I’ve had a fairly successful cycling year when I look back. It’s not that I was on the podium or won anything really. It was the fact that I improved on myself. I don’t need to win. I don’t need to be in the front of the race to feel good about myself. I only need to implement a training plan, compete against myself, and see some progress. That progress can be 5 watts on my threshold or it can be 20 watts on my 1 minute power. Somewhere in those numbers I can always find some improvement. That’s what keeps me interested and training to a stronger and faster me. I don’t have the natural talent, but I do have the dedication and persistence to keep trying. Sometimes it feels like I’m banging my head against the wall but then I end up breaking through another barrier. A big part of my ability to keep training and working at getting better is to review my past performance and then develop plan for the next year.
This year I saw some success by just staying consistent in my training. Consistently putting in 5 to 8 hours a week really pays off in the long run for your general fitness. It won’t make you super strong like 15 to 18 hours in the saddle will, but it keeps you sharp enough to stay mid pack. I also implemented weight training into my program this last year. Below: (Blue line is CTL, pink line is ATL, green bars are TSB, and the orange stars are 20 minute power.)
I know some cyclist endorse weight training, some are on the fence about it, and some totally think it is useless. I do it partially as an insurance policy. The studies show, as we age, bone loss can be quite significant from bicycling due to its non-load bearing activity. The extra strength training is my insurance policy against broken bones when the unfortunate crash does occur. My experience with squats, leg press, hamstring curls, and core strengthening has been a double edged sword. I was able to raise my power significantly from the 1 second to the 4 minute mark by incorporating a leg strengthening program. However, the added muscle mass did impact my ability to climb hills in road races (I was crushed at Turkey Hill this year). When I raced criteriums, I felt really strong and explosive. When I raced road races, I was struggling to keep contact with the pack during any extended climbing. I’m going to keep the weight training in place again in 2016 but focus more on criterium racing. If I wanted to do more road racing then I would focus on dropping additional weight over the winter and focus heavily on threshold work.
I paid some money this month to get a TrainingPeaks premium membership with the general training guide. I won’t call it a plan because they leave it open for a coach to insert workouts into the training guide. It is a training plan when it has workouts attached and I’m not spending money on a coach. I don’t know if this was a good investment on my dollar. I feel like the subscription to Trainerroad is a much better investment after looking at the Trainingpeaks service. You can do all the same metrics with the free Golden Cheetah software. I won’t make a decision on Trainingpeaks yet and will do my full year with TrainingPeaks to see if it is worth it. I will follow Trainerroad’s plan but input the data into Trainingpeaks.
I have also learned this year that I am a fairly rapid de-trainer. I dropped all of my volume in October for cross season while keeping the intensity and tried for a peak. The peak worked and I produced a new 20 minute power record in that peak. However, I could feel my fitness rapidly fading past 4 weeks after dropping volume (max heart rate increased by 5bmp at the end of 5 weeks of low volume/high intensity). I know some people can hold their fitness for extended periods of time by just keeping the intensity up. I cannot do that. I still need some volume to keep the legs fresh. I will continue to try and find that balance next year between volume, intensity, and peak performance. I’m always strongest 10 days after a big volume week and can only hold those gains for 3 to 4 weeks. One of my key indicators I’m starting to notice is maximum heart rate.
When I do a very structured base training program my maximum heart rate drops a bit. It’s just something I’ve noticed. Maybe my blood volume is up slightly, maybe I’ve gained some good efficiency during my base phase. The exact science comes from here (Zavorsky GS. 2000. Evidence and possible mechanisms of altered maximum heart rate with endurance training and tapering. Sports Med 29(1):13-26.) All I know is that my maximum heart rate is about 175bpm when I have a real deep base in me. My maximum heart rate starts to creep back up to 185bpm when I lose that base fitness and the de-training is in full force. This next year I will keep an eye on my heart rate to know when I’ve done enough base and when I’m starting to detrain. All good information I can use next year.
That’s it for me and this year of cycling in review. I start weight training right after Thanksgiving to help keep my bone density up. There’s only a few more races left in cross and those will just be fun races that I do. It’s time to start enjoying some great food, get away from the numbers for a few months, and get back to the squat rack. I love this change during the winter. I don’t hate the trainer as some people do. It actually gets me excited to ride outside when the winter begins to subside in March. Good luck everyone in finishing out your cross season. Best of luck to any of the guys headed to Cross Nationals this year. Some day I will get there and rings some cowbells as I admire the performance others put up due to their own dedication to the sport.