Friday, May 8, 2015

Receiving Instructions

When we were kids, my brother Matt and I hated taking piano lessons. But it didn't start out that way. Both of us were thrilled at the prospect of becoming pianists. I'm sure we both thought we'd be playing Tchaikovsky in short order. That enthusiasm didn't last long. We discovered that the learning piano wasn't easy. What made it worse was that our teacher, Mrs Eiter, was a tyrant to us. It quickly became not fun. From that point, several weeks would pass without touching the keyboard between lessons.

What a waste of my time and my parent’s money.

Fortunately, our lessons came to a dramatic conclusion at the end of a formal recital. After the last note was played by a senior student, Mrs Eiter thanked everyone, then suddenly announced that she was retiring, effective immediately. Just like that, it was all over: no more piano lessons. Amidst the tears of several promising students, Matt and I were giving high-fives by the punch bowl.

Some speculated that the "bad" students (ie Matt and I) were the reason why Mrs Eiter quit. There may have been some truth to that. Within a few months, Mrs Eiter quietly began taking on students again. Matt and I were never invited back.

Nobody was upset with that decision.

Training any skill requires passion to succeed. At passion's core is motivation and commitment. With those two ingredients, its possible that one can greatly improve their skills. But motivation and commitment can only go so far.

Inevitably, there comes a time when the one must decide whether what's been achieved is enough, or if the effort to go further is worth it.

I’m at that crossroads in cycling, and I've decided that I want more. And though I may be able get there by myself, it would assuredly take more time to do so. Getting there sooner (if at all) requires additional support. That means hiring a personal coach.

Hiring a coach needs to be a good fit for both parties. Like the example of Mrs Eiter above, there needs to be mutual respect between teacher and pupil for the partnership to succeed.

To this end, I've hired Mark Savery to be my coach. Mark is a great choice because he knows solid road and cyclo-cross racing tactics. And because he's local, I/we have easier access to one another than a remote relationship. He also has a proven personal training plan that has produced excellent results for himself as well as others. I respect these qualities in a coach, especially somebody who can walk the talk. Finally, as an age group peer, he has insights on what it's like to train and race as a Master.

Of course there's no "Hire Coach" button that magically produces results when pressed. If only it was that easy. Certainly, I'll be as committed and motivated as ever to training. Yet this also means that I must explicitly trust Mark's training plan, and be willing to receive feedback both on and off the bike. Receiving feedback well may sound easy on paper, but it can be tough to accept in the heat of the moment.

I haven't received personal instructions since Mrs Either’s piano lessons way back when. Hopefully, things go better this time around. I'm confident that it will.

Happy Friday. Thanks for reading.


  1. Holy crap! You're this fast without a coach? I thought you had hired Mark a couple years ago based on how well you've been doing at CX and on the road.

  2. Although I haven't had perosonal workout plans written for me, I have benefitted greatly by riding with those who do.

    I've also been a premium subscription member to Training Peaks for a couple years. Last year, I purchased a power-based training plan from Joe Friel, and used it in conjunction with my power meter. The feedback I received was based on the power and heart rate graphs in Training Peaks (there was no contact with Friel).

    So to say that I haven't been coached isn't exactly accurate. But now it's more legit, and includes the benefits of receiving a personalized plan, and on-going feedback.

  3. He was poaching after I gave him my TP password truth be known.

  4. Well at least somebody was doing your workout