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May 2017

The next step

I have been slogging away between work and other commitments on the bike in preparation for the BCBR 2017. Right now I am couch-bound and not excited about anything beyond my next coffee/wine (after two days of racing plus working a night shift last night: yes I am sometimes stupid), but I know when the fog of fatigue lifts, I will be excited and ready for anything. Perhaps.

The road back to some form is difficult after a lot of time off. I went from form of my life to bulk couch time, and now back into it. A few weeks in, I am starting to feel like my legs are less like empty vessels, and have more pedal-hard potential; but it’s come and go, which is to be expected.

Additional challenges include being back on shift work, though I feel it’s a bit of a blessing in disguise as I can now at times ride in school hours and it omits all the 0400 riding I was doing. But night shift is a soul destroying experience, every time. So once again fatigue management is a big issue for me, as it is for many other athletes; not just shift workers.

As I employ more back-to-back long and/or hard sessions, it is becoming more important to recover well, which for me means emphasising good nutrition, rest and stretching rather than my usual lazy approach of wine and Netflix. I am sure many of you can sympathise with this experience. In addition to this, a couple of days at the gym really spikes my fatigue and hunger, as I am beginning to lift heavy weights again (plus, you have to mitigate the tried, sore legs, extra kgs and lack of speed that lifting heavy brings…).

So if you were looking at the previous training you will remember it was pretty general, and fun-orientated:

Monday: Day off or active recovery

Tuesday: Short trail ride, slightly higher intensity (work day) (<2hrs)

Wednesday: Long trail ride, focus on hills and technical trails (3-4hrs)

Thursday: Medium fireroad hill ride or road ride up the mountain (3hrs)

Friday: Off/active recovery OR short technical trail blat (1hr-1hr30)

Saturday: Long ride, mixture of fire-road, trails and mountaineering (3hr45 ride, 45min mountaineering…)

Sunday: Technical trails blat (2hr) and bushwalk (1hr)

From here, I have upped and changed a few bits, working my mesocycles into my work life (so I will start with a Saturday):

Saturday: Tough subthreshold trail ride: bulk singletrack. 1hr50.

Sunday: Technical trail riding, tempo pace but arduous trails. 3hr30/1000m elevation

Monday: Hills, subthreshold. (2x25min plus some shorter hills, finishing with singletrack) 3hrs/1500m elevation. Run dog: 25min.

Tuesday: Road miles: 2x Cooth-tha and Nebo return. 3hr30/2000m elevation.

Wednesday: off (13hr work day)

Thurs: off (75min heavy gym session: ow, 13hr work day)

Friday: 1hr recovery ride + yoga

Saturday: Ride to/from Crit: 2hr30. Nearly die from fatigue but somehow get up for a sprint!

Sunday: 100km marathon teams race with Aido, limited caffeine due to working this evening. 2x25km laps: YUK. total ride time about 2hr45 (3hrs including limited rolling: followed by 12hr night shift)

Monday: Walk the dog!

So in the 8/day cycle I have shown I have done a total of 18hrs riding + gym (not including stretching and core stability at home); a fair amount for me, who tends to prefer short and sharp. My own top end is suffering, especially with the added fatigue, but it’s all about the endgame: getting through the BCBR, which is why I am putting up with the fatigue of gym and backing up multiple hard sessions. Also, I keep trying to remind myself that it really doesn’t matter to be doing bulk strength right now, it doesn’t matter that I am fatigued and slow, it’s all a part of the process.

Bike wise, prioritised time on the MTB to replicate BCBR demands means I am feeling pretty good technically again, which is great. The legs are far from race ready but I am starting to feel like going the distance isn’t going to be an issue. Working on dominantly my aerobic system also means that the top end is a little latent, but considering the elevation and distance of BC, plus my more natural aptitude for top end (ok…it doesn’t feel like it right now!) I am avoiding working that until just prior to the race.

Backing up is hard to do, so that’s why I am trying to have a few instances of back-to-back racing and training. It ain’t pretty, but it’s necessary as much mentally as physiologically, to ensure the body and mind knows what it’s in for. You can see I have been prioritising elevation in my rides, and multiple 1500-2000m elevation rides of 3-4hrs with some intensity are going to be integral in preparing for the rugged terrain of Canada.

So what’s next?

•Race simulation block. While I am not going to go and do 7 days of hard singletrack with bulk elevation, I am pushing the backing up days out to four, with some added subthreshold and threshold intensity.

•Prioritise recovery. This one is hard because of life getting in the way. I wish I had a washing and cooking and working fairy to do those parts of my life sometimes! But perhaps this means, for me, reducing wine intake on backing up-days, prioritising ride and post-ride nutrition (which will probably help me feel less blobby in the wake of brownie-gate, too!), stretching, and getting good sleep.

•Pick your races. I am feeling particularly uninspired by most XC racing at the moment. It’s the demands, the scene, the politics, the lack of adventure, it’s all a bit dead to me. I wake up and I am like ‘why am I going??” most of the time life is so crammed that I would prefer to spend the day catching up, rather than schlepping out for a day of flagellation. I am not feeling the joy in it, but I think it may come back in the periods where I back that fatigue right off. A few races coming up will include some gravity style races, road crits, and some other races to complement BC…yeah probably some XCO too. I am not going to go out of my way to race every weekend, I have been there, done that, caught the burnout!

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Back in the game

It’s been a couple of weeks since I recommenced bicycle tournament practice, but expressly without the goal of the tournament…at least initially.

Not cracking the whip on myself hard has been a weird experience, however taking a more relaxed approach to riding and training is going pretty well right now. Without wanting to build to a peak in the same manner used for XCO National series, some more relaxed miles with emphasis on volume and backing up is exactly what I need for the BCBR 2017.

I am training to compete solidly, but mainly to enjoy the adventure. I realise that this is exactly why 95% of the athletes I coach undertake coaching; to be able to successfully complete an event, not be totally broken, and love the process. If I stop loving it, I stop doing it. I have had enough of crushing skulls for this year. Adding the adventure and escape is going to be crucial if I am going to not break myself in the process!

So how do you do this? Essentially by dialling it back: training sans power, heart rate and Strava for a while. While the technology can be reduced, you can still crank some workload. Yes, it’s harder to quantify (did we do 60 or 70km off road? How much elevation?), but in the early stages of back on the bike, bum on bike time counts for a lot.

So here’s a list of how the preparation has gone for the first couple of weeks back. With 8 weeks to go, it will increase from here but this is what the beginning entails.

  1. Get on the bike. The hard yards start with a single pedal stroke. Yes, after some accrued time off riding up to my favourite Mt G, usually a quick 2hr20 jaunt with bulk hills, turned into 2hrs45 of “why oh why oh why?”. The next week it was 2hr35, and the legs started to feel like they had something other than sausage meat in them. It starts simply by riding.
  2. Have a plan. Plans come in many forms, from meticulously planned, watt-conforming programs to looser arrangements. The important part is that you have one. By training specifically, you seek to recreate the demands of your event progressively, using periods of overload and rest to generate adaptation. It’s not a hard thing to do. For BCBR it’s a series of days that will likely take me 3-4hrs, through technical singletrack. So building up to successive hard days on hard singletrack is key.

3. Find your deficits. Thankfully for me, I have an Aido that lets me know exactly what my weaknesses are, though I am pretty insightful as to what they are myself. Knowing the nature of the BCBR trails to be rough and rooty and potentially wet: the combination of the last two I recently realised I find terrifying, it’s time to seek out tough trails in my local neighbourhood that gets as close as possible to this. We don’t have any. However, Nerang and Parklands in the wet, at a pinch, could be adequate for tech rooty trail training.

4. Implement plan. Once you have gotten back on the bike, crafted a bit of a plan and addressed the requirements of the event and your deficits, it’s time to implement the plan. Scribbling down a plan and rustling up mates to ride with you is well and good but it’s time to get the chamois time in!

THE PLAN

An example week for some early, largely unstructured training leading into BCBR for me has included:

Monday: Day off or active recovery

Tuesday: Short trail ride, slightly higher intensity (work day) (<2hrs)

Wednesday: Long trail ride, focus on hills and technical trails (3-4hrs)

Thursday: Medium fireroad hill ride or road ride up the mountain (3hrs)

Friday: Off/active recovery OR short technical trail blat (1hr-1hr30)

Saturday: Long ride, mixture of fire-road, trails and mountaineering (3hr45 ride, 45min mountaineering…)

Sunday: Technical trails blat (2hr) and bushwalk (1hr)

As you can see, the specifics aren’t very specific at this stage. No strengthies, VO2’s, threshold efforts or SST. Some athletes require more direction with their zones and durations during this time; that’s 100% ok, that’s my job!

My own volume has increased from zero hours to a solid amount (strongly mirrored by chocolate consumption: skinfold mods are not on the table right now) and the emphasis is on bike-time and increasing confidence and skill where possible. Having increased from zero hours to 15 hrs/week over the past few weeks, one has to be mindful of keeping recovery days and weeks in check, no matter how good you feel at the end of the block; it’s only ever a hard session away from coming undone and getting sick!

Anyway, stay tuned for the next update in a couple of weeks, as I build a little more structure into the plan….but probably still stay away from worrying about the power metre at this stage, and as you can see the road bike is largely absent. Hopefully by reading this you can gain some insight into how to break down an event into it’s constituent parts and replicate in training to get the most out of your time.

But the number one rule is, never forget the adventure!

 

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