Thursday, January 13, 2011

Assault Training: Roadblocks and Decisions

So you made the decision to train for one of the 2011 Assaults, and even set a date for starting your committed training—maybe January 1.

And now you have found yourself under snow and ice (that's the case in SC and 48 other states) as you sit in front of your computer and read emails announcing the training series. This leads me to offer a few ideas about roadblocks to training and decisions about training schedules.

Today I will be mounting the trainer for an hour for the third day in a row—equaling the number of times I have ridden a trainer in total over the past three or four years (Tuesday I rode while watching STRIPES, and Wednesday was GOOD WILL HUNTING). As my cycling friends know, I detest trainers and working out inside. I ride during the day (fortunate to have a profession that allows for this) and even join the many night rides that are usually offered in the Spartanburg, SC, area during the months we are trapped waiting for daylight savings time.

As I have posted before, I believe a key to cycling training is a dedicated pattern to riding. Cycling is a cumulative sport; I am currently in a pattern of riding that has included riding 4-5 days a week year-around since December 2003. I have been riding for almost thirty years now, as well. I benefit from cumulative fitness, riding skills and knowledge, and routine.

One recent addition to my cycling commitment is a daily stretching routine, one I have learned from Dave Kingsbury in Greenville, SC. I visiting Dave every 3 weeks or some for therapy, and I stretch each day to support my cycling and overall health.

Many cyclists lift weights or run, especially throughout the winter—so everyone should seek some cycling-specific additions to their training as alternatives when roadblocks pop up.

But, as with nutrition, I can't tell anyone else a definite plan for training—or a strategy for overcoming roadblocks and barriers to training.

Except you need to make a plan, recognizing that the plan will have to be adjusted from time to time.

This is how I teach people to teach as well. To train for a cycling event OR teach well, you need a purposeful plan and you need the ability to adjust when necessary.

And that leads me to my final thought—what should you do about the organized training series (or any organized rides) during your training plan for one of the Assaults?

Consider the pros and cons.

You definitely need to do several group rides and regularly, both for fitness and for bicycle handling (increasing your comfort with intense pack riding). For me, riding intensely with other strong riders pushes me harder than I can push myself.

But as a frame of reference, I have chosen both to do and to skip the infamous Marquis de Sade ride that is a traditional part of the Assault training series. On more than one occasion, I have ridden really badly at the MdS—getting dropped from the group I usually stay with, even on climbing rides. The MdS route doesn't match my riding style (I climb OK, but am notoriously bad at grunt hills). I have had great climbing days up Hwy 215 on our Table Rock century loop and barely completed MdS.

So, what I want to emphasize is this: Just because somebody you know or respect says, "The MdS is the best training ride for the Assault," doesn't mean that it is for YOU. If you choose to do it (or any organized ride), fine. If you have a bad day, so what? Learn something from the bad day. If you do another ride that better suits your needs, also fine.

Beware peer-pressure!

Now, group rides are by their nature roadblocks themselves to individual needs and programs. To meet your own cycling needs, group rides often either force riders to set personal goals aside or individual riders find themselves disrupting the group rides by following their own needs instead of the announced guidelines from the ride leaders.

Before committing to any organized ride or series of rides, consider your goals (How are you building base miles? How well have you followed your plan? How are you targeting your climbing rides?) and how the organized rides fit your plans and needs.

I tend to sacrifice personal goals for group rides because I enjoy riding with groups and tend to avoid highly structured training (such as intervals). For me, riding with groups and allowing group dynamics to provide me base miles, climbing, and intensity works for me—but it may not for you.

A final thought about roadblocks and decisions: My cycling friends and I have noticed lately that the ideal compromise between riding alone and riding in large groups is a smaller group of about 6-10 riders with about the same ability and goals for riding.

When you make your decision about training, you may find support and structure from creating a small group of like-minded cyclists to guide your training.

Paul Thomas, EdD, Associate Professor
Furman University

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