Tuesday, 23 June 2015

The Importance of Training

You've got the bike, you've got the kit, but have you got the legs ...
Do these look like the legs of a well-trained cyclist to you?
Alain Prost: "To finish first, you must first finish".

Having said that, two days ago I did the London to Brighton with 35mm Marathon Plus tyres, but inflated about 1/2 bar (7 psi) over the "maximum" pressure.
Hit a couple of pot holes, and my speed topped out at a bit over 40 mph (68kmh) - downhill, obviously,, but they managed fine.

Folks over-emphasise the importance of the bike.
One bike or another will give you a little bit extra.
But it is a little bit.

The bulk of speed and endurance comes from the combination of the three elements of good training
1) cardio-respiratory fitness - heart and lungs
2) muscles
3) energy production (lactate threshold, interleukin-6, and all that)

I passed loads of folks on the London to Brighton who had the right bike and the right kit, but had failed to do enough proper training.
I made it up Ditchling Beacon, and passed lots of "walkers" with all the right kit who didn't. Did the whole event "straight through", with no rest stops, etc. etc.

Me - heavy bike (about 20kg "empty", about 29kg at the start of the L2B, about 26kg at the end, because of the food and water I got through), slightly generous tyres (700x35), but I did quite a bit of time this Spring working on my notoriously low cadence, as well as running to build up my heart and lungs.
Muscles were taken care of by training - I had six half-centuries and two centuries under my belt this year BEFORE the London to Brighton - the last century was just two weeks before.
All 8 rides were "hilly", and both the centuries and about 50% of the "halfs" had as many hills in as the London to Brighton.
Just a week before, I was out doing hill repeats - 5 reps of a 10% 60m climb.
Two weeks ago it was a "no stops" century.
Three weeks before that it was 3 repeats of a 120m climb.
A week before that it was a "century" on training tyres (M+ on the rear, M Winter on the front, both tyres at just 4 bar, 2 bar less that maximum pressure) - with over 900m of total climbing.

The hills build the muscles (and do a bit for the heart and lungs, too), while the "centuries" help to build the Interleukin-6 response, so that after I run short of glycogen, my body becomes more efficient at making more. And, of course, all the mileage just builds up - not forgetting, of course, the "accidental" training I do for a job - I walk with a load for about 7 km a day, 5 days a week.

My lactate threshold is up, too
- I sustained a higher heart rate than I expected in the London to Brighton - I sustained an AVERAGE heart rate of 82% for the 65km section between the outskirts of London and the outskirts of Brighton (and I don't think I am using a low heart rate either - I hit a new "max" of 180 bpm on Ditchling Beacon - and for a chap of 50, 180 bpm is a bit on the high-ish side anyway).

So how come I got up Ditchling Beacon on a bike weighing about 26kg (with water, tools, etc.), while quite a lot of folks with bikes that weighed about 11 or 12 kg (with water etc) "walked" it?
Many of them were younger than me too, so they should have an advantage.

Remember that century I mentioned on "soft tyres" - I even had a "snow" tyre on the front!
Training on "slow" tyres is not a technique that  I invented. And when the "fast tyres" go on (in my case, still M+, but at "full" pressure, or just occasionally, overpressure), it feels like there is a bit of a tailwind the whole time. That "soft tyre" century was HARD, but it made me stronger.
Lots of folks ride a winter training bike for part of the year - all I do is ride a "slow set-up" longer than most.

Making things too easy for yourself results in less overload ... It is not about how fast you go, it is about how much "work" you do ...
(While at the same time being aware of the risks of overtraining).

Training should be a "pyramid" - building up mileage and intensity progressively over the training period.
The wide base of the pyramid needs to have lots of slow miles in it.
Intervals and sprints are nearer the top.
But it is important to keep putting the "slow" miles in.
There really is no substitute for putting the hours in, sometimes riding in the drizzle.

Folks tend to think that they can use technology/equipment as a "shortcut".
Heart rate monitors help to make the training program easier to quantify, so that you do the amount of work you aimed for.
But you still got to do the work.
There are no shortcuts.

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