For years, I’ve been training the same old way: starting with shorter rides and slowly building up to longer rides. I’d get a little faster along the way, but I’d always reach a plateau that I couldn’t rise beyond. I’ve long wanted to do a six hour century ride but even when I do everything right I can’t seem to break six and a half hours.
This year I’m doing two things differently. First, I’m making an honest effort to lose weight. Weight loss begins in the kitchen, and I’m really trying to watch what and how much I eat. Believe me, it’s tough. I haven’t completely given up on soda, but the 12-pack in the refrigerator is diet, and I’m not drinking a half dozen of them every day like I used to. It helps that Debra changed her diet back in March. Most of the time I eat the same thing she does for dinner. No more Papa John’s Pizza in the middle of the week, and we don’t go stuff ourselves with monster burgers any more. And working at home, I’m able to be a bit more selective in what I eat for lunch. So far, it’s working. I’m down 20 pounds from my high at the end of February. My goal is to lose 15 more.
The other thing I’ve done differently is I’ve engaged the training services of Cycle Camp USA. For a monthly fee, a trainer designs my weekly workout schedule and spends about 30 minutes with me each week on the phone, talking about the results from the previous week’s workouts and goals for the upcoming week. I’ve been working with them for a month, and the results so far are spectacular. My speed at low intensity (60 to 65 percent max heart rate) has increased 20% in just those four weeks. My speed at higher heart rates (80 to 85 percent) isn’t 20% higher, but I’m able to maintain those high heart rates much longer and recover faster.
The difference in the training is remarkable, too. I’m actually riding less now than when I scheduled my own training, and half of my rides are in the 60 to 65 percent zone. I’m doing four workouts per week: two of them are “long rides” of two hours or more at 60 or 65 percent max heart rate. The other two are speed or strength workouts: sprints, hill repeats, etc. Those typically have a 15 minute warm up, about an hour of hard riding, and a 15 minute cool down. They’re hard workouts, for sure, but doable.
I used to ride five or six days per week. Now I do my four bicycle workouts, and twice per week I do “core strength” workouts at home or at the gym. Lots of sit ups, back extensions, planks, etc. I’m also doing some upper body workouts to strengthen my shoulders and neck, arms, back, etc. All of those muscles come into play on long rides. I often get off the bike after a century ride and have pains in my neck, shoulders, arms, back, stomach–pretty much everything except my butt and my legs.
I haven’t done any really long rides yet, but the results so far are encouraging. I’m losing weight, getting stronger, and getting faster. I can actually feel the effects of the secondary muscles that the speed and strength workouts help build. I have a long way to go, but it’s very nice to see the early improvement.
I’ve selected the Waco Wild West Century as the ride that I want to complete in under six hours. I gave myself plenty of time to train for it–the ride isn’t until September 22. I did that ride in 2002, hoping to break six hours then. I thought I had trained well, but I lost my discipline when the ride started. I went out too fast, burned up after 35 miles or so, and spent the next 35 miles recovering. I crossed the line after more than seven hours, having spent a lot of time at the rest stop less than 20 miles from the finish. I was overheated, dehydrated, and completely out of energy. I will not repeat that performance.
My first real test of the training will be July 22. I’m going to do the 100 K (62 miles) ride at the Katy Flatland Century. I don’t have a specific time goal for that one. The idea is to do the first half of the ride at 72 or 75 percent max heart rate, and then see how I feel. The plan is to do a negative split–ride the second half of the course faster than I ride the first half. It’s also a test to see if I can keep myself hydrated and fueled. It will be important to drink and eat enough during the century ride, and this will be an excellent field test.