Mitchell is only two weeks away and I hate I didn't get this out earlier but there is still time to improve. You can also use the included workouts to better yourself for events later in the season. The last session left off with a couple of different types of intervals and I'm going to introduce you to a few more, these being in the hills and the mountains. Over the last month I've been doing some hill workouts across the rolling terrain of Spartanburg County every Monday night. I've been fortunate to have a few folks show up to keep me company. The hills vary in pitch, length, and the time it takes to climb them but they all have one thing in common and that's the feeling you have when you crest the top. Remember the first time you ever had an ice cream cone and it dripped all over your hand as you tried to rush to get it all in your mouth before it turned into a puddle and you thought "Oh My Gosh why didn't my parents get me one of these sooner how could they have not told me about this GOODNESS before now?!?!?" Well, that's not the feeling you're apt to have. You should feel wrenched in the gut and totally wiped out. Like an alligator has your soul in a death roll at the bottom of a murky pool of water. Sorta like when you turned 40 and lactose intolerance kicked in and you realized you could never have another ice cream cone again. Yeah, more like that. Shaky legged and vowing to never do one of these again, you soldier on at a slow recovery pace to the next one only to repeat these wonderful feelings. These are big chainring efforts meant to increase your power and are definitely not Mitchell specific. They will help you hang on to group rides as the local hammerheads punch it on the hills. They may even help you win races requiring this type of kick at the end. Regardless, big power is nice to have yet hard to acquire. If you never practice it, you'll never get it. I've tried to provide a place to get it while while folks can be assured they won't get dropped after the effort is over. The efforts are less than two minutes and the recovery pace of the group is enforced so no one is put under pressure for the few miles to the next hill and everyone can focus on putting their all into the next jam. You should focus on the effort and finish it out as your strength will come from not giving up and completing the exercise. If you only do a few half hearted intervals then you will see only limited, if any, improvement. Complete all 7 or 8 efforts at your maximum and you WILL see results. Okay, maybe not Cancellara results but I've been pleased to see a couple of participants show incredible improvement in only three weeks. Their improvement is not only in the strength they've gained but in their determination and the ability to focus on a goal. I read a quote once that fits preparing for a cycling event like Mitchell perfectly. "The desire to win is nothing without the desire to train." Can't remember who said it. I've seen a lot of people this season showing the desire to train.
During this phase of building power I am also doing climbing intervals in the mountains. These focus on improving recovery as well as building strength. We have several mountains in the area to use and most are in the 6-8% range and are at least 2 or 3 miles long. Starting at the base after a good warm up, I begin efforts lasting two minutes at about 102% of my calculated threshold and then recover for two minutes at 60% of threshold. Most of the climbs allow for at least 5 intervals of this length. As the season progresses, I'll increase the time at 102% and decrease the recovery. These are called "over and unders." For example I might be 3 minutes over threshold and one minute under. These types of workouts are excellent for increasing the pace you can sustain on a climb.
Most coaching and training methods require that you calculate your threshold. In order to do this you'll need a heart rate monitor and you'll have to do a short time trial. Complete a 30 minute TT and take the average heart rate of the last 10 minutes and use that rate as your threshold. It might not be as exact as getting your blood tested to create a threshold/heart rate curve but it will provide you with a good starting point and it is a lot cheaper. Use this number to also calculate recovery ride heart rates as well as tempo rates.
The last type of training I've done for this year's Assault isn't an interval. It's been just plain old long distance riding. Hopefully you've been able to get some long mileage in this season and if you've been able to do some rides that approximate the time you'll be on the bike for Mitchell, all the better! I've been fortunate to be able to get in five rides with our local group and a group in Charleston that have been at the 100 mile mark. These ranged from a 4 hour ride time to a 6.5 hour time. With these rides of varying intensity and terrain I feel well prepared for the event. Our club rides in the Spartanburg area have been grueling steady affairs with multiple climbs that I've mostly done at a more relaxed pace. I've been doing the short interval rides hard and the longer rides at a more relaxed pace with the odd exception to see how I feel at longer distances with a few intense efforts thrown in. This is what works for me and as my form gets better I'm able to put out more intensity combined with longer rides.
If you have not been able to do a century this year in preparation for the Assault, don't worry. It's not necessary. It might make it easier for you but it's definitely not a requirement. You might be able to finish the ride with time to spare even if your longest ride is only 50 miles as long as you've been getting mileage in consistently and have been doing some elevated intensity. Don't expect to pass Boyd Johnson on the climb but do expect to have a great ride and revel in the scenery and camaraderie. Your "style", like mine, would be to have a great event and enjoy the day! I hope to see YOU at the top of Mitchell!