For the previous two years, I have been highly motivated to develop fitness early in the year. I went to Europe in June in 2007 and again in June of 2008. Visions of multiple huge climbs over multiple high mileage days will give you that incentive to get fit.
Before 2006, I used to just ride pretty much however I felt like riding that day. I rode a lot of miles, and I was always fairly fit and fairly tired, but I was good at going long at moderate speeds. I had the Sunday HOWC as my one hard ride of the week, and I was completely shattered on many Mondays…but I’d ride that day if I felt like it anyway.
Of course I knew I should be doing interval type training, but who wants to do intervals when you can just go out and have fun?
Over the winter of 2006, I made a decision to see if I could get stronger and faster. After consulting with my coaching friend Justin, I came up with a strategy that involved doing several things simultaneously. First off, I started eating more nutritious foods, and I ate more frequent, but smaller meals. The plan was to get about as lean as I could get. Second, Justin came up with an “interval strategy” based on what I wanted to achieve. I use the quotes because he tried to make it less about formal intervals, and more about time at certain intensities. Last, but not least, I turned up the pace on the HOWC for the summer months. We had been riding “super strenuous” anyway, so why not make it official? Once it was official, the pace kind of became SS+.
The reason I have a hard time with high intensity intervals is that they hurt…duh! Performing all out 5-10 minute intervals that peg you at your max heart rate at the end, well, that just sounds like a ball of fun.
Since I don’t race, the best way for me to put a lot of intensity into my program, albeit not the heart rate pegging kind of intensity (tough to do for 70 miles), is on a hard group ride. The HOWC is the perfect format for that. Since I determine the mileage, and where we go, I can structure the ride around what I am trying to do at a particular time of the year. Fortunately, it seems to fit in with the timing of a lot of other rider’s plans.
Having just returned from my Northern California trip with Justin a few weeks ago, I am searching for the motivation to stick to my spring plan that has worked well for me over the last few years. With no specific cycling project in mind for the rest of 2009, I am trying to figure out exactly what I would like to accomplish on the bike this year.
I started to get serious in 2006, and then in June of 2007 I went to the Pyrenees. That was all the motivation I needed over that winter and spring, and I pretty much just repeated that when I got ready to go to the Alps and Dolomites in June of 2008. I had a pretty well roughed out plan for those trips, but I couldn’t really follow a plan for California, given the inconsistent weather we had over the winter.
At the pace we go on the HOWC, and with the typical summertime 70 miles, I’m not sure that you need much more intensity than that in a week. In fact, more intensity could be detrimental if combined with high mileage weeks. If I feel good on Sunday, I spend some time on the front of the ride, and if I am tired, I try to hide in the draft as much as I can. Either way, you still have to go up the climbs, and I usually put a lot of hard ones into the mix.
No, it’s not a race (although it resembles one at times), but going hard while being surrounded by a group of your climbing buddies is far more motivating than just trying to talk yourself into doing it in a vacuum.
So I guess it doesn’t sound like a lot of structure, but I am a little tired of that anyway. I don’t know how the professional racers do it, let alone the weekend rec racers. Lots of people tell me to use racing as a motivator, both for getting fit, and for getting out on the bike when I don’t really want to.
Hmmm, going out when I don’t really want to; that means doing a 5 hour ride in the January rain because that is what I “have” to do that day. That sounds like even less fun than just making yourself attack high intensity intervals. Besides, I don’t really like falling off much, and crashing definitely comes with the racing territory.
When I originally talked with Justin, he mentioned that what I really want to achieve is a broad fitness plateau, not a sharp peak that can be held for only several weeks. To me the real measure of fitness, and I guess how your body is ageing as well, is how fast you can go. I time myself up certain climbs for comparison purposes.
After returning from Europe in late June of 2008, I literally shattered my times on these climbs, so either I did something right last year, or I was doing something wrong before.
I know one thing for certain. I’m another year older, and those benchmarks I set for myself last July seem very high right now. Will a plan with less structure (and no big alpine mountain trip) get me back there?
I guess I’ll find out what riding hard on the HOWC, and just riding around the rest of the time, can do for me. Come on out and join me, and let’s get fit together.