99 Days: Many People Coach; Few Are Coaches

This post is part of The 11,500 Foot View, a series in which I count down my attempt to accomplish an impossible goal, remain in the good graces of my family, run a business, stay sane, and blog about it.
If you played a sport, hearing the word "coach" makes you think of a person who is physically involved, takes a hands-on approach, and is both encouraging and at times in your face.

When you practice or train your coach is there.

Mine isn't. My coach is in Montebelluna, Italy, racing in the Mountain Bike Marathon World Championships.

Granted, this situation is different because Jeremiah is a professional athlete. But most cycling coaches work with athletes from afar by emailing training plans, reviewing training logs, checking in by phone, etc.

In fact, cycling coaches are emblematic of the sport itself: Responsibility rests squarely on the cyclist, not on the coach. Cycling coaches advise, mentor, and motivate, but like a manager overseeing remote teams or a business owner with multiple locations they can't and don't directly supervise or enforce.

And mine has zero interest in supervising me even if he did have the time. That's surely one of the reasons he excels in his sport. From his perspective, anyone who states a goal must naturally be willing to do whatever it takes to achieve that goal.

Simple. Black and white. That's how life works - for him and for most people who stand out in their fields.

It's a refreshing attitude, although a little jarring at first. After we took a ride so he could evaluate my current level of fitness, he emailed my first two days of training. Take a look:

  • Day One: Ride two hours, heart rate between 140 and 160, average 140 watts, rolling hills, toss in two half-mile climbs, grind out the last 15 minutes at 250 watts.
  • Day Two: Ride three hours, rolling hills, at least one 1-mile steady climb, heart rate between 150 - 160 but never over 180, snag a Red Bull or a Coke to energy up for the last thirty minutes.
This, of course, after not having ridden in, well, what seems like forever. Raise the bar? I couldn't even see the stupid bar.

Then, after a rest day, he prescribed these two wonderful days in the saddle:

  • Day Four: Nail 10-15 min efforts, 3 to 4, 170 heart rate, about 250-270 watts, 5 minutes between. Big gear on the flats if there are no big hills. Then big gear max sprints at the end, 4 to 6 at 30-60 seconds each. If you can take a jog right afterwards, do it -- just 15 minutes with some uphill jams and 90% sprints. That will teach your legs to work under fatigue.
  • Day Five: Start with steady tempo at 155 heart rate for 20 minutes and do some spin-ups, maybe 4 or so. (Spin-ups are basically pedaling as fast as I can in an easy gear.) Then 20 to 30 minute blocks at 160-165 heart rate, uphill is best, go for 2 or 3 of those. Finish with some more riding in the 160 heart rate range for 20 minutes -- nail it, the last hour is is the golden hour for training! Grab a Red Bull or Coke for the last of those to keep your blood sugar up. This type of intensity will come in handy when we really get going on your hill climbing work.
Yep, that's my coach. Hard, sure, but just right for me.

Why? Achieving big goals isn't easy. The effort involved should never be sugar-coated or underestimated, especially by a coach or mentor.

Want to start a business? Don't be fooled by the work at home hype. Launching a successful business will make you wonder what the words "free time" refer to.

Want to rise to the top of your organization? Don't be fooled by the work-life balance fluff. Tremendous effort and dedication will be required.

In any professional or business pursuit, major success is based on FILO inventory accounting: You will always be first in, last out.

To accomplish anything worthwhile or achieve a goal others say is impossible, you'll have to work your (rear) off. There are no shortcuts. The only way is the hard way.

That's why there are people who coach... and then there are coaches. People who coach think about making the process fun and uplifting. Coaches show you how to succeed -- as long as take full responsibility for your own success.

Me? I have a coach.