Making the Leap to Coaching: Kenton Berg’s Training Diary

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A graph of Kenton's power during a local crit

A graph of Kenton's power during a local crit

Not sure if you’re training effectively? Have some ambitious goals for the season but feel like your racing has plateaued? Cyclocross Magazine’s Kenton Berg has been stuck in this situation but this summer he’s been motivated to do something about it and decided to seek professional help. Follow Kenton this season as he brings Cyclocross Magazine’s online readers along for a season of training and racing under the watchful eye of a coach. Kenton joins our growing group of columnists (including Christine Vardaros and Ben Popper) with this new semi-weekly online column.

Hi, my name is Kenton Berg and I’m just your average bike nut…that is, I love to ride but I also love to compete. Take the two and you’ve got a recipe for self-imposed suffering, wads of cash going to odd and trendy gear and endless negotiations with my wife. But this year, there are some ambitious goals fueling this lifestyle. And to have the best chance at achieving my goals, I’ve decided to bring some structure to my pricey passion and hire a coach.

Given that this was a major decision for me and that many of you may be considering going down this same path, I plan to chronicle my experience for Cyclocross Magazine readers through this online column.

I happened to have fallen in love with cyclocross racing and, like most of the weekend warrior ‘cross racers out there, I have a job, kids, a wife and a never-ending “honey do” list. That leaves me with about 10 hours a week for training and racing, enlisting me in the army of racers trying to figure out how to make the most of it. Sometimes my life feels like I’m chasing those ads promising top fitness in just 20 minutes a day-it’s just not possible. So, after two full seasons of cyclocross and a rise to the ranks of the Masters 1/2 brigade, dropping some coin on a coach just seemed to be the next step if I wanted to progress.

Why get a coach you say? Well, to improve my ‘cross results, achieve some goals and push my personal limits by getting some direction and structure in my training. Besides, dollar for dollar, it will probably give me better results than, say, getting this year’s hottest new model of shoe or a lighter handlebar.

I’m excited to share with the Cyclocross Magazine readership my adventures in coached and quantified training this season. Maybe you can learn from my mishaps or judge whether coaching is right for you. It’s an investment, for sure, but so is the time I put into training. I figured I might as well make it count!

My past training was haphazard at best. Sure, I’ve read the great articles by Michael Birner, David Perez and others in Cyclocross Magazine, as well as articles by guys like Chris Carmichael. But the tricky part has been putting that advice together into a plan that works for me, and thus my training was all over the map. I figured out that after lucking out with some good results over my first two seasons (several wins and tops fives) and then getting my ass handed to me when I hit the Cat 1/2 Masters group, it’s time to figure out what really works for me and what doesn’t.

With that in mind I set out to find a coach that would help me to establish some direction, devise a plan and work to achieve my goals. Two things were important in my search:

Cyclocross experience. I wanted a coach that was very familiar with the sport and its particular training and recover needs.

Use of power-based training. While I’ve never used a power meter, I’ve been curious as to its potential benefits and have craved the ability to monitor my progress throughout the season and from year to year.

After talking with other racers and researching my options I decided to go back to what I would consider “familiar territory” and work with coach Kristi Berg (no relation) at Cycle University (www.cycleu.com). I was already familiar with Cycle University because two years ago I started my ‘cross racing journey by joining the development team at CycleU and was fortunate to get to know the coaches. Kristi tears up the women’s races every weekend, and Craig Undem raced Worlds for the U.S. in the late 90s and is a fellow Masters competitor. Also, these guys have embraced power-based training. So for this season, I’ll be working together with CycleU to develop a good training program for me, monitor my performance and make adjustments based on my available time and progress.

How will I know if it’s working? I’ve developed three goals for the season:

Place in the top 10 overall in the Seattle Cyclocross Series (Masters 1/2 category)

Achieve a top-five placing in one race in my category

Place in the top 25 in my age class at nationals (my first Nats)

What does it all mean? The PowerTap computer displays a lot of data.

The PowerTap displays a lot of numbers, but Kenton relies on Kristi at CycleU to make sense of it. by Kenton Berg

I chose goals that would be tough to reach and would push me past my comfort zone. I hadn’t really pushed myself this hard in past seasons and believe this will be a good measure of whether the training works… assuming of course I can stick to the plan.

While all this sounds great in theory, it does have its potential downsides. On top of throwing down cash for the coaching, I had to shell out for a pricey and somewhat cryptic Power Tap hub. Now all my rides, whether for training or not, have data and numbers associated to them and are downloaded for scrutiny by my coach. My riding has been reduced to numbers, and lots of them. I am worried that this might end up making riding more like “work” than riding or fun. My friends who use coaches confirmed that this is a common concern, but whether it actually makes riding feel like work depends on the rider. I’m hoping I have the right perspective. I’m approaching it like a student wanting to devour any material I can learn as opposed to an employee being supervised.

But hey, stick around, let’s see what happens. Time will tell and if I can continue to saddle up and do the training while staying healthy (and knocking items of the “honey do” list) I just might make it. Stay tuned.

Thanks for reading. Drop a comment below if you have a question, suggestion or comment.

-KB

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Cyclocross Magazine, Issue 22, Print and digital subscriptionsHave you subscribed yet? You're missing out if not. Get all-original content and your cyclocross fix throughout the year with a subscription and Issue 23 back copy, with features on Lars van der Haar, Jonathan Page, Elle Anderson and more!
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