CPCS has helped me improve in a few different ways. I remember reading an article by Lee that really caused me to think about why I was depending on my power meter.
I was obviously not getting better – a somewhat stagnant category 4 racer with no podiums to my name. So I sold my power meter and heart rate monitor and contacted Lee about coaching me and he agreed. Up to this point I had been self-coached. Lee coaches using PRE [Perceived Rate of Exertion] and this was in and of itself a liberating experience. Not relying on a number helped me to focus on the feel of the effort. Selling my power meter was one of the best things I’ve ever done to help me improve in cycling.
Lee also introduced SufferFest videos. I was excited to try something new but wasn’t exactly sure how these videos were going to help. After agonizing through one of them, I had my answer. I have never sweated so much! These helped me to focus even more intently on how, for example, a PRE 8 feels since there isn’t a whole lot to distract the mind on a trainer. Using these videos within the training plan really helped improve my overall fitness and knowledge of how far my body could go.
One of the first things Lee had me practice, both on the trainer and outdoors, was to pedal with a higher cadence than normal with my hands light on the bars. I was doubtful this would give me any significant gains but I did it anyway. Within a couple weeks I noticed a difference. I was more comfortable on the bike and I was able to apply pressure to the pedals through the entire pedal stroke giving me more power. I was amazed. Pedaling efficiency is one of the building blocks of improvement on the bike and Lee knew I needed to focus in this area.
He introduced me to the 40km TT. I had done only one TT of that distance and was completely unsure whether I’d be able to even finish it. This came along a few weeks into the training plan. He stressed pacing so that I didn’t blow up midway. So I went out and did my 40km TT and finished it. It gave me an incredible sense of accomplishment as well as a benchmark for future tests. Also, the fitness gains for me were significant. After a rest day, I went riding and felt incredibly strong. I kept looking at my speed and thinking the computer must be miscalibrated. This, for me, was another piece to the puzzle.
Now, all of these things added together gave me a very strong base but still there was the uncertainty of how I would respond to racing. The first race under CPCS was a disaster as far as the racing went. I got pulled after being lapped. The worst! However Lee used this as a learning tool. Over the next couple weeks we determined that my body works better in races when I’ve had a harder week leading up to the race. I had never done that before. Just another piece to the puzzle.
Finally, after a disappointing racing season [we'd been working together for 5 weeks to this point- LR], I had one left on my racing calendar. I felt good and my morale was high. I had a confidence in myself I hadn’t had before. It was a 35min Crit. I lined up with about 30 or so guys, most of whom had been finishing ahead of me in other races. The word was GO and I was in the zone. I kept hearing Lee’s voice in my head to stay calm and save the legs! So I stayed in the pack. A couple times someone would attack but the pack would chase them down. Finally the bell rang for the last lap. The pack nailed it and we were flying around the course one last time. “Stay in the slipstream”, I kept thinking. We hit the only hill on the course at about 400m to go. Strangely it didn’t seem hard. I marked a guy who I knew would be making a move. He started his sprint. I started mine and nearly dumped it in the grass! I regained my balance and saw that he was only a bike length or two ahead of me and going for the line. I put my head down and gave it everything I had and got the win!
So to say CPCS has helped me improve would be, I think, a drastic understatement.