How To Not Suck At Cycling

How To Not Suck At Cycling

I’ll never forget the first time I was on a triathlon TT bike, I felt like an idiot.  It was nothing like my childhood days of riding to pool.  It was a stiff, awkward, and uncomfortable experience . . . never mind trying to lay down in the aero bars.

Eventually my body adapted and I learned to “tolerate” riding on my fancy new tri-bike. But I made a lot of mistakes that could have made my cycling a lot more enjoyable.

Cycling is probably the most complex of the three sports in triathlon.  It also takes the most time, which is why it’s important to simplify as much as possible.

In today’s podcast we dive into the nuts and bolts of cycling in a way that helps you become a better cyclist without all the confusion.

For example, it’s not uncommon to spend hours researching and buying an expensive helmet that will do far less for you than getting a good bike fit.  We also talk about a major mistake most people make when training in effort zones.  There’s some good stuff that I think will re-callibrate your riding senses.

Also covered in this podcast:

– Choosing the right bike
– What results you need from a bike fit
– Solid Baselines for your training
– Understanding Zones 1-5
– Why you’re likely making a common training Zone Mistake
– Training with RPE, HR, and Power Meters
– Picking the right helmet
– Buying a suit
– Hydration set up
– Race Wheels

Let us know what you think at  Also check out our popular series “How To Not Suck At Swimming.”

Tackling Your Bike To Save Your Run

Tackling Your Bike To Save Your Run

When I think back to training for my first Ironman, there’s one word that always pops up: uncertainty.  It’s just such a great unknown that there’s no way to really assure yourself you’re going to finish.  And yes, while I floated in Lake Monona that cool Fall morning waiting for the Ironman Wisconsin cannon there was a lot of doubt.

I mean, how can you know?  I never came close to completing 140.6 miles in one day of training.

But there were signs along the way.  Doing an Ironman 70.3 in Muncie definitely gave me a glimmer of hope.  Even still, that was only HALF of the distance.

Then, shortly after that 70.3 I rode my first Century Ride to the tune of 120 miles on the challenging terrain of Natchez Trace in Nashville.  It was also raining much of that day, and while I was absolutely fried, I began to “see” the possibilities in my mind.

And I think that’s the key.  Something has to click.

Going into that first Ironman, my furthest run of my life was only 14 miles, but for some reason I instinctively knew that I could slog my way through the marathon.  Especially if my legs were strong from riding.

I was still building base in every discipline, but spent a ton of hours on spin bikes and the trainer.  Ultimately, I believe it was the purposeful 1.5 – 2 hour trainer rides that made the difference for me.  The hard crunching big gears and the sweat dripping high cadence rides not only produced a strong bike at Wisconsin, but a solid run despite never coming close to a marathon beforehand.

I feel like the marathon looms in everyone’s head, but the true anxiety of Ironman is in the swim and bike.  To me, that is the exact reason the swim and bike should be the first two priorities, especially for age groupers doing their first Ironman.

That’s exactly what we talk about with fellow age grouper, Blaik, who was the first guest on our Crushing Iron podcast (embedded below).

Blaik was training for Ironman Lake Placid (his first) and putting much of his faith in Coach Robbie, who didn’t seem to be prescribing enough running.  Blaik isn’t a huge fan of running, but was still a little unsure why his training was so bike heavy with very few long runs.

As it turned out, Blaik ended up negative splitting his marathon at Lake Placid, and while it wasn’t his best time, he felt like it was his best marathon performance to date.

On this podcast Blaik walks us through how he responded to a full year off due to injury and turned up his swim and bike on the way to his first Ironman finish in Lake Placid.

Here are just a few of the things we talk about:

  • Breaking your bike into two in one day
  • Cycling workouts that are best for your run
  • The best way to attack your trainer workouts
  • The great cadence debate – high rpm or low rpm?
  • From Injury to a negative split run at Ironman Lake Placid.
  • How to “use” your 70.3 effectively when 140.6 is next
  • Is your long weekend run overrated?
  • Finding that breakout moment to give you confidence.
  • Single leg drills

Crushing Iron: FRIDAY FIVE | 12-9-16

Crushing Iron: FRIDAY FIVE | 12-9-16

Here is your first Crushing Iron FRIDAY FIVE.  Each week we will dig up enlightening reads and training strategies for Swim, Bike, Run, a Wild Card and Bonus.  We’ll also embed a motivational video.  Hopefully this helps you get through some of these long Winter training weekends.

SWIM – How To Nail Your Swim

The swim rarely gets the credit it deserves in triathlon, but it is by far the place people house the most anxiety.  I’ve been known to hold onto a few kayaks in my day, but over time that can be “cured.”  This article from Purple Patch Fitness outlines some good stuff so you can “Nail Your Swim.”

BIKE – Understanding 3 Phases of Cycling Training

So many people I know get on a trainer with their headphones and just crank out the hours.  But, like everything else in triathlon, cycling workouts should have a purpose.  Here’s a good article from Trainer Road that looks at 3 phases of cycling work, what they mean, and how you should attack them.

From the article:

Like a puzzle, there are three training phases that fit together to illustrate an image of your fitness over the entire training season. Whether you have a goal event in mind, or you’d just like to become a faster cyclist, your training plan will apply the right type of training stress at the right time to make sure you can achieve both.

RUN – The Science Of Jogging

We talked about the coaching method of Ernst Van Aaken on a recent podcast (Running Slow To Get Fast) and it is changing how I go about my runs.  Not only that, I’m really excited about running again.   Here’s a link to the article on “Science of Running.”

Ernst Van Aaken: The Pure Endurance Method

WILD CARD – Why is Kona So Tough?

In some way or another, most triathletes probably dream of Kona, and I’m no exception.  I’ve also been fascinated by the conditions and why everyone I know seems to go there and struggle.  Here’s a good story from Alan Couzens that explains exactly why racing Kona is so difficult.

From the article:

“Kona really is an incredibly tough environment to race 140.6 miles in. From the high temperatures that reflect from the lava rock to the wind that sweeps relentlessly across the barren landscape to, perhaps the toughest element of all – the saturating humidity of the place . . .”

BONUS – Free Coaching Consultation

Coach Robbie is offering a free consultation ($175 value) to one Crushing Iron fan.  To learn how to qualify, listen to our podcast 09-Break Through The Kona Ceiling.  Oh, hell, actually, just leave us a review on iTunes and we’ll randomly pick one of you.

Email us:
Follow on Twitter and Facebook.
Crushing Iron Podcasts are now on iTunes, Google Play, and Stitcher.  They are also under the “podcast tab” at

Happy Training.

Video of the Week:   Ironman Chattanooga 2015

Three Off-Season Triathlon Training Myths

Coach Robbie and I recently recorded a podcast on off-season training myths.  Here’s a taste of the discussion in outline form.

Be sure to subscribe to the Crushing Iron podcast on iTunes.  


 1 .  You Need to Do an Off-Season Marathon 

•  Marathon training during Ironman training is a surefire way to ignore swim and bike fitness.
•  A marathon is harder on your body than a 70.3 and will cause more downtime for recovery.
•  Exception:  If you do a 2016 late summer, early, or late Fall Ironman, you can carry over the fitness to your marathon.

2.  You Should Do Drills And Kicking In Every Workout

•  Most triathletes have bad ankle flexibility and/or kick from the knees which makes kicking a waste of time and energy.
•  Why spend 10-15 percent of your time reinforcing bad habits when conditioning and arm fitness isn’t there?
•  Most triathletes simply aren’t strong enough to maintain good form.

3.  You Should Cycle With Watt-Crushing Intensity

•  Take a polarized approach.  80% of training should be at level one/level two zone.  The other 20% on high intensity.
•  Find ways to keep riding enjoyable instead of over-trained and fatigued.
•  Think recovery for next workout AND long-term versus just this season.

Here’s the full podcast, which discusses everything above in more detail, plus simplifying swim workouts and post-Ironman Blues.  If you have topics or questions, email us at

Music City Triathlon – Race Preview

Music City Triathlon – Race Preview

I’ve had a lot of requests for a Music City Triathlon Course Preview so I thought I’d drive down to the river and take care of business.  Now, I raced the old course, so my information might not be totally accurate, but really the only information you need is that it is supposed to be 100 degrees that day.

I’ve compiled three expertly crafted videos, one for each portion of the course: swim, bike, and run.  Regarding the swim, I think you swim up about a 1/3, then a full length with the current, then 2/3rds back into the current… but please double check when you get there!  The bike and run videos are about 5 minutes long, and I know that’s time consuming, but those minutes could save you seconds on this course!!

Please share with your friends who are racing.  (That goes for you too Team Magic 🙂

Music City Triathlon – Swim Course Preview

Music City Triathlon – Bike Course Preview

Music City Triathlon – Run Course Preview

Like Crushing Iron on Facebook.

Cycling Etiquette – Please Don’t Do This . . .

Even though I am one, sometimes I hate cyclists. Especially when I’m running.

I grew up in the day when you just road your bike and didn’t run into people or in front of cars.  We sort of used . . . logic.  Sure, sometimes we crashed and did stupid shit, but for the most part, we just rode our bikes and it was all good.

I live near a bike path, which is more often suited for walking or running and many times I will take off on a run.  It’s really pretty serene and peaceful.  I rarely listen to music and typically drift into a meditative state, at one with my breath.

It’s very quiet and I can normally hear a cyclist coming up behind me if they coast a bit or change gears or talk, etc . . . Sometimes you’ll even get the guy or girl who is hammering away at 17 mph and they just cruise right by you in peace.

I have no problem with any of those scenarios because I am just running on the right side of the path and for the life of me can’t remember the last time I suddenly made a direct left turn to chase a squirrel or pick a mulberry.  I just go straight and if the bike goes straight by me on the left, it works just fine!

What I do have a problem with is the guy or girl hammering away at 17 mph who suddenly feels the urge to shout “ON YOUR LEFT” 10 feet away, subsequently scaring the shit out of me and forcing a quick right cut to the far side of the black top and further putting my tender Achilles tendon at risk.


Just make a little noise, coast, or shift your gears 20 to 30 feet back.  Now, if I have a dog or a child or something, it’s different.  But in that case you should really slow way down for your pass and use a normal conversational voice.  Please don’t be this guy!

bad cycling etiquette


Chequamegon Fat Tire Mountain Biking Festival

If you’re into mountain biking, the Chequamegon 40 in Hayward, WI has got to be one of the coolest races around.  It started in 1983 and over 2,000 riders tear off into the woods and end up 40 miles away at the Telemark Resort in Cable, WI.

I did it once, but have no clue when.  Sometime in the late 80’s, I think. All I remember is that three-time Tour de France champion, Greg LeMond won it that year.  I came in around 1,000th place.

It’s crazy to watch this and think about nutrition because I had absolutely ZERO plan the day I raced.  I’m not kidding when I say may have eaten a bagel that morning and nothing during the race.  I think I had two water bottles and that was probably all I drank over 40 miles, which I think took me 2:30.

It’s my last day of rest and this has me pretty pumped.

How Do You Follow Up a 110 Mile Bike Ride?

Sometimes you get a sense that everything is fine, and that’s how I felt after Saturday’s 110 mile ride on Natchez Trace.  It was my longest cycling experience by nearly 40 miles, but for some reason I wasn’t nearly as wiped as any of these much shorter rides.  I have a feeling it had a lot to do with nutrition, but also increased mileage an fitness.

As we ate the post-ride meal at Corner Pub, I could tell I was tired, but it wasn’t one of those beat down exhausted moments.  Robbie, Jim, Allison, Wasky, and Marc chatted around me and I had a renewed energy for Ironman Wisconsin.  It started with a break-thru swim on Friday, now 110 miles (half in pouring rain) on the Trace, what would be next?

On to Sunday.

Those first few steps out of bed can be telling.  I shuffled to the bathroom and was amazed I could stand.  I fully expected to put off my two hour “easy ride” to the afternoon, but I felt surprisingly good at 8 am.  Let’s do this.

I started sipping Perform and did so for about an hour until I clipped into the bike.  Then it was off to Zone 1 (I’m still not quite sure what that is) for a trip to the Dam and back.  Rebekah joined me and it was nice to take in some scenery after yesterday’s blazing ride that glued my eyes to a rubber tire.

I didn’t “push it,” but did do a little slow climbing to work things out.  I felt pretty good and as we coasted down the street toward home I realized I had been sitting on my Adamo race seat for 8 hours in the last calendar day.

But it wasn’t over.

I was gonna do a straight up brick, but was advised to take an hour, so I ate a peanut butter/jelly sandwich with some chips and salsa.  (Triathlon cravings are ridiculous).

Then, I had a big decision.  Which shoes should I wear?

Most of my runs have been in Pearl Izumi Streaks (which are now out of print) but after a problem at Muncie, I bought Mizunos that I thought I liked, but am not so sure after a few runs.  The Pearl’s were my main squeeze until Muncie but my feet started burning like nobody’s business and I dropped them like they were hot, literally.  THEN, I got the same burning sensation from my bike trainer ride a couple weeks later and realized I was wearing the same socks that I wore in Muncie.  Hmm… could it be the socks??

The Mizunos felt great at first, but after a few runs they seemed a little too stiff and my left foot would start slapping the pavement after 5 miles or so.  Something just wasn’t right, so yesterday, I pulled out the trusty Pearls and set out on my two hour run.

This was supposed to be a build/feel run.  30 minute easy, 30 faster, 30 faster, then cool down for 30.  My Garmin didn’t charge so I was relegated to a chrono watch and this process was not easy.  I tried to use the mile markers on the Greenway, but kept forgetting times and whatnot, so I just worked on a steady pace with small gains in effort.

I have no idea how far I ran, but it felt far and my legs were dead.  This was the indicator day for me.  This is how it will feel on September 8th . . . probably worse.  Legs shot and all you have left is your mind to carry your marathon.  I’m guessing I hit 13 miles and the thought of another 13 was daunting . . . but didn’t seem out of the question.

So, now, I put my faith in the conditioning that is left and the taper that will follow.  How will 112 miles and a marathon feel with strong and fresh legs?  The same, better, worse?  I guess time will tell.

Zen and the Bike

Okay, maybe yesterday’s post about cycling was a little harsh, but I have really been struggling with, what is ultimately, my best event.

The bike has always been my baby.  My hippie love child and warm blanket when everything else goes wrong.  But not lately.

Our estranged relationship may have started on the trainer.  Those 2-3 hour rides in the dead of winter were a new experience and frankly reminded me of walking barefoot on hot asphalt.  I poured on the chamois cream, but nothing seemed to ease the pain of stationary exercise.

After a month or so I finally got “used” to sitting in place on a bicycle while my dog sadly laid on the floor wondering why her daddy would do something so strange.  Eventually, I damn near even started liking the trainer.  My coach said, “Tough trainer rides build character,” and I was sold.  The pool of sweat below me was undeniable proof of a good workout and other than perpetually numb under parts, I felt great.

Then we started riding outside.

The first real outside ride was on Natchez Trace and it felt pretty good.  It was still early enough in the year, so allergies weren’t a problem.  Then, the Southern Bloom decided it would wreck me.536265_4814333965358_1613623106_n

A subsequent 3-hour ride left me with heat rash, blood shot eyes, and beat up bones.  I have done several mountain bike races on wicked terrain and never felt this awful after a ride.  The vibration, the extended aero position, and dust in the wind made me feel like I’d sparred with Mike Tyson in his prime and this pain uncovered a strange new fascination with getting back on the trainer.

So, as you can see, I am looking for my cycling happy place again.  I know my bike needs a re-fit, but is it that simple?  How can I translate my new found love of running through the pain onto the bike?

I’m gonna be honest, the 112 mile bike has me a bit concerned.  I know it’s one day and one shot, but 6 or more hours on my trusty Trek sounds like the last thing I would want to do right now.  It’s been suggested I get back on the mountain bike for a while, and I probably will, but if you have any other suggestions for finding my “bike Zen,” I’m all ears.