The Aging Athlete: Training Considerations With Amber Neben & Tim Cusick
Topics Covered In This Episode:
- Developing a training strategy
- Chronological age vs training age
- 3 key tips for masters athletes to focus on
- Building back after a serious injury
- The important factors to consider beyond just training data
- The different ways in which masters athletes may need to train
- Deciding when you should push forward with training or rest
- Common traits of older athletes who are performing at a high level
- Amber Neben is a 3x Olympian and professional cyclist who has won multiple national and world championships. Read more about Amber Neben here.
- Tim Cusick is a coach to national and world champions and is the product development lead for TrainingPeaks WKO5. Read more about Tim Cusick here.
- WKO5: https://www.wko5.com
- BaseCamp on Zwift: https://www.zwift.com/ca/events/tag/basecamp/view/2585580
Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Google Podcasts, or on your favorite podcast platform
Please note that this is an automated transcription and may contain errors. Please refer to the episode audio for clarification.
Adam Pulford (00:00:08):
The human body changes over time. So how do we change with it for endurance athletes? This requires continual evaluation of what has worked in the past and what hasn’t as well as being honest with yourself and coach about the changes you’re feeling in your sport, as well as in your body. I think it’s also important to mention analyzing your data with an unbiased approach of which we’ll talk more about in this podcast later today, we’ll talk with a world class athlete and her world class coach to learn how they have navigated these challenges over decades of training and racing with the pursuit of increasing performance through all stages of life. Just as a quick aside, I had a lot of athletes that I work with, uh, athletes I ride with and friends and coaches reach out to me about doing a podcast like this, of how to train as you get older type of topic.
Adam Pulford (00:00:58):
Well, for all of you who asked this, is it. And one last comment before we jump into the show is I want to thank Tim Cusick. Not only has he been a guest on the train right podcast several times now, but he was the one that actually reached out to me for this specific idea of this episode, offering up an interview with our special guest for today. And it was ironic timing because when he did originally reach out, I was when I was getting all these inquiries about doing a show like this. So it was, it was that ironic timing that kind of led us to the here and now of course, schedules were super crazy at the end of 2021, but <laugh> here. We are now on microphones, uh, with cool people to talk about, uh, and to have this great conversation. So with that, let’s, let’s meet our guests, Tim, you Amber nein, welcome to the train right podcast.
Amber Neben (00:01:46):
Thanks for having me.
Tim Cusick (00:01:48):
Yeah, thanks Adam. We always appreciate it
Adam Pulford (00:01:50):
Totally well, Amber, since you are the super special guest and Tim you’re, you’re, you’re special too, but just one special. Okay. Um, but since, uh, Amber, uh, your first time on the podcast, I’ll have you introduc to your self first. So in addition to multiple national championships, multiple world championships and three Olympic games, could you tell our listeners a bit more about
Amber Neben (00:02:12):
Yourself? Yeah. You know, I’ve been racing bikes since 2001, uh, full time since 2002. Prior to that, I was a soccer player. I was a distance runner when I was a little kid. I played any sport. You name it, I played it. So I’ve been an athlete my whole life and, uh, just been such an incredible journey.
Adam Pulford (00:02:30):
Very cool. Well, we, we can’t wait to hear more about that journey here in, in, in, in a minute, but, uh, let’s, let’s hear from your coach, uh, Tim, for those who maybe in sadly missed the upper other episodes that you’ve been on number eight and number 46 or any one who’s curious, could you tell us a bit more about yourself?
Tim Cusick (00:02:49):
Sure. Well, I’ve been a coach for probably about 20 years now. I’ve got the luxury of working with some amazing athletes like Amber and, uh, other professional, uh, athletes. So it’s quite, uh, uh, a pleasure in the luxury. I’m the head coach at base camp, uh, cycling and base camp is our online virtual program and the head coach at cycling endurance coaching, which is our endurance coaching, but I’m also the training peaks, WK product leader. So really a lot of the overlap I have between coaching and, and that side is data, data, analytics, specialties, and things like that. So I get to be a coach. I get to work with all these wonderful athletes and I get to be on kind of the leading, cutting, sometimes bleeding edge of all this great data and science that we have coming into the endurance sport world.
Adam Pulford (00:03:37):
Yeah, well, it’s, it’s a very fun diagram where you live your life, Tim it’s, it’s, it’s good to, good to know you and get to, uh, kind of see some of what comes out of that too, along the way. So thanks to you both for coming on the show, we’ve got a lot to cover, so, uh, let’s get in and start teaching our listeners how YouTube worked together and how Amber has been literally crush for over two decades. Let’s go Amber. Um, yeah, let’s, let’s do it. So I know th this is my first time actually meeting you. I’ve been at, uh, races where you’ve been, uh, on, on the podium and, and like I said, crushing it, but, uh, can you, can you tell me and our listeners more of kind of like how all this thing started as I did some research, and I know that even from very young age, you had a lot of stuff to overcome. So tell us Amber’s story here.
Amber Neben (00:04:29):
Wow. To try to do this on a podcast is hard. So I’ll give you some cliff note nuggets. Yeah. I know at four years old, I had spent on spinal meningitis. You mentioned that. So it started young, uh, as a high high school athlete jumping all the way to high school. You know, I got into distance running because I ran the mile in my freshman PE class and the cross country coach was also the be coach. And so he was like, you need to run. So he identified the endurance talent that was in me. And that quickly changed me from being a soft soccer player and a team sport player to be an endurance athlete. And I started running track and field cross country my first full year doing that. I ran times there were top 10 in the nation. So even without much training formal training, I was a talented athlete and was able to just see and taste something special.
Amber Neben (00:05:25):
Um, but quickly from that point forward, I faced stress fracture after stress fracture. So I was on this roller coaster, this injury roller coaster for the next four years, six years. Um, I ran at the university of Nebraska, but really was always only potential and eventually had to surrender distance run. And I thought, you know what, that, those, that was the end of my athletic dreams. Um, but when I got into college, when I got into, I should say graduate school at UC Irvine, I also discovered cycling. And I DEC I discovered you could race bikes. And I had no idea. I knew nothing about cycling. I knew nothing about skills. I just had an engine. Um, I had spent years riding a life cycle in a gym while I was reading science paper after science paper and textbook after textbook. So I had stayed active, um, found out you could race bikes, started racing.
Amber Neben (00:06:15):
Mountain bikes crashed a million times in my first races, but kept winning and Mo quickly moved up to being a pro mountain biker and got an opportunity to race in 2001 on a road team at the Hewlett Packard women’s challenge, which was one of the biggest races in the world at the time. And it was in Idaho and I won a stage there and it was an had a qualifier for the world championships. So not only was I this rookie, you know, mountain bike pro, but now I’d started dabbling on the road. I win a race, it qualifies me for the world championships. And that sort of set the stage for the next 20 plus years, as far as racing on the road. Um, I went to Europe road, well, got a contract with USA national T-Mobile team in 2002. And from that point forward, basically from 2002 through my crash in 2013 raced what was essentially back then the version of the women’s world tour.
Amber Neben (00:07:10):
So there was a big world cup scene, lots of big stage races. Um, and I ended up winning, um, various versions of the women’s tour de France. I was one of the best stage racers in the world for a long time. Um, and then yeah, in that timeframe made it to two Olympic games, won a world championship, one national championship on the road, one on the time trial. And, uh, yeah, then eventually had a crowd in 2013, which I call my career dividing moment, not my defining, but my dividing moment that crash at the tour, California, which essentially set up part two, this aging athlete side, where I’ve been able to work with Tim through this whole process. And it’s been special. Um, it’s been so special in the, um, the relationship that’s been built in winning for four national championships over the age of 40 winning another world title, you know, going back to the Olympic games again, missing a medal by 11 seconds. Um, just everything I’ve overcome along the way and everything that has been built inside of me, um, that has equipped me to be able to speak into other people’s lives too has been, uh, it’s just been an credible journey. Um, I have to say,
Adam Pulford (00:08:23):
Yeah, it’s, it seems like, and sounds like, I mean, we could pick one year and make a podcast episode out of, you know, everything that you could have learned and, and, uh, accomplished in, in one year. But, uh, since we got Tim here with us, how about we start with, uh, when Tim you started working together, Tim, how, how did, how did you get to know Amber when, when did this coach athlete relationship start? Huh?
Tim Cusick (00:08:48):
Well, it started in the fall of 2014. Uh, we actually worked to camp together. It was kind of funny. Uh, we were down in Southern California in the Carlsbad area. We were doing a camp together. Uh, Amber was there obviously to ride with people and, and talk about her story and training and, uh, stuff like that. Uh, we observed some, uh, I remember sitting in the back of a classroom with her, observing another speaker and kind of just talking and chatting about training. And then I was one of the speakers. I did a fair amount of, uh, programs at that same camp. And by the end of camp, you know, we just realized that we, we shared some of the, uh, philosophies of training. We didn’t know how much yet and how much we would get learn together, but we certainly knew that it was there.
Tim Cusick (00:09:37):
Uh, we also knew that there was, you know, some trust in that relationship. You know, it was great to get to know Amber there at the camp and understand her as a person and ride with her. And she had that opportunity to do that with me, which in today’s world and the coach athlete, you know, relationship that’s, that’s rare that it starts that way. You know, now it tends to start a on the internet or, you know, somebody told me you were a good coach and you start talking somehow virtually. So it really was a luxury that we had got to spend a week together learning with each other, uh, and kind of building our relationship from there.
Adam Pulford (00:10:10):
Yeah. In, in Amber during that time, I mean, 2013 was your, the dividing line. Um, I imagine you came outta that crash and in kind of rethinking, uh, reenvisioning kind of where you’re going. What made you like, tell us a little bit more about that time period and what was, what you saw in, in, I say Tim of the coaching side, what were you looking for and, and why was it Tim?
Amber Neben (00:10:35):
Yeah, good question. And so when I crashed in 2013, I shattered my IAC crest and it was a pretty traumatic incident and left a lot of damage that had to be worked through. And at the same time I had done, I had done a lot as an athlete having made to Olympics and won a world title already. You know, I was kind of at that point where I could have very easily just retired and walked away, but I wasn’t so sure that was the path, you know, so it was really, to be honest with you, it was a long, probably like six, seven months of praying about it and just listening for God’s direction and came back in 2014, I had a conversation with somebody who had given me my first time trial bike back in 2001 was running a team and I got connected with him and, and it was just kind of strange that it was, it was like, wow, this small world, full circle kind of thing.
Amber Neben (00:11:26):
So I raced a little bit in 2014, still, not a hundred percent sure what I wanted to do. Um, but then yeah, when I met Tim in Carlsbad, it was really, I was a, at the point where I had thought I wanted to coach myself, but I knew that wasn’t the wisest thing to do <laugh>. And I also just really enjoy working with a coach. Um, and so for me, I had worked with a coach for 15 years and I wasn’t necessarily looking unless it was like the most special individual ever and met Tim. And it was one of those things where we had enough conversations and back and forth, and I understood he was listening. Like I was looking for somebody who I could communicate with and who would be a good listener, um, and really be able to you, oh, pick up on the nuances <laugh> that were my body and me as an athlete, um, understood what it would take to get back to the level, because if I was gonna come back, I didn’t wanna just come back.
Amber Neben (00:12:26):
I wanted to come back to win, um, and to win a title again, a world title. Um, so it wasn’t like I was to dabble. I was gonna be really serious about it. And I could tell from Tim’s level of knowledge and understanding as a coach, that he knew his stuff. Um, and more importantly, just that connection, that personal connection and that ability to communicate was that was the most important piece of the puzzle. So yeah, <affirmative> and, and when he offered to help, you know, at first it was just like, Hey, lemme help for you. And then quickly it turned into me just handing everything over <laugh>
Adam Pulford (00:13:04):
It’s yeah, I totally understand. But I, I part big part of me wants to ask this question, because I know that there’s a lot of, uh, listeners on this podcast asked to do self coach themselves. And so the question is you’re, you’re coach yourself, Amber, um, you’re a good coach. So what made you decide to go the non self-coaching route? Or why do you say, eh, that wasn’t the greatest idea for you at that time? What, what went into making that decision for you?
Amber Neben (00:13:34):
Yeah, I think it was probably, I knew, I didn’t know as much as Tim did <laugh> number one. Yeah. But I think really it, it was more this idea of being okay with the fact, I didn’t know, everything. Um, and I was willing to learn and try new, um, and the collaborative approach, um, in trying to reach the really, really high level that I wanted to get back to. Like, I just knew I needed help and I wasn’t afraid to ask for help. Um, as an athlete at my level, you know, I think sometimes you need another voice, um, that can help make decisions with a different level of clarity. And so I was aware of that as well. Um, you know, sometimes you need somebody to tell you to stop or to rest more, or yeah, it’s hard sometimes to see your blind spots, whereas somebody else can see those a lot easier. Um, and I mean, I’m go, I try to look inward often and make those corrections, but you still can gain valuable, valuable information from another person. So, and with Tim, it was just this idea of collaborating with somebody like him was a, a really special opportunity.
Adam Pulford (00:14:52):
Yeah, yeah, no, I completely agree there when you have a, um, a great coach like that, that’s that those are the, the exact things that you’d pick up on that. So Tim, um, kind of point blank. I mean, when you met Amber, I mean, clearly panned out for you in long run, but yeah. This Ali athlete had a huge injury. Did you think that she could get back and beyond to where she was at that time?
Tim Cusick (00:15:18):
Yeah, right. To it, right. <laugh> right. To it. You know, actually I did, to be honest with you really, um, you know, you knew the engine was still in there. Right. And mm-hmm <affirmative> and you knew the CAPA, the capability and the capacity were there when we spent time talking about her background, how she got to that point in her career in 2013, then obviously what she had gone through in the kind of last 15, 16 months before we had met. I really, not only, it sounds self-serving to say it now, cuz anybody can look in the rear of your mirror, but like aha. Right. But it was like, no, I really saw actually more potential in and it was like, and for two reasons, one, we were at a conference talking about data. So we, you know, we were looking at data. So it’s funny how part of the benefit of coaching with data is there’s you get even on first blush on first deep dive into somebody’s data, but two, you know, so I saw what she was doing.
Tim Cusick (00:16:20):
I saw the numbers and, and I, I believed I could improve upon that. And I do believe that, you know, an improved process is always gonna create improved results. That being said, this second part was I saw in her what I think she just saw on me. It’s funny. I’m not sure we ever discussed it at this level, but it was, to me, the ultimate coach athlete relationship is one that is collaborative. Yeah. Meaning I know that I will thrive with athletes who thrive in that same environment. I don’t do well with athletes that are just tell me what to do and I’ll do it and not give a lot of feedback type of relationship. Um, I don’t do well with athletes that need me to force motivation on them. Cuz I don’t believe a coach should motivate an athlete. I think a coach should put in an athlete in an environment where they self-motivate very well.
Tim Cusick (00:17:15):
The coach is the environmental set or the athlete. I can’t make Amber get off the couch and train every day. There’s nothing I could do that do. She has to come that way and I have to enhance that through that relationship. So it’s pretty rare when you have a situation where you have those two connective pieces. I mean I saw lots of talent yet to go. And I was like, wow, there’s a lot of runway left here in this human being. And I also said, there’s a connection here that is gonna play to my strengths. And I believed play to her strengths. So for me, I wouldn’t have offered help if I honestly didn’t think I could help. Um, and I would, I, I, I, and we got lucky. It kind of worked out <laugh> so we’ll take it at that. Yeah.
Adam Pulford (00:17:59):
Yeah. I mean you never really know, but I mean, that’s that I thought it would be like a really good question in particular, you know, with your angle on it too. I, I knew that there was something in the numbers or in the data that flipped a switch. And I’m, I’m curious for listeners too. Can you talk about like some of the numbers or what was one or two things that were you like you comb through data and you’re like, man, there’s something there. Like if there’s one or two things, what would it be that you saw
Tim Cusick (00:18:28):
You’re gonna get me in trouble later. I saw that there could be a reasonable improvement in the process of peaking. I saw a very fit, very capable, hugely physiologically, talented athlete who, uh, in the training approach, um, maybe hadn’t had the right opportunities to really manage training modality and rhythm and process to an absolute peak who could still put out, I mean was putting out tremendous power, but maybe hadn’t seen what, what they really were totally capable of when the training environment really drove them to a few select peaks instead of maybe an extended performance range. Yeah.
Adam Pulford (00:19:14):
Gotcha. In Amber 20, 20 14. How, how old were you at at this dividing line at this PO at this point
Amber Neben (00:19:25):
39 in, yeah.
Adam Pulford (00:19:28):
And up to that point, I mean was, uh, kind of going off of what Tim was just talking about there with, I mean, you had tons of success, you had, um, the street, uh, you know, the, the street cred to kind of back that up a huge injury, but then some coach comes in and says, uh, you’re not peaking properly. All this comes up that he just said, would you, I mean, at that time, did you agree? Kind of with that process of like, oh, I’m not coming out at that right time or, or did that kind of challenge you in terms of like, I don’t know, Tim, I think I peed, I don’t know. Tell me a little bit more about that. Cause that’s, that’s a curious one
Amber Neben (00:20:01):
To me. I think he was wise enough not to use those exact words with me. <laugh> okay. I gotcha. So, no, I mean, we just started the process together. Um, we both, we built trust, um, he explained what we were doing along the way, what I needed to do. Um, we maintained some of the things that I really felt like my body responded well to. And we added a lot of new things. You changed things up a little bit. We worked, we worked differently and at a level that I hadn’t worked at before, or with regards to chronic training load and some of the time and zoned things we did. So he just, he was very good about, um, just staying in the moment with the process and we just worked through it, uh, together. And I think it was, it was further down the line that we had that conversation about the peaking side of it.
Adam Pulford (00:20:53):
Gotcha. Gotcha. And during that, so at age 39 and, and Tim comes to you with some of these different metrics and perhaps some modalities, I mean, Tim for you was, was age a part of that or were you just looking at an athlete trying to perform better? And you went about your coaching ways,
Tim Cusick (00:21:13):
The latter, to be honest with you. I mean obviously, um, uh, uh, you know, between the, the injury was probably more part of it than the age. And, and that was probably a good thing in hindsight, mm-hmm <affirmative> right, because we might have owed over focused on the age and overthought that side, but really like if you talk about the first challenge was we really needed to complete her recovery from the injury. And I’m not just talking about the physical recovery in the sense, you know, has a bone healed our, our, our muscles healed. But I literally mean about getting back and, and reestablishing confidence in capacity and capability, rebuilding power and, and, and performance numbers that, that really say to the athlete. Wow, I am healed. Like I am back. I am, you know, at that point, I think a lot of our short term, uh, challeng, it absorbed a lot of our focus again.
Tim Cusick (00:22:10):
And it’s funny and, and I’m sure, you know, it’ll be interesting to see what Amber says, but we didn’t spend a tremendous amount of time talking about these things. One of the things I think, and she just said it, that we both do well, is we create a good strategy, right? Like, okay, here’s where we’re going. Here’s a pretty good roadmap. And then we just focus on you. Here’s what we’re doing today. Here’s why here’s what we’re looking to accomplish. Great. We did that, check it off, put it in the box. Here’s what we’re doing to, you know, next day, same process. We’re, we’re both pretty good at staying in that moment. We weren’t, because of that unique situation, we wrote a, a very clear training strategy. Don’t get me wrong. We had something was for the, the year really trying to come back. We knew we had some goals of racing, which kicked off at like valley, the sun and San Demus pretty good.
Tim Cusick (00:22:58):
I bet you think, I, I don’t remember all the way back then. And it was like, okay, we want it to be back here by now and here. But in general, we put that more into the gray zone, into the secondary tier, and we said, let’s rebuild the a, let’s just make sure you can make power. Let’s just make sure that you can make more power. And we really just focused on the process of the athlete rebuild, rebuilding the human, and Amber’s intensely competent at that in her own side. So it’s not like, wow, here was this broken athlete who couldn’t do anything. Right. She did a tremendous amount of things, which I bet you we’ll hear more about today. It really was maybe just coming in at a point after a traumatic incident, refocusing, you know, 10% of that, even though sometimes that 10% could be the most important, 10% reestablishing that pattern back to little victories leading to bigger victories.
Tim Cusick (00:23:49):
And that’s really what happened in 2015, you know, we kind of got back into stage racing and she did well and then did better. And then that got, you know, it was all part. And then we started planning a little bigger and then, you know, we gone into worlds and the plan got bigger. And 2006, then at 2016, um, we had to talk about trying to make it all the way to the next Olympics. So that got a bigger plan, you know, in each step we didn’t expand the horizons until we had to. And that was where we just click very well in the relationship process.
Adam Pulford (00:24:21):
Gotcha. Um, Amber, I’m gonna go back to you quick on, on kind of this 2014 rebuilding, and then I’m, I’m curious kind of question to you both on how you kind of build your model or your map. So I’ll plant the seed with, with Tim on that one, but for you Amber, this 2014 of, um, rebuilding or restructuring, what would you say some of the training modalities or, or methods that Tim started to implement with you? How were those different than what you did in the years past?
Amber Neben (00:24:55):
Yeah, so we picked up in the fall of 2014, so really it’s the 2015 season. Okay. Okay. Gotcha. Yeah. In the, I would say a couple things. One was the rest. So getting the rest right in the off season and extending that a little bit longer than I typically had done. And then we spent a lot of time being really patient with my aerobic rebuild. So historically, you know, I had gone quickly in, into ramping really quick, um, doing some higher intensity work early, whereas with Tim, it was like, oh my gosh, <laugh> it was so much zone two stuff. It was a lot of aerobic work. It was really just this expanded base and really fundamental aerobic engine work. Um, and then we stepped into a lot of tempo and sweet spot and I think I did more tempo and sweet spot in like three months than, you know, typically I would do over the course of a year.
Amber Neben (00:25:56):
So it was just like this really intense focus on my aerobic engine before moving on to anything else. Um, so it built into me. We, you know, what turned out to be what I, I didn’t name it at the time, but like this resilience, um, this fatigue, resistance, this depth to my me, my person, my body, to be able to do more work, absorb more training, respond to training better. So just like this layered, this like skeleton of an athlete that was so strong and resilient and could do so much work, you know, so I had that natural ability. I just hadn’t tapped into that side of it. So that was what we really focused on. And then to be able to layer that season on top of season, on top of season is what’s been able to keep me going, I think.
Adam Pulford (00:26:42):
Gotcha. So a huge, huge rebuild of the base
Amber Neben (00:26:46):
Was a huge, or was a big component of that. Yeah, yeah. A real specific, um, and not just, just zone two work, but that really, really specific sub-threshold work. Yeah.
Adam Pulford (00:26:59):
Yeah. Tim, anything pop out to you that you wanna add onto that in terms of that layered approach of how you, how you rebuilt?
Tim Cusick (00:27:08):
No, yes, no, yes. <laugh> yeah, actually, no, the reality is, uh, she said the key thing patience. So we were in a situation where she had, you know, historical training pattern into incident into a very difficult training, 14, 16, 18 month kind of period in there. Right. So part of my philosophy was let’s just go back. She is a massive aerobic engine. She has a huge VO, two max huge aerobic capability. Um, I literally believe she’s 82% lungs. Um, <laugh> she, uh, so I said, let’s rebuild. What makes you strong first cuz and when you’re injured and you’re in a timeframe, it’s very easy to just drill down into what’s stopping me right now. What’s my limit or what’s my weakness. But I really thought it was more important that we would rebuild. And I remember thinking like when I started, we started down this path, you’re gonna ask how we do it, but I’ll, which I guess we’ll get to, but I’ll tell you what we did is like we started building this load and I’m like, every week I’m like, oh, I’m gonna talk to Amber.
Tim Cusick (00:28:14):
She’s gonna fire me today cuz she’s gonna run outta patients and all I wanted, but she was amazing at it because once she committed to, you know, we, we had a lot of talks up front. We did create a, and she bought into that and she trusted in me and stayed patient that type of training strategy won’t work without athlete patients. It, it will fail almost every time for all kinds of different reasons. So yes, that was the strategy. We said, we’re going to, we’re gonna build this of engine to as big as it’s ever been. Then we’re gonna embark on the rest of your career. Uh, and we didn’t say we had to have results tomorrow. We didn’t say I have to win that tomorrow. We had some goals, but we really wanted to do that element. And then where she was just amazing, was she focused on the process? She stayed in the Mo and she stayed patient at, through the process. Cause coming back from an injury for an athlete of Amber’s level, that isn’t easy. Right. You wanna get right back in the saddle. You wanna be as good as you were, you know, a year ago tomorrow for sure. But it really was a credit to her to be that patient and let it all rebuild
Adam Pulford (00:29:25):
For sure. And that’s, that’s the question I have for you, Amber is because you were producing these results at such a high level. Why do you think you, you remain so patient during this time period, why’d you listen to this crazy guy over here?
Amber Neben (00:29:39):
<laugh>, you know, patience is one of my championship intangibles. I talk about PX four and patience is one of the fees in there. And I think honestly it was just my life. Um, and what I went through as a high school runner and having to come back from stress fracture after stress fracture, you know, every time time that happened, it was eight weeks off. Um, you know, and then it was like this slow rebuild, like start running one minute, I got to run one minute, walk a minute, run a minute, walk a minute, run a minute. That was it. You know, that would be my workout when I started back. And so over and over and over, I’d been through this process before and you know, I knew it was in me fast forward, back to cycling side was like, I knew what was there.
Amber Neben (00:30:22):
I knew that athlete in me was still there. That ability was still there. That wasn’t, that didn’t change. I just had to wait for it. Um, and so I just, yeah, I mean, I guess part of, part of walking in faith with God is learning to wait on him. Um, and, and in the process of being an athlete, learning to be patient and understanding that stuff doesn’t happen overnight. Um, you just have to stay with the process and keep doing work. And so, yeah, it certainly helps when there’s somebody like Tim on the other side that you’re communicating with and laying out a good strategy, um, I’m understanding what we’re doing. I’m willing to buy into it. And I’m also willing to persevere. I mean, I, to being an Olympian when I was 10 years old and I made the team when I was 33 <laugh> so it was like 23 years to do that. I mean what’s another two years to rebuild my aerobic engine, right. Yeah.
Adam Pulford (00:31:12):
A hundred percent. Yeah. And, and I think that this is, it kind of gets back to, you know, some of the stories from a, you know, your childhood and the injuries, like the adversity, I think pushes you or makes you be patient. Like you go through some and you realize it takes time to get over that stuff.
Amber Neben (00:31:30):
Right? Yeah, absolutely. And it’s funny. I just wrote in our base camp group, I coached in the base camp group and we just took ’em through an ALP challenge and part of their preparation, I wrote a post on attitude and in thinking, and to me, like, I, I’m not a champion because I’ve won races. I’m a champion because I’ve been through adversity and I’ve gotten up and not given up and I’ve continued to persevere and I’ve had those moments that have made me a champion. I’ve been willing to see the opportunity in the difficulty and press through them and work through them. Um, so yeah, as hard as all the storms and fires and difficult times we go through are like, we need that stuff. That’s the, that’s the stuff that makes us the champion versus crowning us. The champion. Yeah.
Adam Pulford (00:32:15):
Well said, well said, but Tim, you don’t get off the hook this easy. I’ve got a patient’s question for you as well. Uh, because I, I think that, you know, many people in their training, you know, we want, they want results yesterday. A lot of our listeners, same way. I think even as coaching, I think that there is an art to knowing, you know, when to move on or how much to stay. So what made you so patient during this time of rebuilding Amber after her dividing line?
Tim Cusick (00:32:48):
Um, no, that’s a great question. I, I hadn’t thought about it that way, to be honest with you. Um, to me that’s part of the role of data. I know that sounds like the now, you know, you swing over to the, to the nerd side, right? And it’s like, the reality was as we were rebuilding, having this ability to say, all right, we’re gonna stick with the process. We’re gonna go slow that build, you know, that takes some courage to do. And it, and it takes some patience, but we were looking, it’s not like we didn’t have information to say, okay, we’re heading the direction we’re heading. So again, something that Amber does really well, that is very important in my style is you have, you know, you could have a big strategy. You, you wanna go to the Olympics and that’s great. And I know plenty of people would say, that’s my goal.
Tim Cusick (00:33:38):
And then when I say, what are the hundred things, the hundred steps, the hundred little things you need to do, right. To get there, what are they people go? Um, I should probably eat better. You know, uh, maybe don’t ride so much. I mean, they rarely have like these items, one of the things that Amber and I do very well, because she is a, a smart coach herself and knows data is we can use data as goal milestone and communication. That doesn’t take a lot of energy and focus like, okay, here’s where we want to be at this stage. Here’s the progress we expect to see. Here’s the trend of something. And what’s really fulfilling in, in that sense for both the coach and the athlete, right. It’s part of what makes that positive collaborative energy is. Um, of course she feels better every time a milestone is achieved and she hits a number and we move forward.
Tim Cusick (00:34:33):
But so does the coach, right? <laugh>, you’re just like, okay, one pressure off. We made it today. Um, you know, but it really, then you begin to see pattern in momentum. And we started that process. We went down the road and because she’s such a gifted athlete within a couple of months, we were seeing movement and things that was like, wow, this is very encouraging. We see trend pointing to strategy and that’s what all friends should do. They point at your strategy. And it’s funny as you know, it’s one of my things, you know, don’t leave till you have to, but know when it’s time to go. Right. And when you think about timing of training, if you really can think about what I just said, it’s so important for a coach to be able to deliver that. But normally the athlete controls it more than you’re willing to admit their patience, their comfort, their desire that they have to win tomorrow or, or feel like they’re moving forward to really get that timing. Right. You need the collaboration. We had that we had the data to support. We had a clear objective, a bunch of milestones, and we had data to suggest we were heading in the right direction. So for me, it made it easier to stay on course and go slowly.
Adam Pulford (00:35:50):
Yeah. That makes sense. Um, so to this overarching kind of like big picture or the, the map where you two go, how do you guys, how do, how do you two create that, that map or that annual plan or that, that quad plan Amber kind of go to you first, I’ll swing over to Tim, but how do you guys do your planning that you talk about? So well, do you guys have a Trello board? Do you have like a brainstorm what’s going on here? I,
Tim Cusick (00:36:18):
20 bucks says, I know what she’s gonna say. That’s how we’re
Adam Pulford (00:36:21):
Connected, right. To me in the, just kidding. Right, right. Amber, how do you guys do it?
Amber Neben (00:36:25):
Sorry. We have a Google sheet. And then we, we just have a talk. Um, first to be honest, it’s, it’s just a conversation. Um, once I’m far enough out of the previous year are not quite into the next year, just have a conversation about, you know, what we wanna do and how we might do it, address some of the things that we could have done better in the previous year, the things we need to focus on. Um, then when it’s time to really lay out a strategy, you know, it’s like, we know what the target is. I think it to have a really good, clear goal in target. And especially as I’ve gotten older, I, I joke with people that I’m a sniper <laugh>, you know, I can’t, I can’t try to win everything, but I can pick and choose a couple. And so typically, you know, we’ve focused on nationals as an auto, you know, if you win, you’re an automatic qualifier for the world championships.
Amber Neben (00:37:16):
So world’s always being the primary goal, but having to get to get there first. So we have to win our way to worlds. And so nationals becomes important. So we have our two targets and then it’s just laying out the stepping stones, a process, um, what needs to be done in terms of the aerobic rebuild, um, feeling that out, um, and addressing some of the things that I might be feeling along the way. I think we have a really good strategy, um, more so than a plan. And then we move forward and honestly, what’s so good with Tim is like, we, we have the data and he understands the data, but there are times when, like I can feel something, be cuz of my wisdom and experience or just some nuance in my body. And it’s like, I think we need to do this. Right.
Amber Neben (00:38:05):
We need to think about this and he’ll push back up on me a lot. But then there are times when he is like, yeah, let’s do it. And, and we’ll incorporate that into the training process. So then it’s a real fluid forward move, um, and a good healthy back and forth, um, explaining subjective feelings, putting subjective feelings and, and what’s happening to the data so that he has a really good understanding of what he’s seeing and, and that helps him make good, clear decisions on, okay, let’s move forward. Or let’s, let’s hold off a little bit and work on this area a little bit longer.
Adam Pulford (00:38:44):
Well, Tim, are you $20 richer or
Tim Cusick (00:38:47):
<laugh> I am, um, you know, she said something spot on, which I think is so important in the process to me, it’s like one goal setting, right? Let’s just start there for me. It’s really important that you don’t big goal set annual goal, the big things right after the previous goal, right? So let’s say you have a big event talking at somebody at Amber’s level, let’s call it worlds, uh, Olympics, whatever, but say worlds to we E worlds the next day and be like, oh, let’s start goal setting for the next year. A lot of times we have energy for that, but that makes a lot of muddy water. It really does. Cuz you’re either striving for something that you failed at you’re, you’re, you’re, you’re covering a wound or you’re celebrating a victory and you don’t often have the clearest vision. And when you don’t have a clear vision like, and you’re analyzing what your honest goals are, you tend to, to be a little bit hit and miss whether you’re really ready to commit to them.
Tim Cusick (00:39:43):
Amber does a great job of downregulating after big events and spending time thinking about it. Uh, part of our coach athlete relationship is defocusing on that. Um, you know, and I, there’s actually some funny stories the way we did it, like a little game of basketball out, things like that. <laugh> play some horse, um, whatever, you know, we have these funny ways of just letting it shut off. And then when the time is right, we circle around and we have this, what does next year look like conversation. And then that shapes into goals, right? And that’s really her strength. And, and, and I didn’t teach her to do it that way. And, and it’s just something we collaboratively did and got to, it was the most comfortable and best process for us. But what she said that I knew, she would say, which is to me, so crucial as a mature athlete, particularly, um, we have a training strategy, not a plan.
Tim Cusick (00:40:36):
We do a sheet and we lay out schedule and we know when a big event is and we rough it in and we kind of lay it out. And then like 30 minutes later, we giggle and say, we know this isn’t gonna come true. <laugh> right. And we’re like, okay, but it it’s helps us define the strategy, but then we know we move out and we’re like, we’ve got to understand that in a normal season, you have enough things of take you off. If you have an overly rigid strategy, you stop thinking as much as you, should you stop the dynamic side of, of the process or you limit the dynamic side of the process in the total absence of strategy or a plan it’s totally dynamic, which then that’s too much, you have a strategy, not a plan. You stay on strategy, but you tweak your tactical activities and that becomes your plan. And that needs shorter time cycles, shorter milestones. It needs to be more purposeful, but always leading towards that big strategy. And that’s something we both naturally do pretty well in chunking things out like that. And what that gives us is the common dialogue me as the coach giving prescription, um, hopefully with quality and her giving description with quality and that prescription description relationship allows us to stay on strategy and be dynamic at a good balance. That’s probably the process.
Adam Pulford (00:42:02):
Yeah. That’s, that’s very well said. And as I always sit in here, just like re like absorbing that and be like, man, I’m gonna, I’m gonna steal some of those nuggets, Tim. Um, to, to all of our listeners. I, I think that like, there’s no better way to put, uh, kind of the needs for a coach or an unbiased person kind of coming in and helping you scrub and develop this strategy and kind of cultivate that throughout the year because I was on a phone call one time and they were like, oh, with an athlete. And it’s like, well, don’t, I have an annual I’m like, I’ll make you an annual plan here. Go right here, takes me two minutes on training peaks. Boom, there’s an annual plan, but now let’s talk about how we’re going to do this. Right. Cause an annual, like you do enough of them, boom, boom, crank ’em out.
Adam Pulford (00:42:46):
Right. But to actually think through the process of what an athlete is going to develop over this time period, like you gotta, there’s more to it than fancy spreadsheets. Right. And that’s what I just listened to from you two in terms of how you make that process. But I think most importantly, um, for listeners is as well as other coaches out there, you also notice how Tim gave the athletes space or the athlete <laugh> you of space to the coach before you go into that, uh, planning time period, because ha having a clear mind before you set those goals is super huge.
Amber Neben (00:43:23):
Super huge. Yeah. I would say too, you know what, Adam, the goal is so important in terms of when there’s a clear target or clear vision, it really helps you stay with the process, um, and move through the steps. Yeah. And that page element.
Adam Pulford (00:43:40):
Yep. Good point. Okay. Um, so one thing that, that I wrote down is earlier on was this, this peaking better and peaking peaking, uh, first of all, Amber to you, what is, if I can ask you the definition of a great peak, what is that, uh, what does that look like for you? What has that look like for you in the past? What is a good peak for you? Just in general terms for an athlete, let’s put it that way.
Amber Neben (00:44:11):
I think a good peak is when you are just on point with everything, um, your head, your legs, your heart, your spirit, your all in sync on point on time and you can perform at your absolute best.
Adam Pulford (00:44:31):
I like it. Tim, would you add on or change anything to that definition of peaking?
Tim Cusick (00:44:37):
No, absolutely not. It’s a whole athlete thing. I, I think one of the challenges we have in today’s world of coaching and, and remember I’m, I’m like a lot of people know me as the data guy <laugh>, um, data is stopping on from looking at the whole athlete. And there’s even times I say the whole athlete and people mean like, you mean like they’re five and they’re 20 minute power. No, that’s not what I mean by the whole athlete mindset approach, focus, spirit, you know, that’s all comes together and people ask me all the time, what does it take to be a Le an elite coach? And I know Adam, you’ve been down this path many of times before. That’s what it takes. And it’s, it’s way more challenging than five and 20 minute power. Um, I think, you know, when I said I saw Amber’s ability to peak, I knew the rest of it was very strong.
Tim Cusick (00:45:27):
I immediately identified a, an emotionally strong person, an emotionally high, the intelligent person person who had the, those skill sets. So then it was really easy, right. It was like, uh, softball, oh, look at the data. Oh, huge aerobic engine. She had an element in her training that I saw a little too much monotony my opinion. And it’s like, wow, this one’s easy to fix. <laugh>, you know, fixing the, any monotony is easy. The rest of the mechanism was there. And I think to really peak when you see an athlete of Amber’s caliber of any, you know, high end world tour athlete actually peak and what they can, what they can do every day is amazing. What they can do when they put everything together with what Amber just said is all in spot. It’s crazy good. Um, and that’s, that’s what you can shoot for that’s at this level exactly what you’re looking for. But then people, when I say at this level, yeah. Not all of us get a chance to go to the be world champion or Olympian, but that’s true for anybody, you know, those elements all play a role. And if you’re just getting into bike or you’re trying to win the local state championship or a big event, it’s true for everybody.
Adam Pulford (00:46:38):
Yeah. I supremely agree. And, and listeners, you just heard that coming, coming from the data nerd himself <laugh> there was more to peaking than just the numbers alone. Okay. So Amber did, did you, you and Tim, the collaborative effort, did you two help develop the peaking process even better from a timing standpoint, from a peaking or from a peak of the peak standpoint? Did he get you to a higher level in your training?
Amber Neben (00:47:09):
Yeah, absolutely. Um, I think higher level in my training, um, obviously winning world title at age 41 back in 2016, and then what I did this last year at age 46, you know, being fifth at the Olympic games, 11 seconds off the podium, and then the fourth place at worlds, you know, it was like, yeah. Who would, who would predict that? Right. So I think the combination, the collaborative effort, um, putting things together and you know, this whole idea of peaking, it’s funny, as you were talking, I was thinking about my peak into the Olympic games. And I think one thing that gets forgotten with regards to peaking is you always have a point in the process where things get really turbulent. Um, I remember Chuck Yeager describing what it felt like just before he broke the sound barrier and how just his, his cockpit was just violently shaking.
Amber Neben (00:48:00):
You know, he thought I was gonna break apart. And then once he bursts through the sound barrier, it was like super smooth. Right. And there is a point when you’re coming on form where things just get so turbulent and you have to say, so locked into your goal and your focus and you have to have the right voice in your head to know who to trust and what you’re working towards so that you don’t, you don’t let that shake you. Um, and you get through it. And I know going into the Olympics this year, like I did, I can’t tell you how, how bad I felt that week, um, until maybe the day before God was
Adam Pulford (00:48:35):
Amber Neben (00:48:36):
And, and, and then it was just, you know, on point on time, exactly what we were trying to get to. So yeah, it’s, it’s not always easy to get there, what it is doable. Okay.
Adam Pulford (00:48:52):
Uh, yeah, Tim, tell, tell me more kind of about this process for Tokyo, uh, with kind of what you knew or the, the strategies you two were implementing to get rid of the shaky cockpit going into Tokyo.
Tim Cusick (00:49:06):
<laugh> you mean to create the shaky cockpit or create yeah,
Adam Pulford (00:49:11):
Tim Cusick (00:49:11):
First. That’s right. You know, it’s funny Adam, um, discussing the aging athlete. Right. Which is kind of the, the, the core here. Yeah. To some degree. Um, one of the challenges in working with a more mature athlete let’s call 40 plus 40 I 40 plus is a good number. We should never pin a number to it. But if you had to pin one say 40 plus is things become more precise, meaning you really need to be following a very good training strategy. And I actually, if you are a master’s rider, a lot of masters rider spend a couple of years and they with a coach and they’re like, Hey, I know how to do this myself now. So I’ll just use a training plan, the older you get, the more important it probably, and have goals that you wanna accomplish. The more important it is to have a coach, because you have to be more precise because if you do it right, and you get, you can, you can improve your performance into your fifties.
Tim Cusick (00:50:07):
Right. If you do it all right, but the risk is higher, right. Because when you get it wrong, like if you blow it, you could blow it all up. Epicly and that’s kind of what Amber’s referring to. So the reality is leading into the Olympics. So we set up for our Olympic year. Right. Which was 2020. It was 21. Yeah. Yeah. Right. So then we have, we had this four year plan. We mapped out the trip to the Olympics in Colorado Springs. And I think it was the winter of 16 might have been 17. You know, January by that timeframe, we laid out a four year plan. We decided we would actually to take a much easier 2017, even though she was the raining world champ, we had a bigger goal. So we actually laid back on training cuz at that age, no offense, Amber, at that age, you know, you gotta think bigger pitcher recovery and, and how much you can take, how resilient you really are.
Tim Cusick (00:50:57):
But then we were gonna use the next two years to build resiliency, then push an Olympic year peak. Well, we all know what happened to 2020 things got, we had to always stay ready cuz we didn’t know what was gonna get delayed. It was definitely a challenging year. So then we literally had to maintain a certain readiness. We didn’t just shut down. We had a four year cycle going. So we really forced us to reinvent and rethink and stuff like that. So we go into the next year saying, okay, the Olympics are gonna happen. Let’s rebuild a really good strategy. We survived 2020. She goes to worlds in 2020 and has a solid world. She actually had a very good power performance. We had some aerodynamic problems. Now that that’s all behind us. We it’s gonna say it, but she was strong. But just what didn’t all come together for us in that day.
Tim Cusick (00:51:44):
Then the reality is we’re like, okay, we know the engines there let’s keep building for the Olympics. So we spend a lot of time in aerodynamics and other stuff. But at this point, like this philosophy rules, when you come to the mature athlete, you just rest more and you can still train hard. Right? I don’t believe in that as the ad hoc answer, it might be the answer. But often if you have big goals, it’s not, you have to do some things differently, which we can get deeper into, but you can train a lot in your forties, ending your fifties a lot more. Now I know people are gonna be like, ah, Tim just said train every day hard and I’m gonna overtrain and blame him. I’m gonna call up CTS and say, Hey, you guys did this, but no, what, what you happens is you can still do a lot of load, but you need to be more patient in the build, slower in how you build, uh, training load.
Tim Cusick (00:52:36):
But if you push it too hard, the consequences are big. So here’s what we did. And I always learn from mistakes, right? Look, face it as a coach, you’re gonna mess up more athletes than you’re gonna succeed with. And hopefully they forgive you and stick around. But you know, there is no way if you’re not pushing the boundaries, you’re not learning. You’re not truly achieving peak. Agreed. So we did a huge training camp coming into nationals and we’re like, we were gonna train through nationals. Amber knew she was, she didn’t know quite when we started the final build, but she was on the long team. We literally decided to do our Olympic training camp anyway, and just hope for the best. We were training here in Pennsylvania in a massive 12 day training camp, right before we left to complete the training camp at nationals as we heat adapted.
Tim Cusick (00:53:22):
And um, we did this huge load and we, we, I mean crushing efforts here. And then we went down, we went to nationals and we were just gonna rest. And the reality is, you know, you’re at nationals and you still want to do well, and we’re like, as a coach, I was like, we we’re still gonna do some work. We’ll we’ll work our way. We still got a little more work in you we’ll we’ll work our way into nationals. And then we’ll just race with that load then we’ll rest. Well, the reality was that was too much and it was about, you know, it’s so funny. This is how, uh, Razor’s edge it is. It was about two days too much. We were using some new heat training techniques and messing around with some of some, we were actually adding even more strain than just the end of a huge training camp.
Tim Cusick (00:54:07):
Um, and didn’t perform that well at nationals, but that was okay. We had kind of expected that, but the reality is we were too tired coming outta nationals and we had to shut it down for a little while. And if that was Amber at 25 years old, that little while would’ve been <affirmative> two to five days, Amber at 40 something, I’ll just leave it at that for you, Amber, Amber at 40 something that was longer, right. We needed cuz we, we, we couldn’t put a day number on it. We needed to let her recover. We needed to let her absorb that huge training camp. I mean, she can take so much work workload. It takes a ton to push her over the edge. Even now at 46, she can do an amazing amount of work, but that put us behind that really took us about almost two weeks to get back on track.
Tim Cusick (00:55:00):
And then for me as the coach, I won, you know, I’m not sure how I was communicating this to Amber. It was, uh, we’re not gonna get it to that peak on time. We’re not gonna get to the peak on time. Then she heads over Japan. I couldn’t go obviously with all the constraints and we’re talking every day about the training and it’s a hundred degrees and 105% humidity. And you know, and she’s not on form. And she’s in that as she just gave the example just before the sound barrier and it will as bad in Tokyo day after day, but you know what we both did, uh, well, and this was the mutual trust we have in each other. We stuck to the plan. We were like, it’s either gonna come to bear. We’re gonna miss it by a couple of days, we knew the signs were there.
Tim Cusick (00:55:44):
We knew the, the, the things we wanted to see were there, just how I hadn’t really like I’d much rather peak three or four or five or even a week early. And at least know you got it, but it really wasn’t. As she said to the day before, like she finally wrote me that note, like, you know, I’m feeling it today. And it was like, oh, you know, and we made it, you know, she basically, uh, came on form with about 24 hours to spare. So that’s the lesson, you know, if she was younger, we could have recovered from that overload, that short term overreach that made her nonfunctional. We could have just been like, oh great. We just two to three extra days of work. We’re right back on track. It wasn’t in over training. It was just a nonfunctional overreach in your forties.
Tim Cusick (00:56:26):
When you make that mistake, that’s two weeks, that’s a game changer on a schedule of getting back on to peak on time, just like she said. And, uh, that that’s a, uh, a challenging and scary experience that’s but to give her, and also she was pushing the edge of the envelope. She didn’t go to the Olympics and do as well as she did at, at, at 40 something just because, um, she rested more. She chose to push that and we made that decision collaboratively and she was pushing that ragged edge. And I took a day or two too much. That’s always on the coach, but the reality is she was prepared for those consequences and we didn’t panic. We took all that extra time. It needed to get back on track and then just got back on track and started working towards our strategy again.
Adam Pulford (00:57:17):
So there was more, more resting, but there was definitely more load and strain going into that, which required more resting. That’s what you’re saying.
Tim Cusick (00:57:28):
Yeah. You know, when you, when you’re you’re coaching the mature athlete like this, right. It’s not just load. And this is something that Amber, um, talks about all the time. So I’m kind of stealing her line but differently, but I bet you, she can add much better color. You kind of load and listen, so, okay. You take a load and then man, we need to really listen to what her body does now, what Amber does amazingly well, she’s very in tune with self, both the physical self and, and her mental self. So she’d be much better person to answer what listening means. So I load and listen, you know what I mean? But I I’m listening to her. She’s the one who’s really listening. It’s easy for me to say.
Adam Pulford (00:58:13):
So, so Amber, uh, it’s, it’s funny. He, he cud it up like that because the questions I have for you are like, I was gonna say, what are you paying attention to, to let you know, to let yourself know you need not 3, 4, 5 days, but two weeks to recover, or the fact that I am whew, I’m really overrated. Like, what’s that feel inside you or inside your brain? Or is there something else that you’re looking at
Amber Neben (00:58:39):
Adam? That’s a million dollar question, right? Every athlete wants to know that. When, when do you push and when do you go home? Oh, um, and I think to be honest with you, I think it’s just making that mistake. And over the years I’ve made the mistake of pushing when I shouldn’t have pushed and when I should have rested and really taken myself too far over the edge. And then I’ve also done the opposite where I’ve rested when I’ve been like, ah, you know what, I, I should have worked through that workout. So I’ve, I’ve been on both extremes. And so I’ve kind of got that feel over the years of training and, and knowing what that feels like on each side, when you’re talking about working towards a peak event, um, for me, it was like risk right. Risk reward. And ultimately the goal wasn’t just to make the Olympic team, the goal was to win a medal.
Amber Neben (00:59:31):
And so that was gonna require pushing the edge that much closer than we’d ever taken it before. And so I, not only did I have to be willing to push the edge and take my body to limits and levels, I hadn’t taken it to, but I had to be okay with going over the edge and completely imploding, um, which could have happened. Um, but yeah, I think you kind of just, you learn to sense, um, your gut, your gut feel in terms of like, okay, I’m, there’s something wrong. It’s not that I’m being lazy or I don’t wanna do this. Like something is wrong. And a lot of times it’s like, what would I tell if I was getting these feelings and this information from an athlete, I was coaching, what would I tell them? So what would I, as a third person, tell myself with regards to this. And, and most of the time that voice would be true, um, in that gut feel in terms of, you know, what you just need to back off and trust this, um, that you need more rest. So yeah, ultimately, I mean, it’s come from making the mistakes, um, and the learning from ’em and then just being willing in the moment, moving into the big race to push the edge and, and take that risk and not worry so much about the outcome, but really trying to go for the gold.
Adam Pulford (01:00:55):
Yeah. Yeah. That’s, that’s a fantastic answer. And I think, you know, what I, what I’m hearing from you and what I hear from mature athletes like that is they’re actually able to, this is a poor analogy, but maybe it’s the best analogy they’re able to come outside of themselves, view themselves as a third party or perhaps as a coach would right. And be able to, uh, kind of nego think on both sides and then give advice. And then you come I’m back in, do I keep going or do I arrest or whatever. And I think that, that, like, that is super hard to teach. It’s only fought through all the adversities, all the problems, all the mistakes and all the yard sales <laugh> right. But that’s, as you’re talking, I’m like, that’s exactly what you’re doing. All those all that time. Mm-hmm, <affirmative>
Amber Neben (01:01:43):
Absolut. And it’s why, like, you know, as a coach, I I’m pushing athletes at times to just like, turn your power meter off. I want you to put a piece of tape over your power meter and go race your bike. Yeah. You know, go time trial, go do your FTP test totally by feel. And if you blow up five minutes in, that’s the best lesson you’re gonna learn. You know, if you go too easy, that’s another lesson you’re gonna learn. You know? So if part of it is like taking the metrics and using the data and everything, but then at some point you have to be able to feel your way through the process too. And so not being afraid to push the limit in training, in a safe place. Yeah. To feel those edges is so important.
Adam Pulford (01:02:20):
Yeah. Yeah. That’s rich. Yeah. For sure. Um, well, Amber with you when you’re okay. So warm fuzzies were looking back on it, gray result at Tokyo, but when you were feeling like that gut feeling in Tokyo, it’s hot or not, maybe you had to hide the power meter a couple times, cuz you’re like not looking at that today. What come kind of comes back down to patience, but what made you so patient in Tokyo to be like, oh, just, just another day, just another day. What, what made you stay there? Not freak out, not pull the plug, not overdue. Um, cuz that’s what some athletes do sometimes is well as like if they’re pushing for a number, they don’t see it. So they over, so what made you so patient there,
Amber Neben (01:03:04):
You know, I’ve been through that process before. So I knew a couple things. Um, from the technical side, I just knew I had to do the work. You know, there was nothing I was gonna do that week. That was gonna make me better. Um, I just needed to get through the work and not let it mentally get me down. You know, it was gonna be what it was gonna be. And the most important thing was just to do it, get it done, check it off, get the, get the work in the bank to get me ready, get me one step closer to the goal, you know, from the heart and mental side of it, you know, that’s where for me, I have a faith and Jesus that gives me a core strength and a core just, um, clarity of what I’m doing. And I, I knew there was a purpose in being there and I knew, you know, there’s, there’s a guy who said, a person who’s calling is clear is invincible.
Amber Neben (01:03:57):
You know? And I just felt like it was really clear that I was there to race and to race well, and so I just had to stay in tune with that voice, you know, trust God’s power and strength that he was gonna show up at the right time. And it was just a combination of, you know, historically what I’d been through and then just trusting God’s strength in the moment. And there it was, and it was, yeah. I mean, it’s just an, the anchor that I have that allows me to stay true and um, rooted and anchored and unshakable and unstoppable in those moments.
Adam Pulford (01:04:31):
Yeah. Yeah. That’s good. Tim, were you, uh, were you throwing some prayers up there too while you were watching from <laugh> from back in Pennsylvania or
Tim Cusick (01:04:38):
Pretty much every moment. Yes. Adam <laugh>, you know, you’ve been there, you know exactly what I mean, <laugh> you? Uh, yeah, no, it, it, it definitely was a tense time, but it wasn’t because I actually understood. Yeah. If, if you would’ve asked me to say what Amber would say, I knew exactly where she was in that sense. And again, that’s the quality of a good collaborative relationship between coach and athlete is, is you have that? I knew she was all in and, and I knew she knew we played the best game we could up to that point, you know, and we, we just had to perform in the championship. So I think there’s a comfort in that when you and your athlete get on the same level of understanding risk, I think that’s something that really gets a lot of coaches in a tough spot. They don’t get that same equal feeling. They don’t work with their athlete to understand here’s the mutual risk. We don’t get on the same plane of what that risk is. Um, and too oftentimes that relat ends up in the coaches, all the risk and the athlete has none. Um, it’s Amber does an amazing job of being responsible for Amber. Um, and I I’m willing to do the same. And since we’re both willing to take that responsibility, we work well together at accepting risk.
Adam Pulford (01:05:53):
Yeah, no, that’s great. That’s great. Um, so we’ve talked, talked about some of this, uh, like chronological age, um, issues or think before there’s also, uh, training age as well, training age, meaning, um, how many years spent, you know, kind of in this training for this specific thing and whatnot, and Tim of course said age 40 that’s when everything changes everyone. So you can take that home. Just kidding,
Tim Cusick (01:06:20):
Not say age 40 only <laugh> it’s a range, kidding.
Adam Pulford (01:06:24):
There’s a range. And the reason I bring this up is because not only is there a range in terms of chronological, but there’s a range in, in training age as well, you know, you and you, there, you can also hit the pause button, come back to it. And all the work that you did for years, uh, is still kind of there with you, this old person, strength or resilience or durability. And I’m gonna cue this up for Amber and then ask Tim too. But, you know, I think maybe even like, uh, as a human race or these endurance nerds that we are, you know, we’re, we’re setting new records all the time. Um, in fact, this is, I think this past week, uh, Kara DMO, I think I’m saying her name, right. Just set the, um, us national women’s, uh, marathon record at 2 19 12, I believe 2, 19 12, and then Sarah Hall, age 38 set, uh, half marathon record at 1 0 7 something <affirmative>. So do you think that there is something going on? What’s going on there? AB Amber is there, is there this banister effect that’s going on with endurance athletes saying, you know what, for YouTube listeners like screw off age, I’m not gonna listen to you because as I’m doing my thing, like where is this coming from? Uh, do you think Amber, cause you know, you’re, you’re at the front of the wave kind of pushing this where people, you know, people are looking up to you and be like, Amber did and I can do it.
Amber Neben (01:07:51):
Yeah. I think a lot of it is mental, you know, and if you set a limit for yourself, then of course that’s gonna be your limit. Right. So yeah, you can’t have your own personal limit, you have to move that barrier way out there. Um, and then I think there’s an element of wisdom and understanding that comes and, and we’re in an age now where the science of training is so good that the combination of both the wisdom of the aging athlete and the science together, I think is creating these great performances. Um, I know certainly I’ve benefited from both. Um, and I, and I’m not afraid of the risk either. And I think the other side of it too, is, uh, the, the outcome is, you know, it’s, it’s like people are chasing gold medals or whatever result they’re chasing. And for me it’s like the chase that, that outcome is really the means to the end.
Amber Neben (01:08:48):
It’s not the end. And so I can, I can be a cyclist. The cycling is what I do. It’s not who I am. And so I’m not afraid of, of taking these risks. I’m not afraid of putting, putting the bar out there higher and higher and seeing how many limits I can break through or how many barriers I can break through along the way. And I enjoy that process and, and trying, um, whether or not I achieve the actual goal. Um, there’s still so many cool things that happen along the way. And, and I do just, I enjoy that more than ever, I think, as I’ve gotten older. And I think just, again, the combination of the science, the, the mental side of it, the wisdom, and then the enjoyment factor that comes with sport when sport, isn’t the be all end all. Um, but in instead becomes the means to whatever that, why is you’re chasing, you know, um, it becomes the means to that.
Adam Pulford (01:09:41):
Yeah. Yeah. I can agree with you more. And I think it’s, you throw out quotes out there. One of my favorites is, uh, I think it’s from NCHE it’s, you know, a man or a woman can that knows their, why can bear almost anyhow. And it’s the same thing that you just said before. I got my, why I got my goal, I’m going for it. Um, so Tim, uh, as the unbiased coach hat on, what do you see with, with athletes beyond the age of 40 athletes near nearly 50 pushing, you know, setting all these records and kind of blowing away what we thought as coaches even 10 years ago, what’s going on in your mind?
Tim Cusick (01:10:20):
Well, I think first of all, give credit to something that Amber said, but I would enhance it a little bit. The science of training has really advanced itself. Right. But that actually started happening 20 years ago. And what to me is you had this world of exercise, well, you had this world of coaching, right? And then exercise physiologists and exercise physiology started, uh, putting energy into this idea of coaching and talking about physiological principle. And then eventually what happened is that splinter into nutrition, um, you know, uh, metabolic understanding, um, cardiovascular improved ending. We, we, we developed labs for figuring out lactate and VO two max and all these things, right? So we began to get a much better view of the athlete and suddenly what everyone was doing, what a lot of athletes were doing were improving their nutrition, improving their whole body health and sleeping more 20 15, 20 years ago, we started learning how important all this stuff was.
Tim Cusick (01:11:21):
Part of why Amber’s still competing at a top level at 46 was not just what she’s doing at 46. It’s what she was doing at 25 and what she was doing at 30. So if you you’re a listener now, and you’re that 25 year old athlete, who right now is training 25 hours a week and drinking beer and, and eating corn nuts for dinner, you probably are gonna have some impact downstream on your career. Right? Um, use the knowledge you have. Yeah. You could bounce back from that and train tomorrow. But that is when look at the athletes that in any sport that are extending their career beyond what we even five years ago would accept as normal. That tends to be the common trait. There is a whole body, a whole system. The athlete is a whole system, mental, physical, the physiology involved in that, the nutrition, and, you know, they’re all related, but you understand what I mean?
Tim Cusick (01:12:15):
They’re breaking each element down and they’ve done those things well, and better than just average, meaning back. I remember as a kid of the eighties and being in high school in eighties, you didn’t, weren’t thinking like that as an athlete, right? You were, you were thinking about, you were very, you were lucky if you were figuring out what a calorie was and how many I should have. We’ve just gotten smarter. So you, that system starts today. If you’re a young listener. Now, if you guys like me, who might have survived on beer and corn nuts, you know, back in, I was gonna
Adam Pulford (01:12:48):
Say this such a specific example, Tim, I don’t know where that came from. <laugh>
Tim Cusick (01:12:53):
You know, and it’s like, and you’re, you’re living the dream. And, and it’s like, whatever, you’re eating, what you can, or, you know, there’s still plenty of time for us. So there are tips and things we could still do to improve our performance, but really, to at that high level, you gotta give credit to all that learning. In fact, that it’s been a, a whole athlete, a whole health approach throughout her and our life, you know, with Amber. And that’s so important for people today. And that is what I believe. One of the cores that’s extending athletic longevity in multiple sports right now.
Adam Pulford (01:13:26):
Yeah. That’s, that is a really good answer. Um, gosh, there there’s a ton and ton more that I, I feel like I could keep on asking you you, but you know, we’re getting to the top of the hour and we’re actually a little bit over, um, before we wrap, I, I think I’ve got a couple questions. And one for you, Amber is Amber at age 46, after all the things, all the Olympic games. And we’re talking about this chronological age, as well as, um, training age, age, what would be either the number one thing or anything that’s of mind that you would tell Amber of age 25 after knowing what you know now, what would you tell Amber at age 25?
Amber Neben (01:14:11):
Oh, that’s such a hard question to answer.
Adam Pulford (01:14:14):
I know I really put you on the spot with that one too. Cause I was not in the, not in the outline. <laugh>
Amber Neben (01:14:20):
Wow. You know, I think I would just let her know how hard it’s gonna be and it’s worth it to stick with it and not to give up. Yeah, that’s solid. Yeah. I mean, obviously the rest thing and learning to listen to your body, that’s what I tell young athletes now. It’s like, yeah, it’s gonna be hard. So expect hard. That’s normal. Um, it’s not, it’s, whoever’s gonna get up the most. Whoever’s gonna persevere the longest, you know, and then it’s learning to listen to your body and, and learning to he, those cues in those whispers and not being afraid to rest, if you need to rest or to keep things in perspective, to know that that one or two days or week off at the cost of potentially a month off or a year off is so worth it. So don’t be afraid to take that and then yeah.
Amber Neben (01:15:08):
Learn to love process, you know, because I think the one thing that I, going back to your initial question winning is so quickly forgotten, you know, and at, when I was 25, I didn’t know that I, you know, you think, oh, I’m gonna win a world championship. I’m gonna make the Olympic games, right. That’s no one’s ever gonna forget that stuff. Right. But winning is so quickly forgotten. Um, if you fall in process and really learn to value the people, you come into contact with those characteristics and core tangibles that are grown within you, the impact that you can make on other people’s lives, that’s the stuff that lasts forever. Um, and that’s so valuable. And as you fall in love with that, that will help keep you motivated to, to keep persevering.
Adam Pulford (01:15:53):
Wow. That’s a, that’s a really good answer. Um, especially if being put on the spotlight like that, <laugh>, <laugh>, uh, Tim for your, uh, on the spot, not in the outline question pertaining to a master’s level razor who maybe has listened to some of your w K O five presentations and you they’re, they’re, you know, kind of middle aged in terms of chronological years and their middle aged when it comes to, uh, training years, but they’re super into data. They just learn that they shouldn’t be eating corn nuts for dinner. Uh, what would you say to them in terms of if, if they wanna have their best 20, 22, what would you say that their advice or your advice would be for somebody who’s like, man, I got my annual plan. I, you know, 20, 20, two’s gonna be the best cuz I trained all through, uh, the pandemic and full of and vinegar. What should I do, coach?
Tim Cusick (01:16:49):
Uh, great question. So, uh, because it’s me, can’t answer it like in the, in the time continuum you put it, here’s what I’d say. Right? You said something really interesting. You said, you know, chronological age versus training age. So for that athlete, here’s tip number one, big picture training, age, offsets, chronological age. So training maturity, offsets chronological age. So part of the reason you train and you’re, you’re doing the work every year and you’re doing is you’re offsetting chronological age, cause Chron, when you start to talk about declines of systems and stuff like that, that’s chronological. We can offset all of that by maintaining a high level of training, training maturity, blah, blah, blah. So that’s lesson number one. Yep. Lesson number two, have a strategy, but load and listen, your strategy should push the boundary, but you’ve got to listen to when you’re going too far.
Tim Cusick (01:17:44):
And that means, yes. I mean I’m promising you, uh right Adam, if, if it fails, but I’m promising you is push it to the limit. Don’t just fall for this ad hoc. Answer that as a master’s racer, you can still train hard, but just do a lot more resting. Maybe not. Maybe you can do a lot more work than you think you can do. And if you’re willing to load and listen, you can find out just how much you can do when it comes to, to tactically delivering a plan. Here’s three really good tips, right? For all masters riders, one don’t de train. So if you’re a master’s rider, let’s say 45, 40, 45 plus right. Training load building training load is very impactful. It’s very costly to you because it creates a lot of fatigue. And if you de train in the off season a lot, then you have to, when you start your training in the winter or early spring, or whenever you’re starting, your training load uptake, your ramp rate right is often too high.
Tim Cusick (01:18:45):
Go back to Amber’s point. When we started rebuilding, it was patients very slow steps in micro cycles, right? So for a master’s athlete for a younger athlete, 25 short take some good time off really, and everybody should take some time off, be careful what I’m saying, but take an extended period off when you’re 25, come back smash, massive training load, you know, rebuild. And you can take that at 45, not so much. So at 55, definitely not so much. So, so don’t de train don’t, don’t take a short rest, drop a bunch of intensity out of your training, do maintenance style approach, but don’t de train. The cost of getting back in shape will be too high tip number two, strength, train, uh, I become more and more a believer. It’s just, when you say strength train, I’m not talking about just going to a gym and throwing around heavy weights.
Tim Cusick (01:19:34):
Um, when we look at what’s aging and what we’re losing, when I’m talking about the physiological, you know, uh, whether it’s your endocrine system or your cardiovascular system, you know, each of those systems are like a profile, right? That’s a good way to think about it. And that is systems all have to work together to make you perform well. And now things are changing. So you need things that stimulates those systems better. Strength training does a really good job of impacting your neuromuscular side. And I know it doesn’t break up like this. When I’m com compartmentalizing, neuromuscular, muscular skeletal side, it also does a good job of stimulating your endocrine system. And it keeps both of those profiles as close to non aged. You know, it keeps ’em from dropping off as much, you know? And then finally, the third is your recovery dynamics should be, are important than your training dynamics.
Tim Cusick (01:20:28):
I think this is a mistake. I see so many master rider that you read it, right? It’s one of those things that you read about like, oh, I need to do all these little recovery things better. And if you had an extra half an hour in a day to either train an extra, you know, 15 minutes a day, let’s say, I don’t know where I’d split it or make sure you getting in a post ride role, proper nutrition, good recovery, little stretching here and there where it’s important, your strength work. You, you’re putting a little extra time into your nutrition, focus more on that recovery dynamic because that’s, what’s gonna keep you building load and being able to actually not just build the load, but adapt to it and have the end energy left to your immune system, needs the energy to adapt to that training stimuli and the better you deliver your recovery dynamics, the better off you’re gonna be. So if you kind of focus on those big catcher elements, just keep training, right? Use your training maturity to offset chronological age, um, don’t de train, add some form of strength training and that’s a whole podcast on itself and make sure your recovery dynamics are great. And then finally just push the, don’t be afraid to push the limits again, you gotta be able to be willing risk. You’re gonna potentially lose some races or some events, but don’t be afraid to push it a little harder. We don’t just have to rest more as Astro writers.
Adam Pulford (01:21:50):
Wow. That was a way better answer than I thought I was gonna get on that Tim blew my mind. Well done. Awesome. Yeah. And so I think he was speaking to those people who do laps in the parking lot to round off, you know, that to get full three hours in, listen to that. What Tim just said again, that’s that’s not worthwhile. Okay. Gee jeepers <laugh> but in all seriousness, like this is, this is so awesome. We covered a lot today. We learned about Amber’s story. We learned about the tools and the process that she and Tim used to overcome all this adversity, even after she had a lot of success. And we also learned how the human body, uh, changes over time and how you can change with it in order to keep on pursuing your goals, not only pursuing, but you know, accomplishing your goals and then come back to the process and do it all over again, just like Amber has done, but be tenacious with your goals. Don’t hold back, keep moving and do, keep moving. You will offset some of that, that chronological, uh, aging aspect that we did talk about. Good, good sleep eat well, take care of yourself and Amber, Tim, is there anything else that I need to add to that?
Amber Neben (01:23:06):
I think you got it covered.
Adam Pulford (01:23:09):
Okay. Well, good. Um, this has been super awesome, but if we want to, you know, if people want to follow you and learn more about your coaching, Amber, or kind of what’s next for you, where, where can we steer them?
Amber Neben (01:23:22):
Yeah, my Instagram’s Amber and even PX four, um, I’m coaching with bay. So you can, you can reach me as a coach over there. And, uh, yeah, my social is sort of active, but Instagram’s probably the best Instagram, Facebook, a little bit on Twitter. OK. Really positive. So I’m always trying to build people up and encourage
Adam Pulford (01:23:41):
Love it. Well, I’ll give it a follow and, uh, be encouraged myself. Uh, Tim, if I want to join on base camp and ride on swift with you or learn more, uh, where do I find that?
Tim Cusick (01:23:52):
Oh yeah. Great. Actually point you can find email@example.com. Um, we do do public swift rides every Tuesday morning. Uh, I ride Rebecca Rush and I, uh, ride in the morning at 10:00 AM Eastern. Or you can actually with Amber at 5:45 PM Eastern every Tuesday and Thursday on swift. Totally open
Adam Pulford (01:24:12):
Every Tuesday and Thursday. Yeah.
Tim Cusick (01:24:14):
Every Tuesday and Thursday, except this Tuesday. Of course this Tuesday. Yeah.
Adam Pulford (01:24:17):
Okay. Gosh, I was gonna say maybe, maybe I can make that this Tuesday. Uh, well, very cool. And you know, it is trainer season. We’re recording this now, uh, in January. Um, so for those listeners who are listening in a timely manner, um, how long do you run the base camp swift rides for how, uh, at what point do you guys shut that down?
Tim Cusick (01:24:36):
What base camp is? That’s our virtual training program. Yeah. Where we put together our coaching team, myself, Amber, um, Rebecca Ross, Serena Gordon, Bishop Scott moniker, Bri bra. We have a bunch, bunch of X pros and current pros and stuff like that. And it’s a 16 week program running from really, basically the beginning of December into March. It focuses on base training and working in this, uh, community based training program. We do lives with, we do a lot of privates with meetups and stuff like that up, but we do two public rides, really four public rides a week, every Tuesday and Thursday. Um, we have, like I said, morning rides at 10:00 AM, Eastern and afternoon rides at 5:45 PM Eastern. If you join the east the afternoon, ride 5 45, Amber leads all of those. So you get to lead with Amber. You can ask her any follow up questions to this podcast or do the 10:00 AM Eastern with myself and Rebecca. And we can answer any, any other questions you have. So it, it actually is a great time to jump in and ask
Adam Pulford (01:25:38):
Away. Awesome. And this is about the same, or this is about the time period where I do jump on every once in a while and, and, uh, banter away with Tim. So I look forward to joining you guys soon. I would be remiss though, Tim, if I didn’t mention w K oh five, which I’m very passionate about, um, it’s an analytical tool that you help develop, but if people are curious about that, they want to do deep dives into their data. Uh, where can we steer them to learn more or get w K oh five?
Tim Cusick (01:26:08):
Well, uh, w K fives is training peaks.com. So WK five is the training peaks extension of analytics. So you have training peaks.com, which is the online training program that a lot of people use for calendar, a plan creation, and the WKO is the extended software. So you can download the software for firstname.lastname@example.org, give it a try. Um, you can search the best thing to do cause there’s, there’s also a w K five.com, which is coaching and training lessons, all type of information about how to use the software. And there’s a tremendous amount of free webinars out there in the world. Just Google search, Tim Cusick, WK oh five, and you’ll get a whole winter’s worth of some boring, not some, not so boring stuff. You can watch all winter, but a lot of it has data, so just be ready for it.
Adam Pulford (01:26:59):
Awesome. Well, uh, I am a huge fan of that YouTube channels. So, uh, anybody who’s interested in going in a little deeper do that, uh, but until then, uh, Amber, Tim, thank you so much again for being on the train right podcast.
Tim Cusick (01:27:13):
Thanks for having us, Adam. It’s fun. Thanks Adam. Appreciate it. Bye.