Chris Carmichael Blog: Advice I give athletes before epic challenges

In last weekend’s blog I wrote about being dropped in my final week of hard training and looking forward to the Napa Valley Tour de Cure on Sunday, May 6. Well, the ride was everything I hoped it would be, and more!

First there was the trip to Napa with my wife and the great meals and wines we were treated to. I had the opportunity to spend some time with one of the world’s best chefs – Michael Chiarello. He’s an amazing guy, incredible chef, and a cyclist! If you ever have a chance to enjoy his Napa Valley restaurant, Bottega, take it! Same goes for wines from Tuck Bekstoffer ( and Shafer Vineyards (

But I was in Napa for more than great food and wine. There was a little 100-mile tune-up ride to do! It’s a relatively flat ride, with just about 2500 feet of climbing over 100 miles. That can sometimes be more difficult because you don’t get prolonged descents for relief, the way we do in Colorado. Last year I did the same ride with a group of about 6 riders. We kept the pressure on and shared the work and finished in about 4:35-4:40. I came away with an average power output of 191 watts for the whole ride, and that was a big confidence booster going into the 2011 Tour of California Race Experience.


  • SRM Payment Plan: No-interest, no-fee 12-month financing on a new SRM power meter when you sign up or renew for a 12-month CTS Coaching Package!
  • Interview with 303Cycling: I had the opportunity to sit down with 303Cycling to talk about the Epic Endurance Bucket List, CTS Athletes, and why I’m involved with the American Diabetes Association Tour de Cure.
  • Midweek Training Blocks: Column I wrote for Bicycling Magazine about creating training blocks to make your workweek training more productive.
  • Fall Ironman Races: Why stop at one Ironman this year? Do a Summer/Fall 2012 Ironman, we have coaching/camp options that include race entries.
  • Tour of Utah Race Experience: August 7-12. Our proven Race Experience program, at the Tour of Utah!
  • La Ruta Race Experience: Come race across Costa Rica with CTS! Three packages to choose from.

This year the conditions were the same (warm and sunny, not much wind) but I completed most of the ride with just one rider. That meant more time on the front (especially after he couldn’t pull through anymore) and a slower overall time. My average power was a little bit lower (183 watts), but I’m about six pounds lighter than last year so my power-to-weight ratio was still where I wanted it to be.

Overall, my final big ride before the Tour of California Race Experience was a big success. I experienced all the sensations I expect to have when I’m coming into very good form, including quick recovery from hard efforts, a fluid and effortless pedal stroke, and the desire and ability to ride aggressively after 80 miles. And when I went out for a ride on Monday, I felt much better than I remember feeling the day after the 2011 Napa Valley Tour de Cure.

The proof is in the pudding: To make progress you have to commit to hard efforts in training. Those efforts will lead to fatigue. Time and thoughtful recovery activities allow the fatigue to dissipate and the positive adaptations to flourish. You do the work. You rest appropriately. You crush the competition.

In this case, the competition is pretty fierce. Starting tomorrow I’ll be leading a group of CTS Coaches and Athletes as we try to complete each stage of the Amgen Tour of California before being caught by the pro peloton. Last year was extremely difficult and this year the course is even harder, but most of the 20+ riders in the group have been coached by CTS and their data indicates that they’re ready. We’re excited to get underway!

Throughout the Amgen Tour of California, you can keep up with the action at We’ll be posting a daily video feature about the team’s progress, and it looks like we’ll have some power files from Radioshack-Nissan-Trek rider and current US Pro Road Race Champion Matt Busche! It will be interesting to compare his power data to the data from our riders. The first video will go up late tonight or early tomorrow morning.

I’ll share with you a little bit of the advice I give the ATOC Race Experience riders the night before we start out. I provide a lot of encouragement to get them excited and focused on the incredible experience in front of us. But I also give them some harsher advice, because sugar-coating the challenges ahead of us would be a disservice to the entire group. Some of the advice applies specifically to multi-day rides, but most of it is applicable on a much wider basis:

  1. Your brain is more important than your fitness. In stage races, brains beat brawn every time. You have to stay engaged and focus on eating, pacing, conserving energy, and optimizing recovery between stages. Your mood will play a big role, too. Staying positive and upbeat in the face of increasing fatigue is difficult, but a negative outlook will be self-fulfilling.
  2. Everyone will go through a bad patch. Most people will go through several bad patches. You help your teammates through those periods because at some point it will be your turn.
  3. Your biggest threat is your own ego. You can get away with letting your ego drive you beyond your limits in a one-day ride, but if you take pulls that are harder or longer than you can handle in an 8-day race, you will pay dearly for those efforts.    
  4. There’s no quitting. When you allow quitting to be an option, it’s easier for quitting to become your choice. Losing a limb is grounds for going home early. Short of that, there’s no quitting.

Have a great weekend and go to throughout the Amgen Tour of California for video updates and more!

Chris Carmichael
CEO/Head Coach
Carmichael Training Systems


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