Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Another Week to Make Improvements!

Hey everyone!!

Another week came and went in the Boulder Bubble!! Another great week of work and workouts provided by Coach Grant Holicky. A bit less in terms of volume for some of the workouts, but also started to add in some speed work/intensity!

Total Training Time: 18.5hours
Swim Distance: 7.81 miles (13,000)
Bike Distance: 105 miles
Run Distance: 16.7 miles

Swimming continue to feel better, and we had our first test of fitness on Friday with a 500 for time. Going into this, I knew I would be no where near what I was at Luther, and actually expected worse! I ended up with a 5:50, at altitude, in February (2 months of training). Was excited to see the number under 6:00min, and splits went 1:06, 1:14, 1:14, 1:12, 1:12. What that tells me, is I have some great endurance now, and just need to work harder in the middle of that swim. Which will come with more power/speed work!

Cycling progressed nicely as well, with some good LT/VO2 intervals on Wednesday and a good long ride with my buddy Jake Cohen on Sunday! Feels good to be putting out some good numbers again as well!!

Running decreased in overall mileage, but increased in speed this week. Tuesday was the first track workout of the season, and we did a bunch of skills and a speed ladder. Legs were toast even after that first bout of speed work, but overall, I was happy!! This morning, we did a 5kmTT on the track as well. I haven't done this since last June at the Pigman where I averaged 7:01min/miles. I was going to shoot for this today, but actually went out faster and held on. I ended up averaging 6:40min/miles for a 20:43 time!! ABSOLUTELY STOKED with that number. Only 2 months of training, no speed work and already running faster than I ever did back at altitude!!!

So the training seems to really be working well, and I have no complaints. The big thing about working with coaches is trusting the process that everything works out in the end. So far it has. Coach Grant had some great words today that I would like to pass along! "The good days aren’t a fluke. You can’t fake good. If it’s not there, it’s not there. You just can’t fake the improvements you’ve made. Even if you have bad days in between, your true fitness is shown on those good days" Great words to remember on the bad days!

Excited for the upcoming weekend as well!! My college roommate Tyler Powell and his girl friend Kori are headed to Colorado to hang with Landon and I! The plan is to spend Thursday skiing at Breckenridge and then hit some good food and possibly a couple brewery tours!! Going to be awesome seeing Tyler and Kori again, and now just need Doug, Mark, and Josh to get out here!! COME ON DUDES!

Until next time!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A Week of Firsts

Hey everyone!

Time for the weekly rant to let anyone who is interested in on what is going on out here in the Boulder bubble. It was another good week of work and training in the land of mountains, perfect sunrises/sunsets and food as I have found.

Training for the last week was the highest week yet at just over 18.5 hours. The volume in swimming and running has been growing and the bike volume depends on the weather and intensity.

Total Hours: 18.5
Total Distance: Swim(11.32miles/19,000yards), Bike(100miles), Run (30.25miles)
Total TSS: 1020

Swimming continues to get better and better with each workout as it seems, the power is starting to come back. I won't be swimming a 5min, 500 free anytime soon, but hopefully that will come in the future :)

Running had the first week over 30miles since I started, and the body continues to respond well without any injuries occurring (HUGE KNOCK ON WOOD). It has been solely focused on endurance/slow running so far. Today was the first actual track practice for our group. I haven't run on the track on other then fun fun yogging since what middle school Mile tests? Let's just say it HURT! But in a good way, was very informative with drills and a speed ladder. Anxious to see how fast I can get this season. Next week will be a telling sign of where I am at, with a 5km TT!!! OUCH!

Cycling was pretty decent this week. Some good intervals and a Power Profiling test of 5min, 20min and 1min on Sunday up a couple new climbs in Boulder. It was my first time up NCAR and Sunshine Canyon. 5min up NCAR made the lungs burn more than then have since last summer, but it always feels good to blow the cobwebs out!! The numbers I put out were better than I did in Iowa (700ft) in December. After seeing those numbers at 5300ft here in Colorado, I want to head back to Iowa and do the same tests to see how high I am. Coming down from Colorado, general data suggests you can add 20-25watts to your threshold at altitude. That would make those numbers very nice :) Everything seems to be coming together nicely with my training, and I am anxious to race!
Picture is towards the top of Sunshine Canyon looking West!

At work, I have had some awesome chances so far. This last week I was able to test Timmy Duggan, a professional cyclist for Liquigas Cannondale. It is amazing to see the numbers that he can put out on the PARVO metabolic cart and blood lactate values. You would never see these values doing tests in school. The cool thing is these pro athletes you test are some of the nicest persons you will meet also. Can't wait to test some more. Maybe a Greg Henderson or Rory Sutherland will come in soon!On the school front, I just sent my preview into the Graduate College at UNI for format editing, and then will be ready to defend. It sounds as though I'll come back to Iowa in the middle of March to defend and then be done. It will be sweet to officially have a document saying I am a Master of Physiology!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Another Week Up, Another Week Down

Sunday ended another week of work and training here in the Boulder bubble. Had some good workouts this week and have continued to build my base fitness for the double season I will have coming up with road cycling and triathlon. Almost finished with 19hours of training for the week, and this week will see a push over 20hours!!!! Haven't seen that number unless I was on spring break at school!

Swimming continues to improve after my 2 year hiatus out of the water, and slowly but surely the stroke is coming back and some speed is there, just not much right now, but it will come!! Still amazing, that I will be able to swim outside all year around regardless of weather here in Boulder. Makes up for all the years at CR Wash and Luther swimming in pools with no outside connection at all!
Cycling is also progressing nicely, and have been doing my first efforts of the season this past week, and while there is room for improvement, I feel the fitness starting to arise. Sunday was a long ride day and I was able to head out with FasCat coach Jason and a teammate for a good 3 hour stroke. This ride reminded me of Iowa only without the humidity causing wetness. It never got above 24 degrees, and couldn't even be considered a slushy ride as both my bottles even with some GU Brew froze solid. Without any wind it was a fairly enjoyable ride, and it is always better to ride with some others! (Photos Courtesy of Jason Hilimire)
Running is really impressing me right now. I finished my longest run ever on Saturday, accumulating 12miles in just over 1.5hrs, and it felt great. Another cold cold day, but running when it is cold can be extremely bearable, with the slower temperatures. Logged the greatest amount of miles so far (30mi) for the season. That continues to amaze me as well! My family doesn't come from a running background at all, and normally we always joke of having "Christen speed", which isn't much. There is some speed to be found however right now, and will be excited to get out onto the track with the group here in the next few weeks to get that race pace down to around 6-6.5min/mile for the season!!! That would be epic in my eyes!

Was even lucky enough to find a nice church which I will hope to be a frequent visitor at. It is called FlatIrons Community Church. Although I come from an ELCA Lutheran background, while at Luther, I was kind of drawn to a "contemporary" type mindset, and this place is very similar. Some good music, and last weekend was a great message. I may still find a place a little closer as there are some ELCA congregations in the Boulder area. Felt really good to be back in a religious setting, and could just feel some of my stress lifted as I entered the worship area. Plus, I know my family (Grandma, especially) will be very happy that I found a place :)

Really need to get a private jet, or teleporter so I can head back to Decorah! Miss the "Iowa Alps" and I could really go for a Mabes Pizza, TBocks Peanut Butter Burger, or Rubaiyat Omelet right about now.

Until next time!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

My First Blog as a FasCat Physiologist

My first post recapping the metabolic testing we did on the CU Cycling team a couple weeks ago. This team is ready for some collegiate action this spring, and will be looking to dominate at nationals!

Colorado University Cycling Team Training Camp & VO2 Max Testing

February 6th, 2012

by Carson Christen, FasCat Exercise Physiologist & Coach

Recently, FasCat Coaching in conjunction with the University of Colorado Boulder Men and Women’s cycling team held a training camp for US Collegiate Cycling National Championship hopefuls in Boulder, Colorado. The three day camp involved physiological testing, organizational meetings & a group ride at the FasCat Performance Center.

Measuring Performance Potential

Athletes completed VO2 max tests to determine their physiological potential. An athlete with high VO2 max values is said to be “gifted” and could be very successful. VO2 max is written in terms of relative (ml/kg/min) or absolute (L/min). Relative is related to a subjects body weight, while absolute is the total volume of oxygen that can be inspired regardless of body weight. Athletes with high VO2 max values that have gone on to greatness are Greg Lemond (92.5ml/kg/min) and Miguel Indurain (88.0ml/kg/min). For reference, the CU male athletes tested between 54 – 84ml/kg/min and CU female athletes tested between 48-65ml/kg/min. The CU athletes have tremendous potential but that does not guarantee success. Beyond one’s physiology elite level results takes several years of hard training and racing seasons (aka experience).

According to Science: VO2 values for Elite Cyclists

Professional male and female cyclists possess greater VO2 max values than recreational and amateur level athletes. Data from Wilber, Zawadzki, Kearney, Shannon, and Disalvo (1997) found that elite male American cyclists possess VO2 max’s of 70 – 75 ml/kg/min (5 – 5.25 L/min) with many professionals exceeding 80.0 ml/kg/min (5.45L/min). Martin, McLean, Trewin, Lee, Victor, and Hahn (2001) found that elite female cyclists produced VO2 max values of 60 – 70 ml/kg/min (3.66 – 4.10 L/min). Research conducted by Jeukendrup, Craig, and Hawley (2000) analyzed professional cyclists and determined that most current professional cyclists have absolute VO2 max values greater then 5.5L/min for males and 4.0L/min for females.

So you want to turn PRO?

What does this mean for us as average Joe cyclists? In order to make a domestic pro team in the United States, it is safe to say that a male should have a VO2 max of roughly 68.0-75.0ml/kg/min. Anything greater than 75.0ml/kg/min, with proper training, you may be receiving calls from European Directeur Sportifs! To quote Allen Lim (Ph.D), “VO2 directly correlates to your cycling paycheck”. Female cyclists should produce values greater then 56ml/kg/min in order to increase chances of competing at the pro level. Most athletes not above this elite level will fall into one of the amateur categories of cycling. For amateur male athletes in the 20-30 age range, anything above 48-62ml/kg/min is considered “good” and they can be quite competitive in amateur racing categories. Female cyclists are generally in the 42-51ml/kg/min range.

Table 1. Criteria for VO2 Max Classification

Category Male Female
Pro Tour & World Class 75-90 ml/kg/min >60 ml/kg/min
Domestic Pro 68-80 ml/kg/min 50-60 ml/kg/min
Cat 2 58-73 ml/kg/min 45-50 ml/kg/min
Cat 3/4 50-63 ml/kg/min 40-45 ml/kg/min
Cat 5 <50 ml/kg/min <40 ml/kg/min

** It should be noted that these are estimates based on research, and are not definitive criteria for racing categories**

Having a genetically high VO2 max is not the end all. There is no substitute for hard work and proper training. Elite level athletes need to have high VO2‘s but they also need to train incredibly hard.

On the contrary there are many successful amateur & professional athletes that have ordinary VO2′s. In these cases they make up for their ‘average’ VO2‘s by their ability to exercise at 88-90% of their VO2 max for extended periods of time. These are the athletes who can ‘suffer’ and scrap their way to good performances. It never comes easy but these athletes possess additional ways to get the most of out their bodies.

Respiratory Exchange Ratios (RER): Additional Insight

The Respiratory Exchange Ratio (RER) is a value which determines how much oxygen is being consumed by the body compared to the amount of carbon dioxide expired. A value of 1.00 represents an even shift of gases exchanged by the body. A value greater than 1.00 suggests that an athlete is not receiving enough oxygen to fuel their muscles, usually around Lactic Threshold. A value of 1.05 has generally been used as one confirmation point that the athlete has reached VO2 max. Now, every athlete is different, but it is beneficial as a coach to understand these values. If an athlete barely or cannot even reach 1.0RER before exhaustion, this suggests that they have a very good aerobic engine, being very efficient at burning fat as their primary fuel. An athlete however, that reaches 1.0RER very quickly and continues to rise above 1.05 before exhaustion suggests that the athlete burns primarily carbohydrate as fuel, and could improve their performance by burning more fat in preference to muscle glycogen (carbohydrate). This is often referred to as being more efficient and can be addressed in training.


With the proper data from the VO2 tests we conducted during CU’s training camp, we, as coaches, are able to understand the athletes’ strengths and weaknesses. Furthermore we are able to see areas for opportunity and recommend certain types of training to address weaknesses or deficiencies. All in all the training camp was a great way to learn about the CU riders’s personality & physiology. Now the hard work begins in preparation of the 2012 collegiate season and national championships!


Jeukendrup, A. E., Craig, N. P., & Hawley, J. A. (2000). The bioenergetics of world class cycling. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 3(4), 414-433.

Martin, D. T., Mclean, B., Trewin, C., Hamilton, L., Victor, J., & Han, A. G. (2001). Physiological characteristics of nationally competitive female road cyclists and demands of competition. Sports Medicine, 31(7), 469-477.

Wilber, R., Zawadzki, L., Katherine, M., Kearney, J. T., Shannon, M. P., & Disalvo, D. (1997). Physiological profiles of elite off-road and road cyclists. Medicine and Science in Sport and Exercise, 29(8), 1090-1094.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Rest Week! Whoop!

After 4 weeks of some serious hurt put on by Grant, it was time for a bit of R & R, well the "little" that is prescribed when your a triathlete! With 3 sports disciplines to keep track of and progressing, you decrease the hours a little bit, but not too much!

Was able to sneak out of any workouts on Monday, which mean not having to go in for 5am swim practice, which was nice, but leaves you feeling like a complete slacker when you get up! Tuesday was a fun day as I was able to do my first group strength session with the group! It was just like circuit back at Luther for swimming, and I also was able to meet a few more pro athletes from the Boulder area (Scott Tietzel, Evie Stevens). The rest of the week was fairly straight forward with some easy workouts, some tempo, a sub-threshold cycling workout, a 10mile long run on Saturday, and ended it up with a good 4 hour pedal session with 4 members of the CU cycling team yesterday up to Carter Lake. It was chilly, never above freezing, but the sun makes it warmer, and there was no wind as one would experience on a similar day in Iowa, so I was extremely happy to ride outside, and didn't have to have a sweat fest inside!

Totals = 28.5 miles running
9.07 miles swimming
121 miles biking for a grand total of: 14 hours (871 TSS). STRAVA IT!

Friday/Saturday, a new experience for me occured as Boulder received about 22inch of snow!!! SO MUCH SNOW! And I had no skate, xc, or downhill skis to use. I should really get into that discipline. Amazing thing, is the XC king Peter Marshall works here at FasCat. I'll have to pester him for some advice!

Last night was the Super Bowl, and although I was not impressed by the commercials, I was very glad to see Tom Brady and the Patriots lose! Ever since, the Raiders were screwed over in 2002, the Pats/Refs Suck! My buddy Karl Larson from Luther/Decorah is in graduate school out here and nicely invited me over to hang out with him and his group of school friends for the game. Good food and some good beer from Lefthand Brewery were had!

Looks like the hours are picking up this week again with some big workouts!!! Looking forward to the challenge!