristin Armstrong 28:25
You know timeframes all about speed, and if you don’t know what speed feels like, it’s not going to the front and chasing the next group down, that’s like setting pace on the front and bridging, that’s not time trialing. And if an athlete’s having a hard time trying to figure out what is speed? What’s true time trial speed, what’s it feel like? Because how do you ever get that experience of what it feels like? And you know, people will say “Oh, and the road race I had to get in the front I had a time trial like at a time trial. So I dig so deep to like bridge that gap.” I’m like you were time trialing, so you put him behind a motor and you show them what time trialing is, you bring them up 50k an hour, right? You show them over 50k an hour what that feels like, because that’s speed. Until you understand and feel speed, you don’t even understand what getting up to speed is.
How do you Pace Yourself?
Kristin Armstrong 29:19
One of my other favorite questions, and I think it was one of the questions that you had as well is, how do you pace yourself? I’m like, we’re talking about pacing, Now, Jim, you need to share that story about pacing ourselves, and what happened in Rio and how I decided to, because of the hilly course take away some weight off my bike, and how so many athletes now are just living by the kilometer on what their pace should be.
Jim Miller 29:52
So this is where I think we also approached first on trialing a lot differently. We would we would look at the time trial tactically, like where can you take time from people, there’s a lot of places where you’re going to maintain, you’re going to be even, if it’s a flat time trial, it’s like look, you can time trial 40-50k, and if it’s dead flat, the margins between first and second are still within seconds, right? So you’re talking about a 10th of a second every, maybe every kilometer, if you’re lucky, and it adds up to you know, 10-15 seconds on the finish. So it really depended on where we thought we could, we could make time, and Rio’s time trial course was actually really interesting one to approach. It was a it was a circle, It was long the ocean, the first 10k were really lumpy, so had three big climbs in it, not three big climbs, three little hard kickers that were about minute 20, maybe a minute and a half long, and then you’d have about a 25 second descent, maybe 30 seconds into the next one, and you would go again. And after the third one, you just send it out into this weird sort of flat area, that was cobblestones also, but as long as the ocean with a cross-head wind, it was dead flat into the bottom of this, this 12 percent 1k climb. But from the top of the climb, you descend it down, and you would you started looping back so that you had a tailwind on your back, so your first 10k were really the race in my mind. If you looked at the whole thing, it was 33k It was a long time trial, I assume that every single coach was saying, look, we’re gonna we’re gonna go out, we’re gonna, we’re gonna get into our power band here, and we’re gonna settle in and start riding. And I’m like, Yeah, but halfway through this race, you get a massive tailwind for, for almost 15k, if you’re going 55k an hour, you’re basically going even with everybody, if somebody is going 60k an hour, that power output to even go 5k an hour faster, is huge. So you pay a massive toll on that. So we took approach, we’re like, you know what, we’re going to go for it in the first 10k like, full gas, full throttle, treat this, like it’s an 11k time trial, and so that’s how we trained. And we created an interval session that was basically 130 on, 30 off, 130 on, 30 off, 130 on, 30 off, 10 minutes of threshold, followed by three minutes to Vo2 just consecutively, and did this effort over and over and over and over. We use best bikes, but also so I so I had this this, a little bit of modeling that I thought backed up my tactic, but as we talked to everybody about it later, than for sure everybody thought we were crazy that that was insane. We were 3k into that race, and we had time splits it at 3k, 6k, 9k, and the first official times blow was 11k. I knew at 3k that we had eliminated all but two other people, and we had only started the race. So then as we went through the 6k, the 9k time check, that was just extending, so we were taking time out everybody. When we got the official time check at 11k, at the top of the the 1k twelve percent climb, she was leading had had, I don’t know, 15-18 seconds, something like that. But we’re going into a long, effectively like a 12k long, flat tailwind, and I’m like, “yeah, we risked everything, our race gonna be blown through the roof.” But when we hit that tail, when she gets on the big gear, a heart rate comes down, things start feeling a little better, if she rolls 53- 55k an hour, then somebody takes time back, big deal, because they had to fight like hell to get that time back. And then we had 2K-2.5K climb towards the end of that, and I’m like, “if they take the time back, they’re gonna give it all back to us plus more on that climb. We’re just going to take it we’re going to take time plus,” so that was our tactic. We trained for that tactic, and we went to that tactic. I actually had a guy in Colorado checking best bike split and checking weather stations for me all the way up to the start of the race, and every 15 minutes he would send me a text and say all good and all he wanted to know what that was that there was still a tailwind on the backside of the course. If the if the winds have changed, then we’ve changed tactic immediately, but this guy was just saying “Yep, same wind, same wind saying wind, same wind.”
Jim Miller 34:45
So that’s how we that’s how we approached it, and that’s how we trained for and that’s how we raced it. If you were to look at a power file, and use was a this was a 33ktt, you’d be like that was insane first 11k, but that was all the time it was 18 seconds. It was all the time you could earn in that race, and after that it was it was impossible to earn. So, that’s how we paced and that’s how we approached it and thought about it, rather than been parking it in your in your threshold power band and riding for the next 33 minutes.
Trevor Connor 35:19
Sebastian Weber, the founder of INSCYD, has coached some of the best time trialist in the World and knows a lot about how to pace to get the most out of your legs. Let’s hear some of his thoughts before we dive into the subject with Kirsten and Jim.
Trevor Connor 35:32
So time trialing, I really just have questions for you and take your time with the answers. But the first one is, how do you recommend athletes pace a time trial? Is it just try to hit that steady flat wattage? Or you know, there’s some recent research saying that actually you do better if you do more of a j-shaped curve approach? What’s your feeling about it?
Sebastian Weber: How to Pace in Order to get the Most Out of Your Legs?
Sebastian Weber 36:01
Where there’s the most speed for the power that you can invest. I mean, that’s what you need to do, you need to understand, for my aerodynamics for my body weight or whatsoever, How do I get back to the most speed for the power that I can invest? So for a straightforward, zero event time trial, which is entirely flat, it’s the same conversion so to speak from power to speed and for the entire race. But then for example, if you have an ACO and you go slower, aerodynamic drag is less important, and then and then you get you get more speed usually for the final, usually but you get more speed for the power that you invest. This means that on a climb you would normally over pace in the downhill, but you will under pace so to speak, right here take it easier. This is dictated by two things this is dictated by “Okay, how long is the section, is it really downhill?” Downhill whatever, downhill whatever the course is, right? So that’s a question, and then ask the question, if maybe in a downhill can you pedal at all, the time to pedal is this maybe alternating between whatever acceleration out of switchbacks and, you know, coasting? It’s a question of the amount of speed, because some people can overtake more and recover faster, and other people can you know, some guys can over pace for a long time, And other riders are more punchy, I can tell you some stories, I’m happy to share some stories how we did it and the last 10 years, But I can’t I can’t give you this recipe. Not this one, because it really depends on the rider and on the power query.
Trevor Connor 37:44
I’m pure aerobic metabolism. My VLa Max sucks, I go over threshold just a little bit and I’m toast.
Sebastian Weber 37:51
So for example, you had plaintiff right? When Burke Rush became World Champion, plaintiff 2008, Right, It was it 2008 was the first time he really really analyzed basically started to simulate, TT parkour, that we were doing, simulating TT parkour and combining the simulation of the physical part as a physiological part. And so a bad crash, you know, 0.3 maximum power output in a sprint, 750 watts was 80 kilograms, you know, but you know what, say? Like, when you’re ready to settle, you unclip right? There was, you know, more like rolling hills, So even for a guy that’s almost 80 kilograms, you know, he could, you could, you could use it and pace or pace a little bit. So he couldn’t over pace a lot, but the good thing is the climb was not super long, So it was not super short. Right? So no longer climbs, obviously, you can over pace a lot, because otherwise we would blow up.
Sebastian Weber 38:51
Right. And then the, the decent the downhill sections, were not that steep, technical, super, super fast, it was the pedals that obviously suited it. So it was more like a mile over pace and so to speak, but then again, if you can, if you have a shorter ramp you over pace more, and you have to understand how long is the downhill will have enough time for you to recover. So that was more like rolling, you know, over pacing, really knowing the sections bent over face, because it was in the last part of the duty, right? It was like 52 minutes, And the uphill, downhill, the more technical parts were more like the last 15 minutes. That was really, really important. And then for another example, there was must be in 2013 or something, there was a TT in the Tour de France, where you looking at Rodriguez, became second or third, which for Rodriguez was I think the best TT result he ever had, because he’s not TT guy right. The cool thing there was it was a lot of small kickers, like very short ones actually give me the ramps or something or maybe downhill or something. And Rodriguez is kind of that you know, snappy, explosive type kind of rider obviously him was concentrating in general on the climbing part and try to gain a lot of time there, and this is where the majority of the time gap or the majority of this result came from. So for him, that was the downhills, diversities like he does like smaller reps, and then for him to part, besides the main part of the time, the game, while main problem is going to be resolved, from time to time for whatever it was, he gained a lot of time by really, you know, hammering on those tickets, like really understanding that first sprint over the ramps, and then recovery in between, like, even even if you were only close, because the speed and the battery was so high, that adding more power in the downhill was not really important, right, and then as a sprinter, remember the details, especially when you’re making phosphate, and this is recovered very fast, kind of, you know, trying to make the complete picture yourself.
Trevor Connor 38:51
Kristin Armstrong’s Tactics to Win the Race
Kristin Armstrong 40:56
The tactic that Jim just shared, we approached every race with a different tactic. So I remember in 2015, when I made a comeback I hadn’t raced since 2000, since London, and basically, we went, we ended up at Nationals and the tactic at Nationals was two laps, and this tactic this time around was, these girls haven’t seen you race for several years, and our goal is on lap one, is we’re going to mentally get in their heads. You are going to go out as hard as you can for lap one, and you’re just going to hang on for dear life and hope we’re gonna pray you make it, but we think that people will get time checks because it’s the exact two laps, that at lap one when they’re seeing that they’re down by 20 seconds, they’re gonna freak out because they hadn’t seen me for years. And so it worked, I won. I mean that’s just how Jim and I approach time trialing we can do whatever we want however we wanted, and it wasn’t like we’re gonna go out this steady pace and we’re gonna keep time trialing. I mean in in Rio, my bike if you want my bike got weighed it was at the minimum I was we always pride ourselves on the minimum weight, 15 pounds. And I can to this day tell you that there wasn’t another bike out there besides mine that was under 17 pounds. Mine was at 15, and I you know, the last minute we made a really hard call and we took a another half pound off by I didn’t race with a power meter in Rio.
Jim Miller 42:36
Yeah, taking the power meter off, which is crazy, TT ride, everybody’s like, “no way.” But it the power is not your only gauge of effort, because you have speed. And, and at least for me in a car, I never had the power, so I always only had speed. So I would know that if she was if she was riding in a tailwind at 53-55k, I’m like, that’s, that’s as good as we can do right now, and so you don’t push. Into that headwind section that we were talking about, If she’s at 43-45k she’s probably doing max effort, so you don’t push. There was just a lot of things to do it, and this is probably I think my favorite thing about time trialing is, is it’s so it’s so mental, and you can you can play, this is where sports psychology is like King and you can play these games with maybe sometimes it’s just yourself. But most of the time, it’s with everybody else, And you know, Trevor, think about when your time trialing, all the crap that’s going through your head, right? I mean, your head’s constantly trying to talk you out of this effort, “You can’t do this, you’re not good enough, back off just to touch,” all of this stuff. If you give somebody a reason to just back off a touch, boom, they’re out of the race.
Kristin Armstrong 43:56
Jim Miller 43:56
So that’s, that’s really how we raced a ton of things was to take them mentally out of the race, so they would just quit they would just give up, they take second, second is fine. You’re racing, Kristin Armstrong, whatever, no shame and second, and for us, we’re like no shame in first.
Trevor Connor 44:15
What I like is, we think they call time trialing the the race against the clock. It’s you against the clock, and you’re saying no, actually, there are mind games here. This still is a game of chess, there still is a lot of strategy involved here, and even though I’m not riding beside the other riders, I’m racing, we’re still aware of one another. We’re still getting time checks on one another and there’s a lot that you can do to play those games.
Time Trialing Mental Tactics and Sports Psychology
Jim Miller 44:42
Yeah. And you can play with yourself, you know, we always had time checks, we had race splits, you have race, you have cars and the radio, you have a lot of information. But even if you’re a amateur guy out racing 20k TT or your racing 40k TT at Nationals, the mind games still play, right? I mean If you can get close to somebody who started at a minute in front of you all sudden, mentally your mind set his holy cow and go and good, I feel good, I’m strong today. Vice versa, if somebody comes up from behind you, you your mental your mental game is shot, you’re like,”Oh my god, I suck, I feel terrible today I can’t produce power.” And the truth is both of those rides or maybe even be identical, and that you died dead identical power, identical speed, identical distance up to that point, but the perception in your brain of what’s happening is night and day. And it’s all you know, you take oxygen out of somebody’s brain, and they can’t think in the first place, if you just give the brain a reason to tilt to one side of the other, you’re on the game, then you’re starting to understand sports psychology.
Trevor Connor 45:49
I always like doing a time trial, knowing the person in front of me was not a good time trialist, I was going to catch him quickly. Even knowing that, just that catching a rider, change your mindset for the rest of the race.
Jim Miller 46:03
Yeah. And if you have somebody fast behind you, the game isn’t like, let’s say, Kristin’s chasing you, You’re like, “Okay, well look, three time Olympic gold medalist two time World Champion, If she focused on she wanted, she’s probably gonna catch me.” But the game isn’t, you know, she’s gonna catch me, the game is I’m gonna go as far as I can until she, she catches me, I’m going to make her catch me. And all sudden, in your brain, you’re like, you’re like going minute to minute, light pole, to light pole or, or power pole, the power pole. And all sudden, you’ve got 18 minutes down the road before Kristin catches you, and that becomes a pretty good time trial. So I think you have to, you have to start, you really have to think about how you play these games time trialing. And how you you tilt your brain to that favorable side of i’m going pretty well.
Chris Case 46:53
Let’s take a step back here, because we are talking to the dynamic duo. It’s very clear that you have perhaps an unorthodox way of thinking about certain things, you had resources that other people don’t necessarily have, but to our amateur listeners out there, It sounds like your advice to them would be don’t listen to every the traditional thing. The traditional thing is traditional because it’s been written about again and again, or it’s been practiced again and again, It doesn’t necessarily make it right, so be a little bit skeptical, scrutinize decisions. And then the second thing that I’m hearing is, if you want to do really well at a time trial, look at the course, look at the bike, look at your pacing strategy, every time with fresh eyes. Is that good summary of the two points that I’m hearing that that would apply to anybody listening to this show?
Jim Miller 48:00
Yeah, I agree with that. I would say listen to what people have to say, because they’re gonna tell you what they’re doing.
Chris Case 48:06
And then you can do something different maybe, or you can trust them. Yeah.
Jim Miller 48:10
Yeah, then you know, what they’re basically thinking, and, and, you know, I think this is actually really human nature. If you give somebody a chance to talk, they talk. If you just listen, and they’re willing to talk, they’ll just keep talking, and you’ll ultimately get what you need out of them and hear what you want to hear, and have an idea of of what they’re thinking and how they’re going to race. So I think, you know, I’m always I’m relatively quiet by nature anyways, and listen first before I talk, but I listened more, because people will tell you things that they didn’t want to tell you. And.
Chris Case 48:49
You’re kind of a spy is what you’re saying, Jim?
Jim Miller 48:51
Yeah, I might just stand there. I’m assuming.
Chris Case 48:55
The mellow CIA agent.
How to Find Seconds on the Course
Jim Miller 48:57
Yes. And just let you talk. But yeah, that’s it look at look at every race, look at every course, look at every parameter and determine if there’s something there for you to gain, and if there is then you gain it. It’s two seconds on this section, it’s two seconds on that section, it’s four seconds on that section, and and now all of a sudden you have a second six second lead. I think you know, even with with Kristin, one of the things that that was probably so under estimated in her time trialing, was her technical ability to ride the bike. And we started this when she was really young, in the sport anyways, and that was like, every corner, we’re going to take one second out of somebody, and that’s just by going through the corner fast, breaking less, not breaking. Just sending it, lead and take any chance, but every time you come out one bike length ahead, that’s one second. If you have if you have 20 corners in a time trial, we’re starting the race with the 20 second advantage. And that’s literally how we looked at it, and in order to get there, then she had a, she had to ride her bike and learn to corner and learn to be aggressive. But she, she’d probably tell you all the time in the car, when we would come to corners, I would always be yelling the radio, no brakes, no brakes, no brakes, and she wouldn’t break, and you know, occasionally she crashed, there was there’s more times where then a couple times that we jumped out and had to pick her up, but for the most part, over a course of, of 20 years, I mean, that was she became so good technically that that was a huge advantage.
Chris Case 50:41
And for anybody listening out there, you can take that wonderful and simple philosophy and apply it in a lot of different types of bike racing. Cyclo-cross is another great example not to get not to go on to too far of a tangent, but if there’s 37 corners in that cyclo-cross race, and you can take even a half a second out of somebody and each of them, then there you go, there’s Yeah.
Kristin Armstrong 51:03
Well, I mean, it’s no different than doesn’t matter what you’re going after, in life, most often, people are training traditionally, and they’re saying, I’m going to do my best I’m going to show up to this race, I signed up, I have a number, I want to do my best, and if I’m strong, I’m going to do well. But the way our mentality was is, everybody is training, what are we going to do differently that other people aren’t, and quite often, people don’t want to work on skills, because it’s not a good workout. People don’t necessarily, you know, if it’s mountain biking, they don’t want to work on suspension, because well, it’s not a workout. You know, for me, like going into the wind tunnel, spending three days off my bike, except for the two hours in the wind tunnel, or four hours in the wind tunnel, there’s a lot of people and a lot of my peers and competitors that would freak out about being off the bike for three days, And I’m like, “wait a minute, I just gained so much time with barely being on my bike, this is amazing.” And so I always had a different mentality of how can I gain time, by putting in a different kind of work, not physical work, because we’re all fit people, Like, when I showed up throughout my career, like, if we did a lab test, we probably were all within like 10 watts of each other. And so it wasn’t it didn’t come down to that, it was your attitude, it was your positive thinking, it was did you get a wind tunnel? What’s your equipment? And then also, I think that the course specificity, meaning people would say, “oh, what’s your favorite kind of course?” Well, the World Class Time Trialist is your answer should be I like all kinds of courses. Taking the course, I mean, Jim, remember, we flew over to Beijing to look at the course, who else flew to Beijing to look at the course? I don’t think many people flew to Beijing. And so we always replicated the course that was in front of us in Boise, always had, every time trial I did, we had a course in Boise that pretty much matched it. And so that’s how we train. And so there’s a huge advantage to also taking your course that you really care about and that you’re really going after and training on it.
Trevor Connor 53:20
Now we’ve heard from Chris, and then Jim, talking about all the ways you can find seconds on the course, let’s get back to Sebastian, and hear his thoughts on when to push the pace and when to hold back. Any other suggestions you would have in terms of how to pace a time trial.
When to Push the Pace and when to Hold Back
Sebastian Weber 53:36
I think the best way is to really think about the parkour and start thinking along the downhills, and how long the up hills, because the most easiest way really is concentrating on the up hills and to downhills so to speak. Like you know, you’re seeing maybe some preparation, think about how long and how long is the climb going to take? And definitely of an idea how much you can overtake. And the same is true for the downhill, right? Like, how long is the downhill, do have enough time to recover? Because what people usually doing, they overestimate the time of the downhill, so they overestimate the recovery time.
Trevor Connor 54:08
Sebastian Weber 54:09
One of the most important things is, when you do over pace, and we use a strategy, make it more progressive. So when you try to over pace and say doesn’t matter, at 1k Climb, if your trying to over pace do it progressively. Because what you want, what you want is you want to leave enough in the tank so to speak, that you can push over the top of whatever climb or ramp you have. That’s another part of the strategy is to come to speed as early as possible, so when you do a time trial, for example, it’s always vice in the radio, right? That’s the last like segment it flattens out, for example, maybe get set for 100 meters and then it starts to descend or something. Try to basically try to come up to the high speed as soon as possible, It’s always easier and better to push harder towards the end of this ramp or this over pacing section, right, then the opposite. The diversity you can do is basically over pace too much at the beginning.
Trevor Connor 55:10
And blow up.
Sebastian Weber 55:10
And then yeah, and then blow up. You know, you, you’re trying to minimize the drag for whatever section, empty the bottles, empty the bottle of water before the final pump.
Trevor Connor 55:22
There you go. And I’m guessing a lot of this has to do with the fact that when you look at the formula for aerodynamics, it’s you have that velocity cubed, so for every extra kilometer faster, it takes an increasing amount of power to get that extra kilometer.
Sebastian Weber 55:38
Exactly. And then, and then obviously, gravity, gravity is linear relationship. Gravity is linear. And, and air resistance is, is not. right?
Trevor Connor 55:49
In terms of pacing yourself, What’s your feeling about, what you should be using? Should you be looking at power and heart rate, or should you be learning to really time trial by feel? What would you recommend to both a top level time trialist and somebody who is learning how to time trial?
What you Should be Looking at, in Terms of Pacing Yourself?
Sebastian Weber 56:05
I personally, like a lot of the pros ask me, “okay, give me whatever power number for the over pacing, or whatsoever.” And I don’t like to do that, I don’t like to stick to the power number, I would like to have more, but I mean, you know, you know, as much as I love the power meters and the numbers and so on, I think trying to stick to a power number it can be very difficult to race, I would normally tend to say, you know,
Trevor Connor 56:38
I still remember, I was back when I was managing a development cycling team, and we had a rider who was a strong time trialist, a pro team was very interested and they basically said, “we’re gonna be watching you at the Cascades time trial, you have a good time trial there, and, and we’re signing you,” and we’re at Cascades, I remember asking him, “do you want to go out and see the course?” A couple days before the race started, it was an hour drive away, and he just goes, “No, I don’t want to do the hour drive. I’ll just write it strong.” And I remember listening to him say that and go, “you’re gonna have a bad day.” You can make your career right now if you if you invest the hour.
The Unorthodox Way of Looking at Time Trialing
Chris Case 57:16
Kristin, I’m curious because you you really peaked my interest, when you told us we were asking questions that were too basic or too traditional or something like that. I want you to pick apart our questions and outline and tell us the unorthodox way that we should be thinking about time trialing.
Kristin Armstrong 57:34
When I said that, I think what I meant is, they’re questions that I get asked all the time, and I wish I had, you know, an hour to spend talking about each of them and how I feel, and it’s interesting, throughout my career, I would say I’m an extroverted personality, but yet became a little bit more introverted throughout as my career went on, because people were always telling me how I should do things, and just like, this is unbelievable. It’s it goes even to this is a good one for you all, Um, so your bike fit, tell me why everybody is trying to smash her saddle as far forward as possible? Like, can you give me an explanation on when you have a limit, It’s kind of like when you have a you can’t drink until you’re 21, so everyone wants to drink when they’re 19, Okay, so you have a bike, and you have your saddle, and the limit is five centimeters behind the bottom bracket. So what do you do? It doesn’t matter if you’re five-foot-ten women, they’re pushing their saddles to five centimeters behind the bottom bracket, because there must be something that’s gonna make me faster if I push the limit. Like, we again, was like, well, I train mostly my road bike, why would I have my saddle so pushed forward? To the limit, because all I do is use my front, my my quads, like my front, my front quads. I’m not even using the same muscles as what I feel when I’m on my road bike. So how do I take my time trial fit and make it as close to still being powerful as my road bike as far as like, where my foot is, over that, in my knee as over that bottom bracket?
Jim Miller 59:29
Yes, this is an interesting one. So Beijing time trial, for Beijing Olympics was it was effectively what was it 10k-12k climbs was that right Kristin?
Kristin Armstrong 59:39
Pretty much. Like straight up hill.
Jim Miller 59:40
Straight uphill, and straight out of the start house, and they were straight down, so the way we thought about this time trial is like “look, the time trial is one on the climb, so this this is a 10k time trial.” If you think about most time trial bikes, they’re miserable to climb on, they’re horrible to climb on, so we started from base position on the time trial bike of replicating her climbing position, so where she sat on the saddle, where her hands set were affected in the in the bull horns were effectively exactly the same as they would have been on the hoods of a road bike, so when she was climbing that course, she literally was like sitting on her road bike, and because she’s on a road bike, then she can climb super well. I think that day when we walked around that when at least when I walked around the the pits that morning, is everybody in their time trial bikes, we’re saying that they’d ridden all year long, and I’m like, that’s crazy, because we’re not really time trialing, we’re climbing today, and you have to be able to produce a ton of power uphill incline. Now you have another 10k to the bottom, which was all on a highway at 60k an hour, so aerodynamics, aerodynamics on the way down, were super important. But you were going to win the race on uphill, so you had to take care of that first, and then you were going to maintain that win on the downhill, so you had to manage your dynamic second. So that’s how we looked at it, and I think that’s what Kristin is sort of getting at with the positioning and thinking about what you’re doing on the bike, versus doing what you have done, or you get a you get a you get an aero bike fit from retool, or you get an air bike fit from your local bike fitter, and now that is your bike fit. It’s like, “yeah, that’s your bike for the moment.” But if the course demands dictate, we do something different than we’ll, we’ll do something different.
Kristin Armstrong 1:01:31
Yeah, I would, I would even change my a little bit my saddle height, because on a flat course, I am, obviously, you know, when you climb, and you’re out in the hoods, your bottoms gonna scoot back a little bit, so that knee extension is going to be greater, so if I kept my most powerful position on the flats, if I kept that saddle height, when I started climbing, it was like I was towing down, so I had to lower that saddle, so if I had a hilly course, I lowered the saddle just a little bit, so that I could climb and maximize my time, you know, quite often, take a course like the Tour of Hilo, where it’s super hilly, you have to be in and out, I quite often afterwards, would have competitors come up to me and ask me, “So what I saw you,” you know, “I’m thinking, why are you focused on me,” but “I saw you were time trialing, and you were out of the hoods on that first climb,” I’m like, “Yeah, because the minute your speed goes down, in aerodynamic position, you got to climb, you got to get just you got to gain that speed back, because you’re not going to get it back once you lose it.” And so it was it was just a little bit, you know, always doing what I felt most powerful at all times, and it was different each and every time, And in Beijing and Rio, we focused on the weight of my bike, so even my husband replaced all the screws on my bike with titanium screws. In London, the course was flat. And so we were more focused on aerodynamics, versus how much my bike weighed.
Jim Miller 1:03:14
So London, there’s a picture of, there’s a picture that you are, if you google London images that always pops up. It is the ugliest, ugliest time trial position in my mind, and when I see it, I cringe. I’m just like, “oh my god, somebody is gonna judge me for this position.” It was this really long, extended position, and this the backside of this course had like a 3% decline, and so you were going to get you were going to go really, really fast, you’re going to be on a big year, and you’re going to go really, really fast, fast you go the more important aerodynamics are. So we had this secondary position on that on that bike, that she would reach out almost over the extensions, and her husband’s an engineer, so you have to give him credit for this. It’s a lot of the stuff, he built this little bar across the across the two extensions, so she could get out over in front of the the extensions, and get really, really long. But when you see the picture, it looks horrible. It looks horrible. But when we tested it, it was like how we ended up in this position was when you were at 55-60k an hour, her aerodynamic drag was like ridiculous. So it’s like wow, okay, if she and say Judith are going 55-60k an hour, her aerodynamics are two or three hundred grams better than Judith aren’t, because we’ve got this long, stupid, ugly, extended look.
Chris Case 1:04:50
It’s not that, I’m looking at it right now Jim, It’s not that bad.
Jim Miller 1:04:52
It’s terrible. But it was wicked fast. So it’s like okay, yep, this is what we’re doing and this is how we’re how we’re going to do it. But yeah, whenever I see that photo, I’m just always like, “oh, Lord.” But it was fast. So yeah, yeah, and I think that’s where it wraps up, you know, a lot of like what you were asking earlier about how we how we approach time trialing, and we really would like, just tear apart a course, and think about any single way we could get even a second or two seconds or six seconds, and, you know, if you had a long, negative three degree grade, and you were going to go 55k an hour, and it was 6k long, and I’m like, “man, if we could take three seconds out of that section, each K, we took 18 seconds, that would be huge.” That wins the race, so we always did that. We were always looking for opportunities to just get a couple seconds out of you.
Trevor Connor 1:05:58
Former VeloNews tech editor, coach, and now Shimano Road Brand Manager, Nick Legan, knows a lot about time trialing gear, let’s hear what he has to say.
Nick Legan: Easy Tips to be faster
Nick Legan 1:06:07
Yes, so improving your time trial is always a matter of how much do you need to spend? How much time is it going to take? So let’s just talk through, Yeah, what you can do for free, what you could do, let’s say for a five hundred dollar price range, and what you can do if the sky’s the limit. So what’s great about these is that they build upon one another, everyone can do the free stuff and get a little bit faster, and I bet that most of you, most of your listeners can could probably benefit from some of these.
Nick Legan 1:06:35
So the first thing I’ll say as a former mechanic is wash your bike, de-grease your drive train really well, make sure you’re getting all the junk out of your cassette, your derailleur, jockey pulleys, and then above all really get that chain, really, really clean. There are some great processes online you can do, that’s essentially like a homemade ultrasonic cleaner, where you use a series of ball jars, or, or glass jars, I should say, and solvent to really, really strip that chain down, and then when you reapply a lube, it’s the fastest chain you could have. So there is maybe some minimal costs there if you need to buy solvent things like that, but you need to buy those things anyway as a cyclist to take care of your bike. So that’s the first thing is wash that bike, decrease your drive train, and then run, you know, a lube, basically make sure that you’re looping that chain, there’s a lot of talk about that, and I’ll get into an option that I think is really fast in a minute.
Nick Legan 1:07:33
The second thing you can do is adjust your tire pressure. A lot of us are either running too high, typically too high, almost never but sometimes too low, and you can use for instance, Silca has a really great tire pressure calculator based on the tire width and where you’re using it, etc. So that’s free speed, you know, finding the right tire pressure, and then record it, you know, be fastidious about these sorts of things.
Nick Legan 1:07:58
When it comes to race day, wear the tightest clothes that you currently own. You know, you don’t necessarily have to go buy a skin suit, you can wear that jersey that’s a little too small, or you can borrow one, but where you’re tight is clothes, because that is going to be faster. The other thing to consider here is borrowing, sometimes, you know, if you’re not doing that many time trials in a year, it may not be worth investing a lot of money into a time trial setup. So you could always consider your friends, beg, borrow, steal, you know, raid someone else’s garage for fast wheels, maybe someone has a skin suit that that would work for you things like that, an aero helmet, etc. So consider your community there.
Nick Legan 1:08:39
Off the bike, there’s a lot you can do to, yoga never hurts. We as cyclist, I’m caught myself in this, we sit in a fairly static position on the bike, and then if you’re like me, you spend most of your time sitting at a desk. So you can do a lot to get your body more mobile and maybe and better able to activate strength work off the bike. Another thing you can do is visualize your ride, you can think about if you know your course intimately, where do I want to put down power? Where we’re going to have a couple easy pedal strokes to catch my breath? So you know how hard you want to start, is starting to hard a problem for you? So think about how you’re going to approach your time trial.
Nick Legan 1:09:20
And then for pacing, you can use something like Best Bike Split, which is an online, a free application you can play you can actually upload your course and it’ll help you figure out where to apply the power and what your predicted results would be based on a CDA or your coefficient of drag and in power. You can always for free be working on your feeling and accurate and hydration strategy. So making sure that you hit the line hydrated, topped up, and then if it’s a long enough time trial, do you need to carry fluids? Do you need to carry a gel, things like that? So thinking along those lines.
Nick Legan 1:09:56
And then the last tip I’ll leave you with for the free category here, is just unfortunately, if you’re talking time trialing, you’re talking pain. So you just need to learn how to hurt, and that isn’t fun, but that’s, that’s what it comes down to. So just digging, digging a little deeper.
Time Trial Gear
Nick Legan 1:10:13
If you have a five hundred budget, the very first thing you should be looking at if you don’t already have them, is a set of Aerobars. The second thing I would say is get yourself an Aero helmet, whether that’s an Aero road race helmet, or a full time trial helmet. And I would argue here, that if you don’t have them, anything is better than nothing, as long as it is the smallest size that you can get on your head. Obviously, we want to be safe, that’s the first role of a helmet, but the smaller the form factor, the faster and then, and then there’s a lot of debate about short tail and long tail, But we can get into that in the unlimited category. For five hundred bucks, you should probably also be able to get yourself a bike fit, and that’s going to be a huge benefit to you across your cycling, but in particularly you can you can work with people who have a lot of experience, Gorman comes to mind in the Boulder area who does a lot of work with time trailist and triathletes. You could look at buying yourself a skin suit, if you don’t already have one, you can look at buying a used skin suit. So there are ways to get more for your money.
Nick Legan 1:11:13
The next the last two things I would say are bike related, consider a set of latex innertubes in your clincher tires, if that’s what you’re running because they do run a little bit faster, you can save a few watts there, or set up your wheels and tires tubeless if they’re compatible, because you can save a few watts there. You can look at new tires as well. And then I mentioned chains earlier, once you’ve got that chain really, really clean, wax that sucker. So I personally have the crock pot set up at my house, and it’s great, and it actually becomes a nice way to just keep your bike running really well, and it happens to be a super fast option as well. So check into that online, there’s a lot of resources there. And then boy if the sky’s the limit, I mean, we can go kinds of kooky places. But first thing I’d say is you can look at the new bike, but do it based on a bike fit with someone who’s is really experienced in the time trial or triathlon world. You could pony up and go to a wind tunnel or a velodrome and have some position and aerodynamicist again, consulting you in making decisions about your position gear that you’re going to use AeroCoach is an example of a company out of the UK that does testing like this, but you can go to a wind tunnel and book time and they’ll help you make decisions about what gear is going to be fastest specifically for you, and that’s the that’s the real beauty of those personalized sessions. Obviously, with that new bike and with that wind tunnel testing, you can look at wheels, disc wheels, you know, it’s not like you get a lot of use out of a rear disc wheel day to day, but for a time trial, it’s almost always the fastest option for the rear, and then figuring out what’s what’s going to be a good option or a couple options for you on the front wheel. I got a plug coaching, it never hurts, you’re gonna hear from Jim Miller on this podcast, but working with a really good coach on specific workouts to get you faster to boost that FTP and help you learn how to hurt, it’s going to be a really good thing. You can always go for instance, we’re lucky here in Boulder area to have CU, you can do some metabolic testing some physiological testing to help hone in on what your personal attributes are and how to maximize those, and then you can look at things like really out in the weeds like custom skin suits, custom made aerobar extensions, you could go into altitude training, you can do all sorts of things. I mean, the wonderful kooky world of cycling gets even kookier when you get into time trialing. But part of the reason is that the beauty of time trialing is that you can control so many of the variables, the courses x- distance, and you’re going to try to cover it as fast as time as you can, and so you can control all those things that are just enumerated, whether it’s your bike, what you’re wearing your training, your nutrition, your mental space. So that’s the beauty of it is no matter how long you do it, you can kind of keep refining. So I hope those tips were helpful. Thanks so much for having me on the podcast.
Trevor Connor 1:14:13
So the overall that I’m hearing from both of you, I’m going to throw this out to you and then you can tell me boy, you you heard this wrong or I’m interested in your action, but I think of time trialing as the sport of subtleties. You watch a time trial on TV, and all you do is just see these athletes down to this aero position looking like they’re going really hard, and really the only thing you might notice is something’s coming out of their mouth. That’s about hit. When you talk about time trialing, you could say “like, take that hill a little harder, go a little harder to that headwind,” you’re not talking go from 300 watts to 600 watts you’re talking go from 300 watts to 330 watts. So there’s all these subtleties that are really easy to miss, which I think leads a lot of athletes to think, push my seat forward, drop my handlebars as far down as they can go and then just stare at my power the whole time and put out the biggest power I can, what I’m hearing for both of you, is there all these subtleties that make a little, yes, a couple seconds here, a couple seconds there, and you need to be thinking about all those, but you don’t necessarily see them.
Time Trialing is a Sport of Subtleties
Jim Miller 1:15:22
No, you don’t, that’s the unfortunate thing about time trialing, I think, if you’re in the time trial, and you’re part of the time trial is the most beautiful thing. If you’re watching it on TV, or on the side of the road, it’s pretty dull. Famous thing I used to always say was, “I don’t care where they put the time trial, the same ones win same the time trial regardless, I just hope it someplace pretty.”
Jim Miller 1:15:49
Yeah, it gives us the rest of us something to look at. But yeah, the subtleties are huge, you know, Kristin, all the time in the car, all the time, I’d asked her if she could give me two more RPMs, and it was just like it was constant, and like, “Can you give me two more RPMs?” And then you see the cadence come up, and it seems like such a insignificant thing to RPMs, But next time you’re on the trainer, you’re on, you’re on Zwift, and you’re riding, lift your RPMs by two RPMs, and see what happens to the power. It comes it goes way up, and if you can hold that for one minute, it’s like, you just you just went three seconds faster and that kilometer, and really like for her at the end of time trials, that’s what I was always asking for is like a couple more RPMs, and then if you can get her to do a couple more RPMs for this K, then you push on this next K and then you push on the third K, and now you’ve just gone through those three K’s, six seconds faster than you would have just by lifting two RPMs. Maybe, you know, that might be oversimplifying, but it’s really it’s really the truth that just a little bit of change makes can elicit a huge, huge difference in outcomes.
Kristin Armstrong 1:16:56
And also realizing when you’re in a time trial, the different moments, so to recognize that if you go out of the gate, and you have an expectation of holding X amount of power for 30 minutes, and the first seven minutes, you are 10 watts off of that X amount of power. How do you bring yourself back to telling this is okay, because you need to accept that maybe in the first seven minutes, you are 10 watts down but your competitor, maybe 10 watts down in 20 minutes in, because in time trialing you can easily just become defeated. like super quickly, if you tell yourself that you’re bad that day. This is just I started off bad, so I’m gonna end bad, but it’s really not the case, and if you can overcome that you’re not going out exactly where you need to be going out at, and don’t worry about the data and you go off of just bring yourself back in the game, every competitor out there is going to have a little moment in a 30 minute time trial, I promise you that. There are very few times where I’m like, “Oh yeah, I was spot on the entire time.” I mean, in Rio on that last climb, I was two seconds down, and can you imagine like the day before Jim told me if you’re down at the top of this climb, you don’t win, because there’s no time to get it back. And I’m thinking “Oh, great, Jim told me yesterday that if I’m down with 5k to go, then I don’t have a chance.” So all these years, I’ve had to mentally tell myself and talk to myself and say no, this is not the case, because everybody’s gonna have a moment of weakness, and I think that we’re so focused on what we should do and what we should hold, and if we can’t do this, and we’re having a bad day, and so you’ve already lost a race. And that’s where I think I’ve won many, many races, because like I said, we show up at the start line with similar ability, but the years and years of experience, yeah, early on in my career, nobody went to the wind tunnel, Jim and I did. And then all of a sudden in London, everyone went to the wind tunnel, and we’re like, “oh my gosh, what are we gonna throw out there now, Jim?” Oh, yeah, good question. So then we started doing this whole thing, like, let’s crush people’s mentality, like in the first lap, that was fun. And then we got into Rio, and we’re like, well, what are we gonna do now? Well, we didn’t ride with a power meter because we wanted a lighter bike, Oh, and by the way, I woke up and was pouring rain in Rio, everyone’s doing heat training, It’s pouring rain, and guess what I woke up as a 42 year old, thinking, “Well, for everyone that dreamed of like beautiful beach weather today, they already lost a race,” because they couldn’t handle it. He just went on, we put our clear visor on, we went on with lower pressure on our tires, and we just raced it. And most other people woke up and we’re like, “it’s raining, this is not what I planned, what am I gonna do?” I’m sketched out. So think about that the mental side of this is just it continues to be a critical piece.
Trevor Connor 1:20:24
Svein Tuft, a fellow Canadian, took second place at the World Time Trial Championships in 2008, and that’s after having to swap his time trial bike out for a road bike halfway through the race. I had a chance to ask him how he paces a time trial, like Kristin, he talked about the dangers of power, and the importance of finding your mode.
Svein Tuft: Dangers of Power and the Importance of Finding your Mode
Svein Tuft 1:20:46
Yeah, unfortunately, our lives have all been bombarded with this, this power output, and there’s not a lot of guys that can go by feel. Especially, apparent when you’re doing a team time trial, you know, guys will live and die by the by the SRM or whatever your chosen devices, and I think it’s, I think it can be very detrimental to base everything we do off of this, the set number that we did in some physiology lab and, and I really believe that, okay, these things are important, and they are definitely a huge help in what we do, but at the same time, they, really disconnect you from the reality where you, you might be at that given moment, and you know, it’s more important to understand your body and understand where you’re at at that moment, then try and live up to some impossible expectation on yourself. You know, like I said, it’s very fresh in my mind because of team time trialing, and all the work we’ve done in the last in a while, and I see young guys just trying to push this incredible number that they all believe is necessary to win the World Championships, but it’s not sustainable. Right. So that’s why I think a lot of times these things, when you don’t understand your body and you don’t understand the what’s what’s working behind the scenes there, you really run into trouble, and yeah, I’ve seen it many times. So for myself, its more about understanding where you are at that moment, and what are you actually capable of, so in the case of like, you know, we have to ride the front full to bring a break back. Okay, I’ll, I’ll have a look at the power here and there, but really, I’m going by a feeling that I know I can sustain for if it’s necessary, I might have to chase for 20k if I have to ride for 50k is a totally different feeling, and that’s just lucky from years of experience, but I think more than anything, you need to find your own n=1 type of magical number instead of trying to, to push some imaginary perfect number. I see so many guys trying to you know, in a time trial or whatever, trying to hold this, this power input, it’s never really the case, you know, it’s never really how it’s done. The time trial is all about picking your battles and understanding the course and yourself. Numbers are great, but they don’t win all the bike races.
Trevor Connor 1:23:37
So when you’re in a time trial, do you have a computer at all? Are you going completely by feel?
Svein Tuft 1:23:43
Yeah, of course I like I said, I’m still a fan of the technology and, and the numbers, I’ve always been interested, but I find it to be very conscious, become very obsessive about it, and so for me in a time trial, like if I’m on a good one, I will I will have a look kind of from the start, I’m always careful to make sure I’m not like punching way above my own my own limit. So I really take a controlled start and then once I’m into it, I am on a really good one then my mind is very focused so I don’t need to I know the feeling and I’ll just check every now and then to make sure I’m more on the mark and not like over it or struggling under it, and once I know the feeling then I did focus on staying on that feeling instead of constantly looking down and having that funny little communication with the computer.
Trevor Connor 1:24:53
What metrics do you use to gauge yourself, how do gauge? Do you have a giant computer with every single number on it? Or are you much more I’m going to do this by feel?
Jim Miller 1:25:08
Both would be the answer. You could have a really good feel and pacing in time trialing. If, if you know what 300 watts feels like, you know what 300 watts feels like you don’t have to see it, and, you know, if you’re year one of racing bikes, you probably can’t guess within proximity where you’re at, but if you’re in your routine of racing bikes, you probably don’t even need a power meter to pinpoint your exact power. So that’s why I’d say both.
Metrics Kristin Armstrong uses to Gauge Activity
Kristin Armstrong 1:25:38
I agree. I would say that, you know, as growing up as a runner, I remember when I was running, you know, half miles and intervals or miles, and a 10k race you know, what a mile at what pace, like a six mile, six minute mile pace feels like, right, just naturally through experience. So I think that when you take it to the bike, it’s the same thing, you feel that with power. Even today, I play these games, because I have to play something with myself since I mean, I’m not competing anymore, I’ll go out and I play this game where I’m like, “I bet your at 250 watts right now,” and I look down on my “Yes, I still have it.” Like, I honestly play that what watt am I at right now game to this day, because I can guess it within five, Like I really can. It’s crazy.
Chris Case 1:26:31
I do that with the watts or speed or a lot of things for entertainment value to freshen up on the, do I still have it skill set? There’s a lot of lot of reasons to do that. That’s fun. That’s a good one.
Jim Miller 1:26:45
You know, here’s one thing I’d say about pacing, too, is athletes love to have a number and coaches love to give numbers, right? So it’s like, I think you can ride this time trial at 300 watts, athlete goes out, they’re gonna bang 300 watts, great. At the day you’re like, well, you did what we thought you could do, but I think when you when you’re time trialing, you don’t want to put the limiter on, you don’t want to throw a governor out there and say, when we get to 300, we’re stoping, And I’m like, “Well, what if you’re on a good day, and you can ride 310 today,” I’m like, “I’ll take 310.” So a lot of times, you know, when when Kristin was time trialing, it wasn’t like we’re gonna, we’re gonna target this number on this section or rotor, this climb, it was like, “Look, you go as hard as you think you can go.” If, if I think it’s excessive, I’m gonna say something from the car, or If I don’t think it’s enough, I’m gonna say something. But for the most part, your in control, if you feel like you can do more, you do more. So I think that’s it, that’s an important thing, and when people would really get into pacing and you know, be like, this is my number, this is my mark, that was almost like licking your chops like, “Oh, yes, then you just go ahead and sit out there that number.”
The Power Meter is Never a Governor
Trevor Connor 1:27:51
So this is where I want to throw two studies at you, mostly because I just thought these studies are really cool, but they get it this in a really interesting way. So this first study was literally just published just came out in December of 2020, so not even two months ago, where they didn’t use elite level time trialists, but they used experienced triathletes and time trialers, and had them do a 30 minute time trial, so they repeated it twice. One of the times, they had a single metric time, so all they knew was how much time was left in the time trial. The other time trial, they had multiple metrics, they had power, heart rate, cadence, speed, time, distance, they could look at all the kind of standard metrics.
Jim Miller 1:28:40
A lot of input.
Trevor Connor 1:28:41
A lot of input. And what they found was the group that had multiple metrics or sorry, it was the same athletes, they repeated the test. So when they did the time trial, with multiple metrics, their performance was significantly worse. So with the single metric, the group average wattage was 287 watts. With multiple metrics, the group average wattage was 227, so 60 watt difference.
Jim Miller 1:29:13
Trevor Connor 1:29:14
So that I found fascinating, and then another study that was not quite as recent, this one was in 2013, this was more experienced, more elite level athletes, they had them do a self paced time trial, and then they would repeat the time trial where they would have them try to average, so they this this self paced, they couldn’t see anything. The second one, they could see their wattage and the goal was to average the same wattage that they did in the self paced, and nine of the fifteen cyclists failed to complete the TT when they tried to average the same wattage that they were able to do when they were just self pacing.
Jim Miller 1:29:57
Yeah, that’s the mental side of it. That’s the game, we play in your head.
Trevor Connor 1:30:00
So certainly these studies are pointing towards more data is not necessarily better. So what do you see how both of you felt about this?
Jim Miller 1:30:11
I would agree. Like, at the end of the day, the goal is to go as fast as you can, and sometimes it is what it is, and if you can only go so hard on a climb, you can only go so hard, that’s what it is. So yeah, for sure, the power meter never is a governor, it should never limit you. It is a good gauge, it’s kind of like an RPM in a car sometimes, you know, you’re redlining, that’s a bad thing, But if you’re under the red line, sometimes it doesn’t, just doesn’t tell you enough of the story.
Data is More Important During Training
Kristin Armstrong 1:30:46
Data for myself is much more important in training. Data helped me know that when I wanted to come back to this board a couple times, people like “how did you know you can come back out and win?” I’m like, “Are you kidding me? You don’t think that I actually went out and rode with my power meter and was for sure that I can come back.” You know, and so I think that the data that I have, and that I’ve had on training peaks for years and years, like it’s like my diary, like data matters, but on race day, is just basically throw all that out, and just being ready to hurt as much as you can, and, and following through with that tactic. So, you know, I, when we talk about data, no, I threw my, my data points and collection away, I don’t like to be of course control, so I’ll never forget when I was climbing up Oaklyn years ago, and I looked down on my heart rate, and I saw a number I’d never seen before, and I pretty much got dropped in the last two kilometers, because I was so freaked out, that I was like, “I can’t ever wear a heart rate monitor again.” So scary. Um, so I’ve never been huge, I do collect data, but I don’t click like, you know, six different points on data, I collect a couple things, and I go with it, and I the mentality part, I just keep going back to that because even when you work with athletes that are you know, getting data from this device, that device, this device, you know, you how do you not wake up and question yourself of how you’re feeling? You know, I tried not to, I tried to go with it, and there was definitely some phone calls, Jim knows, halfway through my workout, you’re telling him that I suck or he sucks, like one of those. Another day, and so maybe data when I woke up would have been great to go off of, but I always was willing to just go out there and take the risk and try to go as hard as I could that day, depending on whatever he had posted for me.
Trevor Connor 1:33:00
I will say the one thing I always personally loved about time trials, same thing, I love having all the records, I don’t like looking at the data during the time trial myself. But I always got excited about seeing the data, because you could do things in a time trial that you could never do and train.
Kristin Armstrong 1:33:18
Oh, for sure.
Kristin Armstrong 1:33:22
Yeah, over the years, my time trial bike, because I had, you know, years and years of experience riding my time trial bike. The final years of my career, I would say that I would ride my time trial bike, on my Thursday night time trials and on race day. And I wouldn’t ride my time trial bike much in between, because my time trial bike became like, I used to call my machine where, when I got on it, like, I just was like, roaring to go. I mean, Jim can never tell me to get on my time trial bike and go easy today. Like it just didn’t connect, I’m like, “I don’t get on my time to go easy.” Like it’s not what I do, so I made it something that was a very special moment, When I got on my time trial bike, I was gonna go hard.
Chris Case 1:34:08
It’s a race car.
Kristin Armstrong 1:34:10
Yeah, it’s like, always treated my time trial bike. I didn’t go for long rides on my time trial bike or train easy, It was like I’m either doing an interval session that’s specific to a race or training, doing a local race or I’m racing big time, but it wasn’t a cruise kind of thing. I just it was such a special thing, I can’t even control myself on a time trial bike. Like just saying like, if I got on my time trial bike right now, I’m not kidding you, like I would just go as hard as I could I go out and try to get some Strava, but like whatever. I haven’t been on mine since Rio, you know it’s just kind of sitting there like.
Chris Case 1:34:49
Wait a second, you haven’t been on it since Rio?
Chris Case 1:34:52
Chris Case 1:34:53
Chris Case 1:34:54
Chris Case 1:34:55
Approaching five years.
Kristin Armstrong 1:34:57
I know, I ride the dirt a lot now who knows.
Chris Case 1:34:59
Trevor Connor 1:35:00
But I get that, as you said, it’s your race bike, so you don’t want to be on it unless there’s a race.
Kristin Armstrong 1:35:06
Yeah, it’s special. It’s definitely special, but yeah, I haven’t I haven’t been on it and yeah, because my last thought right, was how that feeling and Rio, and winning, you know, people ask me all the time, like, “okay, you went to four Olympics, you raced a time trial in three, what was your favorite?” And I don’t have a favorite, but I can tell you the hardest, and where I, I think Jim, myself, my team around me, my friends, my husband, I think on multiple occasions, we probably all cracked multiple times. And it was just a good thing that we all didn’t want to quit at one time at the same day, because it probably would have been the end of it, it was the hardest, most challenging, probably goal that I have ever, ever entered for many, many reasons, but it was a crazy come back, and you know, then, obviously getting back to London with Jim and my husband having a bet behind my back while I was nine months pregnant, that I needed to go raise again. Jim coming out and coaching me as just having a baby, I mean, Jim has now experience of bringing athlete back from motherhood all the way to coaching someone that’s over 40 years old.
Jim Miller 1:36:29
Twice. I think in London, somebody said that, that she was the oldest golden metal Olympic winner, maybe I think it was ever I don’t know. Yeah, But I literally remember thinking to myself, I’m like, “had I known that I wouldn’t even have tried to talk her into this.”
Kristin Armstrong 1:36:46
Jim Miller 1:36:49
And then we did in Rio again, four years later.
Chris Case 1:36:52
I’ve got it an idea for you, Jim. She hasn’t she hasn’t touched the time trial bike in five years, or almost five years, once she touches it, you know, she’s gonna have all this pent up energy towards it. I think you got to one more come back, get her on the track for an hour record attempt.
Kristin Armstrong 1:37:15
Jim Miller 1:37:17
Multiple, multiple discussions around that before.
Chris Case 1:37:20
Oh, really? Okay. Well, the reason that’s been on my mind is because I’m sitting here talking to people that have scrutinized and scrutinized and scrutinized this particular niche of cycling and done extremely, extremely well at it. And Trevor’s done a lot of time trials, but I’m sitting over here thinking, I did that one time trial once, and it was an hour record. That’s the only time I’ve really ever been, and he wouldn’t even call it a TT bike, track bike, but yeah, so that’s why…
Chris Case 1:37:51
If remember right, you did you went pretty well. Right?
Chris Case 1:37:55
Jim Miller 1:37:59
Yeah, and it was outdoors, Correct?
Chris Case 1:38:01
It was outdoors, It was on Boulder Valley, tight, tight little track, no experience on a track bike, no experience as a time trialist.
Trevor Connor 1:38:10
You got to understand that what I was helping on the coaching side, this was the conversation, He’s like, “well, I want to make an attempt to this.” So I’m like, “Okay, so what’s your experience on the track?” never been on a track. “Okay, when are we doing this?” Four weeks. “How much do you remember about riding a TT bike?” I’ve never been on a TT bike. Just kind of checking these things off going, “Well, this is gonna be fun.”
Chris Case 1:38:35
And it was.
Jim Miller 1:38:36
As a coach, that’s perfect, because you have a very low bar. You’re like, we’re gonna be successful.
Chris Case 1:38:40
Trevor Connor 1:38:41
But there was a certain point where I’m like, “if you just don’t shoot off of the edge of the track and land in the parking lot at the other side, this is a good hour attempt.”
Chris Case 1:38:49
Right. And the other reason that came to my mind was the fact that the head unit that was placed under my saddle got inadvertently turned off before the attempt, so I actually got no data that day, to know if I rode my brains or if I did a terrible job.
Jim Miller 1:39:10
You did a good one, 46k is legit.
Kristin Armstrong 1:39:15
Trevor Connor 1:39:16
But yeah, no, that part was fun for me, because I had to write the whole part of the article analyzing his performance, and it goes back and it’s like, “Yeah, we got to deliver this article in about five days, And oh, I lost all the data.”
Chris Case 1:39:29
We have a data point distance, I went this far. Tell me how I did it.
Jim Miller 1:39:35
Yeah, you know, it’s funny, I remember reading that story, and I don’t remember that there wasn’t any data in that story. I remember the discussions about all the technology that you guys Incorporated, and my memory that story is was actually very technically savvy.
Chris Case 1:39:52
Yeah, I mean, all that stuff up front that we did to, to test me and figure some stuff out and model it, through, you know the online apps and plug in these data points, FTP and CDA, and all that sort of stuff and spits out a number, this is how far you should go today.
Trevor Connor 1:40:11
As I Remember, right before we did a 30 minute test run, and I think we went, “Okay, that’s our data.”
Chris Case 1:40:22
Enough about me.
Kristin Armstrong: Winning Gold in Rio
Trevor Connor 1:40:24
I really have to ask you this, somebody who has had this sort of experience, when you got that gold at Rio, was it just pure joy or was there some of that disappointment of let down now that a goal that had consumed your whole life was behind you? or was it a mix of both?
Kristin Armstrong 1:40:24
To be honest with you, Rio was I was very fortunate, because as an athlete, it’s really hard to come to the end of a career and to accept it. I mean, I came back out of the sport two times, because I thought I was done, And I wasn’t. And I always say that when you’re an athlete, competing most your life, you have to be the one that says, I retire, I’m finished, and I’ve never felt so sure about myself and retiring than I did in Rio, it was like the ultimate closure that I needed to finally be like, I’m good. And I knew that because soon after that, I started working with athletes, and I was working a bit with USA cycling, and when I was there, and you know, the women were out training, and they were in the lab, typically, for years before that, you know, I just wanted to be there too. I wanted to be out training and in the lab and doing the things they were doing, and finally, I was at a point where I’m like, “have fun with that ride today.” It’s a totally different mentality, but I feel so blessed that was a big gift, because there are so many people I know that still live with what I call unfinished business, where they don’t accomplish them. And needed, just hang on to it and hang on to it, and you’re like, “Oh, I’m so sorry that you can’t come to closure.” And so after Beijing, and after London, I did not have closure, I thought I did I was like kind of like, “Oh yeah, I want to go become a mom.” Like, that wasn’t closure, because it wasn’t within it was probably about 15 months after each of my retirements where I’m like, “I had enough rest now. Now I’m ready to go out and again.” And so after Rio, it was almost a feeling of “Wow, I’m so exhausted right now,” I can’t even I can’t even explain it. I was never been so happy to, I mean, I look back now, And I’m like, What was I thinking? Like, you know, what in the world possessed us to even try for a third gold medal? I mean, the risk we took to like finish not on top. What were we thinking?
Jim Miller 1:43:10
Yeah, that’s just how it is, though. Right?
Chris Case 1:43:16
Just not the coach.
Jim Miller 1:43:17
Yeah, a combination, we just we do we do that kind of stuff without really even thinking about it. Like, it’s who we are, what we do.
Kristin Armstrong 1:43:24
Yeah, you know, there was just so many different, so many different reasons why, why Rio was tough, but I’m glad we ended the way we did, and I feel like I’m, you know, able to give back, I’m able to help other people, so it’s been fun, and of course, I always enjoy being on, you know, a podcast like this, and, you know, having Jim and myself on the podcast at the same time is super fun, because we can reminisce our stories and you know, we talk on the phone and make our own jokes, but it’s a lot more fun to share them with other people.
Trevor Connor 1:44:05
Well, really appreciate your doing that. It’s been great to hearing your stories and hearing the perspective from the two of you on all this. I just have to say that’s a great closure to get to your career. You’re really fortunate.
Chris Case 1:44:19
Jim’s done this before Kristin, we like to wrap every episode of our show with sort of give every guest one minute to distill the episode down. Tell us the most salient points from that topic. Maybe we’ll start with Jim so he can show you how it’s done. Jim, what would you say?
Jim Miller 1:44:38
One minute distilling down of time trialing over 18 years.
Chris Case 1:44:42
Jim Miller 1:44:46
Oh my takeaway for time trialing, you have to mentally be prepared for for the event itself. You have to be prepared to go where nobody else is prepared to go, and you have to prepare, in your preparation to be able to do that.
Jim Miller 1:45:07
Kristin, what would you add here?
Kristin Armstrong 1:45:09
I would add that the time trial is near and dear to my heart, and it’s called the race of truth for a reason. It truly pushes you to your limit both physically and mentally. And it’s a form of art, and so when you’re training for it, or you are focusing on a time trial, always think of it as a form of art in that there’s a lot of different ways you can approach it.
Chris Case 1:45:42
Interesting. Yeah. Trevor, what would you add?
Trevor Connor 1:45:45
I get to go back to something we discussed earlier, that I really enjoyed this conversation, because he does emphasize this point. When I was taught to time trial, I was taught in very old school approach of you should think of time trialing, like, you’re like, ignore the hills ignore the wind, you’re on a trainer that’s controlling your wattage, and the best time trial is where it just looks like you were you were sitting on that trainer for 40k, or whatever it was. And really, I think I was taught wrong, this is a sport of subtleties, so it might look like that from the outside, that you’re just sitting there at a steady pace hurting, but it is a sport of subtleties, There are a lot of subtleties, and they make a really big difference, and you have to pay attention to every single one.
Chris Case 1:46:31
You’ve heard about how inexperienced I am at this discipline, but I would I would just reiterate some of the things that came out from this episode which is to take that skeptical, might not be the right word but skeptical viewpoint on things, and really question why you’re doing it look for the seconds here and there, because that that can be I mean, it is the race of truth, but it can also come down to the be the race of seconds. So finding it in a corner or finding it in a tailwind section, those things are potentially the difference between winning and losing, gold medal and silver metal, or plastic trophy and no plastic trophy, depending on what level you’re racing at. So I like that I really like hearing that. Let’s let’s look at this from an from a different angle or every angle, and applying that honestly not just a time trialing, to to a lot of aspects of cycling in general, I think that’s a great perspective. Well, thank you, Jim and Kristin, it’s been a real pleasure today to have you on the Fast Talk. Thanks again.
Jim Miller 1:47:38
Always a pleasure to be on.
Trevor Connor 1:47:40
Great to have you on, thank you so much.
Kristin Armstrong 1:47:42
Chris Case 1:47:45
That was another episode of Fast Talk. Subscribe to Fast Talk wherever you prefer to find your favorite podcast and be sure to leave us a rating and a review. The thoughts and opinions expressed on Fast Talk are those of the individual. As always, we love your feedback. Join the conversation at forums.fasttalklabs.com, to discuss each and every episode. Become a member of Fast Talk Laboratories, at fasttalklabs.com/join and become a part of our education and coaching community. Kristin Armstrong, Jim Miller, Svein Tuft, Sebastian Weber, Nick Legan, Trevor Connor. I’m Chris case. Thanks for listening.