Without getting into training specifics there's a few things you can do become a better cyclist. Small tweaks, tuning into how you ride, and looking at how intrinsic and extrinsic factors effect you while riding may be the ticket to gaining some valuable time in your next triathlon.
Angela Naeth has been known for her ability to ride a bike - FAST. Posting many bike course records, fastest-bike splits and numerous wins all distances of triathlon (results HERE)! We wanted to know just how she does it.
How do she go so fast on two wheels?!
Here’s what she had to say:
Q: So, how are you so fast on a bike?
Ha! Well thanks for the compliment - even if it's obligatory because you're my husband!
I definitely like to be find free speed where I can and being on two wheels is the easiest way to do so. Training (albeit the right training!) and time in the saddle is key to getting fast, but I’ll leave that for the coaches to explain. A lot of my ‘secrets’ really come from being in-tune with what’s happening while I ride - the weather, wind, terrain, body and mind.
Q: What do you mean by being in-tune?
A lot of it comes from knowing my own triggers - what motivates me, hurts me, and ultimately helps me find a place I'm able to dig deep (a place of calm and acceptance of what’s happening and surrendering to it). Without getting too philosophical or crazy :-), it's basically figuring out what helps you in a positive manner and also harnessing the energy internally so you’re able to use the energy where it belongs - into the pedals.
Q: What are your triggers?
There’s many but to name a few: my head space, how I carry my nutrition, how the wind is hitting me, body position, gearing, activating specific muscles, clothing choices - basically anything that can effect you physically and mentally while riding. From there I look at how they are helping me in a negative or positive manner and make the changes that are necessary.
Q: Can you go into detail in some of these areas?
For sure! To ride fast you ultimately need to find a rhythm. Without rhythm, you’re fighting the bike and your mind. You'll never be fully engaged in the race. You need to be able to react and be attentive, yet be mindless at the same time. In the zone as some would say!
I've found over the years that small things do big things mentally for me:
- Bike data - IKnowing less while riding is better for me. I like seeing my heart-rate and going by feel during the race. I’m not motivated to see power, but I use it in training religiously. I’ve also found that if I can see every second that passes I ride better (I'm sure for some this would drive them mad!). I have specific windows that I'm able to see and it keeps me focused.
- Where I carry my nutrition - I’ve tried different ways to carry my nutrition and I’m always looking for more efficient ways to do so - so I’m not expending energy on trying to get what I need while riding. Obviously in training, jersey back pockets rock. While racing, a bottle up front and a small Xlab bag is best for me. It took my awhile to find out what I liked, but once I did - grabbing food is now second nature and takes no extra energy. Big thanks and plug for Xlab here! They make some good stuff!
- Negative thoughts - If these creep up, which they do, I focus on the little things. I count my pedal strokes, I have words I repeat and even count to 20 repeatedly. I focus on an efficient stroke, using my glutes, and relaxing my neck… typically my body is in a funk and I need to find a rhythm that comes with being relaxed. Once I do, the negative thoughts subside. When the negative thoughts are more about my feelings and may be more subjective - I often try to let them go. It’s not always that easy but during training I practice this on daily basis. A good trick for me is to just accept the thought and move on. You need to be able to embrace it in the moment. The best races are ultimately the ones with no thought for me! But that’s not always the case. Every race is a learning experience and I try to gain as much as I can from each one - good and bad and reflect on what I can do next time.
- Clothing choice - Lucky for me, I’ve been with Pearl Izumi for the last 4 years. It's a company that makes the best riding gear - for racing, training and essentially, 365 days of the year. Yes, this is a big sponsor plug but I believe in them 100%. This is huge for me and being comfortable - which essentially provides the foundation for riding well. You can’t ride well if you’re being chaffed in areas, cold, hot, etc. I’ve found key items that I love and stick to them. (One big mistake I believe a lot of athletes make is only racing in their race kit and not actually training in it. I move my seat almost 3mm depending on what chamois I’m using. It’s a subtle difference but you start feeling these things. I like a small chamois and having training shorts that are similar to my race suit helps me gain confidence in my race uniform and how I’ll feel riding in it.)
- Cadence and rhythm - I’m a grinder by heart and love climbing hills. However, you need to have access to all cadences and be able to speed up and down to find a good rhythm. I work on this daily and change it up a lot during training. I like standing up while riding to not only get refocused but also get back into a rhythm if I feel out of it. Also picking gears that work for you is important. I like having access to everything so I typically ride a 53/54-39 and an 11-28 for almost everything. I use Di2 - 11-speed so that extra gear helps with the 28 in the back.
- Food choices - I like having the ability to suck on something occasionally. It helps me refocus when I’m negative if I have something sweet to taste. I often use small candies and/or chews in between my other fueling.
Q: Is there anything else that you can think of for our readers?
Everyone is different on what helps them stay motivated and on their game but a few things to keep in mind:
- Efficient riding - translates to riding faster. This isn’t so much one of a trigger but something to be aware of. Having a good judgment on pacing and technique helps. Gearing down when standing and knowing when to stand-up will help you find a good rhythm. It takes practice but overtime it becomes second nature. I find that a lot of triathletes really don’t spend time on these skills. Getting more intuitive on what you need to do on the race course will help. It’s all about conserving energy where you can and keeping speed. Cornering without having to break heavily and then sprint back up is good to practice. When you get to a top of the hill - ride over it! You’ll gain more momentum for the downhill.
- Monitor the body - when I’m riding, I’m constantly checking in with myself. How are my legs spinning - am I mashing the pedals? Are my glutes being activated? I sometimes focus on one or both glutes at a time and pedal 10-20x until they are sore. I do this with my hamstrings as well. A lot of the times we’re using our quads more dominantly and your butt needs to be used! How’s my neck? Can I relax a part of my body? We hold tension in certain areas and this takes away energy. I focus on relaxing my upper body as much as possible and not hunch over on the bike.
- WIND! - Even in a non-drafting race where you ride plays a big factor on your energy output and speed. Knowing where the wind is hitting you and knowing where to position your bike helps. If the wind's coming from the right, stay to the left of the rider ahead of you. Even with the draft zone - there’s an effect! When a car comes by, use it to your advantage and get some free speed when you have that ‘dead-air’ you ride thru by dropping it down a gear or spin up!
Overall - when racing there's a doorway/barrier that you need to break thru - to really be engaged and surrendering to what's happening. If you're not pushing thru it, you'll always have negative thoughts, discomfort and pain. Once you break this door down though - this is where the magic happens!
Q: What about riding with me? Your husband? I must account for something!?
LOL. Yes, you do. I like to see just how far I can get away from you before I need to loop back around! :-)
It definitely helps having someone that supports you in your daily riding/training. Getting out the door is sometimes the most difficult. Training with others helps with the daily grind! I also wouldn't eat as well as I do without you in the kitchen. I just wish you wouldn't leave such a mess!
Thanks a ton, Angela. :-)
If you would like to learn more about Angela, you can find out more on her webpage... Check out www.angelanaeth.com
Thanks for stopping by.
PAUL L DUNCAN JR
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