Questionable Decisions World Tour 2020. Volume 2: Rock Cobbler Recap.

Of all the events on the QDWT2020, this one presents some unique challenges as a coach and also to Casey as an athlete. First, it’s early in the year. February 7 is dangerously early and most of the country spent the weekend shoveling snow while Casey was riding in weather good enough to warrant a hefty dose of sunscreen. 

Next, the Rock Cobbler is not an easy season opener by any means. With 85 miles and nearly 9000’ of elevation gain it poses a monumental day for all. Bookended by a go-cart track and BMX course, riders spend some serious time on single-track dodging cow patties and detouring around abandoned speedboats. These ingredients make the day perfect for something spectacular. And indeed, Casey did not disappoint. 

We know from experience and looking at result sheets that Casey should expect a finishing time of around 8 hours for Rock Cobbler.  That should translate to about 4000kJ for Casey. However, with an apparent smorgasbord of epic events making up the QDWT2020 we needed a bit different approach. Historically, Casey has peaked only a couple times per year so we’ve been able to dial in a typical build, taper, peak process seen with most athletes. The QDWT2020 features events spread over many months. This means that peaks will need to be lower and more repeatable. It also means that Casey’s fitness will need to improve across the board to repeat these efforts. Seems simple enough, except that Casey is a NICU Doctor with a hectic schedule so simple is not the best descriptor.

The reality is that Casey likely will not be able to elevate her annual volume so we’re going to challenge her to accumulate more volume than she’s ever done at 90-105% of FTP through frequency of the workouts with a focus on developing the fatigue resistance to produce that workload for ~90 minutes in a single day. We may get some gains on the FTP output and we’ll adjust accordingly. Casey has already completed 3 training rides in the last 90 days with over 60 minute of FTP exposure. So far, so good. We’re also reaching for her to accumulate more training rides at or over 375 TSS in 2020.  Each of these QDWT2020 events are likely to clock in at 500+ TSS and, with the emphasis on consistent performances, this will be a key component to success. 


Adapting to work stress and a NICU schedule is a challenge that Casey has taken on with an open mind and a flexible attitude. With her Tier 3 service, we talk weekly, sometimes more often. Casey has weeks where she spends very little time in the office, but she also has weeks that are well beyond a 60 hour work week. As a coach, it can be challenging to keep every workout both difficult enough to push her and interesting enough to make her want to do it while progressing her towards the level she needs to reach. One easy but conceptually difficult adjustment is to de-couple weekdays and view her training being driven by surges in workdays. Her work week is not Monday- Friday and each work block can be on different days from the previous one. Casey also uses a combination of road, dirt, mountain biking, and Wahoo Kickr to make it all work.  

Rock Cobbler Recap:

At some point questionable decisions will be punished. Punishment typically comes in one of two ways. It can be a slowly developing dumpster fire or a “hold my beer and watch this” moment. For Casey, it was the latter. Rock Cobbler is known for being a severe course for a gravel bike almost, almost to where it becomes a marathon mountain biking (mtb) event.  Some can argue that the 2020 version exchanged enough leg-saving roads for single-track making the full suspension mtb the best bike for the event. The data file from the event shows lots of slow speed, low cadence, high force pedaling common in mtb events. You’ll see it in the graph in the form of the red bars and line. There’s lots of extended riding with that type of pedaling, which accumulates fatigue quickly. 

Casey was handling this in stride and even enjoying the descending when that “hold my beer” moment struck. Down she went and, in the blink of an eye, she had broken a helmet. She never lost consciousness and, while she undoubtedly suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI), Casey still had to get to civilization to be rescued. After some redneck acrobatics, she was back at the finish line, cleaned up and changed but with a DNF on the result board.  

I always ask clients for a quick summary of each event, mostly focusing on the important moments of the day and how they responded. It’s good for debriefing and self-evaluation. Casey’s is brutally honest. From these summaries we dive deeper into the day with some discussion and some detailed power file analysis.  

“The first paved and dirt miles were predictably fast, tough and punchy but I was surprised to find I was comfortable riding every single sketchy downhill and closing gaps on riders in front of me whenever it got techy. I was riding the hell out of the dirt, until I wasn’t. Forty five miles in at the top of the Rio Bravo Ranch descent, I hit a patch of steep off-camber mud going about 20mph and in the split second that I knew I was going down all I could think was “not the head, not the head!!” Then when I saw double of my friend standing over my carcass, I knew my ride was over.”

The DNF is not one bit the biggest worry. She immediately went into the concussion protocol and, while she was asymptomatic for TBI, to be safe Casey took a number of days very easy after the crash. Now, she’s back to training and looking for that next event, the Belgian Waffle Ride-San Diego.  

Next up, Belgian Waffle Ride-San Diego. It’s gonna be a good one!