Dirty Kitten Radio "Cat Chat" Episode #17:
Endurance Training & Racing with Coach Crystal Anthony.
In this episode, Alex chats with her Coach and Pro/Elite cyclist, Crystal J Anthony (Liv Racing), about endurance training & racing, nutrition dos and don'ts, race mishaps, teaching overseas, almost qualifying for the Olympics, and how to become a Pro.
Coach Crystal's Endurance Training Tips: Build a big engine (base training); Ride with friends & explore new places (make it fun); Keep your easy days easy and your hard days hard; Spend time planning where and when to do a workout; Don't compare yourself to others; Focus on rewarding and internal goals (i.e. getting more out of yourself; improving skills; overcoming fears; becoming stronger, more savvy, and more confident); Nutrition is a huge part of endurance training and racing so don't ignore it!
Episode #17 Show Notes
How did you become a cycling coach? What brought you to this place in your life?
It was a circuitous route to becoming a coach, but once I got here it was as if everything had come full circle. I was always interested in how the body worked and feeling healthy and strong.
I grew up in an active and competitive family, so we were always doing things like hiking or riding bikes or running. The whole process of training and putting work into something and getting a reward for that investment really motivated me. In college was the first time I started competing in a formal way, on the cross country running team. I also was a kinesiology major.
After that though, I really wanted to get out and see more of the world, and did not really find interest in becoming a PT or researcher like a lot of my colleagues were doing. Instead I went to Honduras to become a teacher for 2 years, learned Spanish, and really fell in love with teaching. I didn’t have a teaching degree though so when I came back to the US, I decided it was probably a good idea to get some more advice about how to be a good teacher. I went to Harvard and did my masters in education in human development and psychology.
Turns out all of these experiences would pay off later on, I just didn’t know at the time. Anyway, I ended up getting a job teaching 7th grade Spanish and French back in Manchester MA. I was at that job for about 12 years, and during that time I got more serious about competing myself. I first trained for the marathon and then got into triathlon and finally cycling via cyclocross. With all the traveling for racing, it became challenging to be in a classroom Monday through Friday. Even though I loved the teaching aspect, it just became too much to juggle, especially after I went professional and was competing at the highest level.
It is a very long story, but I ended up leaving teaching and starting to work as a coach under my coach at the time, Stephen Weller. He definitely helped me get familiar with just how to run a business like that. I have been fortunate to have people like Steve, a college professor, and others, who were just really amazing mentors and I think those experiences showed me how much of a positive impact someone like that can have.
How long have you been racing? What types of endurance events do you do?
So as I mentioned, I didn’t start racing until college. I think my first 5k was like 23 or 24 minutes, not fast at all! But, I made some of my best friends in college on the team. Then later on, I had an incredible group of women to train with – we were all training to qualify for the Olympic Trials for the marathon when they were in Boston in 2008. I missed it by 16 seconds, but it was the experience that really struck me, I never thought I would run anything close to that fast! I got into triathlon, but was enjoying the bike most of all, and my brothers had been cyclocross stars growing up, so I started to get into that. I think I got a pro contract in maybe 2012 or something like that, and went to Worlds 3x. Then when I got on Liv, they definitely had more of a mountain bike and now gravel focus, so I’ve gotten into the longer endurance races.
What are some of the highlight endurance events you’ve done in your career?
Well, Cape Epic has to be one of the highlights. I also competed in the inaugural Life Time Grand Prix (gravel-4 & mtb-3 = 7 total, ) last year, and will be again this year. Really though, I love more techy mountain bike races like Park City Point to Point, or Grand Junction.
In terms of preparation for endurance cycling events, how do you structure your training?
There’s a couple layers to that. One is structuring the year overall, and then there’s how I structure my weeks or blocks within that. The first thing I do is plot out my own (or my athletes’) A-races for the year, and then look at the overall flow for the year. When do we want to be in race condition, and where are the times when we can naturally let the body come down and get out of shape so to speak. If you don’t plan those times in, your body will decide for you and it might not be when you want it to be.
What are the Top 3-5 things people always ask you (advice) as a coach?
What should I eat when I am training or racing?
Where should I do my intervals?
What do all the acronyms mean on TrainingPeaks?
Should I still train if I’m tired?
How can I become a pro?
What training “mistakes” or misconceptions do you see/hear often?
Going too hard on easy days
Not spending enough time planning where to do a workout
Using friends to assess one’s own fitness and progress (vs your own improvement)
Focusing on externals (getting a contract, upgrading category, etc.) vs the more rewarding internals (getting more out of yourself, improving skill, overcoming a fear, becoming stronger or more savvy or confident)
What role does nutrition play in your preparation/training/racing?
It’s huge. When I missed the trials time by 16 seconds, it was actually a result of NOT understanding nutrition. I wasn’t hungry during the race so I didn’t eat enough and even though I was on perfect pace through 23 miles, I bonked so hard I could barely limp to the finish. I learned the very hard way how much food matters! Besides, I love food and cooking and it’s my creative outlet, so it’s a big part of my life. Getting in the fuel I need and eating balanced meals helps me stay healthy and consistent. I can’t tell you how many people have been shocked once they started fueling during training.
What is most important for athletes to know when training for endurance events?
Build a big engine. Ride a lot. Ride with friends. Explore new places. Plan, plan, plan. For something like Unbound that’s 200 miles and has just two aid stations, there is a huge amount of planning that goes into it. Planning out food and hydration, flat supplies, clothing, extra batteries, chargers, checking out the weather and wind direction, etc.
Visit Crystal's website and social media pages for training tips, coaching info, and fun recipes: www.crystaljanthony.com (FB/IG @crystalanthonycoaching).
Listen to this episode on Dirty Kitten Radio Cat Chat!!!