Prepping for Lowell

posted Jul 11, 2011, 6:03 AM by Donald Vescio   [ updated Sep 12, 2011, 8:12 AM ]
FIRM Racing hosts a spring and Olympic distance race in Lowell each year.  Recently, an athlete asked for advice on the best way to prepare for a flat and fast bike course:

First--defer to the advice of your coach, who knows your individual situation best--I'll offer some generic advice for the group, who can use (or not) as he/she sees fit.

To overly simplify, while endurance is at the center of any multisport's/time trialist's performance, what's really important at this time of the year is speed work.  Doing long rides will be counter-productive to riding fast in events half-ironman or shorter.  In fact, the more that you focus on endurance training during this past of the season, the *slower* you will be on race day for these shorter events.  This is tough, in that it's easier to do a long ride at a steady pace than it is to do interval training at a hard pace--the long rides necessarily will fall into a relatively comfortable training level, while the intervals will hurt really, really bad!

Here's what I'd do, as a general recommendation.  Reduce your endurance training to one day a week, say; don't try to incorporate both endurance training and speed work into the same training session, as you'll compromise both types of workouts.  One to two times a week--separated by at least one day, preferably two if you're not racing on the weekend, try doing a session of two ten minute intervals, separated by fifteen minutes.  During the interval phase, go as hard as you possibly can, as fast as you possibly can, for the entire ten minutes.  If possible, even try to push a slightly larger gear than you would normally use in a race.  The goal of each interval is to exceed by a significant margin the pace that you anticipate for your race. Week two, extend your intervals to twelve minutes, and decrease your recovery to thirteen minutes; week three, increase intervals to 14 minutes, and decrease recovery to eleven minutes, etc.

It's really important that you are relatively fresh during these sessions.  If you are tired (say, from riding too many miles the day before), you won't be able to work at an intensity to give you benefit from the interval sessions--you only will increase your fatigue.  The key for now is that you should be working really hard at high intensity and speed levels during your interval day(s), while riding easy during your endurance days.  In other words, avoid hard, intense, long rides unless you are planning for a race that's based on a long, intense, hard effort (not too many of these exist!); for races, assume that you have the endurance base--endurance is easy to accumulate and you really don't lose it during a season--and really focus on the short, hard efforts.

This week's training for me--keeping in mind that I've been racing much longer than some of you even have been alive!--two days of interval training.  Day one: two 10 minute intervals at three miles per hour over race pace;  Day two: one 30 minute interval at three miles per hour over race pace (prepping for a half-iron distance ride).  The rest of my riding, even on the interval days, is zone two, max.

Condensed version:  between now and Lowell, focus on short, hard efforts.  Hope that this helps.