Joe Holmes

Athlete, coach, race promoter, team director

WHAT’S THE POINT? – PART 1 – MY PERSPECTIVE

photo by Vince Rockwell

Since you are here you already know I run a coaching company that specializes in working with cyclists the majority of whom are training in preparation for specific events.

 

But what happens in a year when organized rides and races are cancelled or postponed due to a global pandemic? How do you maintain motivation to train when your objective might not be that clear anymore?

 

I have a few perspectives on these questions, professionally, as a coach and team director and personally as an individual who also takes part in organized races and rides. I have had many conversations about this with a number of my athletes – a couple of whom I asked to address this from their perspective and will be posted here in the days to come. But to start things off, this is from my vantage point, professionally and personally and how both of those have intertwined these past few months.

 

Since 2009 I have spent the majority of my time traveling to races to work as a sport director. It was sport directing that led me down the path of coaching. From 2009-2012 I was the director for the Hagens-Berman Domestic Elite Team. Since 2012 I have done contract work for the U.S. Junior National Team in Europe and Asia as well as working domestically for both amateur and professional teams in need at a number of high profile races. This year I was tentatively scheduled to head to Europe in the spring for the Junior Peace Race and then again later in the summer for a kermesse block. The pandemic changed those plans and I found myself at home for the longest stretch of time in over a decade.

 

With real life racing and group rides firmly on hold if not cancelled, I encouraged my athletes to try virtual racing on Zwift and since I try to lead by example I did the same. The local association set up a series to take the place of the normal weekly training races and I jumped right in. Over a 10-week period I was often “racing” twice a week. I was also asked to join a local Zwift team, Seattle United, to take part in some virtual races with teams from other countries that were live streamed. All of these virtual races kept me focused. I found myself in the top 5 in the local series, which was motivating, and when I was “lining up” as a member of Seattle United I wanted to be able to contribute to the team so I planned accordingly. I was able to get into a “race day routine” and get a hell of a workout. The best part being that all I had to do was walk into my garage to take part. It was fun. The Seattle United team is a great group of guys that I probably would not have had the chance to get to know otherwise. Plus I was able to bring a couple of athletes that I coach onto the team. Since we use a Discord channel I was able to talk a couple of them through some tactics during the race – just like I would have done at the weekday races that were not an option this year. There are also some nuances to racing virtually and if you are not able to wrap your head around them you will most likely be frustrated with the outcome. This required some research into courses and best equipment options – something that you should be doing for “real” racing which provided another teaching opportunity on the aspects of preparing for an event.

 

I also took advantage of the time at home to explore some areas on the Olympic Peninsula on my gravel bike and to do some rides that I had not done in the past 15 years including riding Hurricane Ridge and Rainier. That part has been fantastic. There are roads on the Peninsula that I had no idea existed even though I have lived here for over 17 years. I have been able to expand my map in my own back yard, which has been pretty cool.

 

On a more personal note, the other part of being at home rather than traveling is that I decided to abstain from alcohol for a month – which turned into four. I wasn’t trying to earn a coin or anything but there were some “events” during the past year where I was letting myself over-indulge a little too much (both at home and during some of my travels). I have been described by a few that know me best as having the capacity to go either zero or 100 mph in certain things. Well there were a few too many times that I went full throttle and I wasn’t thrilled about how I felt the next day (and often the next). And although fun in the moment there were times when I know that behavior had a negative impact on relationships that I cared about. I thought a lot about it over the past few months and I have a working theory that I am what you might call an “over-indulgence addict”. Belgian beer, Italian wine, chocolate, a good steak – if it tastes good I am all in – and quite often it was all of those things at the same time. The same goes with music, if it sounds good and I am in the mood, crank it up to eleven and keep the playlist going. If I feel good riding – ride more, skiing – same thing. The problem is that many of those things don’t contribute to success in the others so I decided to eliminate the one that I am pretty confident was the most detrimental for a month. One month turned into another, then another and another. It wasn’t that difficult. I felt better and was the lightest I have been in I-can’t-remember-how-long-ago. As a result of that and all of the Zwift racing and exploration I found myself riding and feeling the best on a bike that I have in years. And that positive feedback on a bike still matters to me even if I tried to tell myself that it didn’t anymore.

 

Professionally I believe that the past few months have allowed me to hone some skills that have made me a better coach for my athletes. There have been many more conversations centered around motivation and drilling down into the “why” of training. Yes there are sport oriented goals, and for a few athletes it is what they do for a living and they need to be ready to do their job as best they can when called upon. But even for those that do this sport as a profession, it doesn’t end there. Sport, especially endurance sport is more than just the physical. The psychological component is critical to success in the efforts within the sport but maybe more importantly in the efforts in life. My friend Mark stated it best when he wrote,

 

“I have said it many times now but I’ll repeat it, the lifting and sprinting and breathing is the easy part. Applying the lessons you learn under that stress or by coming out the other side of it to life outside of the gym or the sport is all that gives the training value. I say fuck training for body composition, for the purely and merely physical. I say “Hell yeah!” if training opens doors to opportunities you never believed you had access to before…” – Mark Twight, Origin January 17, 2016

 

As I write this, the world is figuratively – and in some cases, literally – on fire and still in the midst of a global pandemic. What is the point of the training that I am doing for this sport or any other? Why do I need to maintain motivation to keep up all of this training? At the end of the day nobody else really cares that I won some artificially contrived competition be it in a virtual or real life race or that I took a local Strava KOM or even won the sprint at the end of my local group ride. That’s right, no one cares, except me (and maybe a few of my friends). And that’s ok. But if as a result of pursuing those objectives I am also building the capacity and the resiliency to withstand the shit storm that life throws at me – well ultimately – that is the point.

 

HEIDI FRANZ SECOND ON STAGE 6 AT ARDECHE!

 

Congratulations to Heidi Franz on her second place on today’s Stage 6 of The Tour Cycliste Féminin International de l’Ardèche – a UCI 2.1 and her first European podium! Check out the race report over at Rally Cycling here.

Independence Day Roll

Red. White. And Blue.
With Heidi Franz.
pc: Emily Alexander

Redmond Derby Days Bicycle Race – 79 years and …..no longer counting.

Redmond Derby Days Festival and Criterium – Turn 1 Action photo by Dennis Crane

 

Big Checks, Champagne and Flowers – Pics of just a few of TheDerby Days Criterium podiums including 2013 when then junior and now current World Tour Professional Logan Owen took the victory and the big check in the P1/2 Men’s Race and 2015 when junior Chloe Dygert won the P1/2 Women’s Race just a few months before winning the Junior Women’s Road and Time Trial World Championship on home soil in Richmond.

 

A big shout out to Castelli USA located just down 1-5 in Portland for providing winner’s jerseys for all categories and some sweet schwag too!

 

 

“After a lot of analysis and deliberation, the City of Redmond has decided to cancel the Criterium in 2020 and beyond…We have done a very deep dive into the costs and the needs of the city as a whole. While some of it comes down to cost, it also comes down to the shifts in the city….”

 

This was in an email that I received a few weeks ago from the City of Redmond. Just like that, another bike race has disappeared from the local racing calendar.

 

Last year marked the 79th edition of The Redmond Derby Days bike race. There will not be an 80th. It has evolved from its original form over the years, but it has always been a constant. Until now.

 

The Redmond Derby Days Criterium was the first race that I participated in when I moved here in the summer of 2003. It was the last race my parents ever watched me do. I raced in it every year between 2003 and 2011 at which point in 2012 I took over as technical director. In my years as technical director current and future National Champions, World Champions, Olympic medalists and World Tour Professionals have raced at Derby Days (I am sure this was the case in the many years prior to my taking over the reins). Though I typically prefer races of a longer and hillier profile I always looked forward to racing Derby Days and when I took over as its technical director my enthusiasm for the event increased. Much of that enthusiasm was specifically because the City of Redmond was very easy to work with, particularly during my first few years overseeing the race. I feel like we were always able to produce a very good, quality product for the members of the PNW racing community, even with several city staffing changes in the past few years. Last year’s Pro 1-2 men’s race was one of the more exciting editions that I have witnessed with a field of over 80 racers and made especially exciting with World Tour Professional Logan Owen making an appearance.

 

Winner’s jerseys, flowers, champagne, giant cardboard checks, and lots and lots of cash (including those huge gambler’s primes) became synonymous with Derby Days. I had a hell of a good time putting this race on for the past eight years and was really looking forward to what would have been the 80th edition this year. To say that I am super bummed to see it go would be an understatement.

 

I want to give a special thanks to Castelli for their unwavering support of the event for the past eight years. They provided merchandise prizes and some of the most unique looking winners’ jerseys I have ever seen. And to the City of Redmond – I and the greater Seattle cycling community are forever grateful to them for its support of Derby Days over the years.

 

It will be missed.

Wheels In, Wheels Out – A rant on taking responsibility and controlling something that you can control.

Spare wheels. Marked and in wheel bags for easy identification.

“Neutral” spare wheels are used for this event. Wheels you bring may be issued to other riders in the event of puncture during the race.”

 

This statement is on the website of a local bike race. My immediate thought?

 

“Sigh…..this again.”

 

Second thought?

 

“You have got to be kidding me.”

 

Unfortunately it isn’t a joke or a typo and this is not an isolated thing at many races in the Pacific Northwest – specifically in and around Oregon. Worse is that quite a few in the local cycling community (which include racers, officials, promoters) don’t have an issue with this.

 

I do. Let me explain.

 

When I was growing up racing in the Midwest you quickly learned that if there wasn’t neutral support (like the local bike shop supporting the event) and you didn’t bring a spare set of wheels to put into the pit or follow vehicle (if there was one) at your local bike race  and you flatted then you were SOL. It was your responsibility to make sure that you took care of this (or that your team did).

 

Let me repeat that.

 

IT WAS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY TO MAKE SURE THAT YOU PROVIDED SPARE WHEELS TO THE PIT OR FOLLOW CAR.

 

I have been bike racing for 38 years. I have always made sure that I place a spare set of wheels in the pit or follow car. If I was on a team I always made sure that we had at least a couple of sets of wheels in the pit or follow car for the team. Every clinic that I have given to local club teams I have made sure to stress this. Just last Saturday I spoke with three of my athletes and asked if they had done this (1 out of the 3 answered correctly – teaching moment….).

 

Because here is the thing, you go to all of the trouble to train, maybe you pay money to a coach, you invest money in all of your equipment then you drive to a race (sometimes hours there and back), you spend money on fuel to get there and the entry fee and etc. etc….But you don’t bring a spare set of wheels. You line up, the race starts and then at some point in the race you get a puncture and just like that your race is done. All because you left something to chance, something that you had some control over – PUTTING A SPARE SET OF WHEELS IN.

 

Here is the other part of “Wheels you bring may be issued to other riders in the event of puncture during the race.” – Why?

 

If I take the responsibility to bring my own wheels to a race, why should I have to provide them to someone who doesn’t take that same responsibility?

 

AND, what happens if I need a wheel but it was given out to someone else already?

 

AND, who is going to replace my spare wheels if given to someone else and they damage the wheel or puncture the tire or worse – take off with my wheel? (Depending on the race I have often put a second set of carbon tubulars in the pit/ follow car).

 

Years ago when I was the sport director for a local domestic elite team we raced a stage race in Oregon. This race had a “caravan” (I think there may have been all of 4 cars in it). I was informed by the Chief Official that since we had a car in the caravan then I would also have to provide support to riders on other teams that did not have that “luxury”. When I asked why I was informed that we had an “unfair advantage” (or maybe it was the other teams were at a disadvantage) because we had a support car and many others did not.

 

In essence, because the organization that I worked for had taken the responsibility to pursue sponsorship and were successful in procuring enough financial support to purchase a team car and pay me to run the team and go to races we also had to take care of the other teams and riders that did not.

 

Look, I am not opposed to helping out someone I know who needs something in a pinch but if I am told “Wheels you bring may be issued to other riders in the event of puncture during the race,” well I have a problem with that. Because if I take the responsibility to control one of the things that I can control why should I also be forced to shoulder the responsibility for someone who did not?

 

Take responsibility.

 

Control what you can control.

 

 

 

 

MAKE THE TIME

You claim that you want [insert goal here].

Then in the very next breath you state that you just don’t have the time to do all of the things required.

Well guess what? People make the time to do the things that they really want to do.

So I ask you – do you really want to reach that goal or do that thing that you claim you want?

Then make the time.

Or you can just keep making excuses.

But keep them to yourself because I don’t have the time to listen.

 

THE RECIPE

The following piece entitled The Recipe was written by my friend Mark Twight back in 2011. Mark graciously gave me permission to repost it here. I first saw it when it appeared as one of his Sunday Sermons from the GJ days. More recently it has been posted on the Nonprophet website.

In the past few weeks I have been reading through all of Mark’s Sermons to help him out with a project that is in the works. Many of Mark’s Sermons are gold. The Recipe was one that jumped out at me reading it on a flight from Detroit to Salt Lake last month. I landed in Salt Lake that evening with energy to burn. Fueled by Mark’s writing and a few glasses of wine I made a beeline to the NPEC where I found Mark and Mike Thurk just returning from dinner. The decision was made to open up the NPEC Conversation Room (and sometimes cocktail bar) and blend the two. We ended up talking about the new project and The Recipe. That conversation just dropped as Episode 86 of The Dissect Podcast. Try to ignore the fact that I may be a few bottles in by the end of the podcast because there is some good content there.

In the meantime, here is The Recipe. Enjoy.

 

A couple of months back our friend Joel from Men’s Fitness UK asked me to write a pithy quote about our training philosophy. He might have even offered a paragraph. Sometimes over-delivering is the right thing but it is rarely true for the written word. Less is always more. But I just couldn’t. I waited until the energy coalesced around an idea, switched on the machine and let it rip. I figured he could pull what he thought most powerful from the text. I haven’t seen how it turned out but I did see it referred to so I presume my Recipe was published. I looked it over recently and thought it could use a bit more flesh on the bone so I added some.

 

So here’s the recipe. Some ingredients are hard to come by, and even more difficult to prepare.

 

Recognize the need for change.

 

Revolt against old behavior and habits.

 

Resolve to be consistent and persistent.

 

Define Point B: what you want to achieve, clearly.

 

Define Point A: an honest, unsentimental account of your present state.

 

Decide on a deadline, and give yourself a penalty for missing it. Be realistic.

 

Design the training program: seek guidance.

 

In short, build a solid foundation, write a long training history, and accept a longer trajectory. If you need it three months from now you should have started three months ago. At least. There are no shortcuts. This is a long- term process and it should last for the rest of your life. You will not “arrive”.

 

Do not over-emphasize the physical. I’ll say it again, “the physical part is easy.” You will fail first in your head. Always. Or talk yourself out of it. If you keep saying it’s hard, it will be. If you treat training as a chore, it’s drudgery. The pretense of difficulty is just an invitation for social feedback. Do you really need an audience? Do you need affirmation from others – who are probably lying anyway? Leave them out of it. If it depends on them they can revoke it at any time. But when you earn it you get to keep it.

 

Change your attitude. Unfuck your head. Make an honest, unsentimental accounting of your present condition. Prepare to be disappointed. Define what you want instead, clearly. By clear I mean precise, and feasible. An unrealistic objective is sure to sabotage the process. Hit the books. Try and err. Inquire. Risk. Mimic. Insist. Resist.

 

When the voice inside says, “no” take another step.

 

When the voice invites you to quit, don’t.

 

When you think you can’t go further, bluff.

 

When you are certain you have given everything you have, when you bluffed and got called, when you went further or harder than you believed you could, and know that in a few months you will look back without second- guessing or regrets, it will be OK to fail. But do take notes.

 

After you fail – and you will – show up the next day. And the day after that. If you can’t train, watch. If you can’t see, listen. If you truly want to learn you can learn from everything. Eventually, you will. And you will take what you know and DO, and keep doing it, and the road will rise to meet you.

2019 DERBY DAYS REGISTRATION NOW OPEN!

The Seattle area criterium season is underway and registration for the 79th Annual Redmond Derby Days Criterium is now open!

To register follow this link:

2019 Redmond Derby Days Criterium Registration

Pre-registration will be open until Thursday, July 11, 2019 at 10:00 pm. Pre-reg and save (we handle the admin. fee!)

Don’t miss out on the chance to win some cash from the area’s biggest single day prize list ($7500 cash total including primes!)

So That Was Pretty Awesome

Heidi Franz, fist in the air, as she realizes that she has just won Ballard. As far as local bike races go, Ballard is definitely one of the crown jewels and watching her win, with her dad, over dinner at a course side table was…..awesome.

 

Yesterday is a perfect example of why I do what I do and why I love doing it.

 

Morning: Do an easy ride with Heidi Franz because we are both going to race a Seattle classic, The Ballard Criterium, later that day.

 

Afternoon: Get in the van with Heidi and Jennifer and head onto the ferry and then over to Ballard. Arrive and park in a primo spot at corner three.

 

I race, and I accomplish my “goals” – I don’t crash. I finish. I make a brief appearance at the front (at the wrong time but….details). I don’t embarrass myself. I have fun (my bike racing goals at Ballard are not that lofty).

 

Evening: Head over to where I made a dinner reservation with Jennifer and Heidi’s dad, Ernie. It just so happens that our table was outside and located right at the start/ finish line.

 

The three of us then watch the Women’s Pro 1-2 race which has three women that I coach in it (Heidi, Emily Alexander and Margaux McBirney) over dinner,  some beers (a really good Imperial Stout by Métier)  and a great bottle of wine.

 

During the race I watched Emily bridge up to a break midway through which was awesome. Emily has made some great progress in the past few months and watching her do that in a race that she has struggled in the past was, well, really awesome. (this is from Emily’s notes on the race: “For the record: this was the first time I haven’t been dropped in this race, and my first ever bridge in a race… Definitely a good night at the races”)

 

I watched Margaux, who is pretty new to bike racing, be active and eventually finish 5th – also awesome.

 

And I watched Heidi WIN THE BIKE RACE WHICH WAS AWESOME!!. Did I mention that Heidi’s dad was watching with us…..so that was also AWESOME!

 

After their race Emily, Heidi and Margaux joined us for some celebratory beverages as we watched the Pro 1-2 men race and then Jennifer, Heidi and I got back in the van, headed to the ferry terminal and pulled up just minutes before the boat to The Island was getting ready to load (which was a complete surprise and also pretty awesome).

 

So yeah, yesterday was a prime example of why I do what I do and why I love doing it. Because it is pretty damn awesome.

 

Sometimes you’re the hammer….. Heidi with her pretty sweet engraved hammer trophy and Ballard Criterium Champion jersey.

79th Annual Redmond Derby Days Criterium

Back for its 79th year – The Redmond Derby Days Criterium

brought to you by 

Tête de la Course Cycling and Castelli USA

 

Registration will be open soon. Stay tuned for more details.