Part 7: Get the right coach – for you

With Toby at our Christmas Pudding TT – slightly mucky conditions!

I’ve mentioned before how helpful it’s been to have a coach this year. But what is it that working with Toby actually adds to my training?

Every coaching relationship is a bit different. As Toby points out, some of his riders just want to be told what to do, some need encouragement and advice, while others want more of a two-way conversation.

I’d been self-coached for 15 years and this seemed to be working fine. I enjoyed reading the books, making my own plans, and testing myself – so I was sceptical about enlisting outside help.  I didn’t struggle to push myself, so why would I need someone else to motivate me?

I’d known Toby through our club for a few years.  We’d ridden together on the chain-gang and I’d seen him do a lovely job of coaching our junior riders: from primary school kids at our Go Ride courses, right through to the uni boys at national-level road races.  But it was only when chatting to him after my first 12-hour in 2020 that I realised how he could help me too.

Over a post-ride coffee, we got chatting about everything that went into an endurance performance: from the training, to the pacing, the nutrition, and the mindset. Toby shared what he’d learned from his long-distance MTB challenges and we compared notes on what each of us found helpful.

This exchange of ideas really got me thinking and challenged my assumptions. A lot of my training was already good, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t improve.  Was I really making those hard sessions hard and the easy sessions easy?  Could I do more to get stronger over winter?  How about refining my pacing and nutrition plans on my weekly long rides?

16 hour test run, 7th May 2022

Since working together, we’ve addressed all of these things – and I think I’ve seen the benefits.  But I’ve also appreciated the accountability – not for getting the miles in (I was doing that already), but for getting the right balance of rest, recovery, and properly challenging workouts.

Importantly for me, this remains a two-way process.  Toby is in charge of the key sessions for the week, which we schedule together in the TrainingPeaks app. I then upload my data and feed back on how it went.  Each week, I also write a report summarising what has gone well or badly in my overall training and recovery, along with my thoughts for the coming weeks.

After a big ride or event, we’ll look even more closely at the data and learning points. Here’s the data generated from my 16-hour test ride two weeks ago…

…and my take on the findings and learning points: 

Looking ahead to my next big ride, I have been a bit unsure of how I should approach it – and even if I should ride it at all.  The email discussion we had this week is a nice example of the way we work together:

Hi Toby,

I have been thinking about this 600k and trying to decide if it’s a good idea…

Reasons to do it:

– It could be a fun adventure

– I already have the time booked away from work/family

– Completing it would get me an early entry to Paris-Brest-Paris

– It would help train the mental resilience needed to pedal for 24 hours solid

Against doing it:

It will leave me very fatigued

– There is quite a high risk of overuse injury (eg flare up left knee)

– I could get more done overall by just training through this period, rather than resting/over-reaching/recovering from one mega-long ride

If I do ride it, I’ll:

– focus on mental resilience rather than power or speed

– maintain a very easy pace (180w normalised, 10% below my 24-hr target)

– keep riding for 24 hrs solid, stopping only briefly for water/controls

I think this will let me average about 25kph, so 24hrs for the 600km. At 160w average power, I’ll need about 570 kCal/hr, which I could achieve with 75g/hr CHO intake (300 kCal) plus fat oxidation (30g/hr = 270 kCal).  I can use the same food and drink as on my 24-hr TT if I bring everything except water in a frame bag.

What do you think?

The Audax setup – shamefully short of mudguards!

Hi Nick,

My thoughts are not to use it for pacing or power targets or speed, but for practicing riding for 24 hours, tweaking and perfecting the nutrition plan, working on the mental resilience of finding the right focus level for the duration of the ride (not always wired but also not day dreaming).

If the injury flares up then take remedial action, carry on, if still sore or pain worsens then pull out. You will need to define a strict level of what constitutes withdrawing with grace!

Whilst the 180w NP target is probably sensible, I also wonder if having more freedom and just riding really easy is a better goal, as you are indifferent of it takes you 23/24/25 hours. The focus is just getting being in the saddle and doing the time. I am concerned that having a power metric becomes the sole focus rather than just riding?

That being said, having a 180w target would be useful to hold you back, so I would rather put it as a limiter rather than a goal to chase the power up to this level.

We have plenty of time after the Audax that you could have a complete week off the bike and not damage your training path for the 24hr TT.

In summary; if you are excited about doing it then let’s plan to complete it and just put some restrictions around it so you enjoy it and learn from it as well as getting your PBP rides done. If you are unsure and don’t want to do it but feel you should do it, then don’t and we can reframe your training. Words in bold for clarity!


So it’s decided – the 600k is on. The route looks pretty tough so, if nothing else, I am sure we will achieve the aim of practicing mental resilience!

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