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PCC athletes are sharing their experiences on how they are dealing with the pandemic and what adaptations they have made to their training. Here is Zoe Saccio.

This was my first year Red Truck Racing, and I was looking forward to a busy summer of racing with my team. I had lofty goals, such as winning a national championship, that I felt I was likely to meet under PCC coach Houshang Amiri’s guidance. When all racing was canceled I was disappointed, but it didn’t stop me from feeling motivated to train.

Keeping up with my training program has actually kept me grounded through this experience. Being able to have something to add structure to my day has not only helped me as an athlete but helped me to mentally cope with what is going on. While racing hasn’t been a thing, I did manage to find some competition. I entered Perform Unite’s June #coronachallenge and won both the sprinter and endurance power competitions, with both the highest 1 minute and 10 minute power for women! Thanks to Houshang for helping me stay strong over the last few months.

PCC cyclists have had a challenging few months. The pandemic forced many to train indoors, some faced lockdown after travelling out of the country or province and now it is safe to cycle outdoors this has to be in small groups. In the first of the series – Training during a Pandemic – we asked PCC cyclists how they have been coping and what has kept them motivated. We start with Alex Amiri from Team California. 

Lately things have been chaotic, with COVID-19, the cancellation of the 2020 NA cycling calendar, travel bans, and many other complications, finding ways to stay self motivated can become difficult for some people.

This is a journey through my time with training during the pandemic. It starts back in March, after pre-season training in Tucson, to heading home early and being quarantined to my house for two weeks, all the way to the present day and what I am doing now.

In Tucson I was able to get in the quality training needed to perform at a high level in North America, things were going great on the bike, all the while the situation was rapidly deteriorating in Europe, Asia, and unknowingly at the time, in the North America as well.

From warm sunny days in Arizona, to hearing Justin Trudeau telling all Canadians to come home. On such short notice this was a bit of a shock. It was grey and rainy for the whole two weeks of my quarantine. During this, I was not allowed to leave the house. That meant lots of time on the trainer. For some, this is a non-issue. For me, this was a hard adjustment, and mentally it was tough. Things were still uncertain for the 2020 race season, so motivation to turn myself inside out on the trainer was nonexistent.

Coming into April post quarantine I was excited to finally get back outside and on the road. Rain or shine, I was getting out on the bike for my own sanity. While this was great, the two weeks on the trainer took its toll. Physically, I had lost the fitness I gained in Arizona. Mentally, I lost some of the drive to keep up with the prescribed training. Thanks to my team, Team California, I was able to have a major shift in perspective, understanding that I am not alone. And thanks to my coach, we were able to formulate a plan to maintain and build fitness in a way that I could enjoy, and I was committed to the long road ahead, regardless of what the racing season might look like.

Throughout the month of March, my focus had shifted from high intensity back to the off-season style of training. This was a still a major adjustment, going into May and the “start” of the racing season.

Alex on a gravel ride near his home in Mill Bay. Photo by Jay Wallace.

May brought more favourable weather, but it also brought the bad news of our 2020 race calendar being all but cancelled. While the month started with the Virtual Redlands Bicycle Classic, it ended with lots of time spent on the Gravel bike, as well as the TT bike. The goal was to build the base fitness, without too much thought towards building the high-end power sustainability. This allowed a lot of time to explore the roads less traveled. It allowed opportunity to keep things interesting, from 8-hour gravel epics, to 4-hour rides on the TT bike to find comfort in the aero position. Towards the end of the month, I was feeling refreshed.

June meant summer. With that came earlier sunrises, and later sunsets. That greatly affected the amount of riding I was doing. Finishing May with 90 hours of riding in the legs led to a big boost in fitness, and in turn, a morale boost. Feel-good do-good right? It was a refreshing feeling having the freedom to ride to my hearts content, keeping in mind that racing will eventually happen, even if it is eight months away. This became the perfect time to push my limits. Without pushing limits, its hard to find areas to improve on, making it difficult to formulate realistic cycling goals. The last time I had really “pushed” my limit was in 2017. The big training loads, for me, help me build my self awareness on and off the bike. Teaching me what I can and cannot handle. This began one of my biggest months of training, logging 108 hours on the bike.

The last week of June was a solo 37 hour training block over the course of eight days, with one day off (the second day). The beginning of the week was rough, coming off the Virtual Joe Martin Stage Race and heading into a training week like this was a shock to the system. After the rest day began six days of training totaling 30 hours and 900 km. Feeling terrible on day one was a bad sign, but I was committed. You are not always going to feel amazing on the bike, and what I found was that as the week went on, and the hours and km’s started adding up, I started feeling better and better. By the end of the week I felt like I had just had an easy week. I felt great. I learned I can handle a big training load like that, and I learned just how hard I can push myself with that much time on the bike all at once.

Now going into July, I’ve started with an actual easy week. With the last months weighing on my mind it became abundantly clear that nothing lasts forever. If you’re up, you’ll come down. If you go down, you will come back up.  Cycling is a tough sport, everyone has a different journey, and everyone develops and goes through these highs and lows at a different rate. Mentally you need to find what drives you, on and off the bike. A big fault many cyclists struggle with is feeling vulnerable. If you feel vulnerable, you’re out of your comfort zone, and in the gain zone. So embrace it, and just keep pedalling.

Erinne Willock with Houshang Amiri at Bear Mountain in 2010

An athlete and coach should work as a team. Two-way communication and trust are key to any successful team and this is no exception.

Most people will start to seek out a coach once they start setting some specific goals in the sport and realizing they need help to achieve those goals. Even the best athletes in the world still have a coach who they communicate with.

However, when a rider is first starting out and learning about this crazy sport you must have complete trust in your coach and try to listen and learn from their expertise. The coach must also be able to have trust in you as the athlete to follow their program 100%.

The first thing to do with a coach after every season and intermittently throughout is to sit down and talk about your short term and long-term goals. Talk about your strengths and weaknesses. Is your primary goal to maintain or improve your strengths or is it to improve your weaknesses? What worked well for you in the past?

It is your responsibility as an athlete to communicate your lifestyle, sicknesses, injuries, stress, vacations and any event, which will make you tired or alter your training. You cannot expect your coach to be a mind reader. For example, stress somehow seems to be what most people forget to mention, even though we all know it can have huge impact on us. On the other hand your coach needs to be mindful of your schedule and a big week of training should not be scheduled during a busy time for you such as final exams.

You must understand the basic point of your training in order to follow through with it. It is the athletes’ responsibility to be involved with their training because this helps you trust the program, and understand the effects of the training so that frustration doesn’t occur. The early years of working with a new coach will also require more time and patience to grow. Learn how your coach works and ask as many questions needed so that you understand what your training will entail. You must understand that if you’ve agreed to work on something specific that it will take time to see improvement. I’ve seen too many athletes give up after only a few short weeks of trying something new to conclude it didn’t work.  As much as we would all like our coaches to be magicians, they aren’t, and improvement requires dedication to the training and hard work.

By Erinne Willock

(Erinne was one of Canada’s top road cyclists, joining the National Team in 1999. She podiumed at many national and international races and cycled for Canada in the 2008 Beijing Olympics)

PCC athletes are adapting to the ‘new normal’ we find ourselves in. Creating a new routine of training indoors takes adjusting particularly if you are used to training on the road year-round. Amiel Flett-Brown – who won a Bronze medal in the Team Pursuit at the Track Worlds in January – is finding a way how to stay fit with while keeping safe and healthy. It is giving him the opportunity to work on his strengths and weaknesses and with the change of pace he feels he will come out of it all a better athlete.

Amiel shares his routine and how he is making indoor training fun and challenging.

I’ve found that overcoming mental barriers are the most common occurrences that may hinder my training routine. Creating tasks, schedules and routine have helped me stay on track with my fitness.

  1. Showing up – often a majority of mental barriers can be overridden by simply getting on the bike. I try to set a realistic time of day that I will start training and either set my bike up the night before or just after breakfast when I have some free time. Having the mental clarity that all you have to do is get on the bike, helps to simplify things.
  2. Having nutrition ready – depending on the energy demands of my training, another one of the things I do is prepare my nutrition before I get on the bike. The nice thing about indoor training is that you don’t have to keep your food in your pockets. For example, instead of eating a packaged fig newton bar, you could have a jam sandwich (on a plate). Hydration is largely more important than we may be used to, even if you have the latest cooling systems in place, you will still likely need to add at least an extra 500-1000ml of fluid to your ride plan. I like to set up a table with all of my hydration needs, including a post ride recovery drink in the ready. That way, you don’t have to get off the bike too often and can keep the quality of your training high.
  3. Warming up and cooling down – preparing physically and mentally are both two of the most important factors for me. If you’ve ever heard of the Pavlovian Response “a learning procedure that involves pairing a stimulus with a conditioned response.” I like to think of my warm up routine (breath work, muscle activations, on bike warm up) and cool down as an actual procedure to prepare my mind (and body) for the riggers of training. The more frequent positive experiences I have training, the more my mind and body will associate training with being happy. If you’re having a tough day, look at what you can improve for next time and consider what you did that made you feel good and add that to your routine!
  4. Keep the stimulus simple – there are a lot of things to focus on while riding these days, some good and some less helpful. For me, I tend to have a busy mind when I begin to suffer, say in an interval for example. The more internal noise, the less I am able to focus on the effort. If you can find a way to pair down your distractions and amplify the ones that really count you may find that the RPE of doing an effort indoors will go down. Another example; do you need your Garmin screen to tell you what the temperature is during your interval? Or do you need to be watching YouTube, Zwift and listening to an audiobook while doing a threshold interval? Finding ways to simplify your external input may help with focus. If I have a hard training session I keep my screen to a maximum of three data fields, find a good song or playlist. Virtual riding is good for this too! But keep it simple. This may be an acquired taste, but I actually like to have a blank wall to look at and Zwift off to the side. I’ll also let those who I am living with know that I am going to be doing a hard session so not to interrupt if possible. This may be harder for those with children, so finding time when kids are occupied could be the most optimal time for intervals. You can always talk about lightsabers and Frozen during a zone 2 ride.
  5. Flexibility – not just in the muscles, but in your planning and mindset. These are not optimal times and there will be many things you cannot control but you are always going to be responsible for your mindset. If something is blocking you from getting everything that you wanted to get done in the day, take a step back and consider what has gone right in your day. I try to stay grounded to the idea that I am grateful to be healthy, mobile and able to train on a regular basis. That is something that I can always come back to when things are not going to plan. Having the plan is one part, being able to adjust based on experience is key to enjoying your time training. A better snapshot of the trainer set up.

 

Photo by Alex Amiri

PCC’s Caleb Bender was training in Tucson last month. Here is his report and an update since he returned to Canada.

Reporting post ride, shower, and recovery meal, at the time of writing (before current events created the necessity to stop group rides) I’m getting mentally prepared for a massive day in the saddle as part of my pre-season race preparation in Tucson, Arizona. Tomorrow, I’m taking part in the “Shootout” group ride, a drop ride that leaves downtown Tucson and turns any long, quiet, and stop-less road into a full gas effort as intense as some races, if not more so. My group leaves at 7:00 am and splits into two options; a 60km ride for short intensity, and my challenge, a roughly 160 km ride turning around at the top of Madera Canyon – a gradually increasing gradient climb, 20 km long and 750 m of climbing, with finishing grades well above 10% in the final kilometers. And yup, the last 7 km are flat out to the top. North American Conti and Pro-Conti riders regularly attend to fire some shots off the front and take advantage of the perfect desert weather this time of year. With my commute to downtown, I’m looking at 230 km and over 1500 m of climbing. I’m anticipating a mid-afternoon nap in my near future.

This will be my third time taking on the full shootout ride in the five weeks I’ve been down, and my fourth ride over 200 km in that span of time as well. I arrived down south on February 6th, and for those who know of the tendency for Saskatchewan winters to follow me, I didn’t even bring a blizzard to the desert! (this time… yes it snowed last time I was here). To get prepared for my first season of U23 and Cat 1-2 racing some huge miles are needed. Thankfully, Tucson is the perfect place to get in those miles, complete with rolling hills, false flats, and Mount Lemmon; a cyclists’ dream of a climb taking the best in the world over 1.25 hours to get up, and the opportunity to replenish all the carbs you’ve lost in the past week with a fresh baked cookie larger than your face at the top.

A couple days after Pacific Cycling Centre’s February training camp, which provided me with a solid five-day training block with a great group of people to get the legs back into race form, I flew off to Tucson. My first three weeks down south were part of a team training and race prep camp with TaG Cycling Race Team, which included Valley of the Sun Stage Race in Phoenix Arizona. Although my Cat 1 race debut was a bit rocky, the team did a superb job working together and throughout the camp we had the opportunity to develop a needed sense of comradery between us, and to motivate each other to push ourselves to the limits during our rides. Between Shootouts, leadout drills, TTT’s, and Lemmon rides (one of which may or may not have included a caffeine gel at 7:00 pm to get through a post ride shower and meal) we got the teamwork going that we needed in order to prepare us for our time racing together for the rest of the season!

The last couple of weeks after team camp have been a full block of training. After a few days to get well recovered, Houshang gave me a schedule filled with race specific hill intervals to push my limits and get ready for the efforts I need to prepare for in competition, as well as long 5-6 hour endurance rides to keep the baseline fitness high and get me prepared for the longer days in the saddle that U23 and elite racing brings. He also threw in a few shootout rides to work on pack skills, tactics, and the top end power. Mixed with adequate R&R amid my online courses, the past weeks of training have brought huge personal improvement, allowing me to routinely smash personal bests, and putting me in some of my best form to date. Houshang’s personalized training plan has allowed for me to develop my strengths and work on my weaknesses so that I am prepared as best as possible for the season ahead.

That being said, I’m looking forward to the remainder of my time in the sun! I’ve got a few more big days, and another run up to the top of Lemmon in my time down here, and I’m looking forward to replenishing a month’s worth of carbs with a cookie at the top! After that, it’s a couple weeks back to Saskatchewan for some recovery, and I guess we will see where the season ends up going! That being said, I’ve got to get my equipment ready and some rest before a big day tomorrow. 4:30 am wakeup call! (I’m going to need a lot of coffee!)

PS – To provide an update on the time between writing and editing this, after a stressful few days trying to get back into Canada, I’m back at my home in Saskatchewan in self isolation until 14 days have passed and I’m cleared to be back outside. Although the circumstances aren’t great I’m glad to be home with my family, and have been keeping motivated to train, using my spare time to work on the different areas that make a complete athlete such as mental training, core stability work, and stretching. I’m taking a couple weeks fairly easy to relax and keep the immune system going strong, and then transitioning to more intervals with some Zwift racing to keep the motivation high. I’m looking forward to taking this time to enjoy the ride and better myself. I’m also really looking forward to the new PCC Zwift group rides on Wednesdays and Fridays at 10:00 am to keep the riding going! There’s been lots to adapt to, but I’m glad to have a coach that is quick to adapt, and that I know I can trust to adjust my plan so I’m in the best place I can be whenever racing can resume in a safe manner!

Ottawa, ON (March 13, 2020) – The COVID-19 pandemic is a novel and rapidly changing situation. Cycling Canada has been monitoring what national and global health agencies are recommending; the best practices being adopted by other Canadian sport organizations and businesses; and travel restrictions that are being put into place around the world.

Our current travel recommendations for Cycling Canada athletes, officials, coaches and staff are below. “Essential” events are ones that have a direct impact on Olympic or Paralympic qualification and preparation; travel to those should be restricted to targeted athletes and key staff, and will be assessed on a case-by-case basis. Please note that these recommendations may change as the situation evolves.

  • Avoid all non-essential travel by mass transit (bus, train or plane); travel by car if possible.
  • Avoid attending non-essential events, particularly indoor events attended by large numbers of people.
  • Avoid travel to affected areas (see the WHO and Health Canada websites for the latest information).
  • Travel to essential events will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis and must be authorized by Cycling Canada senior management.
  • Cycling Canada will attempt to accommodate those who are unable to travel or do not wish to travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Besides the potential health risk, there is a risk of imposed quarantine while abroad or upon return to Canada – this should be addressed in contingency plans.

Status of Domestic Events

In order to support the efforts from public health authorities to minimize the transmission of the virus, Cycling Canada is recommending that all cycling events on the Cycling Canada calendar between March 15th and May 1st be postponed or cancelled. This includes the postponement of the 2020 Canadian Youth & Para Track Cycling Championships originally scheduled for April 3-5 in Milton Ontario.

Calendar link: https://www.cyclingcanada.ca/events-results/find-events/

As this is a rapidly evolving situation, Cycling Canada will reassess the situation on April 3 for events that are scheduled between May 2nd and June 14th. Due to the wide range of events and jurisdictions, we are recommending that our provincial and territorial associations implement a similar process. We believe this is in the best interest of the cycling community and public health at large. Event organizers should consult with their local government and health agencies to determine the risk associated with their event.

Cycling Canada will continue to publish updates as they become available. We are committed to ensuring that our members have access to the most current information.

Organizers who are concerned that their event will be impacted should contact their provincial and territorial associations, all of whom are prepared to assist with the postponement or cancelation process.

We will work diligently and collaboratively with our organizers and provincial organisations to reschedule as many of our planned events as possible.

Hygiene recommendations that apply to everyone:

  • Wash your hands frequently.
  • Cover both your nose and mouth when coughing. Try to cough or sneeze into your arm, away from others, or into tissue paper (to be disposed in toilet). Wash your hands immediately afterwards.
  • Avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness.
  • Face masks are most effective in preventing transmission when worn by the person who is ill.

Resources:

Pacific Cycling Centre is offering athletes an opportunity to register for a Performance Training Camp in March which has an option to prepare and race the Aldergrove Long Road Race on March 29 in Langley, BC. The camp has two four-day options and a six-day option and runs from March 24 – 29 in Victoria, BC.

The camp led by PCC Head Coach Houshang Amiri, will have daily rides from two to five hours in duration with three afternoon track sessions. The rides will have hill climbs and sprinting and have a focus on technique and sharpening cycling skills. The camp will also include a training presentation.

Those wishing to do the Aldergrove RR can choose one of the camp options that includes race preparation, final tuning, an equipment check and nutrition strategy. The camp fee does not include the race registration.

All level of riders are welcomed from different cycling disciplines. Depending on the size of the camp riders will be divided into groups according to their level and ability.

Cost for the four-day camps are $495 + GST and for the six-day camp is $795 + GST

The deadline to apply is February 25.

Go to the Camps page for more information

PCC athlete Amiel Flett-Brown is competing at the World Cup Track Championships in Milton this weekend. He was selected after his solid performances at the Canadian Track Nationals. He has been training at Milton for the last four weeks in preparation for the Team Pursuit.

“As well as Team Pursuit, I’ve also been selected as Omnium spare, which came as a pretty cool surprise as I had not prepared or expected the role,” Amiel said.

“Having coached Amiel for the last two years he has shown his skill as a rider and can adapt to any situation,” said PCC Head Coach Houshang Amiri. “We wish a very best for Amiel and all his teammates”.

Luke Hubner on the podium. PCC photo

Five PCC athletes took part in the Western Challenge at the Harry Jerome Sports Centre over the weekend. Sanctioned by Cycling Canada, it was hosted by the Burnaby Velodrome Club.

Zoe Saccio and Micaiah Besler were in the elite races and on the first day they came 1st and second in the 500m TT. Aedan Cracker, Parker Swanstrom, Luke Hubner were in the U19 category with Luke winning the IP and Omnium racking up 183 points.

“It was a great weekend of racing and they all worked very hard,” said Head Coach Houshang Amiri.

PCC’s third off-season camp is set to go from January 30 – February 2. Based in Victoria, BC, the focus will be on building endurance and fitness in a vibrant, stimulating group training setting. The camp will identify athlete training targets for the 2020 season and the long rides will boost  aerobic capacity for cycling disciplines such as road, track, MTB and triathlon.

The four-day camp is led by PCC Head Coach Houshang Amiri, with daily rides from four-five hours in duration. The rides will include hill climbs and a time trial with a focus on technique and sharpening cycling skills. The camp will also include two training presentations.

All level of riders are welcomed from different cycling disciplines. Depending on the size of the camp riders will be divided into groups according to their level and ability.

Cost for the camp is $495 + GST. The deadline to apply is January 25.

Information and Registration Details