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  1. #1
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    How does a parent train for racing while also training a middle-school racer?

    I have a 12 year-old that's done a season of mtb racing including this fall's cyclocross season. I'm considering getting back into racing (after a 10 year hiatus) since it's so fun taking my kid to the races.

    My trouble starts with finding time to do my training while also training my son. Anyone else share this? What have you done to get yourself in race shape while getting your child in race shape?

    I imagine in a couple years I won't have this problem since I expect to have trouble keeping up with him!

    Thanks in advance for the insights.

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    Dad. From a teen coach of 15 years:

    Training and raising your son is more important than riding so you can race. This time with him will soon be gone and is so much more important than your racing. You have something you can share and, hopefully, Dad, have fun with.

    In 3 years or so, the last thing you will see is his skinny a$$ as he drops you on the first climb and is gone. On the other hand, he could simply walk away from the bike tomorrow; it happens all the time no matter what you think you know about him. And this time with him would be over.

    You are in a position to sacrifice, a child is not; they are simply in a position to have their experience sacrificed for their parent. I see it every day from what I call Pick-up-and-Drop-off parents rushing off to whatever. A nanny or mentor or coach is not mom or dad.

    You might find someone else to ride with him in that piano-lesson/childcare sort of way but you both lose time with each other. When it is time for him to move on, when he feels he wants to do that, then it is a differential thing. It is both a sad and beautiful day and you will feel it more immediately than he will.

    In the mean time go ride with your boy. Don't be a dope. It will disappear soon enough. Cherish what you have.

    I don't know how else to say it.

    Best wishes.
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  3. #3
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    Good words Berkeley Mike - all true. The other day I dabbed and came to a stop on a downhill - he rode right around me and dropped the section without a second thought. I said "And so it begins".

    We're in a little "off season" right now and just riding for grins. Best time ever.

    I hear what you're saying, and totally agree, but I'm going to race whether I'm in shape or not. I think it's good for him to see Dad participate and show some suffering as well. I've been on injured reserve with shoulder surgery / blown disk for the past year. He wants me to race, keeps asking when I'm going to, so I feel a little obligated to get out there and hammer, even if it means last place.

    Thanks for the words - very meaningful.

  4. #4
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    I've introduced cycling as a way of life and racing to my two kids. One went off to college and ran her University's cycling team for 3 years (while racing herself). Now she bike commutes to her job in DC. The other just finished his high school sophomore season in the Colorado League and commutes to school by bike through the Wyoming winter. They both began racing young, initially with no more training than riding around town and some family road rides (including tandem time -- an awesome way to get them started young). But once they were a bit serious and willing, I'd take them out on the weekends, riding from home. I have the advantage (mtb trails nearby) and attitude that 9 out of 10 rides begin from the doorstep. I'd either go out before they were ready to start their day or after my ride with them was done. They were either asleep, dithering over their breakfast, or eating lunch while I was doing some "hard" miles. It becomes complicated if you need to drive somewhere to hit the trails -- I don't, so it's easy to be efficient with my time. They're included and ride as much as they want and I ride as much as I want. The kids also nordic ski race and since we have to drive for that (albeit only 10 miles), we were limited by what they could do -- when they were done, we were done. However, they quickly became better than their parents so that wasn't a problem for long (unlike the bike side of things).

    So in summary, my tactic was to ride from the house -- no wasted time driving somewhere and I could tack on my miles and intensity on either side of their ride. Can't really do that if you need to leave your kids hanging out in the middle of nowhere at some distant trailhead while you try to tack on some extra miles. And there's always the trainer in the basement when they're hanging with friends or need some time away from Mom and Dad!
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  5. #5
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    Part of teaching racing is teaching them to be smart with managing injuries. That is tough for a 12 year old to understand.
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  6. #6
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    Hopefully he can learn injury management from me. Our living room looks like a PT gym: exercise ball, balance platform, bands, the list goes on. I probably spend more time doing PT than riding.

    Quote Originally Posted by Berkeley Mike View Post
    Part of teaching racing is teaching them to be smart with managing injuries. That is tough for a 12 year old to understand.

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    Agree with Mike 100%

    When my kid started to race my racing diminished and eventually stopped, do I have any regrets? None, it's been great to see him develop from a little racer to an experienced young man. He's on his last racing season prior to college, he'll be racing the NICA NY series and then the racing will be on hold until he goes to school, if he finds time to train and race during college is another story but the focus is college and ride recreational if the schedule allows for it (he'll have a great trail system close by).

    My experience with my kid was that if I was the coach things weren't as serious, he was all business with another coach and his results proved it so dad helps coach other kids and the team director coaches my kid. Embrace the time together, give him 1000% support but don't spoil him with the latest and greatest bike things, let him earn the bike upgrades with commitment and effort (don't focus on results) and you'll see how great is being the parent of a racing kid. Ahh, don't get mad when he blows by you on a climb or stops on the trail to wait for you, it could be frustrating but shows how much and how quickly they develop.

  8. #8
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    Another good point DiRt DeViL - like every other kid, mine responds better to a formal coach than me. When I couldn't go on the team rides this summer, he would come back totally spent and the coach would comment he was near the front the whole ride. He rides that same route with me he has enough air to keep up a constant chatter. If I pick up the pace he drops back.

    I don't in any way mind the chatter. I very much enjoy the time together and the fact that he's still talking to me - I expect that to change somewhat when he gets the car keys. But, balancing the fun with getting race-fit is a fine line.

    Thanks again for the input!

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Berkeley Mike View Post
    Dad. From a teen coach of 15 years:

    Training and raising your son is more important than riding so you can race. This time with him will soon be gone and is so much more important than your racing. You have something you can share and, hopefully, Dad, have fun with.

    In 3 years or so, the last thing you will see is his skinny a$$ as he drops you on the first climb and is gone. On the other hand, he could simply walk away from the bike tomorrow; it happens all the time no matter what you think you know about him. And this time with him would be over.

    You are in a position to sacrifice, a child is not; they are simply in a position to have their experience sacrificed for their parent. I see it every day from what I call Pick-up-and-Drop-off parents rushing off to whatever. A nanny or mentor or coach is not mom or dad.

    You might find someone else to ride with him in that piano-lesson/childcare sort of way but you both lose time with each other. When it is time for him to move on, when he feels he wants to do that, then it is a differential thing. It is both a sad and beautiful day and you will feel it more immediately than he will.

    In the mean time go ride with your boy. Don't be a dope. It will disappear soon enough. Cherish what you have.

    I don't know how else to say it.

    Best wishes.
    Fantastic post, Berkeley Mike! This is not only applicable to bike racing, but just about any sport or activity your child does. How many times do we say 'no' when our children ask us to do something because the "big game" is on, or we're about to head out for a bike ride, or we want to do something for ourselves? Personally, I do it way too often. Your post serves as a reminder about just how fleeting this time is with our children and I'll have plenty of time for that other stuff when he gets older.

    So thanks again for posting!
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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Berkeley Mike View Post
    Dad. From a teen coach of 15 years:

    Training and raising your son is more important than riding so you can race. This time with him will soon be gone and is so much more important than your racing. You have something you can share and, hopefully, Dad, have fun with.

    In 3 years or so, the last thing you will see is his skinny a$$ as he drops you on the first climb and is gone. On the other hand, he could simply walk away from the bike tomorrow; it happens all the time no matter what you think you know about him. And this time with him would be over.

    You are in a position to sacrifice, a child is not; they are simply in a position to have their experience sacrificed for their parent. I see it every day from what I call Pick-up-and-Drop-off parents rushing off to whatever. A nanny or mentor or coach is not mom or dad.

    You might find someone else to ride with him in that piano-lesson/childcare sort of way but you both lose time with each other. When it is time for him to move on, when he feels he wants to do that, then it is a differential thing. It is both a sad and beautiful day and you will feel it more immediately than he will.

    In the mean time go ride with your boy. Don't be a dope. It will disappear soon enough. Cherish what you have.

    I don't know how else to say it.

    Best wishes.
    You are speaking the truth. You have described the exact scenario with critical, authentic detail.

  11. #11
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    One idea that works for me as I coach a HS team: I treat my weekend training rides with the team as my endurance LSD miles - not fast but 60-90 minutes long. There are kids oin the team way faster than me, but here are beginners as well and I tend to work more with the noobs. Then I do two painful interval sessions a week on the road bike before work; 60-75 minutes each. This is the basis of Chris Charmichael's Time-Crunched Cyclist program, BTW. It can get you strong enough for races of 2 hours or less, on about a 9 week cycle.

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    There does exist, in my mind, a concept I call Racing Families. These are families who are wholly devoted to the sport. One or more of the parents race and the kids get involved and then reach, too. You see this sort of devotion in many sports. With everyone moving in the same direction, targeting competitions on weekends, fully outfitted vehicles and such, riding with the kids is a bit simpler.
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  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Berkeley Mike View Post
    There does exist, in my mind, a concept I call Racing Families. These are families who are wholly devoted to the sport. One or more of the parents race and the kids get involved and then reach, too. You see this sort of devotion in many sports. With everyone moving in the same direction, targeting competitions on weekends, fully outfitted vehicles and such, riding with the kids is a bit simpler.
    I fall into this category i think. So glad I found this thread. Like the OP, i have a son who is starting to race. loves to bike. commutes to school most days. tried cross when he was 10 and didnt like the intensity. he's 13 now at the beginning of this past cx season I asked him if he wanted to try it again. To my joy he said yes.

    first race he got on the podium 5th. his next race 12th. the rest of the season he held 10th and finished 10th in the Mid Atlantic standings. pretty pumped were both of us. Best advice I got from one of our team mates: "don't be that race dad". Once he starts placing top 3-5 consistently, then start taking his training more serious.

    He didn't train at all leading into the cx season. This coming, we will.

    We ride together. I've yet to get him on the road. we'll do mountain and C&O canal (rails to trails). last year we did a duo 13hour race. he pulled 45 miles. this year he's going solo and wants to double it. Ambitious, but I'll let him do what he wants. We have a few other races planned as well.

    I do think about coaching for him. started looking around a bit.

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    Good posts Mike and DeVil.

    I raced road as a teen in the early 80's and then moved on until I found it again in my 30's. Once my son started riding and wanted to race I knew my time was done for racing. I already had slowed as he got into other sports as well. In my book once your a dad it's about your kid/kids. My time helping him with advise, working on his bikes, traveling to races and riding with him when he would stay with me will be some of the best times of my life and I hope his.

    Believe me now that he is away at college I have all the time in the world to ride and you will too.
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    Thanks again for all the great input here. All taken to heart. I've always focused more on recreational riding than racing. Racing's fun and all but being able to be out w/ the kids and riding trails - watching them improve and being out in the woods is where it's at for me. I like to take the base-level fitness gained from recreational and translate that into racing with some tempo and interval work. I'm sure I'd burn the kids (and me) out if it was always about "training".

    For the moment, even with this ridiculous drought, they're working on their ski turns instead of their switchback turns. All in the name of fun!

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    I still race. granted....it's tougher on cx race day when he's racing before me. I end up pulling the trainer up to a section of the course where I can see him and warm up and encourage him on. it's tough though.

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    Tandem? Ride together?

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    Funny: just sold the tandem in order to get a CX bike. Thought of that though - not sure if he'd dig the stoker seat. I know I don't.

    Quote Originally Posted by leeboh View Post
    Tandem? Ride together?

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    I have a slightly different perspective. I don't believe a parent should be a coach. A coach should be a coach. A parent should be a parent, a supporter, someone to go on rides with, a shoulder to cry on, a sounding board, an advocate, the final authority. Blurring the parent/coach line can be unfair to a child, unfair to a family and potentially forever ruin the idea of a sport for a child. I have seen this tragedy unfold more times than I care to count.

    Nevertheless, I believe what Mike said about it being YOUR duty to sacrifice because your kid only has one shot at it is spot on. Support your kid, love your kid, ride with your kid. Go be a racer again once the nest is empty.

    Best wishes,
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    Parent as ride buddy?

    Tom Ritchie once told me that the most important thing is that the riding is for you son, not for you.

    I had my son work out with one of my teams as young as 12. But that becomes more about group training with older teens which was very cool for him. He also learned to respect women riders.

    Later I Coached/Directed his high school team but that is a matter of riding with peers. Further he was a huge asset; I knew exactly what he could do and could turn my back on him. If I gave a group an assignment I knew it would be followed.

    When it was time for him to quit I told him it didn't matter one way or the other to me. What mattered was that it matters to him.

    It is tough line to walk but it is doable.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Berkeley Mike View Post
    Parent as ride buddy?
    I really don't understand the incredulity.

    I know several families who ride together and have the best time doing it, yet still manage to have competitive individual family members who excel in their events.

    I believe we are pretty much in agreement with the main principles here, outside of differing philosophies about parents being coaches (which I also think has potential disruptions from the points of view of other team members).
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    A parent coach has it's challenges. For one I can't get out of my son what a coach can. And I don't want to push the issue either: that's what can kill an otherwise great riding experience. I'll push him but I know when I'm not getting anywhere and typically let it go.

    On the other hand, the coaches around here, especially for middle school, are few and far between. The middle school "team" encourages parents to participate in the rides etc. So, from a "potential disruption" standpoint, parents are all over the place. I fully expect to participate with the high school team as well. We'll see if I can keep up...

  23. #23
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    How does a parent train for racing while also training a middle-school racer?

    Love the tread!! And totally agree with the time going too fast. For me the training comes at night when he is in bed, usually on a trainer. If he wants to ride he comes and I ride the SS. Here is a quick pic of him busting out one of my night sessions with me. I started early just because he wanted to ride with me. Btw the aero bars is because I have been rehabbing a shattered radius

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    Awesome pic. I have light setups for myself and the son - bike and helmet. We do a 14 mile loop, 80% singletrack, during the week after sundown. It's a hoot.

    I guess if I really want it there's time to get quick hits in: I can get up early and log the miles in the cold and dark while everyone else sleeps. It is hard, at least for me, to rally that early sometimes...

    Quote Originally Posted by clarkrw3 View Post
    Love the tread!! And totally agree with the time going too fast. For me the training comes at night when he is in bed, usually on a trainer. If he wants to ride he comes and I ride the SS. Here is a quick pic of him busting out one of my night sessions with me. I started early just because he wanted to ride with me. Btw the aero bars is because I have been rehabbing a shattered radius

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    Quote Originally Posted by Shutter Jim View Post
    I really don't understand the incredulity.

    I know several families who ride together and have the best time doing it, yet still manage to have competitive individual family members who excel in their events.

    I believe we are pretty much in agreement with the main principles here, outside of differing philosophies about parents being coaches (which I also think has potential disruptions from the points of view of other team members).
    That is not how I meant it. It was intended as a suggestion. My son and I were riding buddies from the time he was 3, including much time on a tandem.
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    Quote Originally Posted by atayl0r View Post

    On the other hand, the coaches around here, especially for middle school, are few and far between. The middle school "team" encourages parents to participate in the rides etc. So, from a "potential disruption" standpoint, parents are all over the place. I fully expect to participate with the high school team as well. We'll see if I can keep up...
    This is something that takes a lot of practice and skill but it is doable. It is a bit easier than with a ball club that must sit athletes on the bench.

    Anyhow, this dynamic is something which allows other parents to to hop aboard for rides. You don't put them with their own kids if you can avoid it. Teens are working on autonomy and independence so you don't want to crowd them..
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  27. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by Berkeley Mike View Post
    That is not how I meant it. It was intended as a suggestion. My son and I were riding buddies from the time he was 3, including much time on a tandem.
    Ahh. I see. Thanks for the clarification, Mike!
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    How about mentors for life and bikes for fun?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shutter Jim View Post
    I have a slightly different perspective. I don't believe a parent should be a coach. A coach should be a coach. A parent should be a parent, a supporter, someone to go on rides with, a shoulder to cry on, a sounding board, an advocate, the final authority. Blurring the parent/coach line can be unfair to a child, unfair to a family and potentially forever ruin the idea of a sport for a child. I have seen this tragedy unfold more times than I care to count.

    Nevertheless, I believe what Mike said about it being YOUR duty to sacrifice because your kid only has one shot at it is spot on. Support your kid, love your kid, ride with your kid. Go be a racer again once the nest is empty.

    Best wishes,
    Generally I think you'd be right but, what if there isn't a team for the kid to be on and the only way she can race is independent? There is no coach other than dad (me.) I feel like am doing her a disservice but what's the alternative? We ride and have fun, she'll race and it should be fun. If she is successful enough this freshman year we'll figure out what to do going forward but for now I'm still faster than she is and just trying to keep up (and me teaching her bike handling skills etc.) should be good enough training for now.

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    Quote Originally Posted by gravitylover View Post
    Generally I think you'd be right but, what if there isn't a team for the kid to be on and the only way she can race is independent? There is no coach other than dad (me.) I feel like am doing her a disservice but what's the alternative? We ride and have fun, she'll race and it should be fun. If she is successful enough this freshman year we'll figure out what to do going forward but for now I'm still faster than she is and just trying to keep up (and me teaching her bike handling skills etc.) should be good enough training for now.
    Yeah, that's a tough one. Maybe since cyclists usually know other cyclists, maybe you have a trusted family friend who could fulfill the coach role while you maintain the parent role? On the other hand, sometimes having fun is coach enough during the early stages. Sounds like you're working it out pretty well right now. Best wishes.
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    Quote Originally Posted by gravitylover View Post
    Generally I think you'd be right but, what if there isn't a team for the kid to be on and the only way she can race is independent? There is no coach other than dad (me.) I feel like am doing her a disservice but what's the alternative? We ride and have fun, she'll race and it should be fun. If she is successful enough this freshman year we'll figure out what to do going forward but for now I'm still faster than she is and just trying to keep up (and me teaching her bike handling skills etc.) should be good enough training for now.
    There's also the idea of "Rec" vs "Comp" - like in Soccer, Baseball and Softball. We have friends involved in Comp sports and their kids are training 4x/week and playing 4 games every weekend. Their lives are nothing but soccer - we never see them because of it.

    I'm not sure if my kid is quite up for the "Comp" level of racing - it remains to be seen. I've always been happy getting out and racing in the lower Cats - I don't envision myself hitting Expert / Cat1 nor do I expect my kid to. If he gets the fire-in-the-belly I'll certainly encourage and support (and I'll push him to do his best). But I don't want to forego all of the fun rides in place of training.

    His scholarship is going to be music.

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    It just occurred to me that this all begs the definition of what a coach is and does. Of course it is more that knowing how to ride fast and pushing kid to do the same, whether they are your kid or not. There are good ones and not-so-good ones.

    That said, if you ride with your child often enough you have a much better idea of where they are at, their capacities and tendencies, and how they move through change. Some coaches simply cannot have that insight. That is both an advantage and disadvantage to parent or coach.

    In the early years simply putting in miles makes the biggest difference. Older riders who succeed know how to make that happen on their own. Younger riders, not so much. This is, of course, where a parent can be helpful and posters above have qualified their time with their kid in terms of who their own training program sees that mileage and get other kinnds of work at other times.

    Early years are a matter of managing the enjoyment of the sport to keep them coming back and staying safe. This is the work that makes them succeed on the course, but that can be very different than a victory. Victories can come in second place.
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    Fun management - that's it. I know that for me when racing stopped being fun I bailed and didn't look back. When my friends are riding fast and pushing each other on a ride I usually fall back and find the quiet zone because that's where it's fun (for me.) I think my daughter is that way too with riding and skiing, trail running is a different story. She is also on the high school cross country team and is quite competitive with that (I think) because it's one sport where her small size isn't a hindrance and she doesn't feel physically outgunned. Bonus is the mt bike racing and xc running season overlap so she gets all the physical cross training necessary and I still get to work full time to support the family

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    Quote Originally Posted by Berkeley Mike View Post
    It just occurred to me that this all begs the definition of what a coach is and does. Of course it is more that knowing how to ride fast and pushing kid to do the same, whether they are your kid or not. There are good ones and not-so-good ones.
    I start thinking about getting a coach for my kids when I know they're capable of improvement and start doing the "don't listen to the parent" thing. Yesterday my daughter (a very strong 10 year old skier) wouldn't power through her turns. Wife and I both told/showed her how to weight/de-weight her skis at points in the turn but she wasn't hearing any of it. It was my wife that said "If we got a ski instructor to tell her that she would take to it in under 5 minutes".

    Same for cycling: someone with an "instructor" or "coach" badge can have faster impact.

    Which makes me think: maybe interesting to mimic ski instruction with biking: 2 hour or half-day skills/ability instruction - rather than a full season of coaching. That way someone can be coached (e.g. how to ride up an obstacle) and then work on it on their own.

  35. #35
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    One of the interesting things I hear from parents is: "why does he listen to you even though I tell him the same thing?"

    One the other hand I have seen fearless young girls approach 11-12 all of a sudden get really skittish with stuff they had no problem with before. It can leave you dumbfounded. That is less familial/cultural than it is developmental/hormonal.

    That said, a special skills class totally independent of you will reveal great deal.
    I don't rattle.

  36. #36
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    Hmm, wish I could afford that Fort Lewis College 2 week summer skills camp.

    I think the ski instructor analogy is a good one. Gonna have to see what does exist in my area as that's probably a very good option to a full time team.

  37. #37
    I've had a Pliny
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    So, quick update to the original thread title (How does a parent train...): It's pretty simple - I just have to ride twice as much. I've been doing hour-long time-trials at lunch keeping heart rate at tempo/threshold for most of the ride. We'll see what that does.

    As for my son: we got a polar bluetooth heart rate transmitter and are using that with Strava on an iPhone. Having fun reviewing rides and watching his heart rate throughout. His recovery is quite good - drops very fast after climbs etc. Getting him to hit and maintain threshold for any length of time is the current challenge. I don't yet have a handlebar mount for the iPhone so he doesn't have immediate feedback. Instead he's learning what moderate/tempo/threshold feels like.

    Prairie City series will be our first races this season. Skipped the TBF races in Granite Bay - too busy skiing Sierra Cement.

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