I'm learning that after a long, forced break from riding, I recover quite quickly after punishing efforts. This may be due to not pushing intensity too high. Today I changed that. I attempted VO2max intervals for the first time in nearly three months. These are the staple of my training, where I believe I derive the greatest bang per kilojoule expended.
There are variants of two loops from work I do frequently. When there is a need for speed or steady threshold work, there's the Boston Post/Rt 101 loop, with no steep climbs and some long stretches with no traffic interference. For VO2max work, I prefer a loop with short climbs that last 3-6 minutes. A Pine Hill Rd/Ting Hill Rd/Ponemah Hill Rd loop fulfills this need. Notice all the roads have "hill" in the name.
I wasn't sure what to expect. VO2max intervals are unpleasant when I'm in peak form. They especially suck when you are having an off day. I wasn't exactly fully recovered from Sunday's three hour trail ride. I was pleasantly surprised by how well things went. I din't have my PowerTap mounted, but I was able to sustain some pretty long, intense out of the saddle efforts cresting these hills. My ankle is finally strong enough to tolerate this. I rode with DanM, and we did four solid VO2max efforts with a couple threshold efforts along the way. This certainly stressed things in my legs beyond anything I've done so far. I'm curious to see how quickly residual effects dissipate.
A few readers have cautioned me in comments and emails about doing too much too soon. Racing would be a bad idea, as you don't think rationally in the heat of battle. That is why I'm forfeiting Leadville in a couple weeks (and I'd probably DNF anyway). I've always felt I listen to my body well. I've been riding pretty hard for 13 years now and have not experienced any kind of overuse injury. Maybe good genetics is a factor here. There are times where I recognize my body needs a short break. There's training block fatigue, and there's over training. One is beneficial, the other bad. Without an independent observer, say a coach, it may not be easy to tell when normal fatigue crosses over into over training fatigue.
For now, my body seems to soak everything up I throw at it. I don't notice much imbalance between the legs on the bike anymore. In fact, my left calf has gained nearly an inch in girth in the last two weeks. That is substantial recovery in muscle mass. There is only about 0.5" difference in the girth of my calves now, although the definition and shape between the two is still vastly different.
Planning to up the ante again this weekend by riding the Jay Peak 186k (see sidebar) on Saturday with one or two other riders. This ride increases mileage by 28% and vertical by 50% from last weekend. Forecast looks spectacular. The pace will definitely be more subdued than last weekend's ride in the Whites if I'm to survive. More endurance work is needed before I can ramp up the shorter, high intensity efforts. Plus I would really like to be in shape enough to travel somewhere for several days of epic trail riding this fall. If you are interested in joining me Saturday and are cool with a more relaxed pace than a typical Hill Junkie mountain fest, let me know.