Back to Basics

Below, Kristin Barnes, aka Rosie, from the Silver Sage/O2fitness-trained and sponsored, Bike Like a Girl winning and record-breaking RAAM 2015 team, reflects on her RAAM winning preparation.


Three members of the RAAM team, and alternate member

Having been a lifelong athlete, I’ve had significant experiences with coaches of all kinds, yet they all seem to agree on one thing: that technology is one of the best things to bring into you training plan to give you an edge.  My first coach was my Dad; I can still hear him as a cross country coach extolling the virtues of this brand new gadget call a “heart rate monitor” back in the mid-80s.  It seemed very cutting-edge and a very scientific way to train back then.  Today, we’ve progressed to the point where you’re very old-school if you don’t use a HRM and incorporate technology into your gear bag.  There’s no end to the gadgets we currently have available to help us train and perform: metronomes, power meters, apps, computer programs with videos, race wheels, carbon frames, etc.  The list is exhausting and if you’re on a budget, perhaps you feel behind the power curve.

Coaches are completely on board with whatever gadget may help an athlete improve; it makes sense that taking advantage of science and technology are in the best interest of the athlete.  And frankly, I’m all in as well.  Or at least I was.  My most recent endeavor training with O2Fitness for the Race Across America made me re-think that notion.  For something of that magnitude, you’d think we’d want the best that science and technology have to offer.


RAAM transition

But do we?

Interestingly, I’m no longer convinced we do.  In the end, I don’t think you need a power meter, Sufferfest, or Spinervals.  Carbon bikes help but I managed to complete the Race Across America this year with one bike that’s 10 years old and another that’s 6.  Ancient based on today’s bicycle technology.  What’s the key, then?

Going back to the basics.  That’s it.  But what do I mean by that?  You mean long, slow, miles slogging it out in the summer heat?  No, again.

Let me back up slightly by saying at the time I started training with Julie, I was also seeing a chiropractor and a physical therapist for chronic back injury.  I was also newly introduced to something called Foundation Training.  It took very little time for me to hear a common thread: I needed to go back to the basics.  A 45-year old athlete who always does one plane of motion left me sort of broken.  Basics meant structure. You can slog out all the miles you want with all the cool toys money can buy but if your base structure is out of balance, weak or damaged, you’re going no where fast.  The interesting thing is you may not even realize it.  But keep up long enough and you will eventually be headed for serious chronic injury.  So the Foundation Training, my chiro and PT all said strengthen and, more importantly, activate the structure.

So how did they tell me to activate my structure?  The body is designed to move in a very specific and coordinated way.  All the muscles of the posterior chain are team members and have specific roles to play on the field.  Much in the same way people preach to pick up heavy objects with your legs (use your structure properly!), my chiro and PT were saying, train your structure to perform the moves functionally, get the team back working as a team.  My back was doing all the work minus glutes, piriformis, etc.  After literally a lifetime of one dimensional movement (running/cycling all forward – nothing side to side), my entire posterior chain was non-functional.  It doesn’t matter that I could still squat and dead-lift like I could when I was 25. If they aren’t firing when I need them to on my bike or on a run, they might as well not be there.  My end result was a chronically injured back.


Spring Cycling Camp

Fast forward back to last January when our team started working with Julie.  When I first looked at the training plan, I was nodding and saying. “YES!” at the computer because she clearly got it.  No cyclist is able to develop to their full potential unless they are starting with a healthy, functional structure and maintain focus on a healthy structure throughout training.  The foundation to her training plan was simply working on activating the entire team (posterior chain/core).  Continuously throughout the entire six-month program — she had us do core and posterior chain activation and stability, as well as global mobility and regeneration, every day.  Her emphasis on structure sent a clear message on what was important.


Spring training camp, pre-bike workout mobility and stability work

Notice there was no mention of gadgets.  (Moments of true confession, some of her workouts I did on my mountain bike with no HRM and had a blast while still remaining true to the session’s goal.)  Many coaches still prescribe to the long/slow miles doctrine with power meters and rigid adherence to heart rate zones and for those, I say, have at it.  But that wasn’t working for me because while the coaches were focused on getting the most out of technology and science, the old-school basics were missing.  The O2Fitness interval program (prescribed based on power, HR or perceived exertion, based on what worked best for each individual on the team),  built on a solid foundation of structure activation was one of the best I’ve ever done.

Thankfully I now have six-months worth of logged sessions so I can go back and review all the work we did not for the intervals but for the foundation work. Now that RAAM is over, I’ve dropped down to only a few, short rides a week and maybe a jog or two.  While I’m not currently the endurance athlete I was a few months ago, the one concept that I have continued is structure. The O2Fitness, science-based activation exercises faithfully remain in my repertoire.  In this way I maintain my daily focus on those things that contribute to being a balanced athlete (and functional human being) which have nothing to do with long slow miles or speed I can buy online.  In the future, there’s always potential for more races and more challenges and even the potential for buying some great technology to boost my performance.  But thanks to O2Fitness, this will all be possible with just a little, consistent focus on the basics.

The End is Just the Beginning

Contributed by Silver Sage sponsored Reno WheelWoman, Hanging-in-there-tough-Heidi Littenberg

USA Cycling Masters National Championships, held September 9th through the 12th, marked the end of my 2015 racing season.  The dates have been circled on my calendar since exactly one year ago.  In 2014, I registered, but couldn’t attend because I was sitting behind a computer monitor all summer and couldn’t really ride, let alone train.  The sudden decrease in riding time was clearly visible on Training Peaks. Instead, I sat at work for something like 12 to 14 hours a day almost every day of the week.  I looked at friends’ Facebook and Strava posts with envy.  Riding and racing passed me by.


Fifty two weeks…. 365 days.  I was anxiously awaiting this year’s event, mostly because it meant I could participate, unlike last year.

However, as August approached, I started feeling late-season burnout.  July included a couple big races and the training for those pretty much fried me.  After a good conversation with Coach Julie Young, she tweaked my training plan so I could train and manage the burnout as much as possible.  This included more group rides for much-needed social contact, the Reno Wheelmen Tuesday Twilight races, some regular solo interval sessions, and a renewed focus on quality over quantity.  Some days were better than others, but she helped me head to Ogden, Utah with the bulk of my fitness and desire to race intact.

I went to Nationals with two simple goals for the races – race hard and have fun.

Our time trial course reconnaissance gave me reason to be concerned.  A steep, somewhat long climb awaited in the last five kilometers of the 35K race and I was worried my legs wouldn’t be up to the challenge.  Time trialing is new to me and I didn’t expect much in terms of results, but the course was intimidating anyway. On race day, though, I found some focus amid the pre-race butterflies and I pushed myself as hard as I could.  I didn’t set the world on fire, but that wasn’t the point.  I was able to sit back after it was done and reflect on the past year.  The main point – I got to do it.  That’s as good as a win in my book.


The criterium awaited three days later and that’s my bread and butter.  I had time to recover from the TT, help my teammate during the road race, cheer for friends, and do some fun riding.

On race morning, a quick course inspection and warm-up got my juices flowing.  The course looked to be as fun as I hoped it would be.  I lined up at the start and told myself, “You are here to have fun.  Do that and the rest won’t matter.” When the starter’s whistle blew, my mind immediately went into “race mode” and stayed there.  Crits require laser-like focus because things happen so quickly. I wasn’t sure I would have that focus after being all over the place mentally in August, but I did. Even though I missed the medals by about six inches in the sprint, I felt exhilarated.  It was FUN and it was exactly why I’m so addicted to racing.

So, the first moral of this story is talk to your coach.  Julie did an excellent job of helping me maintain focus and fitness despite low motivation.  Burnout is tough to manage, but it’s doable when you make sure your coach knows what’s going on.

Even better, I’m ending my season with the desire to go after it again next year.  I’m already looking forward to all the fall and winter cross training Julie will dish out, so I can be stronger and faster when things start up in the spring.  So, the cycle continues.  This season’s end has become next season’s beginning.

Trixie Takes On the Winter’s Road Race

Below Trixie Bradley, dedicated and talented o2fitness- athlete shares her fist foray in to the road racing scene..

It was an early morning as I ventured my way to Winter’s to take place in my FIRST official road race.  My husband was working so I dropped the kids off at grandmas and was off on my new adventure!  I had decided when I signed up as part of Team Roseville Cyclery that I wanted to road race so I set my goals ahead of me with Julie Young’s help and scratched it off my list of new adventures.  I didn’t know how it would go all I knew was that I was going to give it everything I had.  In the last 4 months of training, I had learned a ton on the dynamics of racing.  Again, thanks to Julie Young for introducing me to groups to ride with and for starting the Breaking Barriers women’s mock race ride.  Getting out there and riding any chance I could in a group setting I went from getting dropped immediately to sometimes hanging with the group to the end.  I felt confident and was ready to race!


The Cat 4 women was the last heat so there was some down time before we started.  The USA cycling administrator was filling us in on rules and things to remember as we were lined up and ready to take off.  I knew I did not want to be at the front because well   I didn’t want to be the work horse.  I didn’t want to be at the back either.  I set myself behind a gal whom I’d ridden with a few times from Team City.  I knew she was great at strategy so if she were to jump I was going to jump.  It was a smart move because it was easy for me to keep good position.  We got neutralized 2 times in the very beginning.  I had no idea what neutralized meant but figured it out.  Our pace was dreadfully slow in the beginning.  No one wanted to break away and I was nervous to make a move this being my first time.  We stayed at the dreadfully slow pace for a while until we started to get to the first few rollers.  Thinking back on it now, I should have tried to break the group up and went for a break away in the beginning there was plenty of time to recoup if it went south!  After the pace picked up it was going well, until mid way up Cantelow.  It was here that I lost the pack.  I have always thought as myself as a climber but joke on me those ladies were off!  Thank goodness I had rode out there once before with the Rio Strada team because I knew what to expect and how the climb would go.  I just kept hitting it as hard as I could.  I saw a girl up ahead a ways that seemed to be slowing down.  I knew if I just kept going as fast as I could maybe I could catch her and other riders.  Before I knew it  I was up the climb and on the descent.  As soon as I rounded the corner and hit the flats I could see her up ahead.  I caught her and just sat back to see what she would do.  She was all over the place.  Not holding a good line but pushing hard.  She seemed strong and kept plugging along so I just let her keep pushing.  I was on her wheel trying to minimize my own work just waiting to see what she would do.  Eventually she looked back a few times so I asked her if she wanted to work together and she said yes.  So we began rotating and working together.  Thank goodness she was strong and giving effort because her skill in pace lining needed some help.  She was still all over the place and our rhythm was not smooth and was driving me crazy.  LOL


Funny huh? Now I am talking like I have done this before.  HAHAHA  Kudos to Julie Young once again because she has taught me fluidity in pace lining and how to work with different wind factors etc.  This girl and I worked together until the start of the second loop where we caught another cat 4 racer.  The wind had picked up and was blowing hard and straight at us.  We did a rotating pace line and figured 3 was better than 2.  After rotating a few times, I was feeling frustrated.  This new gal that we caught was either super tired or sand bagging.  Every time she got up to pull the our speed would slow down.  My first reaction is usually to take the lead and try to speed us up but I have leaned the hard way before by doing the pulling and then not having the energy later.  So, I knew I did NOT want to do that.  We then made it to Cantelow and we started to climb.  Slow girl was messing with me and I as not about to let her use me on this hill.  The first gal I had caught started to jump and I was jumping after her.  Slow girl got dropped and I was now chasing again.  I was not far behind but just enough that on the descent I did not see her.  Once I turned the corner and was back on the flat I hit the heaviest gear I could maintain to try and get her.  She was in eyes view but I never did catch her. I finished strong and overall was extremely happy with the work I put out.  My legs felt strong till the very end!

Looking back I would have done things differently.  That is where experience comes in.  Next time I will take those chances and try to break away.  I also wont let my fear of not having enough stop me from trying.  Like Julie says, “when you don’t think you have anything left you have 5 more pedal strokes left in you.”  What do I have to lose….right?  So either I bonk and have a bad race or I kick some serious tail.  All I can do is try and take each race as a learning opportunity.  I have learned that racing is a lot of strategy and it takes practice.  I am already looking forward to next season and to all the new adventures on my horizon.

Also thanks to the team for all of your support and friendship.  As for Julie Young, I could not have made it here without you guiding me in my training and for sharing your wealth of knowledge in racing.  I truly admire all that you do and am so thankful to have you in my life.