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Shifting Gears with Masters World Record Holder Charlotte Miller
Concentrate on the Process Rather Than Being Consumed by the Podium 9/12
Charlotte Miller has been riding and racing for over 40 years and she still loves it. Certainly, I can relate to that whether there's a finish line or not. Peg and I came to know Charlotte this summer at the Masters National Track Championships where the three of us joined up as Team Sage to win the Team Pursuit Championship, where she also swept the medals for the 60-64 age category.
What specific training do you do for big events?
This is an intricate question because my specific training protocols for big events have changed over time.
My first USAC race was a criterium in 1981. The specific training for that event was the development of bike handling skills, endurance miles, and power training. The power training was in the form of pulling a trailer with my one and a half year old son up and down the hills of northern Ohio.
After a move to Virginia in 1983, my local racing increased and I began traveling to races along the eastern seaboard. My specific training for state and regional events remained the same, however I inserted a 6 day taper for big events and I was pulling two children in the trailer for power development. During this time I met two gentlemen who raced for the Tidewater Bicycle Association; Peter Teween and Gene Bowen. Peter introduced me to Eddie Borysewicz's periodization plan in the book Bicycle Road Racing: Complete Program for Training and Competition and Gene was instrumental in the development of my leg speed, and sprinting skills and race tactics. Winter months were devoted to building leg speed. Every Thursday we'd ride fixed gear bikes along the rolling hills of the Colonial Parkway. During the summer months we worked out at an auto speedway to develop leg speed and sprinting tactics.
In 1993 my training partner, Camilla Buchanan and I met Arnie Baker. This was about the time his Smart Cycling book was published and we began to implement his 12-Week Progressive Workout Series the following winter. I've continued to use the Workout Series every winter since because the workouts are specific to the development of high cadence and isolated leg training. (Wherever I live, riders are invited to my garage and I lead them through the series of workouts). This workout series has helped me establish my winter base and keeps me cycling fit for hitting the trails or road when spring arrives.
In the mid 90's, Camilla and I met Thomas Ehrhard. This is when I began to develop an understanding for micro cycles (moderate, hard, hardest, and easy) and the use of anaerobic threshold intervals. In 1996 Camilla and I wanted to attempt to break the women's 90+ tandem record for the 40K time trial distance. Our training included 4 x 10K AT intervals along a flat stretch of road to develop pacing and speed, and inserted max VO2 efforts on a stationary trainer to develop lactate tolerance. We broke the record!! (Side note: I'm not much of a gym rat, however I did do plyometrics. Even today, I integrate them into cyclocross training. I also want to mention daily stretching and on easy days I will do focused stretching session that is about an hour long.)
In 1998 I moved to Houston and began training for track racing. My specialty on the road was sprinting so I felt I was naturally suited for track sprinting. Track sprinting required specific attention to power and speed. I used mountain bike training, and racing to develop power and motor pacing to develop leg speed.
Sometime around 2001 I went to a USAC Elite Coaching Clinic when Max Testa was the guest speaker. Max presented a progressive unloading periodization plan that would help reduce the internal stress caused by fatigue. This was fascinating to me because I wanted to increase super compensation and reduce the risk of burnout. Returning back to Houston I revised my micro cycle plan. I changed from the moderate, hard, hardest, and easy to the over-reach, reduce volume and intensity from week 1, reduce volume and intensity from week 2 and unload or recovery plan. Using this plan allowed me to road, mountain, cyclocross, and track race with less stress of fatigue that comes with such a heavy training and racing load. It has made me feel better and I ended up being able to ride faster and longer because I was rested. After making this micro cycle change I set a world record in the flying 200 meter TT in 2002 and in 2003 captured a Master World Track Championship in the Women's 50+ Sprint.
The training for the 2009 National Track Championship was all specific for the sprints and points race because work commitments limited my training time. I would use my 8 mile commute by cyclocross bike on dirt trails in the morning as a recovery spin and the afternoon commute was lengthened to include intervals. The track had racing twice a week and I would get there when I could to sharpen my racing skills, work on leg speed and practice my approach for the flying 200 meter TT. That Championship was amazing in that I set another age group record and won the sprints and points race.
What motivates you - do you have goals or standards you strive for?
What motives me today is different than what motivated me in the past. My motivation in the past was "to be better than" other racers and to stand on the top podium step. In 2002 I lost the world sprint championship in a photo finish that was the width of a pencils lead; I still have the commemorative photo the official gave me! I went back home and thought about that race. I realized I was thinking more about the outcome instead of the process. Visualization was consumed with more moments about standing on the podium rather than working the process of what it would take to get through the race. It was while reading Julia Cameron's book The Artist's Way that I came upon this quote," To be better than can choke off the simple desire to be." This simple yet powerful phrase helped me realize I was approaching the contest with a misguided outlook. In 2003 I worked hard keeping my visualization and training on the process. I had a bone chilling race at Master Worlds that October when my game plan played out as visualized.
I have future cycling goals I'll strive for such as racing the National 24-hour Championship on a Mixed Duo Team with my son. My son who is now 31 likes to "townie race", so my training will focus on riding restricted gears until we have a townie bike assembled for the more specific training. My focus has changed to my work as an artist and teacher in the past few years. I work at an alternative school and I want less structure with my free time so I just noodle around on my bike ride or take an afternoon hike. I look at it as resting up before the next micro cycle starts. It's possible that this venture into townie racing is where I'm heading next. FYI My son Eddie is a multi time World Townie Champion.
What have you noticed over time that has changed physically for you?
What I noticed physically after moving to Colorado Springs in 2005 is that living at 6,500 feet requires that I take more rest between high intensity workouts. Or could it be that I'm not as young as I used to be? So, I've added other outdoor activities to my palette that are low stress. I'll throw in hiking and rock climbing on easy days, and in the winter months I'll cross-country ski. I find having this broad selection of outdoor activities also reduces mental burnout by allowing me to focus on different challenges that are just for fun. For several years, I've also integrated Pilates into my weekly routine. The reformer workouts have helped me develop a stronger core and strengthen weak areas that weren't getting the attention they need when only cycling. Some old injuries were hampering performance and comfort so I'm seeing a chiropractor regularly. This has made major improvements on spinal and joint health. A change in diet just about the time I was heading into menopause helped me sail through without weight gain or fatigue issues. However, I am concerned with hypothyroidism. While it is under control with medication, I'd like to find out what's missing from my diet instead of taking a drug for life. That's what I'm dealing with currently. I think I may have found the right doctor to help.