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Intelligent Training—Training

In the Candy Store

"The joys of the new season. All these events to do! Like a kid in a candy store the athlete's eyes light up in anticipation."

by John Hughes
© John Hughes, All Rights Reserved

John Hughes, the former director of the UltraMarathon Cycling Association and editor of UltraCycling, has been certified by the National Strength and Conditioning Association as a personal trainer and by USA Cycling as a coach.

You've just learned about the RUSA R-12 award and you are excited about participating. Certainly you can ride a 200K or longer event every month for 12 months.

Or you want do to a series of local centuries or double centuries.

Or you've looked at the ultra calendar and you want to give racing a try.

Or you aspire to ride two complete Super Randonneur series of 200K, 300K, 400K and 600K brevets and a 1200K.

You've already entered these events in your calendar and are planning your vacation.

Ahh, the joys of the new season. All these events to do! Like a kid in a candy store the athlete's eyes light up in anticipation.

How Much Candy?
Imagine two kids in the candy store. One snuck away from his parents and is there for the first time. He buys a pound of treats, goes out to the curb and starts to eat. The second lad has been going there every week and buying more and more candy. This week he also buys a pound, goes out to the curb and starts enjoying his sweets. After half an hour, the first boy will certainly have indigestion; his eyes were bigger than his stomach. The second boy may be a little full, but since he's “trained up” he might be able to eat all that candy at a sitting.

Often when a rider first looks at the events calendar he or she wants to do lots of events. The cyclist feels like he or she didn't ride that much last year. And it's New Years so the rider resolves to do more events this year. That, of course, will take more training so the rider decides to try for 7,000 miles this year instead of 4,000 like last year. Better stock up on Pepto-Bismol, because this will lead to cycling indigestion—overuse injuries, colds, burnout, etc.

Realistically a rider should increase total volume by 10-15% from year to year.

Which Candy?
Our first boy is an experienced candy connoisseur—after weeks of trying different sweets, he's picked the ones he likes most for his weekly binge on the curb. To the second lad they all look good so he gets one of everything.

Experienced athletes are selective—which events are really important? Pro racers prioritize their races as building blocks towards the season's main goal(s). Joe Friel recommends labeling each event in your schedule A, B or C.

An A event is one of the highlights of the season, an event for which you want to peak so that you can have your best ride.

A B event is one where you'd like to do well, although you aren't trying for a personal best.

And a C event is one that you're doing for training, with no expectations about results.

To Friel's schema I add F events—no, those aren't failures—those are ones you're doing just for fun! A chance to try out a different type of event, or ride in a different area.

As you categorize each event remember that the fewer A events you have, the more likely you are to really peak for each and have a ride to remember positively.

And, of course, the more F events you have, the more smiles on your face.

In road racing an athlete can build to a peak and then hold that peak for 4-6 weeks. In ultra endurance riding it's very hard to hold a peak, because one event takes so much out of a rider.

If a rider wants to complete several A events in a season it's better to have these events two to three months apart, to allow time for recovery, building peak fitness again, and then tapering between each event.

Training for distance takes several years of build-up to reach a point where you can handle relatively high volume. Riding long events is taxing so you need a balance between harder and easier events. If you remember these simple principles, despite what your Mom said, you can learn to eat way too much candy in a year!

You'll be an edurance rider!

Originally printed in UltraCycling