The Girl With The Cowbell Tattoo

The Girl With The Cowbell Tattoo © Tim Shay

by Molly Hurford

I’ve been hinting for a couple of weeks that I had exciting new training news, so here it is: I finally have a coach, Cycle-Smart’s Shaun Adamson. Cycle-Smart president Adam Myerson told me a month ago that I was going to need a coach for my “assault on cyclocross season.” (His words, not mine.) So, here we are.

In the past week I’ve gone from riding when my muscles were working to meticulously following a schedule while looking at my heart rate and power data, which is something I have never done before. I’ve always been a die-hard science geek, but the buck stopped when it came to my own training. But these days, it’s all about the numbers. And for a lot of reasons, it needs to be. For one thing, the only way I was going to make improvements fast was by paying attention to numbers: changes in heart rate, changes in power, making sure I actually sprint on intervals and then, the other numbers like calories taken in and expended, grams of protein and that ever frightening number on the scale. Yep, I’ve turned into a numbers geek. I like it.

I also like having a coach for one big reason: accountability. It’s nice having someone else who is invested in my training, and who I have to report back to. Somehow, excuses like “I got caught up in a call/work/housecleaning/whatever” aren’t quite as rational as they sounded in my own head when I have to tell them to a coach. My friend Donny Green (who you’ll see more of this fall) was telling me that, since getting a coach in January, he hasn’t missed a single workout. I’m hoping that will be the case with me as well, and I think the best way for me to do that is by having a coach who can call me out on my flimsier excuses.

Coaching, however, isn’t the same as the coaching meme that I had in my head. Thanks to the internet, training with a coach today is a little different than my all-time favorite “get psyched” video clip. I’m, of course, referring to the Rocky training montage:

[youtube 6iPFK5T_G3U 580 370]

These days, coaching is a little more “Russian from Rocky IV” (you know, with the awesomely 80’s super-technology like treadmills and heart rate monitors) and a little less hands on (like Rocky pulling the cart with his coach on it through the snow). Still, that certainly doesn’t have to be a bad thing, as I’m finding out. At first, the idea of a coach that never saw me was, well … weird. But after talking to Shaun via Skype and emailing back and forth, I realized it’s possible to have a relationship despite the distance. And thanks to technology like heart rate monitors and Powertaps, it’s pretty easy to make sure your coach knows exactly what’s going on in your life.

It is all about communication though. If I don’t tell Shaun that I felt tired one day, he won’t realize it, and won’t know what to do with that lower data coming in. And if I need to rest, I need to tell him, because he isn’t psychic. Ditto for if I’m feeling particularly great: if I want to add more, or go harder, he needs to be aware of that so he can tell me a) “go ahead,” or b) “what are you, nuts?” He’s also not the typical “hard-ass” coach that we see in movies and in books. He’s much friendlier, and definitely interested in hearing my thoughts on what I’m capable of. Part of the Cycle-Smart philosophy, as Adam Myerson has told me in past interviews, is that coaching is about empathy and being able to relate to the person that you’re coaching. So far, Shaun has done exactly that, while giving me a serious training plan that I have no doubt will whip me into shape in no time.

Having a coach and having this new drive to train (with a plan! and a goal!), it’s easier for me to focus on stuff like stretching after rides, sneaking yoga in weekly and eating healthier. Foods like Greek yogurt and quinoa that I was convinced I hated, I’ve been trying, and it turns out they’re pretty good. And stretching feels great, despite the fact that I’d really rather finish a two hour ride in 105 degree weather and immediately get into the cold shower. The healthy lifestyle is being rocked, as is the training plan, and it feels right. It improves other areas of my life as well: I find that I’m more efficient at work, more effective at getting things done and just generally staying ahead of things. When I’m training like this, I feel like myself, and more importantly, I feel like the person that I want to be.

I’m almost done with road season for the year, thankfully, so it’s time to get cyclocross-specific. Between having a coach, having a new ’cross bike and having a pit bike being built up as I write this, I’m feeling pretty darn pro, and pretty darn prepared for the season.

So tell me: do you have a coach? If so, how do you like it? Or do you train by yourself? If so, how do you come up with a training plan?

If you want to read more about my training, racing and editing exploits, you can find the painfully full version of events here: Molly’s CX Adventures.