Use the PIE technique to guide training, race selection & race prep

As you plan out goals and races for next year this holiday season, the Coaches at FasCat humbly suggest PIE. As in, after you polish off your piece of pumpkin pie, use the PIE technique of considering the Physical, Internal and Environmental demands of an event.

This technique can be particularly useful for multi-discipline athletes and those doing stage races — mountain bike, road or gravel. It can be hard to know what to focus on, whether that be across a multi-day event or across the season.

When my athletes come to me with the challenge of adding a new or long race into their calendar, I like to break the race down in its entirety to see what the demands are, and then, what is required in preparation for the athlete to be successful.

Let’s look at an extreme case: a mountain bike stage race at altitude. Now, MTB stage races aren’t all the same, but let me walk you through how I broke apart Breck Epic for my athlete Erin Huck to make sure we covered our bases in training to allow for success come the start of the race. I use this practice with almost every race one of my athletes does, but it can be especially valuable for the harder and more grueling races.

Cut your PIE into pieces

To start dissecting the race, I like to separate the demands into three categories.

Physical Demands

Physically what will the athlete have to produce and accomplish to achieve their goals. Examples here would be miles/km per day, estimated training stress per day, accumulated fatigue, fueling requirements, full body fatigue, and how the race will be raced.

Internal Demands

What mental stress the athlete will go through. Examples could be family stress, race anxiety, bike maintenance fatigue, questioning ability, or even work stress.

Environment Demands

What conditions will that athlete deal with during the event. Examples include altitude, heat, trail conditions, climbing, rain, poor sleep, and early or late start.

Assessing each of these individually allows me to see what the athlete will likely go through when it comes together in a full picture. Some demands we will simply not be able to prepare for in training or leading up to the event, but even seeing that on paper can help an athlete prepare for that demand mentally and physically.

Erin Huck at Breck Epic

Here is an example of the P.I.E I used for Erin’s go at Breck Epic this year.

Physical Demands

  • 6 Days
  • 1574 TSS
  • 22.5 hours
  • 213.50 miles
  • 32,013 Elevation
  • 11,331 KJ’s
  • 7.6 ave hours of sleep

Starting Metrics

  • 87 CTL
  • 95 ATL
  • 17 TSB

Ending Metrics

  • 107 CTL
  • 183 ATL
  • 78 TSB

(actual numbers listed. Prior to an event I will calculate off of prior results and an educated guess, or I will go off of past data from the event)

Internal Demands

Family stress : She will be at the race with her family, husband is racing, and she will have support to watch her son while she races - but post stage this will change her ability to recover. She does pull motivation from having her family with her.

Bike Maintenance Fatigue : Her husband Andrew helps a ton with this, but he is also racing and it's a long race, so I’m sure this will be a stressor at times - Her equipment is dialed though.

Work Stress : Taking PTO!

Confidence or Doubt : Has been a year littered with sickness and as a result a bit of a rollercoaster, this means that this event carries a decent amount of weight to build confidence.

Mental Day to Day Fatigue : A factor for anyone and with the extra stressors this needs to be something to touch up on through training.

Environment Demands

Altitude : 10,483feet average - adaptation and experience up high very important - both of which Erin has.

Weather : mid 70s average but temps can be a factor on climbs when temps reach in the upper 90s in the high altitude sun. Storms can be an issue - We have put in good heat prep with the full summer at play.

Trail Conditions : Technical Riding at high altitude - We haven’t been able to do a ton of this up to this point so this will serve as a good launch pad for this work - past experience allows for this.

Sleep : Will be at the event with family. Sleep will be impacted. This will change recovery.

Start Times : Conveniently located to where they are staying - stage starts are no issue

Food : Airbnb - so the kitchen will make things easy and can do what she is used to.

Takeaways for Erin

For Erin at Breck Epic, this will serve her well and even though it's a big challenge, it’s a challenge she can win and thrive from. To prepare for this event there are a few key things to work into her training. She will experience a greater level of fatigue than pure metrics will show due to juggling caring for her son during this race. The race is demanding on the full body, due to the technical riding and altitude, so preparation for this is needed. Multi day training will be needed ahead of this event to help with the physical fatigue, but also the mental toll of racing for six days on hard trails.

Due to extreme fatigue predictions (CTL,ATL,TSB), we plan on taking her into the event “over fresh” so that she can ride into the race. Plan out which day to make a priority and be “optimal” (sharp).

PIE Takeaways

 This P.I.E technique has helped me to sort through the specifics of countless events for a huge variety of athletes.

I encourage you to give this a try for your future events to help shape what you do, and how you prepare for it. 

In sum, a little PIE is good for everyone! 



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About Isaiah Newkirk

Isaiah has been coaching for 12+ years and a FasCat Coach for 6. He came to us as a graduate of collegiate cycling powerhouse Marian University competing in Track, Road, and Cross. Isaiah raced Professionally on the Road for years, racing all over the world, and doing iconic US races such as Tour of Utah and Tour of Colorado. Since "retiring" he has shifted focus to doing races to the likes of LT100, Unbound, and other endurance events. Isaiah started coaching in 2008 when he was asked to coach a little 500 team in his home town of Bloomington, IN. Since then coaching has become a passion for Isaiah and he is eager to help any rider achieve their goals and potential. Isaiah has coached athletes to National titles, World Titles, and to the professional ranks. Isaiah is a USA Cycling Level 1 coach, TrainingPeaks Level 1, Certified Skills Instructor, and was a speaker at the USA Cycling Coaching Summit 2020. Isaiah is also director and performance manager for Domestic Elite Team : Project Echelon.

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