Sunday, March 14, 2010

Training for a Breakaway (With a Few Final Updates)

Here’s a sketch of my training schedule leading up to the April 25 Amgen Breakaway from Cancer ride, which follows the 2010 Tour of California Stage 2 route from Davis to Santa Rosa. Updates since the original post are in green and red and lilac and orange and brown:

DateMilesClimb (feet)Ave mileAve mphHR (ave/max)Ave slopeNotes
Sat 2/2033.232,1854:2813.4140/1741.25%31:15 Old La Honda climb
Sun 2/2845.62,9464:2213.64151/1741.22%Palos Verdes
Sat 3/6503,7504:3413.12148/1661.42%32:xx 1st OLH climb, 35:xx 2nd
Sat 3/1361.965,5774:5512.12140/168 (est.)
1.70%31:07 1st OLH climb, 34:xx 2nd (after Kings Mtn Road climb)
Sat 3/2072.565,0824:2213.74140/168 (est.)
1.33%Palos Verdes. Kept a lot of the climbing but improved speed.
Sun 3/2885.555,5484:3113.27135/166 (est.)
1.23%Palos Verdes. Still working on speed. An hour faster than same route 6 months ago (9/19/09, 5:20 mile, different bike). Had great speed on weekday rides, but this felt like an off day. Watching for burnout.
Sat 4/366.356,6995:1011.62141/1681.91%Recon actual hills for 4/25 climbs. Focus on climbing. Descents getting better too. Only a couple of sections go past brutal into a special place. Most of the climbs are tough but doable. Nice little ride.
Fri 4/9
27.421,4604:1913.86144/1731.01%Had a longer ride in mind, but when a 3-year-old nephew says doughnuts are on the line, you cut it short and get home early. Hit a good couple of climbs; strength good, speed fair.
4/17-18rest week-----Maybe a light spin somewhere, but mostly let legs save up for next week. Rode 14 mostly flat miles (except one sheer wall I had to try for fun), to the bike store and back. Held to a very easy pace, on purpose.
Sun 4/251095,7514:2213.75145/1850.99%Amgen Breakaway Ride 2010
Sat 5/162.5

3,8814:0414.66151/179 (est.)
1.17%Hated to waste all that training and let the legs atrophy, so I jumped in the car and headed for the Avenue of the Oaks Metric Century (100K) in Fallbrook, California. A lovely day in swooping hills under spring skies. And it turned out that yeah, those legs of mine were turning just fine.

So far I’m probably ahead of myself for the hill attack; yesterday I climbed nearly as much as I expect to in the final ride. Legs get tired, but when I hit the actual course, I will bring some confidence, knowing I’ve done as much in a single day and more.

I need to extend my endurance, which is mostly a matter of putting the miles (and hours) into my legs, and I hope to ramp up my speed. Right now, with a lot of uphill miles, my overall speeds on long rides have been fairly low. I’d like to go uphill faster, and I can beef up my speed on flat roads too. Part of this is boosting heart-rate endurance. Some of it is making sure I refuel right.

On the day of the ride, more than half the climbing—both major climbs, plus some smaller hills—will come more than 50 miles into the route. That means I’ll be hitting the first really steep slope after my legs have already had a good workout. My training so far has simulated the steep parts of the route, so I know I can make it up those hills . . . when I’m fresh. Now my job is to get used to getting tired first, then hitting the climbs.

I’ve been paying attention to heart rate, since that’s a major factor in how much energy I have and how fast I can go or how hard I can climb. It’s not so hard to get good burst energy in the first part of a long ride, but sustaining that energy over several hours is a different thing. Part of it is learning how much you need to refuel along the way. No matter how much you train, if you don’t add calories after burning through whatever you had for breakfast, you’re going to end up crawling along.

My overall average heart rate tells me how well I refueled along the way. My maximum heart rate is a yardstick for how fresh I was when I started the ride. Generally after a travel day, or after a lot of training, I’m not in peak form. In April, it’s a given that I’ll be traveling to the ride, staying in an unfamiliar place, then getting up too early to get to the start line. Knowing that, I’ll still do what I can to make sure I start with a full tank. The adrenaline of an event day makes up for some shortfall.

So with a fair amount of climbing in my legs from the past few weeks, I now look forward to spending the next couple of weeks holding onto my mad mountain-goat skillz but spending my energy and focus on pushing up heart rate and overall speed, especially on the flats. Having both of those in better shape will also help me drive up hills faster.

Then I expect to return to a major climbing workout one more time before ride day, when I’ll scout the two major hills on the actual route, riding them first from back to front, then front to back, showing my legs what’s in store, probably taking my time and stopping to take pictures.

The table above doesn’t show all the riding I do; it leaves out shorter sprint work during the week and indoor trainer cycling in the garage after dark. But it sets out the major steps along the way. Part of the challenge is making sure that I give myself enough time between the major attacks to rest and refresh myself, so I won’t still be working through fatigue when I start the next ride. Every week I stretch my capacity.

As the weather gets warmer and less drizzly, each successive training ride gets to be more of a pleasure. The closer I get to the end of April, the more this Breakaway Ride looks like a mountain of fun.