I got dropped this week. It happened about 60 miles into a 70-mile “Coaches Meeting” ride, but the trouble started long before that. I felt fine and took some strong pulls in the first 90 minutes of the ride, but started feeling flat and empty not long after that. I soldiered on through the middle portion of the ride, but finally lost the wheel on the way back into town. With the Amgen Tour of California Race Experience starting next Sunday, I wasn’t thrilled about getting dropped, but as a coach I understand what happened and can keep Wednesday’s performance in perspective. If you find yourself questioning your form in the weeks before a big goal event, here’s what I recommend:
When you’re training properly, your final large training block will leave your fatigued and probably pretty slow. You’re pushing down on the spring with a big workload. The time between your final big training block and your event is when you stop pushing and let the spring launch your race-day fitness to new heights. But the period right at the end of the training block is an emotionally-stressful time. You’re close to your event, you feel like you should be flying by now, and it’s difficult to see how you’re going to go from slower-than-dirt to faster-than-lightning in time for race day. There’s a lot of self-doubt that can creep in, and the danger there is that you’ll try to cram in more training to compensate for a perceived deficit.
Cramming is a sure-fire way to destroy your performance. Instead of allowing time for the spring to unload, you’re continuing to push down. You’ll end up going to your event physically fatigued, mentally exhausted, and emotionally distressed.
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Rest with purpose
Looking back over my training history from the past few months, I’m confident I’ve done the work required to be ready for the ATOC Race Experience. Getting dropped this week was a sign that I’ve pushed myself as far as I should in preparation for the event. Now it’s time to rest and stay focused. I can’t – and you can’t – just stop riding and then fill my time with house projects, yard work, and longer hours at the office. The overall workload – throughout my lifestyle – has to decrease. I still need to ride 5-6 days a week, but those rides will be shorter and less taxing. I still need to spend time climbing hills (major component of the ATOC), but I’ll ride them in easier gears. I will include a handful of short, high-intensity efforts to stay fresh, but for the most part I will be gradually stepping down my volume and intensity between now and May 13.
One of the acute reasons I suspect I struggled on Wednesday was due to nutrition. I didn’t eat well on Tuesday and I had a small breakfast on Wednesday morning, and I think the lack of calories caught up with me about two hours into the ride. Some people are tempted to dramatically reduce their caloric intake when they back off their training, especially because they don’t want to gain weight in the two weeks prior to competition. But nutrition is part of recovery and fuel is necessary for adaptation, so you have to be careful to supply your body with enough energy.
Understand the difference between one-day and multi-day events
You want to be optimally fresh and rested before a one-day event, but too much rest before a multi-day event may not be your best option. For a multi-day event, like the ATOC Race Experience, it’s important for back-to-back rides to be your “normal” state. A typical taper will prepare you for optimal performance on one day, with the assumption that you don’t need to compete the next day. I need to be ready for 8 back-to-back days, which means I can’t afford for back-to-back days in the saddle to be a shock to the system. That’s why I won’t be reducing the frequency of my rides very much between now and the ATOC; I’ll just make those rides shorter and less intense.
Plan on a super-compensation ride
My final big ride will be tomorrow; I will be riding the 100-mile route at the Napa Valley Tour de Cure in support of the American Diabetes Association. Ideally, this final big ride would be in the middle of next week (Tuesday or Wednesday), but this Sunday will do just fine. The super-compensation ride is kind of like draining a battery before a complete recharge. I know I’m going to deplete just about every system and energy store I have, with enough time to replenish and recharge before the start of the ATOC. The key, however, to super-compensation rides is to avoid the temptation to test yourself. Don’t go charging up every climb or trying to set a new 20-minute best power output. I plan to ride at a steady tempo and I expect I’ll end up with an average power of about 180 watts, which is 65% or so of my lactate threshold of 275 watts. That type of performance will mean riding at mostly aerobic intensities, with the occasional surge to 275-325 on climbs or in a paceline.
And during the Amgen Tour of California, be sure to visit www.trainright.com for daily video updates from the CTS Team! You’ll get an insider’s view of what it’s like to be on the team during an Epic Endurance Bucket List event!
Have a great weekend,
Carmichael Training Systems