Tick Tock... | Work Out with Darren Roberts

The eighth in our series of articles by Darren ‘Conehead’ Roberts…trainer to the stars.

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Worlds, MTB, Leogang, 2012, World Champs

0.5 of a second…what is that? To the naked eye a reaction time of 0.1 seconds is almost instantaneous, it’s in fact the limit of what’s deemed possible in a human reaction…

From Dirt Issue 146 – June 2013

Words by Darren ‘Conehead’ Roberts. Photo by Sven Martin.

In a 100m sprint race if you leave the blocks less than 0.1 secs after the gun you’re deemed to have false started because it’s just simply impossible to react faster than that.

0.5 secs is similar to my attention span in a sports science heavy presentation. My missus would say it’s the amount of time it takes me to forget what she’s told me. I would say it’s the amount of time one of our athlete remembers what I’ve told them, or the time it takes them to do the opposite of what I’ve just said.

In the film ‘Any Given Sunday’ about an NFL team, Al Pacino delivers a genuinely inspiring speech to his players before playing in a deciding game. In it he talks about seconds and inches, half a second too late or half a yard too short and you lose the game – the fight to claw those seconds and inches back to win the game. We’re surrounded by these fractions of seconds, they’re everywhere – just sat there waiting to be lost or gained by whoever they’re important to.

If you’re traveling at 40kph, 0.5 secs is about a DH bike length – just a single bike length. Think about that over a World Cup DH run, where would that bike length be found? Every rock, turn, root, pedal stroke, slight slip on the front or back, the slightest hesitation, just thinking about dabbing your foot but not actually doing it. Or is it even wider than that? A half turn on the suspension set–up, tyre choice, pressures? Or wider still…a couple of days missed practice, testing, training, hours of missed sleep, not quite the right food. The more you look at it 5/10ths of a second it seems to be lying around in abundance, waiting to be grabbed.

Half a second was the difference between being 2012 UCI Elite Men World Champion and not. Of course there are events outside of your control, like a brake lever snapping. But still, it seems to me there are seconds and inches everywhere I look, add them together and it’s more than 0.5 secs. Add them together and that bike length is closed, the rainbow stripes taken. British Cycling seem to have coined the phrase ‘aggregation of marginal gains’. However some of us in performance have known for a long time that by doing the ordinary extraordinarily well, you’ll scoop up these errant fractions of seconds that no one else wants. Your consistency and attention to detail will hoover them up, leaving none for anyone else. With races and championships now being decided within these fractions, can any elite afford to just leave them lying around anymore?

The wife has just told me something significant and important regarding tonight’s dinner, which I’ve been left in charge of before she went out. This was over 0.5 secs ago. I’m now texting her to ask what she said…

Darren Roberts is Head of High Performance at Red Bull UK working with the likes of the Atherton family, Danny MacAskill, MX enduro star David Knight and many, many others.

This article is part of the Work Out series. You can find the rest of Darren Roberts’ training tips through the links below:

Work Out

  1. Setting Goals | Work Out with Darren Roberts
  2. Time to Work the Guns | Work Out with Darren Roberts
  3. Injuries: The Cost of Doing the Business | Work Out with Darren Roberts
  4. Insane in the Membrane | Work Out with Darren Roberts
  5. Let Them Eat Cake | Work Out with Darren Roberts
  6. Check the Tyre Pressures and Oil the Chain | Work Out with Darren Roberts.
  7. Smoke and Mirrors | Work Out with Darren Roberts
  8. Tick Tock... | Work Out with Darren Roberts
  9. What's In a Name? | Work Out with Darren Roberts
  10. I've Heard They Use Magic | Work Out with Darren Roberts
  11. Healing Vibes | Work Out with Darren Roberts
  12. Performing Arts | Work Out with Darren Roberts
  13. Hitting The Limiter | Work Out with Darren Roberts
  14. Bad Santa | Work Out with Darren Roberts
  15. The Cost of Doing Business | Work Out with Darren Roberts
  16. Shed of Dread | Work Out with Darren Roberts
  17. Injury Is Not An Illness | Work Out with Darren Roberts
  18. Honesty Is The Best Policy | Work Out with Darren Roberts
  19. Creating The Performance Playground | Work Out with Darren Roberts
  20. The Ultimate Price | Work Out with Darren Roberts
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Smoke and Mirrors | Work Out with Darren Roberts