Oh boy, so it’s been a few days. Actually, right after the one-year anniversary of the blog, I sort of took a little involuntary hiatus. Work, life, long base miles and a bunch of other stuff just got in the way with no time to write, but more importantly, not much going on with my cycling to write about. My Achilles tendon told me to stop racing cross or it wouldn’t heal up in time for the real pressures of the road season, so I’ve simply been clipping away at the base miles, desperately looking forward to when I can get some good interval training going and grind out some major wattage!
The training overall is going great. This is the strictest I’ve been with my base ever. Despite the fact that it’s difficult to keep my HR in zones 1 and 2 on team rides, 90 percent of my time in the saddle these days is still in that range, and with over 1K base miles already in the bag, I figure a little effort here and there can’t hurt that much. I will admit, as I’ve mentioned before, base can be a very mind-numbingly boring phase, but I’m hoping to reap the benefits of it come peaking time.
Aside from just base training, there are a few specific aspects of my current training I feel deserve a highlight.
I’ve written about it previously here and here, but this is the first season where I really got religious with the performance manager (PM) options, tracking the stress all my workouts are placing on my body, and most importantly, making sure that recovery weeks are actually recovery weeks.
This is also tangentially related to taking to heart Joe Friel’s advice with regard to tracking workout volume. I used to always track volume in terms of miles. This was probably for no better reason than others would appreciate a number of miles more than a number of hours. When I tell someone, “I rode 250 miles this week!” – they sometimes go, “Ahh! Ooh!” But when I tell someone I put in 18 hours on the bike this week, they scratch their head and go “huh?” and sometimes ask if I have a full-time job. However, tracking time has been very beneficial for staying focused and not worrying about having to ride around the block because the weekly target mileage has fallen short. It’s also helpful with tracking gym time, which of course has no miles.
I’ve been riding these more and more, and no longer on the trainer. Nowadays, all the PC work is happening outdoors and I’m enjoying it quite a bit. As I’ve mentioned previously, it’s a challenge and makes even the easy recovery rides interesting because while I’m pedaling lightly, I’m still training my muscle memory to fire the fibers in proper sequence, and I no longer have issues with the pedal stroke while on PCs. Now it’s all about building up stamina to go long distance on them.
The most recent PC workout was on Tuesday, when I did one 40-minutes set at tempo, averaging about 210 watts at HR of 159 (my zone 3 tops out at 162). The first five and the last 10 minutes were the hardest. For the first five minutes, my hip-flexors were telling me to go “F” myself due to some residual soreness, but then the muscles got used to the motion and that wasn’t an issue at all. I went through the first 30 minutes without any issues whatsoever, but as I crawled closer and closer to the 40-minute mark, I did hit a few dead spots and heard the familiar clunk. This only happened three or four times over the last 10 minutes, but it was still a sign of fatigue, which signals two things. First, more time on PCs is needed to build up stamina. Second, and most obvious, when I get tired, the pedal stroke gets sloppy.
The greatest benefit I feel I’m already getting from riding on PCs is my climbing feels much more comfortable. I’m not making a claim that I’m all of a sudden flying uphill. Given that I’m still in base, no serious hill training has yet taken place, but I am saying that my biomechanics are working better. I’m having a much easier time relaxing most of my upper body and just pedaling from the core. I’m very curious to see what will happen once I get to the build phase and actually start doing hill repeats on PCs.
I’ve written about dieting before, but this season, as with most aspects of my training, I’m taking a slightly different approach. After dropping a significant (to a cyclist) number of pounds last year, I’ve figured out how my body works and loses weight. I can lose a ton of weight in a very short period of time by going into a huge calorie deficit, but my body fights me every step of the way. The lowest I saw my weight last year was 165, but I raced most of my races at about 175. However, currently, my body is very comfortable in the 170-172 range (as compared to 175-178 range of early this year).
I learned this year that I can’t make major swings and keep the weight off. I have to go very gradually and then my body has an easier time cooperating with my dieting and getting used to its new weight.
As far as the actual methods, while there’s still a lot of focus on how many calories go into my body in a given day, I’m much more careful about when I eat and what I eat at different times of the day. I make sure to have a big breakfast, which also often serves as my recovery meal. It has to have proteins, soluble fiber and a good number of carbs. At lunch, I make it my goal to eat the lion’s share of my daily carbohydrates. This way, I can burn most of them off with daily activities like walking around, sitting in my chair at work and typing this blog. For dinner, I end the day with a protein and fill up on my veggies.
One “problem” with training a lot is that my metabolism goes through the roof and I’m perpetually hungry. An effective way I’ve found to deal with this is to snack mostly on fruit and sometimes nuts. I think I’m up to about five to six servings of fruit per day. This probably exceeds the recommended amounts, but the weight stays in check and I’m not miserable and hungry – win, win!