It took a long time but I found the perfect training mix for any cyclist. Get ready to print this page out and go on your scavenger hunt, checking off each ingredient as you go, but first visit your local apothecary and pick up a mortar and pestle for proper mixing.
1. Rubber tread off the tires from Eddy Merckx's first Paris Roubaix victory
2. Bottom bracket grease from Marshall "Major" Taylor's first World Championship
3. Five of Fausto Coppi's hairs
4. LA's missing… well… you know
Grind these ingredients up, sift into an iron cauldron with your brew of choice, and then place over a fire in the middle of the field between these two teams and have them chant a testosteroneish Haka over it. For maximum effectiveness you should chant along. Drink up. Win everything.
As you can see and as you have found out through all the training you've done or are about to do, there is no magic mix or voodoo laden method that will get you to your goals. Incremental improvements can translate to hours and hours of hard work on the bike. There is no other way. But really… how do you get there? First you have to define "there."
Step one is identifying your goal. Many people suggest writing it down. After you've done that you can get a calendar if you have a specific event in mind and then plot out the days you can work out between starting your training and your event. You'll begin to see how many hours it will take as well as the dedication and consistency necessary to achieve your goal. The next step might be to refine your goal. By that I mean to establish the style. Blogger Boyd Johnson has an incredibly stylish goal of 5 hours for Mt. Mitchell. That will require a LOT of hours per week. My goal is considerably less stylish (some might even say garish instead of stylish!) so I won't require nearly as many hours. After establishing a style you might even have to refine it as the reality of your abilities becomes apparent. You might realize you are more capable than you thought and thereby reset your goal for 15 minutes or even an hour faster, who knows!!! I developed the following guide to show goals and the approximate hours required to meet them:
Mitchell in a time of 5 hours = about 18 hours a week of suffering = incredibly stylish
Cruise neighborhood and enjoy the flowers blooming = go get on the bike now and do it = incredibly stylish as well
For some folks, cruising the neighborhood IS a challenge. For others it may not be a challenge but getting out and enjoying the sunshine and the sights in a relaxed manner is what they enjoy doing and most of us identify with that on some level. It's not up to me or anyone else to determine or judge your goal.
Once you have a goal and a time frame then it's time to get busy. Most of us have spent a lot of the winter and early spring doing base miles as well as a smattering of some higher intensity stuff. As the temperatures started climbing so did we, so some of us have a few weeks in the mountains under our belts as well.
What is "higher intensity stuff?" How do you train in the mountains? How, exactly, do you train for Mitchell??? That all depends on your goals and that line is not a cop out. It really does. I'll get into the training in the mountains topic next week but for now will give some examples of higher intensity stuff and the reasons I do these specific workouts.
I like to keep things simple so I use only a few basic workouts. The first I do are mini time trials. These are simply three mile time trials. I do these in sets of three. I ride three miles for time and then recover for 10 minutes and then repeat two more times. These are completed at the absolute max effort I can sustain for three miles. I do these because it's fast (I can warm up, work out, and cool down in less than an hour and a half), it's effective (it helps increase my speed and strength pretty rapidly if I have a good base), it's useful (it's great for simulating late race moves or the effort needed to bridge a gap), and it's very measurable so I can gauge improvements or overtraining. It's also exhausting so plan on a real recovery ride the next day in order to reap the benefits of this. I usually only do this once a week and might alternate weeks with the following workout.
I do the next intervals after I've done at least a couple of day's worth of the mini TT's at the beginning of the season. The reason for this is to get my body ramped up to this level of exertion gradually as these are at a higher level of intensity and I want all connective tissue and muscles brought to this effort in stages to reduce the chance of injury. After a good warm up that includes a couple of 15 second 90% efforts, the interval is as follows. In the description "on" means max effort you can sustain for the time and "off" means pedaling with little resistance to recover:
60 secs on, 30 secs off, 50 secs on, 25 secs off, 40 secs on, 20 secs off, 30 secs on, 15 secs off, 20 secs on, 10 secs off, 10 second sprint / repeat multiple times after at least 5 min recovery in between
This may seem to contradict what I said about keeping it simple but after you do it a couple of times you'll get into a groove and not think about it too much. I find this workout allows me to recover quickly after hard efforts. Couple this with the previous workout and you can begin to acquire the tools to help you form your strategy for races or your local Tuesday Night World Championships or even just completing a group ride with your friends that you might not have been able to finish before. How do these fit into a plan for Mt. Mitchell? Here's where the goals come in. If you want to stay with the leaders or one of the front groups, there are numerous accelerations and just plain hard hilly sections all the way to Marion. Interval sessions such as the two I have described will give you the strength and recovery to weather the storm and keep your goals in reach. Even if you have no interest in staying near the front, these sessions will still enable you to finish stronger. I'll have some mountain specific workouts next week.