Monday, October 01, 2007

Training vs. survival

Date: Oct. 1
Mileage: 27
October mileage: 27
Temperature upon departure: 47
Rainfall: .94"

I think cycling is good physical therapy for an injured foot. I get all of the benefits of warm blood flow without any of the motion that sparks pain. That is my theory, and I'm sticking with it.

So I have this idea about training to be a faster rider. It is loosely based on ideas I culled from magazine articles and blogs, minus the necessary gauging equipment and coaching: intervals, climbing, and in general more riding near my perceived lactate threshold (i.e. sucking as much air as I can tolerate without passing out.) While ramping up my effort on the bike to improve my fitness seems like a great theory in abstract, I think it is going to be much more difficult to achieve in actual practice.

I rode an easy spin with a tailwind out to the glacier to check out the new slab of bright blue ice exposed Saturday during the largest calving in years (I couldn't see much of it behind the detached chunks of ice floating in the lake and blocking the view.) Deciding that my foot was a nonissue, I resolved to work on my speed by riding all-out for a mile, then recovering for a mile, than going all-out again, etc., all the way home.

The first interval went well. I was riding a bike path, huffing audibly and peeling off layers in the 47-degree dampness of the afternoon. Shortly after my first recovery period ended, however, I turned to face the brunt of the headwind. The rain kicked up a notch and, because I had stashed all of my rain layers away, needled through my jersey and stung my skin. I was hot and cold at the same time, unsure what to do about it, and already committed to the hard pedalling. I decided to tough it out.

By the beginning of interval three, I was just plain cold, and wet to boot, but I was nearing home, and it was time to ride hard again. As I launched into the pedals, the fountain of snot that I had been fighting back through my sinuses suddenly gushed into my throat, leaving me choking and sputtering and slowing my speed just to catch my breath. The horizontal rain was moving fast enough now to force my eyelids into rapid blinking. In the confusing midst of strobelight vision, I caught a long line of jarring potholes just as traffic was really bearing down. I regained my composure, put my head down, and spun the pedals. I no longer had any goals in my mind. I was in survival mode ... conserve energy ... keep eyes open ... move toward home ... move toward home.

I feel like I can rec ride in this stuff forever. But speed? There's got to be an easier way.


  1. No! Don't become one of them. Speed is a false God!

  2. Ugh, you just reminded me why I got into long distance races and kind of quit short races. I don't know...I guess most of my race work back in the day was done strictly on hills and on large group rides with honch riders where I worked to keep up.

    Seems to me that epic rides in the snow with a bunch of pushing your bike, plus a half dozen winter overnights where you have to build fires and such, plus weight lifting, plus eating a lot of food and drinking some good beer to gain a little weight and fat might be the ticket for Iditasport. Then again, I'd probably come in last with such an approach.

    Always do what your soul really wants to do, what makes you happy inside.

  3. Tabata squats, a la crossfit. Air squats, max in 20 seconds, rest 10 seconds, repeat 8 times. Make sure you are controlled- you should feel it in you glutes & hanstrings. Also, deadlifts. You ride enough that you should be seriously quad dominant by now, SLOWLY work the direct hamstring/glute/hip dominant lifts. You'll be faster.

  4. Long rides are what I crave - and the faster I can go in comfort the more fun they are. The paradox is that too much of this and I slow down. It's the speed/power work that builds the fitness that allows me to really have fun for all day rides. Sad to say I think you're on the right track so long as you don't mix the training focus (e.g. you don't want to work on speed in the same week/month you are focusing on endurance).

    And...riding absolutely is good for healing feet!

  5. Dave ... that was the idea. I wanted to train for speed/power through mid-November before really amping up the time on the bike to prepare mentally for the Iditarod (which is where the snow-bike pushing and survival rides come in.) This seemed like the fastest way to fitness, and building the muscles I need for the rigors of endurance training (which I failed to do last year, and suffered for it).

    I don't have all of the cool eqiupment that you do (really, I should at least buy a HRM). But I'm hoping this perceievd maximum effort, weight training and climbing work will pay dividends come winter.

    Thanks for the weight ideas, Craig. Right now I'm stuck with mostly upper body lifting while I wait for my foot to improve, which is a bummer, but hopefully I'll be able do some of those serious squats before the miles really bear down.


Feedback is always appreciated!