Posted by: Travis | February 3, 2009

Travis’s state of training

Something weird is happening.

Last Saturday (the day before my last crit) i went out for a ride. Though Sunday’s crit is marked in my book as a ‘training’ race instead of a ‘priority’ race, i decided to take advantage of some free time and beautiful weather on Saturday and head out for a ride on rolling hills (instead of a climbing intensive ride that would leave my legs thrashed for the next day’s race). You see there’s a line between a training race and a priority race. If every race was a priority i would not do any hard riding in the 3 or 4 days leading up to the race. Assuming Sunday is race day (which it usually is), that means that i would never get out for longer rides because i can’t ride on Saturday, and my training would be limited to 3 or so days a week, which isn’t going to help me get stronger. So i have to consider some races as ‘training’ races, where you don’t go in with super fresh legs on purpose and instead of trying to win, focus on getting your body used to the shock of racing, practicing pack riding skills, going out on breaks, etc. On the other hand, if i kill myself riding on Saturday and go into Sunday’s race with tired legs, then i won’t be able to keep up with the group and there was no point in coming to race because i can’t practice if i’m hanging off the back sucking air. It’s a thin line i have to walk right now. When we get to the summer and it’s getting dark around 8:30 instead of 4:30, and i can get out on some long rides after work, things are a bit different.

Anyway, i went out on a ride Saturday afternoon on the rolling hills of Canada road, and i was killing it. I stayed in the big ring (higher gears) the whole time, was keeping it above 20mph the whole time, and was passing people like crazy. I averaged over 18mph for 35 miles and only got passed by one person as i was cooling down and almost home. Considering that this took place in Northern California, where everyone rides, that’s pretty cool. And the 18mph is also really good. I know we average about 25 in crits, but thats in a big group, on a flat course, and over only 40 minutes. My 18mph was on rolling hills, over 2 hours, and i was by myself. I was suddenly feeling much stronger on the bike.

On Sunday i felt great too, the strongest i’ve felt at any of the crits so far. I spent most of the race on the front doing the most work and out in breaks, something i definitely had not been able to do up to this point.

The yesterday (Monday) i headed home from work after taking Rachel to the airport (she’s out of town until Wednesday evening, the story is complicated and i’d prefer not to get into it here) and got a good 2 hour ride in before the sun went down and spent my evening making dinner and catching up on the work i missed by leaving early. Once again, no climbing on this ride, but i felt great. I was in the big ring the whole time and constantly cruising above 20mph. However, after about an hour and a half i bonked and was only able to hold about 16mph the rest of the way home. After a superbowl sunday where Rachel and i consumed about 4000 calories of chips and queso each, i was feeling guilty and was back on my strict healthy (or is that guilty?) eating plan and didn’t eat anything before i went out. I usually bring some food in case that happens but i forgot today.

Anyway, my point is that i am suddenly feeling a lot stronger than i did even 7 to 10 days ago. My weight hasn’t dropped significantly (currently stuck at 165, and my gut doesn’t appear to be going anywhere). I’ve been focusing on riding the stationary trainer on weeknights, which is total hell, but in the winter you do what you have to do. Somehow it takes 4 hours out on the road before my but starts to get sore and things start to hurt a bit. For some reason this point hits after only 45 minutes on the trainer. It drives me nuts. I know it’s 100% psychological, but i think that makes me even more mad. However, one bonus to the trainer is that i can do intervals pretty efficiently on it without stop lights or cars to mess things up. I’ve been doing what i call ‘crit intervals’ lately where i go all out as fast as i can on the trainer for 30 seconds, then rest for 30 seconds. Repeat 4-8 times depending on how good i’m feeling and how much i can take the pain. That 30 seconds isn’t near enough time for your body to recover so the pain kind of stacks up and by rep 4 they start to really hurt. The 30 second efforts go by so slow and the 30 second rests go by so fast. After that i’ll do 1 minute efforts followed by 2 or 3 minutes rest, repeat 4-6 times. These don’t hurt quite as bad as the body has more time to recover between reps. Sometimes, if i’m still feeling good i’ll do a few all out 15-20 second sprints, then 15 minute cool down. While all these efforts hurt, they do a great job of prepping me for crits by simulating the efforts you have to make in a crit. They also help to pass the time on the trainer. It’s certainly better than just hopping on and doing 30-45 minutes of light intensity while watching tv that happen on my light training days.

I think the crit intervals i’ve been doing are certainly helping (i’ve never really done intervals before), but also the racing i’ve been doing seems to he helping my form along better than i had predicted. Who knew that a 40 minute ride would be one of the most productive of the week physiologically?

My problem may come in the early summer when the crit season (early in the bike racing season) begins to fade out and the road racing season (usually the second half of the bike racing season, but there is significant overlap) starts up. Right now i’m getting into good shape for crits where races are flat and short with high speeds and require riders to make hard and fast accelerations. It’s more important to have explosive power than to be light. Road races, on the other hand, are longer (3-5 hours) and happen at slower speeds over hilly roads. Here it is more important to be light for the climbs and have endurance.

While i have focused on keeping training rides under 90 minutes recently, as the year goes on i need to make sure i build my endurance in preparation for road racing season and bring heavy amounts of climbing back into my regimen. I need to focus on my diet and make sure to eat enough carbs so that i don’t bonk, make sure to eat lean protein so i can lose fat without losing muscle, and keep eat healthy amounts of fruit and veggies. However, quantity is very important (and usually where i struggle). I need to keep my caloric intake high enough that i can train efficiently without bonking, but low enough so that i can slim down for road racing season and lose the gut. And most of all, my junk food intake needs to come down, especially the ice cream. Just because it’s low fat ice cream doesn’t mean it doesn’t count. I usually do pretty well when we cook at home, it’s going out on the weekend where i get into trouble. Lastly, i need to do a better job of not gorging on food when i get back from a ride where i bonked. Supposedly, it takes your body 20 minutes to realize that it’s full. I’m a remarkably fast eater. I can eat a whole lot in 20 minutes. I really need to slow down.

If i can do all these things, and constantly be aware of the transition i need to make from crit shape to road race shape, i should be okay. I sit at 165 right now. Getting down to 155 would be great, 150 would be even better. Lower than that and i imagine i’ll just start losing power (and i don’t think i have the discipline to get below that).

Bottom line at the end of all this rambling before i head off to work: things are going really well. My ‘crit shape’ has experienced quite a bump in the last 10 days, but i need to make sure and remember that road races are on the horizon.

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