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Mark Brockwell is the ATOM!


Mark Brockwell is a well-known rider in the Queensland cycling community, and a few years ago he approached me to coach him towards the XCO and XCM National series.

Here's a bit of background....

• Previous training topped Mark out around CTL 90, with having him ‘feeling good’ for races at a TSB of around +9

• Mark’s power profile (non age adjusted) show some reasonable power outputs, but are much more impressive when run through an age-adjusted chart. Mark’s strengths from earlier testing was strong in 5min and 20min, Mark is definitely a slow-twitcher and thus after early season National Series XCO chose to focus more on the XCM discipline.

• Mark runs a power metre on Road bike only, so a complete view of his training isn’t available, especially considering many key sessions are on the mountain bike

• Mark has a fully fledged ‘life’ going on; a bunch of kids (mostly full-sized), a partner and full-time shift work as a Aircraft Engineer.

• Mark loves to do lots of volume and intensity, often the hardest thing is slowing him down and giving him a knuckle dusting about keeping easy rides easy.

Now Mark and I had worked together towards multiple XCO and XCM Masters podiums during 2017, however he had some time off after that. During a casual race last year, Mark had a pretty horrific injury and actually broke his back, and had some extensive time off rehabbing the injury.

Part of ‘coming back’ to fitness and getting through it was the drive to race fast again, and so Mark hit us up to coach him towards the 2019 XCM National Champs, to be held in May in Townsville.

Here's a graph of what transpired, which I will talk about a bit more below:

Rolling with it: when things have to change

There was a slight glitch in our plans…the 2019 XCM National Champs was cancelled in Townsville and rescheduled to Brisbane….about six weeks later.

This did cause me some stress as leading into may we were already hitting unchartered territory in terms of Mark’s CTL. A prolonged time at a peak CTL can cause burnout, so we had to restructure his training, and really emphasise checking in and monitoring how he’s feeling.

The upside is that with some solid scheduled recovery periods, we were actually able to turn this around and use this to build his CTL to an all time high of 105: an impressive feat for someone who does 4-nightshifts a week.

The rescheduled event also allowed us to focus on training on the actual racecourse, with specific sessions such as sweet-spot sessions essentially recreating race intensity and feel in the exact environment the race would take place in.

The early season skill sessions really helped, in addition to this, as Mark was able to commit to using his skills to maintain speed rather than his motor and this is reflected in his race graphs: though he raced the same event two years ago, as a trained cyclist, and did well in the event, the 98km race took Mark 5:38 with an IF of .79, This year’s 92km edition took 5:08 with an IF of .73. While it’s a bit tenuous to put a lot of emphasis on this due to the distance variable, when scaled compared to elite times it’s clear Mark had become a faster, more efficient rider despite two more laps around the sun.

The Big Holiday

A big family holiday to the Women’s Soccer World Cup was always in the plan, but being a diehard mountain biker Mark had managed to get the leave pass for an epic event—the Dolomiti Superbike—mid holiday (wife Sue is an actual saint, I think!).

Mark’s CTL plummeted, as expected and TSB became very high in line with his sporadic training while overseas. He went into the race with a high TSB of +20 and smashed it, considering he started in almost the last wave and had to weave between (literally) thousands of people. A TSS of 420+ for the very very long day (100km, 3300m vert) saw him maintain his CTL at around 90, despite doing not a lot at all before he continued his European sojourn.

We can see that he was enjoying the time off as his CTL gradually declined as his TSB skyrocketed, in line with a mid-season break. A few 100-ish TSS rides maintained his fitness at around 70 CTL; those who train a lot will appreciate that this is a reasonable number to be sitting at after almost a month of no training!

The Next Big Adventure

Having come back from Europe, and off the back of some very big Marathon events, we had six weeks to prepare Mark for the next big adventure: MTB Himalaya.

What we knew about MTB Himalaya was that it was high in altitude, and tough. As much as a cultural immersion as a bike race, we understood that dealing with whatever was happening in India would be as much of a battle as getting through the stages. Food? We don’t know. Accommodation? Probably pretty average. Stage distances? Website had stages from several years ago.

It’s really an adventure into the great unknown, and I am dead jealous of it! 8 stages between 50–100km at altitude had tough written all over it, but instead of launching back into a typical meso/microcycle (weeks and days that you would usually plan sequentially, and with fatigue resistance: that is hard stuff when fresh, easier stuff when tired, and recovery to get the most out of each session) we did some an intensive period of block training to simulate the demands of a multi-day race.

Working this around a 4 on/4 off shift cycle working only nights made it complicated, but we used much of the working week as recovery allowing us multiple 3-5 day ‘block’ training sessions. This results in the shark-tooth shape to Mark’s Performance Management Chart.

Mark tolerated these sessions exceedingly well, he seems to go against the grain of ‘older and needing more recovery’. We managed to boost his CTL back up to 90 with some great, focussed stage race training, before backing off with a solid taper before MTB Himalaya. (expected TSB for race is +30. Yes that’s high but he’s racing for 8 days, the fresher the better!).

How did he go? Really well in fact. Mark and teammate Bashier completed the event that had a 50% attrition rate with the unforgiving conditions, and a fourth place! Some relentless conditions saw them pushing up and across landslides and through thick mud, with a 7:30hr 75km stage mid-race.

So congrats to Mark on his Athlete of The Month (Quarter…whatever!) enjoy your T-shirt and keep being awesome!

#ATOM #stageracing #XCM #planning #macrocycles #blocktraining #periodisation

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