Hello, world and happy New Year! I’ve been out playing in the snow for the last 10 days or so, but now I’m back and ready to blog. Today’s blog is actually pretty special - I’ve been itching to write it for some time now, but have held back until the start of 2011. It is, of course, about my goals and expectations for the upcoming racing season.
If there is a race I had to pick as the one I am focusing on the most, it would have to be Everest Challenge. The reason I’m picking this race as my focus is twofold. First, it comes at the end of the year and I will be able to use my races and training to hone the skills and endurance I will need to do better in that event. Second, and most important, no other race kicked my ass as much as EC. I can honestly say that I have never in my life suffered as much on a bike as in the last three miles of the last climb of the race. While I was very happy to finish a race which had a 33 percent drop out rate, my time from last year ,over two days, was a rather disappointing (to me) 16:59, but I hope to knock off a huge chunk of time this year. I’m going to come out and say it - I want to take 2 hours off that time! That’s right, I want this years’ time to be 15 hours or less. For the more mathematically inclined among you, that’s just shy of a 12 percent improvement. And this is how I plan to do it.
Race Weight. George Hincapie is 6’3” and 165lbs. On a good day, I’m 6’1.5” and raced all of last year at between 175 and 180lbs. This year, however, I’m determined to race at 165 or under. I may never be as good of a cyclist as Hincapie, but I can at least get down to his weight. I know that I technically should be able to get even lower due the 1.5 inch height difference, but 10+ years of powerlifting and weight training are harder to shed than unwanted fat. Currently, I’m at 167 and have until February 6 – an arbitrary deadline I set for myself – to get to my target weight of 165. I tend to be able to lose weight very easily, so I doubt it will be a problem. However, I will need to figure out how to properly fuel and train while maintaining the same weight when the season hits me full force.
Regimented training. Being light is great, but that will only get me so far, and I know it. I need to be stronger, tougher and faster, and for that, I need structure. Riding just to ride is fun, but I know that I can reap greater benefits from targeted training. I’ve come to a conclusion that for my training to be most effective, I will need to do it solo. As much as I will miss my early morning group rides, they will have to come few and far between this year if I’m to attain my goal. The Headlands will remain my stomping ground, but I will have to turn them into my fortress of solitude. Instead of a ride up to Hawk Hill followed by coffee, my mornings will be composed of intervals, hill repeats and some more intervals.
Being extremely pragmatic and mildly neurotic, I’ve set up a nice little spreadsheet for myself which outlines what training I will do on what day until the end of September. This way, I won’t have to guess what to do when I get up at 5:30 in the morning to hammer out a workout.
Indoor training. I’ve written previously about training indoors on CyleOps machines at M2, and it is not only a great off-season way to stay in shape. It helps me a great deal during the year. Having trained indoors year round before, I know that adding this to the equation will definitely produce results. Taking out variables and distracters will help me focus on building power and endurance in a structured environment. An interval on the indoor bike is all about the number, there is no pothole in the road, no car to make you swerve, no hot girl in a bikini to make you turn your head (though that one I don’t really mind) – it’s just you and a number.
Rest. This one is important. There were definitely a few times during last season where I felt I was getting really burned out physically. I’m determined not to let that happen this year, which is why in my training regiment I’ve programmed easy rides and regularly scheduled off-weeks to allow my body to recover from training and racing. I was once told that the key to being fast on the bike is knowing how to ride slowly. I intend to take that advice to heart this year. The worst way to find out you need rest is realizing you have no legs at a start of a hilly race – not fun at all.
Watts. This is the last part of my equation. Short of my bike, I just recently acquired a tool that will perhaps be one of the most important in my arsenal – a Powertap. Intervals are great, but how hard is 8 out of 10 and exactly how much is “all out”? Those are questions I used to answer by feel, but “feel” is not always accurate. Often times, it is linked to heart rate, which can be fickle and deceiving. I hope to answer all those questions with a powertap. My approximate FTP is about 330 watts, so I know that to do a hill at 80 percent of my FTP, I need to average ~270 watts over the length of the climb, regardless of heart rate or how my body feels. If all else is normal (I’m not sick or this isn’t my second workout of the day), the number is all that matters.
Race weight + regiment + indoor training + rest + watts = my key to success this year (I hope). However, taking 2 hours off EC is not my only goal this year. I enjoy racing, but I equally enjoy long endurance rides (200+ miles) that push my body and mind to their limit and force me to do something I didn’t know I could. This year, my other goal is to get the California Triple Crown, which is awarded to cyclists who complete three double centuries in a single year. Of course, I could have picked the easiest of the 20+ double centuries to complete, but that would be completely out of character for me – I chose three of the hardest: Mulholland Double (16,500ft of climb), Devil Mountain Double (18,700ft of climb) and Marin Double (14,500ft of climb). Some of you may wonder why I’m putting myself through this torture. One answer is that I really enjoy it; the other answer is that I’m slowly building myself up to attempting Furnace Creek 508 solo in 2013. But that’s for another blog entry at some later time.
Lastly, my final goal for 2011 is mileage. This one is quintessential of cyclists. Many of us set goals of how much we want to ride in a year, and I’m not falling very far from that tree. This year, I rode 6,100 miles, which was almost double of my 2009 total, due to a longer riding season and more miles per week. Next year, my goal is 8,000 miles. This is a number I not only want to achieve, but feel that I have to in order to be competitive in the Cat. 4 field.
I realize that reading about what some guy wants to do next year is not the most exciting thing, but I hope it will give ideas to some and/or motivate others. As for me, it was important to set these goals out in print as a further reminder of what I must do to achieve them.