In case you haven’t noticed, I am a believer in Joe Friel’s “old” training methods. For one, they have worked for me in the past. But, there are many philosophies for cycling training. Supposedly when , likely the greatest cyclist of all time, was asked his training philosophy, he replied “Ride lots.” Friel’s old school methodology (constantly evolving, but based on Tudor Bompa’s work from 1963) utilizes the theory of periodization; the use of training cycles throughout the year. Specifically, this includes ‘base miles’.
These go by various names in cycling circles. LSD (Long Slow Distance) rides, “Zone 2″ (Friel’s heart rate zone), or simply “base”. Many professionals utilize this system of long, ‘easy’ rides during the earliest part of their training. The pace is not just ‘easy’. I find I have to keep a conscious effort to keep pressure on the pedals to keep my wattage in the proper range. It is a little harder than an easy ride, but despite the increased effort, it is one that I can sustain for hours on end.
Some coaches and authors are advocating a newer approach, keeping high intensity training throughout the season. They argue, especially for amateur athletes (Chris Carmichael’s The Time Crunched Cyclist) that since amateurs don’t have 20+ hours per week to train, they will benefit from efforts with more focused intensity.
I have only had my PowerTap since September, 2009. Unfortunately this means I don’t have any power data for the first half of my return to cycling to analyze exactly when I got faster. Add to this cyclocross season with limited data for 2009 and none for 2010, and I’ve got a few blank spots. However, from my results I can see that I improved during fall 2009 using high intensity for cyclocross (going from a newly minted Cat 3 license to an upgrade after 8 races). So I can say that intensity works.
However, my most focused training since my comeback, Spring 2010, consisted of focused base miles almost exclusively. TrainingPeaks only saw my PowerTap data, and likely under-estimated my hours by about one hour per week, but I still never put in more than ~11 hours per week. Those hours were focused base rides with the exception of the local hard group ride once every other week. After three months with no threshold riding or intervals, I rode 326w NP for 50 minutes trying to catch back on after flatting at the Boulder Roubaix, nearly my best power numbers of 2010 without any intense training beforehand.
So where does this leave me? Ride Lots. For 2010, I will be setting up a similar program to last year, in hopes I see similar improvement. I will have similar hours, and will follow Friel’s periodization. I know I developed a good top end during cyclocross and although I didn’t test my FTP, I assume it was near or above my best. However, I haven’t done any endurance training in four months. Today’s ride was a reminder of the metabolic demands of long rides: I bonked.
During cyclocross season I only did very intense, short workouts. I ate a lot of carbohydrates, including over the holidays. My body learned to use carbs very effeciently as its preferred fuel source. This is great for an hour cyclocross race, but in a four hour road race (or as I saw today, a three hour training ride), it leaves me vulnerable to running out of fuel very quickly. My spring training will utilize primarily ‘zone 2′ rides so I can re-train my metabolism for the demands of road racing. I will still do the every other week to keep up with the intensity, and some social contact.
Compared to 2010, there will be a few changes for 2011: I will have to be more careful of my schedule with the new baby, but I think I can keep the hours the same as last year if I plan carefully. I am also going to incorporate more cross training (mostly running) since it allows me to workout with the baby, and hopefully will keep my bone density higher than last year. Also, I am moving the schedule up one month, so I can be on decent form for , which will be the biggest road race I’ve ever attended.
Below is my Annual Training Plan. The Excel template is available from the website. The six races I’m targeting are listed as “A” Races. There are four “B” races, and the rest are “C”. I raced 30 days of road racing last season. This season I will be more selective and will be skipping some lower priority races, as I can do a workout with only a few hours away from home, instead of taking most of a day to race.
I’ve also included my weekly hours in the chart. The goal is lower than last year’s plan, but if I stick to the plan I will be putting in a couple more hours than in 2010. I’ve looked at my weekly schedule, and I think I can put in the hours if I make sure to make efficient use of my time on, and off, the bike.