Between busy work schedule and a very wintry winter, I've logged the least number of hours on the bike thus far this year than I have in at least five years. I've averaged 5.5hrs per week on the bike year to date. Last year I averaged 7.8hrs per week to this point in the season, 42% more volume. Total volume when bringing skiing into the picture is off too.
I do recognize this in my training. It is pretty well established that intensity trumps volume when you can't get the volume in. In other words, if you only have a few hours per week to ride, ride them like you mean it. Last year I was getting in 3-4hr rides most weekends in February and March. This year the best I can do is a 60-90 minute session at lunch or an occasional 2-3hr trail ride if I'm lucky.
Bike bloggers are filling their pages with epic rides in exotic places right now. 440 miles in four days? Yep, that's out there. I'll get my chance in Hawaii in two weeks, but it won't exactly be a spring training camp sausage fest. Last year I packed April with two riding trips, one to Arizona, the other to Virginia. A 100+ mile MTB ride in the desert certainly was a mental toughener.
When I look at the package deal of skiing and riding, I'm confident I'm in the best overall shape I've been in, ever. Would this translate into PR'ing a local climb right now or being able to stay in the lead pack at Battenkill next month? Most likely not. Balance has value that doesn't necessarily translate into specific results. I have one more ski event this weekend before I begin losing that balance. Perhaps this will be the summer I attempt to maintain some balance with dry land workouts.
Many athletes follow a prescribed plan to "peak." I have never subscribed to Friel's periodization technique. It's not that I don't think it works, I'm sure it does for most serious folks. It's more that I don't want to put all my training reward eggs into a small basket. Say I did periodize my training to peak in August for the Mt Washington hillclimb. I would be giving up some performance early and later in the season to attain a brief bump-up in performance. I might even be able to achieve a stellar result. What is the value of this? Will it add to my self worth? Bragging rights? I see a few athletes that attach too much self worth to how they perform at certain events. When the goal has not been reached, they are in the dumps, ready to hang up cycling.
While being competitive is important too me, it is only a portion of the total return on training investment. Traveling to new places and doing 4-5hrs rides several days in a row have at least as much value as a podium finish. It's not about the result. At 46yrs old, I am blessed to be able to do this. With a sour economy and everybody that is still working having to work harder, I see many at the office losing the battle of the bulge. My training is the reward, not simply a means to some other reward.
I did get in a couple good lunch rides this week. Tuesday, still messed up from stairclimb repeats last Friday, I went out with Steve G to hit some real hills. This was the first big hill work on the bike I've done since last year. We did an Uncanoonuc/Chestnut loop. Alpe d'Unc, as some call it, gains about 1000ft. The last 600ft are steep. I was wicked slow but pushed wicked hard. I never cease to be on the verge of puking on this 6-8 minute climb.
Wednesday I had a 1hr window to ride, and while the rest of the lunch gang was still airing up tires and such, I made it their bounden duty to chase me down. They left about 2 minutes after I did. About 10 miles out on Boston Post Rd, I see triathlete Dan and Steve gaining on me. Dan is one of the region's top Olympic distance tri-guys. On his aero bike into the wind, he can out ride me on classic road bike. There were a series of small rollers coming up. I put my head down and left nothing on the table going over the rollers. They neutralize Dan's aero benefits. I avoided getting caught before Dan turned off. I didn't know he turned off, so I continued to bury myself the rest of the way back. This ride was essentially a Mt Washington TT effort. I stayed right at threshold for 68 minutes. So does this ride count if I don't have any quantitative power, HR or other baseline metrics to compare it too? Absolutely. Playing the role of rabbit positively pushed me harder and longer than I could have just riding solo.