This has been the first season that I’ve really worked hard through the winter. The winter here has been alternating between unseasonably warm and unseasonably cold. It’s Iowa, so “warm” means in the high 30’s to low 40’s, just to put things in perspective. The past couple weeks have had highs in the teens and twenties, so no chance for outdoor riding. Thus 90% of my training this winter has been indoors.
I did my last race in mid-August of last year. I decided that my best strategy would be to take a few weeks off (I was pretty burned out), and then just work to keep up as much fitness as possible. From September through early November I would ride regularly, and do intervals once a week or so to try to hold onto some fitness. Then when things got too cold I went back inside and got on a regular training plan. So in my mind I’ve been “training” since September, but only in a structured way since December.
My general strategy (since December) has revolved around polarized training, which basically means doing easy rides easy, and hard rides hard. I spend roughly 80% of my time doing zone 2 rides on the trainer, which is exceptionally boring. I spend the other 20% doing intense, medium length intervals (4 x 8 min is a favorite of mine). I haven’t been able to ride with other people for several months now, so I can’t really gauge where my fitness is. However, I do feel that the Z2 rides have been helpful. Just the other day the weather picked up a little bit and I went out and rode (with low-intensity) for almost three hours. That’s a long enough time for me that if I were just doing 2×20’s or something during the winter, I would not have been able to comfortably ride that long. The first group rides should be starting in a few weeks, so I’ll have a better idea where I stand at that point. I just wrapped up my Base period, so next week I’ll start doing more serious interval training.
My plan for the next three weeks (Build 1) is to do two days of intervals and three days of Z2 / skills work each week. One day of intervals will probably be 4×8 again, and the other day something much shorter, like 1 minute intervals, which last season I found work extremely well for me.
One final note is that the first race of the season is quickly approaching! The traditional “first race” is the Kent Park Classic, which is an extremely hilly 4 mile loop, repeated 6 times. It’s incredibly brutal, especially coming so early in the season (end of March, traditionally). Last year I raced it as a 5 after spending a month or two doing 20 minute intervals on the trainer. Suffice to say, I was vastly under-prepared, got dropped on the first lap, and pulled out after three laps. This year I’ll be racing it as a Cat 4. I’ll do a separate post dedicated to that race, but since it’s so hard my main “strategy” will be to hang on and hope for the best!