Kate Courtney and Coach Jim Miller

Kate Courtney & Jim Miller: Getting The Most Out Of Yourself

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About this episode:
This week’s episode is a special one. Coach Adam interviews both professional mountain bike racer and 2018 XC World Champion Kate Courtney and her coach Jim Miller. They talk about what makes a good athlete-coach relationship, developing a winning mindset, and finding opportunities in every obstacle.

Guest Bio – Kate Courtney:
Kate Courtney is a professional mountain bike racer for the Scott-SRAM MTB Racing Team. Kate is the 2019 Elite XCO World Cup Overall Champion, the current Pan American Champion and the 2018 Elite XCO World Champion. Kate was born in 1995 and grew up in Marin County, California at the base of Mount Tamalpais, the birthplace of mountain biking. Kate was introduced to cycling at a young age – riding on the back of a tandem mountain bike with her dad to get pancakes on Sunday mornings. After joining the Branson High School mountain bike team as a Freshman, her interest in the sport escalated quickly. During high school, she competed for the USA National Team and Whole Athlete Development Team in events around the World. In 2012, she became the first American woman to win a UCI Mountain Bike World Cup in the Junior category. When Kate graduated high school in 2013, she continued on to Stanford University and signed her first professional contract with Specialized Bicycles.

Guest Bio – Jim Miller:
Jim Miller is the current Head of Elite Athletics at USA Cycling and a successful coach who has helped the United States win 14 Olympic medals over the past two decades. Miller has worked with many top U.S. riders across all disciplines, including World Champion Kate Courtney, Olympian Kristin Armstrong, as well as many other top road racers, mountain bikers, and track cyclists.

Read More About Kate Courtney:

https://katecourtney.com/about
https://www.instagram.com/kateplusfate/
https://twitter.com/sparkleaddict
https://www.facebook.com/katecourtney130/

Read More About Jim Miller:

https://www.usacycling.org/article/usa-cycling-announces-jim-millers-return-as-head-of-elite-athletics
https://twitter.com/JimMiller_time
https://www.instagram.com/jimmillertime/

Episode Highlights:

  • What makes a coach-athlete relationship work well
  • Developing a winning mindset
  • Balancing fun with training
  • Pushing limits and testing what can be achieved
  • Finding opportunities in every obstacle
  • How to use failures and setbacks to your advantage

Listen to the episode on Apple PodcastsSpotifyStitcherGoogle Podcasts, or on your favorite podcast platform


Thanks To This Week’s Sponsors:

Stages Cycling

This episode of the TrainRight Podcast is brought to you by Stages Cycling, the industry leader in accurate, reliable and proven power meters and training devices.

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Episode Transcription:

Adam Pulford:

Since we originally set this conversation up, much has changed. COVID-19 is wreaking havoc on world economies. People’s jobs and lives are being lost and the Olympics are postponed. We are all in a bit of a holding pattern. So Kate, how are you holding up in California?

Kate Courtney:

Yeah, things are going pretty well here. It’s obviously a bit of a crazy time but luckily for cyclists we can keep riding both indoors and outdoors and set up a little home gym. So we’re in a pretty good spot for now.

Adam Pulford:

Good. Glad to hear that. And coach Miller, how are things in Colorado?

Jim Miller:

We’re not doing too bad either. We still can ride outside, which is nice. Also set up a little home gym and started doing P45 with my wife.

Adam Pulford:

Nice.

Jim Miller:

I’m getting my butt kicked. So, yeah, it’s all right. We’re doing okay?

Adam Pulford:

Good. No, I’m glad to hear that and as our audience can tell this episode is going to be a little different than previous shows because we have two guests today. The first is Kate Courtney and the second is her coach, Jim Miller. So Kate, can you tell our audience a bit more about yourself?

Kate Courtney:

Hi. Yeah, thanks for having me on. I’m a professional mountain bike racer. I spend most of my time trying to go fast on bikes and get Jim to tell me I did a good job.

Adam Pulford:

Simple. Very simple. And Jim, you’ve been coaching for a while. Can you tell us a little bit more about who you are?

Jim Miller:

Yeah. I haven’t been coaching for a while. You can’t coach for a while if you’re not getting old.

Adam Pulford:

It’s true. Something like that.

Jim Miller:

Yeah. Long coaching history, I guess. We’re getting there. I come from a long line of coaches. My dad was a coach, my grandpa was a coach, my uncle is a coach. It seems like everybody in my family is a coach. I never intended to get in the company business but here I am and still enjoying it.

Adam Pulford:

Well, that’s awesome. I mean, I honestly did not know that about the family lineage of the Millers. I’m learning something here too. That’s great. Well, again, welcome and thank you both for taking time during a crazy period of our lives in world history, truly. But it’s going to be fun to chat about where we’re at right now. Both with COVID-19 going on and with our athletic pursuits. So, first I’ll turn to you Kate. I know that on other podcasts you’ve talked about the mental game of training and racing.

Adam Pulford:

We’ll get into a little bit of that today. But as you and I formed up this idea of where this conversation would go, we thought it’d be pretty valuable and fun for our listeners to get insights to the process of how you do what you do with your coach, Jim, who plays a pretty big role in all of that. So before we get into that process and maybe some of the mind game, let’s first start with how this coach athlete relationship started. Kate, how did you get connected with coach Miller?

Kate Courtney:

Yeah. I definitely love that we’re able to bring some of the village together on this call. I think for me, since I started racing, I’ve been trying to find that dream team and put the right people around me to guide me towards my goals. And when I was a junior, I actually went out to visit USA Cycling. And I remember printing out some spreadsheets of all my power data at the time and going into a meeting with Jim, with my dad. And we actually requested to meet with him just to find out what could I be doing differently? What was I doing well? Did I have potential in the sport? And he imparted a little bit of wisdom that guided my training over the next few years. And then a few years later I had the chance to start working with him, which was of course a dream and a very easy thing to say yes to.

Adam Pulford:

That’s awesome. And Jim, you’re in front of a lot of athletes and you probably have the luxury of choosing who you want to work with. So what made you decide to start working with Kate back then?

Jim Miller:

Yeah. It’s funny, I think I get too much credit sometimes. Kate was always interesting. I’d watch results. I would see her race and just paid attention. Was always asking where go to his National Mountain Bike Program director about her and what her story was. I saw her race, Colorado Springs. There was a Pro XCT one year and I was standing with Mark and I was like, did she come to altitude? It was like this was the start. I was like, she’d come to altitude? And Mark’s like, no. I’m like, wow, that’s ballsy to go that hard off the start line at 7,000 feet but I like it.

Jim Miller:

And at that time it was like Leah Davidson. She was rolling the championship medalist. I forget everybody was there then but nonetheless, I was impressed. Georgia Gould is who I was trying to think of. Chloe Woodruff. I’m like, that’s just impressive. It probably is maybe six months after that, Kate called and asked if she’d come out to the office and talk training which I’ll talk training with anybody and I will talk training all day long.

Jim Miller:

And typically when somebody wants to come talk training, then I’ll ask for some training files, generally ask them to share training peaks account and just start really breaking down what they’ve done and get an idea of who they are and what they’ve done. And about a week before she came out, her dad sent me a spreadsheet and the spreadsheet was almost exactly what I would’ve done. And I’m like, who is this guy? It was just really impressive.

Jim Miller:

They came in, we had a great chat. And for me, generally, I know pretty quickly if I’ll jive with somebody or not and I will almost make my decision on whether or not I think we can communicate well together beyond all the data, beyond all the metrics. It’s always comes down to whether or not I think I can communicate with them. And yeah, with Kate it was super easy and she’s easy to talk to any way. She’s fine, she works hard. There’s nothing to dislike.

Adam Pulford:

Got you. And why is that communication piece so important to you as a coach?

Jim Miller:

It fills in all the gaps, right? You can look at all the training data, there’s so much data and metrics. You can choose what you want to look at and what means something to you and how you base your decisions. But it’s one thing to have an idea of what you think you’re looking at. It’s another thing to listen to what they have to say and how they interpret the ride and how they interpret the feelings of those rides or races. And their story is really what makes the data useful to me. Yeah.

Adam Pulford:

Well, that makes a lot of sense because again, when we talked about the coach athlete relationship which this episode will focus on, I mean, it’s truly a relationship and in relationships, there needs to be well-established communication channels and a way to do that. And I think that the relationship will flourish if the communication is strong and it won’t if it’s not. So, I mean it’s, yeah, that’s huge. That’s really huge.

Jim Miller:

Yeah.

Adam Pulford:

And Kate, would you say that he’s a good communicator. Is he holding up that end of the bargain?

Kate Courtney:

Yeah, absolutely. I think, Jim and I are texting basically every day whether it’s memes or actual very important training information. But for me, I think, Jim is a coach who’s able to integrate that number side which I think I am more focused on. I’ve always loved the numbers. That guy who made the spreadsheet was my dad and he was an analyst. So for me, the numbers come easy and they really direct what I’m doing. But learning to understand the role of that interpretation side and integrating who I am as a person and how I feel in life stress or other things that might be going on into this plan is something that Jim has really taught me how to do over the last few years.

Adam Pulford:

I like that. As any good coach should do. So let’s pivot to mindset because again, Kate, I know it’s a topic you’ve talked about in other podcasts. I think it’s crucial to an athlete’s mind, to an athlete’s success and it’s well established that having a strong mindset will help an athlete flourish. In fact, in a previous episode I did talk to Jim about this. So Kate, how has Jim played a role in developing that mindset or has he [inaudible 00:09:59] throughout your career?

Kate Courtney:

Yeah, absolutely. I think for me that’s always been a big focus. I think there’s a certain amount of grit and fight that you’re born with but beyond that, when you get to the elite levels of racing, it’s something that you have to work on and train and think about and I think the best opportunity to do that is in your training. And Jim really does make training serious when it needs to be serious and fun when it can be fun.

Kate Courtney:

And that for me has been a big transition. And also I think in some ways a little bit of a secret weapon. And that when I’m out on a workout that is supposed to be a race level intensity hard workout, it is all business, expectations are high, phone calls are not answered. Jim will decline me if I call him and make sure that I’m leaving it all out there.

Kate Courtney:

But on the day is when it’s an active recovery ride or just an easy fun mountain bike ride, I can really enjoy it and focus and play. And I think both of those things are really important to being a well-rounded athlete and being able to turn it on when it counts and deliver in those high pressure moments without wasting a lot of energy on maybe an active recovery ride. You could be staring at your power meter all day and wasting a lot of mental energy or using that as a recovery period. And I think Jim is really good at making the big days and the big games count but also allowing it to be fun and sustainable.

Adam Pulford:

And Jim, have you always taken that approach with every athlete in terms of like, hey man, if there are intervals in and this is business time, it is time to dig in or is it just something unique with Kate?

Jim Miller:

Yeah, it’s pretty consistent. But the thing with bike racing and bike riding is its got to be fun and you started doing that because it was fun. And you do intervals and you do structured workouts because you have to, nobody would choose to do that.

Adam Pulford:

For sure.

Jim Miller:

That’s where the gains are. Like Kate said when it’s time to go to work, you have to go to work. You have to punch in and get it done. And then there’s days where you don’t have to and you can just enjoy it and not worry about it in an hour 15 is the same as an hour 30, to be honest. So, yeah, I mean I’m pretty loose with that approach. I do see a lot of training programs and then I see a lot of structured workouts. Coaches, right? And I have to tell them if I was a bike racer and I got this stuff day in day out, I would have quit it at 20. That just does not look fun to me.

Adam Pulford:

Yes.

Jim Miller:

I mean, you can work hard and have fun at the same time but there is time fun with it. Just enjoy it.

Adam Pulford:

Yeah. Well, I couldn’t agree more with that. And in terms of keeping it fun, I mean, is it something where you’ve got a specific recipe, Jim? That you’re looking at where you prescribe or communicate on training peaks or I don’t know, on text message or something like that to make it fun for Kate? Or is it like, she just knows that interval time is go time?

Jim Miller:

Yeah, now she’s got it. Kate would probably agree. She would probably laugh. I think when we first started she wanted to go hard all the time. That’s been more time trying to stop her from going hard than going hard. So it was like, when you let the reins go, she would go.

Adam Pulford:

Typical.

Kate Courtney:

Yeah, that’s true.

Jim Miller:

Yeah.

Kate Courtney:

I think what was interesting about that is I can have a ride that was easy but I would want to do such a good job on my zone one ride. But I would just use all my mental energy like pinning a certain power number in a certain cadence and trying to do everything perfectly. And I think Jim, as he said, hour 15 is the same as hour 30.

Kate Courtney:

I think, as an athlete we have to believe that extra 1% makes a difference. And I think as a junior, for me, it was all about learning to be disciplined and never to cut a corner and never to ride 15 minutes short. But right now all that matters to me is winning a world cup. And to win a world cup, you don’t have to do a certain power number, you have to do enough power so that other people can’t do it.

Kate Courtney:

And I think Jim does a really good job of preparing you to go all in and rise above in those occasions but to also know that there is flexibility. So if I ride a little shorter on my active recovery day but I have more energy to push 10 more watts on my hardest interval the next day, those are the games that make a difference at the top level. It’s about learning to make those distinctions.

Adam Pulford:

Got you-

Jim Miller:

Yeah, that’s good. I think mental energy too, isn’t it? You have a fuel tank of mental energy and if you burn it all, then it’s done. And if you can manage that fuel tank, you can get a lot further into the season. And like Kate said when it’s time to really go deep, you can go deep because you have enough fuel in the tank to do it.

Adam Pulford:

So how do you train your mental fuel tank? Are there-

Jim Miller:

So it’s an interesting analogy, huh?

Adam Pulford:

No, it’s a wonderful analogy. And we’re going off script here but if we need to increase Kate’s MFTP which is actually a thing, but M stands for mental in this case. What intervals do we do for that? In other words, do you guys spend time on the mind set or self-talk or what do you guys do to train the upstairs situation?

Jim Miller:

Kate.

Kate Courtney:

Yeah, I think some of it I do on my own. I work with the sports psychologist. I meditate, I do all those things. But I think, also just having the understanding that Jim recognizes that as an important part of training has been really helpful. So I think the best example is my happy hour rides. I’ll do rides at ive or 6:00 PM when my boyfriend gets off work and our buddies are all around and we ride. So, 45 minutes to an hour on the mountain bikes.

Kate Courtney:

And Jim will put that on my schedule anytime I ask. If I rode six hours that day, if I rode no hours that day. I can always do the happy hour ride because it just refills my fuel tank. It’s nothing but fun. I’m clocked out of the office. I’m just going for a ride with my buddies. And I think little things like that, it might be different for different people but for me that’s an example of something that whether or not it’s critical to training that day, it can really make a difference in how I recover and how much fun I’m having.

Adam Pulford:

Yeah, that’s huge. And Jim, anything that you want to add to that?

Jim Miller:

Yeah. That’s really good. If I used another story, do you remember the 90s with Tudor Bompa?

Adam Pulford:

Yeah.

Jim Miller:

Periodization. And then you went from an energy system to energy system. There was a period of time where you did VO2s before you did L2s because you would have some lactate buffering capacity to do RLTF first and then you’d fall a bit more of VO2s. And that was like, he was gold. And I did that stuff. But by the time you get to May, you’re so mentally fried that you couldn’t dig deep in races and you’d find yourself rolling out the back because you just you couldn’t do anymore, mentally. And this is where I think the communication is really that big piece.

Jim Miller:

I can hear in Kate’s voice when she’s talking to me even tone or to flush or whatever when she’s tired. Everything in the metrics, HRV, resting heart rate, CTL, ATL, TSB. All of it can be good and I can hear that she’s tired. This is why the communications is so important that reports support. It’s not that I have this great year for hearing these things. It’s that we talk enough that I know when she’s tired and we can stop this.

Jim Miller:

This COVID thing was really interesting because is that started to blow up and we’re starting to lose races and shut down. We stopped training almost immediately just like, hey, look, stop. And it wasn’t because we had this great insight of what was going to happen over the next two weeks. It was just the mental stress of taking this all in. That I could hear her, she wasn’t capable of training that week. So I’m just like, hey look, let’s just bail on this. Take an easy week, see what happens and see how it develops. And we’ll go from there.

Kate Courtney:

The wallowing week, as we call it.

Jim Miller:

Yes. The wallowing week.

Adam Pulford:

It’s good. It’s a good name for it. Yeah. Good name for it.

Jim Miller:

Wallowing is okay.

Adam Pulford:

Yeah-

Kate Courtney:

Yeah. I think that’s actually an important thing to know at this time. I think so many athletes with goals being moved and especially people that were chasing the Olympics are doubling down right now. And if that feels good, if that’s right, okay. But for me, I’m definitely someone who needs to be full throttle or resting and so that was the right choice to really get me back into training. Feeling really confident and rested and mentally ready for what might be a long period of uncertainty.

Adam Pulford:

Yeah. No, that’s great. On your Instagram, you recently posted something but you just keep showing up and as you and Jim re-aim for Tokyo as it’s postponed, what does keep showing up? What does that mean to you right now, Kate?

Kate Courtney:

Yeah. For me, I think the Olympics being moved was definitely something I had to process. And I think it was really good that I took the time to process that and be bummed about it. And more in that year not going quite the way we hoped but also then being able to refocus and say, my long-term goal has not changed. My long-term goal is to stand on that start line in Tokyo as prepared as possible to compete for my country.

Kate Courtney:

And that goal, there’s a way to work towards it each and every day even though we don’t know exactly what’s on the horizon. So for me, keep showing up is about just trusting the process and more importantly, trusting my coach. I think in this scenario, it’s easy to let things go a little haywire and not know how to respond to what is an unprecedented situation for most coaches and athletes.

Kate Courtney:

We’ve dealt with adversity in the past. Maybe having to move a race or change a goal with an injury or not feeling well but we’ve never had to just train with no idea of what races are safe and what races are off. But if there’s anyone who can do that really successfully and who knows how to work with me to make sure that I’m ready when we do get to race again, it’s Jim. So keep showing up for me right now means just getting up every day and working on things that I can use this time as an opportunity to improve and just following the plan.

Adam Pulford:

And Jim, how does this change the lead for Kate to Tokyo?

Jim Miller:

I think I’m always evaluating what I would do differently or I’m always thinking ahead like, if I had a chance to do that again, I would do this. And I can sometimes be my own harshest critic. Most of the time I’m my own harshest critic and most of the time too hard on myself because I absolutely dislike making errors. But I’d always have this running tally in my mind of what I would do different and this is just a do-over. That’s it. And then a chance to have another crack at a few things that I thought we would do differently. So it doesn’t change anything. It’s the same goal, just a new date.

Adam Pulford:

Right.

Jim Miller:

And we just start over.

Adam Pulford:

Yeah. I like that. I like that a lot. It’s also the way I would view it as well in terms of for any athlete leading into it in. But regardless, it’s still probably perceived by a lot of your teammates, Kate and other Olympic hopefuls as a setback or some sort of failure. And I think that athletes, I mean, you go through this long enough, coaching or being an athlete. You have failures and setbacks. And when Jim talked about that mental fuel tank, I think that the bigger that mental fuel tank is the better you can handle failures and setbacks. So let’s talk a little bit about that. Let’s dive into how failure and setbacks has developed you, Kate, as an athlete.

Kate Courtney:

Yeah. I think failure and setbacks are always part of the game. Oftentimes, they might just be smaller within the team, failures or setbacks, not meeting a goal I wanted or performing the way I hoped in races. But I think one thing that’s really helpful about having a coach that you trust and have such a good dialogue with is that I think we’re always able to identify them for what they are. And that’s something that, for me, can spiral out of control.

Kate Courtney:

Maybe I have a failure at a race and I lose confidence and this and that. But Jim is always able to really see things clearly in the bigger picture. For example, this right now, having this uncertainty. You can look at it as a failure or setback or you can just look into it as a change and take the time you need to adapt to the emotions of that change and then hit the ground running ready to play the game which is going to be a little different.

Kate Courtney:

And for me being able to have a coach that I can work through those things with and figure out, okay, what is this teaching us? What can we do better? How great is it that I get to repeat training that I thought went really well but could go better next year? And that we get another year to learn about the conditions in Tokyo and the specific things that I can do to perform best there. So I think a lot of it comes to, how you respond to it and how you interpret and learn from whatever comes up in your career.

Adam Pulford:

Yeah. I completely agree. Jim, what does an athlete need most during times like this of failure, setback whether they lost a big race, the Olympics have been postponed. Is there a go to thing that you do?

Jim Miller:

No, I think just move on quickly. I actually liked talking about failure and setback. Nobody likes to fail. Nobody enjoys it. It’s not a pleasant experience but it’s where you learn the most. It’s where you grow. It’s where you get better. And I think it’s entirely possible to fail without being a failure. And I think it is really important to know the difference. If you allow yourself to fail and you can fail, that means you’re at a point where you can take risks and take chances. And if you have a relationship with an athlete or athlete has relationship with coach where both people are allowed to fail without being failures, then you’re really dangerous because then the two of you, you are going to take risks.

Adam Pulford:

Right.

Jim Miller:

When you take risks, that’s where the good stuff comes from. If you were so tied up in failing and not allowing failures to happen, you won’t take risks and then you won’t reach your maximum potential. You won’t go to the edge. You won’t find out exactly how good you could be. When I think of failures and setbacks, I’m just like, okay, look, they happen. You’re not going to be perfect in bike racing.

Jim Miller:

You’re certainly not going to win every race you ever start. If anything bike racing teaches you, it’s to how to fail. But I think the most important thing with failing is quickly moving on. Okay, it happens. Review it, debrief it, analyze it, think about it, talk about it and then move on. I think with Kate, she’s also the same mindset. It’s like, okay, we can both be really upset sometimes with failures and be pissed but 24 hours later it’s just like, bam, straight onto the next thing.

Kate Courtney:

Yeah. I love the 24… Well, Jim always has the 24 hour rule of, you’re allowed to process it and think about it. And I think that is something really interesting, Jim, that you said that I don’t think a lot of coaches appreciate is, you do say, move on, recalibrate, learn from it. But you also do allow that 24 hours of being really bummed and thinking about what we could have done differently. And I think for me as an athlete, that processing time and sometimes it’s 24 hours, sometimes it’s a week like, they will fix.

Kate Courtney:

But that processing time is what allows you to emerge from a failure, not only with key learnings but with the right mindset to take action on them. So for me, understanding what part I played in a failure, what I could’ve done differently, how we could work together better as a team, what might go differently in the future? And acknowledging that we really want to win and we’re really bummed about this, gives you that time to redefine your resolve, reset your goals and emerge from it. Really motivated to execute on all of those changes.

Adam Pulford:

Yeah. I mean, without that evaluation time, it’s the failure or the win is almost lost. And I have the same 24 hour window with my athletes. And here’s the thing, anybody can get experience. It’s evaluated experience that actually moves us forward, right? Are you thinking about how you lost? Are you thinking about how you won? Are you thinking about how you could have won better, more differently? And that’s where, I think, just listening to you to talk right now. I mean, you guys are doing that to an nth degree. I mean, it’s awesome to hear that.

Jim Miller:

Yeah. I’ll tell you, the other thing that’s interesting too is we think the same way when she wins.

Adam Pulford:

How’s that?

Jim Miller:

You’re evaluating what you would’ve done differently. I’m always thinking, could have the gap been bigger.

Adam Pulford:

Right.

Jim Miller:

What if she had done this? What if she executed this tactic? Things like this, in my mind, are always playing out where I’m like, okay, that could’ve been better and that could’ve been better too. You can still enjoy the success for 24 hours but then you’re back to work and you’re moving on. So for me, I mean, winning is much more comfortable so you can smile all day long than when you fail. But really, the thought process is almost the same and how you evaluate it and how you measure it and how you think about it and dissect it and debrief it.

Adam Pulford:

I want to go into a Kate story here. And Kate, you don’t even know that I was going to say this because he didn’t even know me at the time. But I believe this was Snowshoe, two years ago maybe? Where you just-

Kate Courtney:

It was nationals.

Adam Pulford:

Nationals. Yeah. Where you just completely decimated the field. Probably three, four or five sites. I mean, minutes off the front of anyone else and big hitters in that field too. But you were just charging so hard and I remember… So I was in the pit. I was with the Orange Seal team with Payson and an Amy. And Brad, the mechanic Brad was there and sitting there and I was getting laptops pretty soon but I just like, no, we don’t need laptops.

Adam Pulford:

And your mom was going crazy and worried about the sunglasses and she dropped them and I cleaned them and gave it to her. But the entire time, your face was the same thing. Charging hard, up that hill through the tech zone. Not looking back, not concerned about that and just all the chips were in. Did you know that that was what you wanted to do going into that race? The risk of just like, I’m pinning it, I’m going forward. And all the chips were in from the get go or was there any other calculation going on?

Kate Courtney:

Yeah. I mean there’s always a strategy. I love you mentioned my mom and mom actually-

Adam Pulford:

Your mom’s awesome by the way.

Kate Courtney:

The most nervous. I didn’t realize this until this year but my mom gets most nervous when I’m off the front which you would think would not be. But I was I was a minute and a half off the front in a world cup and she threw up. She couldn’t handle it. She was like, what if she gets a flat? I’m like, mom, I can always get a flat. I’m way more comfortable. I’m going to hop off the front. I don’t know why-

Adam Pulford:

She was a train wreck that day. I was like, she could have break her bike and a half and still win right now.

Kate Courtney:

No. I think, for me, that shows bike racing isn’t just about winning for me. It’s not exactly about what position I’m in. It’s about giving my absolute best performance. And I think, when Jim was talking about whatever altitude race, I think I remember that race actually where I went out so hot. I think I completely exploded in that race like I do in many. But I think that that is who I am as a racer.

Kate Courtney:

I’m going out to see what might be possible. To see what I’m capable of, to push my limits and test what I might be able to achieve. And that’s not just in terms of who I can meet, it’s in terms of, what power numbers I can do. Can my lap times be consistent? Can I finish stronger than I started? Could I climb faster? What if someone else gets faster, can I beat them in the future? Those are the things that really motivate me as an athlete. And I think that’s what Jim and I have worked on a lot is making sure that I’m training hard enough and that I’m strong enough that I can go out with absolutely all I have and hopefully not explode in the future.

Adam Pulford:

I remember that same race in Colorado Springs too. I was there with a different team at the time that and I remember all of us were sitting in the pit and we’re like, whoa, she knows what she’s doing right now?

Kate Courtney:

The answer’s no.

Adam Pulford:

The answer’s no. But I liked it.

Kate Courtney:

But it’s in an interesting way. That’s what I loved when I first started working with Jim is I had all these coaches when I was a junior who would say, you need to not go out as hard. You need to knock a lot as hard. And I was saying, well, I’m going out with the leaders and I want to win. So I’m not really understanding what you’re saying here. And what Jim said was that you just need to be stronger so that you can sustain going that hard. And I was like, this is my guy. Tell me what I have to do.

Adam Pulford:

Well, I mean, to that point and then it’s the same thing. Same thing I do in my own coaching where I think so many people are either afraid of failure which is ridiculous or they really want to pay swell or they’re waiting for the opportune time and all this kind of stuff and then they miss the break. They don’t get the whole shot. They get blocked up in the back of mountain bike racing. And their failure is not trying, not going for it. And I would always push my athlete to be a little bit more risky and go for it rather than a whole backend and just choose failure anyway. So again, I think we’re all on the same page here. I like it.

Adam Pulford:

Kate, you mentioned, power data, laps, in terms of speed. Heart rate, we talked about whoop, wearables, all this kind of stuff. You use a lot of data in your training. Can you talk to us about what role all of that data plays and how Jim helps you decipher through it?

Kate Courtney:

Yeah, I think I’ve always been a numbers gal. I love seeing incremental progress. And I think, earlier we were talking about those big wins and failures and the reason Jim and I have so much experience with that is because we’re doing it all year long. Setting a new power record or reaching a new level on a workout. Those things happen monthly and we celebrate them or see lags and my performance and know we need to do something differently or that I’m tired and I need a break.

Kate Courtney:

And I think having that level of feedback is what allows us to really adjust and adapt and try to push that edge. And that’s something that I think Jim does really well, is uses all of that data to stay on top of everything and be able to push me to my limit. And that’s what we do at some of these huge training camps at the beginning of the year. I’m completely on the limit, on the edge but I trust that Jim knows exactly where that’s going to be.

Jim Miller:

I think sometimes I don’t.

Kate Courtney:

And sometimes I’ve just perish.

Adam Pulford:

Well that’s-

Jim Miller:

I think we had a funny story earlier in the year. I flew to Sicily for a trek. Sega Frito Camp She has a workout… It was just like a zone 2 ride. It wasn’t-

Kate Courtney:

Was it though?

Jim Miller:

No. It didn’t cause any red flags in my mind. So I get on a plane, fly to Milan. As soon as we land or I started getting internet, I started getting these texts. And then there’s this one of the crossbones and skull and it’s like, I’m dead and look at it. I’m like, what is she talking about? Then I quickly open up Twenty Peaks app, look at the workout. And then I realized that I had messed up the FTP or the percentage of she’s riding FTP.

Adam Pulford:

Yeah.

Jim Miller:

She ends up doing four hours set. 88% of FTP. And I’m customs blind like, oh God, what did I do? How did that happen? And I call her-

Adam Pulford:

Incredible.

Jim Miller:

First thing I say straight away, I’m just like, I am so sorry. That was my mistake. You don’t suck. I’m like, I could not apologize enough that day.

Kate Courtney:

I was like, Jim, am I just really bad?

Adam Pulford:

You used the schedule or the workout tool and it [00:38:26] tends to, Jim?

Jim Miller:

Yeah.

Kate Courtney:

Well, okay, there’s a caveat to the story which is that I usually like, if something feels wrong, I’ll always text Jim. And I’m like, hey, I’m 20 minutes in. This seems pretty hard. And I texted him the number I was doing and he texts back and says, no, do it.

Adam Pulford:

Oh, Jim. Now the story’s changing here a little bit.

Kate Courtney:

Well, the workout got switched. It was a whole thing. But that was a bit of a, it’s okay, I reset my ability to suffer. There was one of the clients I had to stop on the side of the road and cry for a minute. And then I was like, no, Jim said to do it. I’m going to keep going.

Jim Miller:

Yup. You got it. No problem.

Adam Pulford:

Incredible. Well, I’m glad that’s only happened once, hopefully but since… Okay, well, we’re all better for it and we’re all better-

Kate Courtney:

I think one other time it happened but it was also very character building.

Adam Pulford:

That’s what we’re all about here. Character building, mindset and data. So Jim, when Kate does these brutal hard workouts, four hours at 88% at FTP, for example. When you’re collecting the data, what’s one of the main data metric that you are looking at for insights to an athlete? Now I understand that there’s multiple dimensions to what we’re looking at here but if you could distill it down to one thing that you’re looking at for Kate post-workout, what would that be?

Jim Miller:

That is a really tough question. It really depends on the workout, right? I mean, that’s the professional answers. It depends-

Adam Pulford:

Yeah, for sure.

Jim Miller:

It always depends. If it’s a basic endures workout, if it’s a zone 2 workout, if it’s strength endurance, you’re looking at something different all the time for each one of those events. if I would discuss really how I think about training, I really look at it, fitness inform. And it sounds cliche but but when you have really good fitness. It’s a bike race, you have great fitness. All of a sudden if you’re a climber, you can sprint and you can time trial and you can do all these things that you normally can’t do very well. If you’re a sprinter, all of a sudden you’re climbing pretty well.

Jim Miller:

You’re making the first groups, you’re doing things that you typically haven’t done. So I’m really about building a really high level of fitness and then specializing in work or demands of future races or specializing in environmental conditions. Whatever is going to be altitude, heat, cold whatever it is. And those are the little pieces that make the difference. But the big block for me is always fitness and building fitness. And once you have fitness, you own it. That’s money in the bank. Provided you don’t take on so much fatigue with that which is debt that all of a sudden your asset debt ratio is wrong. So as long as that ratio is really positive for you, then you can maintain a really high level of fitness for a really long time.

Adam Pulford:

It’s a solid answer. I like that. And to you Kate, if you could distill down one metric that you’re looking at from your own data to either confirm or deny a fitness performance, what are you looking at?

Kate Courtney:

Is it a cop out if I said the same thing?

Adam Pulford:

It’s not a cop out. In fact, I thought you were good-

Kate Courtney:

Unfortunately my CTL looks a little bit like the stock market right now but I think-

Adam Pulford:

Come on. Anything looks better than that.

Kate Courtney:

Over the past few years, I think that’s something that has really made a difference for me. Is just understanding how to build that base and to really push it and see what I’m capable of building in terms of overall fitness. And I think that’s something where, three years ago, I could’ve never imagined doing the numbers or the volume that I’m doing now. And that overall base fitness coming up over the years is, I think, one of the things that’s made the biggest difference.

Adam Pulford:

Yeah. Now, that’s a solid answer. And truth be told, I thought you were going to say, oh, whatever Jim tells me to look at. So I accept it.

Kate Courtney:

I love my data. I’m like, Jim, have you seen this?

Jim Miller:

She’s on top of it, for sure. She can talk data with anybody.

Adam Pulford:

Nice. Well, guys, throughout the process of training, I want to ask each of you what you appreciate most about each other and I mean, this is, sure. This can be a kumbaya, oh good, this is great. But I think it’s important to ask the question. Kate, what do you appreciate most about working with Jim?

Kate Courtney:

This is good kumbaya question.

Adam Pulford:

It is.

Kate Courtney:

I would say, I think what I appreciate most which is hard to pick from many things that I appreciate, is Jim’s vision. I think ever since I started working with him, ever since I walked into that room with my stupid spreadsheets and my 10 hours a week of training, Jim has seen potential in me that went far beyond what I could have imagined. And not only did he believe in that vision but he saw the steps to getting there and dove straight into making those steps happen. And I think for me, at each step in my career, I’ve never gotten to the end of his vision. He always has a next big goal that we can work towards together. And I think when we reach it, it’s a thing that we get to do as a team and when you go all in on something like that it’s a really special thing to win.

Adam Pulford:

I like that. Yeah. I like that a lot. And Jim, I’ll pose the same question to you. What do you value most about working with Kate?

Jim Miller:

I’ll tell you a quick story first. When we had that meeting, she came in with the spreadsheets and she left.

Adam Pulford:

Yeah.

Jim Miller:

Marc Gullickson was sitting in there too and he’s like, what do you think? And I’m like, I think that girl is going to be a world champion. And at that point we hadn’t had a world champion in 20 years. And I’m like, I think that girl is going to be a world champion. And Marc’s like, of course Marc is like, great, we need one. The thing with coaching is this, you have to challenge your athletes all the time and you have to push them. You have to get in another comfort zone. But you also have to remember how uncomfortable that is.

Jim Miller:

In your daily job, ff somebody’s pushing you and they’re taking you out of the comfort zone all the time, it’s not always fun and exciting. You realize that on the other side of that, yes, there can be great outcomes as well. But you have to remember that, that’s not always a positive experience. But I think as a coach, if you’re going to challenge people and you’re going to push them to these far uncomfortable corners, you also have to accept that challenge back.

Jim Miller:

And what I really like about Kate is she will challenge me and I know that if I don’t have my T’s crossed and my I’s dotted, that she’s going to find that she’s going to call me out on it. When I think about her training, I think about it in terms of a big vision where we’re trying to get but also knowing that challenge is coming back. If I haven’t really thought through the various steps or ideas or principles then I’m going to get challenged. And I actually really appreciate that because she’s not afraid to call it out if it’s not right.

Adam Pulford:

Yeah. And that’s how a relationship should work, right?

Jim Miller:

A good one.

Adam Pulford:

A good one. Yeah.

Kate Courtney:

Is this counseling for us?

Adam Pulford:

Secretly. Yeah. Kate, So Jim contacted me and said we need a little session here. So this is what we doing.

Kate Courtney:

That seems, yeah. We’re just getting all our Ts crossing, our I’s dotted before before next year.

Jim Miller:

Well, would we have more dotted and cross, we’re dangerous.

Adam Pulford:

That’s true.

Kate Courtney:

Cool, watch out.

Adam Pulford:

Trophy hunting. Well, okay. So we’ll get away from the kumbaya session you guys. But I do you appreciate you guys coming on board. But before I let you guys go, I want to close out with a few questions and I’ll ask each of you some of these takeaway questions. And the purpose of these questions is to give our listeners some actionable items that they can apply to their training right away or could just be fun fodder for a forethought while we’re COVIDing and quarantining and sheltering in place. With that being said, are you guys ready for the first question?

Jim Miller:

All right.

Kate Courtney:

We ready.

Adam Pulford:

Okay. Do you both and I’ll just say, Jim, let’s have you go first, what advice can you give to our audience about how to navigate failure and setbacks?

Jim Miller:

Just address them, take them head on. Full tilt, take them on, head on. They happen. Move on.

Adam Pulford:

Yeah. And Kate, what do you think?

Kate Courtney:

Find the opportunity in every obstacle and then keep moving. Do what Jim said.

Adam Pulford:

Well, in fact I was going to say it in our other episode, Jim, we were talking about opportunity and I said something about striking when the opportunity’s there and Jim just pauses. He’s like, opportunities are everywhere. And I was like, oh God, that’s so true. Right?

Kate Courtney:

There we go. Just do what Jim says. That’s my best advice.

Adam Pulford:

Perfect. Okay, perfect-

Jim Miller:

I liked how she is today. Unlike in all crisis, there’s opportunity. You just have to lift your head up.

Adam Pulford:

That’s it. Take a look around.

Jim Miller:

You can also look at the same thing with bike racing. When it rains, 98 out of a 100 people put their head down so the waters doesn’t splash in their face. The two people with their head up, CB attack.

Adam Pulford:

Yup, exactly. Question two, Kate, what is your favorite at home gym workout now as you are sheltering in place?

Kate Courtney:

Ooh, yeah. We turned our garage into a little gym so that’s been really helpful. And my PT let me steal a bunch of gym equipment, so we’re good to go. I would say I’ve been doing the same workouts at home but my PT, Matt Smith from EverAthlete has been doing a series of circuits and a lot of it is the work that we do together both in terms of integrating into my strength program but mostly in terms of injury prevention, PT. So that’s a good resource I would say, if anyone is looking for good cycling related circuits to do at home.

Adam Pulford:

Love it. And Jim, you mentioned that you were getting sore, just before the… What’s your favorite gym stuff that you’re doing right now?

Jim Miller:

I’m huge.

Kate Courtney:

Quarantine Jacks.

Jim Miller:

Quarantine Jacked all the way. Actually, I do so much in sport. My endurance sports my entire life that doing this P45 stuff has actually been really hard but really fun. So yeah, I think it surprised me and it surprised me how damn hard it is. Yeah

Adam Pulford:

Yeah, for sure. And I think for us in German spoken, I mean, it doesn’t really matter what program, what methodology would whatever. Start doing something. You’ll probably be sore the next day. That’s a good stepping stone. So, okay. Final question. This one has a statement beforehand but Kate, I’ll have you go first. Continually getting the most out of yourself can be very rewarding but can also be one of the most challenging endeavors an athlete takes on. How have you fallen in love with the process of always striving to be your best?

Kate Courtney:

That’s a good one. I think I’ve always been drawn to it. I’ve loved individual sports ever since I was a little kid. Partially because there’s just always something that you can identify that you can improve on. So no matter how fast you are, there’s going to be someone who’s faster. No matter how good you are at descending, there’s going to be somebody who’s faster. And you can always find that angle where you can see yourself changing. And I think for me that keeps me coming back to it. And also riding your bike is really fun, so we can just all agree on that.

Adam Pulford:

I fully agree with that. Fully agree with that. Coach Miller, I pose the same question to you but in line with coaching. So you said you don’t like screwing up, you want the best out of yourself and out of your athletes. But how have you fallen in love with the process of striving to be your best?

Jim Miller:

I think you have to like the process. The end results, they are what they are. Sometimes they’re going to work out, sometimes they’re not. But it’s the process of figuring out how to make somebody go fast. What leverage you can pull, what buttons to push, what works for them. That’s fun. And whether it’s been… I mean, I’ve done it all, right? I’ve coached on the track of coastal mountain bike athletes, cyclocross athletes, road time trial. There were all different Bs but that challenge of figuring out how to make somebody go fast, that’s what’s really fun.

Adam Pulford:

That’s a wonderful answer. I like that. Well, you too. Thank you again for taking time during your life and in this crazy time that we’re in right now. For our audience who want to keep tabs on you and follow you on the socials. Kate, where can they find you?

Kate Courtney:

kateplusfate.

Adam Pulford:

kateplusfate.

Kate Courtney:

Yeah. Instagram’s probably the best one. I’ve been on there a little more during quarantine times.

Adam Pulford:

Yeah. And coach Miller, where can they find you?

Jim Miller:

Both Twitter and Instagram are now, JimMiller_time.

Adam Pulford:

JimMiller_time. Awesome.

Jim Miller:

I know.

Adam Pulford:

Alrighty. Well, thank you guys once again for being part of the TrainRight Podcast.

Jim Miller:

Yes, thank you, Adam.

Kate Courtney:

Awesome. Thank you.

Adam Pulford:

Bye.

 


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Comments 1

  1. Question for Kate and Jim,

    Do you believe that riding a single speed bike will increase one’s testosterone level?

    There are a few ways to figure this out: 1) A blood test, and 2) Look at the people who ride them.

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