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Methods of Endurance Training: 2011 Season Part 14

In Methods of Endurance Training: 2011 Season Part 13 I did a quick recap of the previous 6 week block and laid out the overall schedule that I planned to follow for the second six week (skate focus) block with each individual workout.  In brief I stuck with my same 5 days out of 7 training schedule with an alternating hard day/easy day approach as shown below:


Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
AM OFF IL: Tempo B: Aerobic IL: Sprint OFF IL: Tempo SB: Aerobic
PM B: Threshold B: Driveway Series B: Interval

Notes: IL = inline, B = bike, SB = slideboard.

Today I’ll look at how the block actually progressed week by week (or didn’t), note anything of interest and talk about my final taper to the Chicagoland Inline Marathon..  More specifically, I was doing the Tour of Chicago, 3 races across two days consisting of a 10k pack race Saturday morning, a 2 mile individual time trial Saturday afternoon and the full Marathon pack race on Sunday.  It was going to be a hell of a weekend that was for sure and it required that I develop pretty much every physiological system as well as I could.

As I noted in an earlier part I had set some specific goals in terms of the wattages I wanted to hit on the bike (I had less of a feel for where I might get on my skates in terms of top end speeds) and had one specific body composition/body weight goal.  For the most part I hit them although this was backtracked by an equipment issue in Week 3 that I’ll mention below.  My overall goal was to be stronger (wattage and speed wise) at a lower body weight/body fat than I’d ever been.   Now let me look at each week of the block and what happened or didn’t as the case may be.

Week 1

Week 1 was just the reintroduction of actual long skating and it was clear that first Tuesday that my specific endurance on my skates was down.  This is pretty normal, skate specific endurance goes away quickly but comes back quickly.  I had skated the Veloway which is the harder of my two courses, my low back fatigued pretty quickly and that workout kicked my ass.  I was cooked at 40 minutes.  The Tuesday night and Wednesday morning workouts went fine as did Thursday’s inline sprint workout.

Thursday night, it was time for my first night at the Driveway series (and only my second bike race ever after the disastrous Ronde Von Manda much earlier this year).  I was a bit nervous but it was time to get into the mix.  I have a couple of acquaintances who race regularly and they gave me some input; the race also has mentors in the back of the noob race where is where I had every intention of staying.

My goal the first week was simply to race the distance, not crash or mess anybody else up and get a feel for bike racing; I planned to stay in the back and just get used to the whole thing.  I also wanted to make sure and learn at least one new thing at every race since this was as much for experience as anything else.   And that I did.   My warm-up was wrong for the style of racing and I identified a weird weak point: I get dropped on downhills.  I’m light and if I don’t catch a draft my lack of weight hurts me.

Saturday’s workouts were fine, inline went as well as it could and I hammered myself with short 30 and 60 second intervals on the bike for anaerobic power.  The Sunday long slideboard workout was simply boring although….hang on that’s week 2.

Week 2

While I can’t say whether it was the combination of the entirety of the weekend or just Sunday, the long slideboard workout just flat out wrecked me with soreness, especially in my glutes.  A bit odd given that it was the lowest intensity workout of the week.  But even that told me that something about putting in the duration was valuable.   But I was pretty wrecked that Tuesday.

I added some time to my inline skate and Tuesday’s intervals went pretty well although it was going to be a stretch to hit the goal I wanted to hit.  Wednesday was fine, the sprint workout was fine and I was raring to go for Thursday’s bike race.

The Driveway series changes the course every week and this week’s was much easier (from a technical standpoint) and I was better prepared mentally and physically.  I figured out how not to get dropped on the downhill and actually raced well, finishing solid mid-pack (which was my goal).  In hindsight, I should have gone for more but I’m still hesitant about being right in the mix when it’s fast.  Until I’m more confident, I just hang out in back where it’s arguably far more dangerous because the riders in back tend to have worse handling skills.

The biggest thing about that race was that the pack was just insane.  The entire pack kept sitting up at the bottom of the downhill after racing down it and everyone would get jammed up. I had to slam on my brakes a number of times; once a guy rode up on my rear wheel, bending my derailleur.  I also overlapped wheels and the race finished with a huge crash on the last straight.  I stayed out of it.  When I took my bike in to get the derailleur fixed, I had them drop the handlebars a notch.  I’ll come back to this.

Saturday and Sunday were just more standard workouts, long inline, short bike intervals and then the long slideboard workout which would wreck me yet again.

Week 3

I was already feeling pretty beaten up going into Week 3, I knew this would be a hard cycle and I opted to make it an unloading week.  I maintained some intensity but cut the volumes back on Tuesday’s interval workout and my Thursday sprint workout on skates.  I also hit a huge speed PR on my skates.  Whether it was because I was rested or just a delayed effect from the previous block, my top speed on my inlines took a huge jump from 25.3 mph to 26.6mph.  I was thrilled to see it.

I got my bike fixed in time for the race but mentally and physically I just wasn’t there.  The course was much more technical (with a monster 120 degree corner that caught up a bunch of people).  I was hesitant, I didn’t work to stay with the pack and I simply finished as best as I could which wasn’t very well.  Once you’re off the back, you’re mostly boned. I did get some good feedback from the mentor but I was cooked and just rode out the distance.

I had also noticed during my workouts that everything felt harder on the bike, my heart rate was higher at every wattage. Whether it was fatigue or the change in handlebar position I couldn’t tell but something felt different. I cut the volume on Saturday night as well.  Sunday was the same 90 minutes on the slideboard.

Week 4

I felt much better going into Week 4 after the unload, my skating specific endurance was back and the Sunday slideboard session wasn’t wrecking me quite so hard which told me I was adapting to it.  I was still having the same feeling of increased effort on the bike.  Given that my skate performances were staying stable or improving, I attributed this to the handlebar shift rather than general fatigue or overtraining.  I’d have exepected everything to fall off if the second were going on.

For those not familiar with cycling, if you’re wondering why drop the handlebars at all the reason is this: presumably it’s a bit more aero, cutting drag from the wind. But it does change your body position and there is an adaptation period from a muscular and neuromuscular standpoint; your torso is lowered, so there’s more hip flexion, that sort of thing.

Hopefully I’d get back to my old wattages in the new more aero position and be faster in the long term.    A lower torso position is also arguably more similar to skating anyhow.  From a transfer standpoint, I needed to be strong in that position for it to really help with skating.  I should really be on aero bars and actually used to ride my power trainer in true aero position in SLC for that reason.

But I definitely felt it on Tuesday’s interval workout and made some adjustments, actually focusing on pure threshold work and moving the VO2 max intervals to Saturday.  On the Thursday sprint workout, as much as I wanted to keep chasing new top speeds, the reality is that it wasn’t useful.  I needed to focus on speed endurance so I cut the repeats down to three, cut the speed down and went longer.  Maintenance sucks.

Thursday’s bike race was about the same.  Whether fatigue, the handlebars or the combination I was cooked.  The course was long and fairly non-technical but everybody was all over the place again.  One guy crashed right next to me, another nearly took me down with a stupid line.  With 2 laps to go, I was cooked and the mentor even told me that I needed to get up to the front of the pack to stay out of the mess in back.

About this time I also got my new toy, a brand spanking new set of TruTrainer bike rollers.  This is a terrifying device used by cyclists to work on their spin and line.  You’re balanced up on these metal rollers and it’s oh so easy to fall off.  I had tried these back in high school and nearly killed myself.  I wanted a pair now for winter training, to improve my line and spin and because they are cool as hell.

The model I got is a bit easier due to a nifty flywheel inside the rear roller.  I would start to gradually incorporate them into my training, for warm-up and cool-down before the slideboard workout for example and use them more as I got used to them. Here’s a short video me on them, the hardest part is still starting and clipping in and I cut the first missed attempt.


Week 5

I was starting to feel a bit beaten up again going into Week 5 but I had to press on, I was almost there.  My skate specific endurance was back where it needed to be and I kept pushing the threshold work on Tuesday.  Gradually I felt like my bike wattages were coming back a bit, I figured it would take a solid 6 weeks to adjust to the new handlebar position.  I was off of my power goals but as the saying on the power list is: you can only do what you can do.

I moved to 45 full minutes on the rollers for my Wednesday easy recovery workout. I still have to figure out how to drink and towel off on the damn things; that’s why I was playing around with taking one hand off the bars in the video above.  My Thursday sprint workout went just fine and I was working on pacing at sub-maximal speeds over distances rather than top speed.

I really didn’t want to race Thursday night, not only was I cooked but getting injured in the craziness of the pack 2 weeks out was a danger I had to consider. Sadly, I had put myself in a dilemma having to do with upgrading to Category 4 (which requires 10 total races) in time for the Tour of Austin.

It turned out that the course that night was the easiest course, which I had done well on in Week 2.  So I dragged msyelf out there, raced aggressively but conservatively, predicted a big crash on the last lap on the right hand side of the course, and stayed way left so I didn’t get caught in it when it happened just as I expected.  I wouldn’t be racing in Week 6.

Both the Saturday and Sunday workouts went as expected, I did my last hard workout at the Veloway and ground out an hour with some decent speeds (it’s a hillyish course so my average tends to be lower than I’d hope).  On the flats I was regularly seeing 20mph pretty easily and Chicago would be flat.  By the time I ground through Sunday’s final 90 minute slideboard workout I was ready to start my taper.

Week 6

My final full volume workouts were on Tuesday of Week 6.  I put in an hour skating on my easier course (it’s flatter and more like Chicago will be) and then ground through the threshold workout, hitting 1X20′ at goal, 2X5′ at a higher wattage and a final hard 3′ effort.  And I was cooked.  I had also noticed that my HR/wattage relationships were back where they more or less belonged; mental note it takes me 3.5 weeks to adjust to a change in bike position.  Then, as the saying goes, the hay was in the barn and it was time to rest.  I had done the work, hit my goals (mostly) and it was time to rest and taper.

Wednesday was an easy spin on the rollers.  On Thursday morning I cut my sprint volume to 4 total starts and 2X1′ race pace intervals.  Thursday night was just an easy hour aerobic spin.  No way was I racing.  For both mental, physiological and safety reasons.

That Saturday, finally, after fighting with it for the better part of 6 weeks, I solved a long-standing skate equipment problem and thank god for that.  I made my 45′ workout on inlines, my speeds were good as was my endurance. Everything felt good and my legs didn’t have that warmed over jello feeling so badly anymore.  After a long special volunteer event, I hammered out three VO2 max intervals on the bike on Saturday since that’s the closest physiological system to the 2mile time trial.  The slideboard was cut to 60 minutes on Sunday, thank god.

The Final Week

I’d continue to cut volume and intensity into the final week.   I did a mere 2 laps on my course on Tuesday but hit the highest speeds I’d hit this block, 45′ aerobic that evening on the bike was sufficient.  Another 45′ on the rollers Wednesday.

I did things a bit differently this time around for my final skate workout, mainly revolving around equipment.  I set up my skates with the same wheels and bearing I intended to race on.  Since the wheels were new, I wanted to get some of the slick urethane off of them.  I also didn’t want to be surprised (as I had been at Napa in 2010) if they grabbed the pavement differently.  Everything went perfectly at that workout, I hit my highest average speed of the block, nailed both starts and hit exactly the average I had been trying to dial in on the one interval I did.  30′ on the rollers that night would round it out.

Friday is a travel day and I’ll go scope out the course and get my race packet and stuff.  If I can find a gym close, I’ll go do 20′ easy aerobic work to loosen up.  Or just go for a walk.  The full final 2 weeks of training with the 10 day taper (Starting Wednesday) appears below.


Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
AM Walk ALFIE! IL: 60′ IL: 1/2 Vol Sprint Walk ALFIE! IL: 45′ SB: 60′
PM B: Threshold R: 60′ Easy B: 60′ Aerobic B: 3X3′
Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
AM Walk ALFIE! IL: 20′ Il: 1/4 Vol Sprint Travel 10k Pack Marathon
PM B: 45′ Aerobic R: 60′ Easy B: 30′ Aerobic Loosen up 2 mile TT

Notes: IL = inline, B = bike, R = rollers, SB = slideboard

If your’e wondering if I did anything specific dietarily (people always seem to ask) the answer is not really.  I emphasized a bit more carbs (but had to be careful of my tendency to over-consume given my reduced training volume, I had worked too hard to reduce my weight/body fat for this to pig out in the last few days when my activity was low) but that was about it.  I wouldn’t need to be carb-loaded for the 10k or 2 mile and would have to worry more about recovery day to day to make sure I didn’t run out of gas on Sunday.  I also bumped my potassium to make sure there’d be no issues with cramping.

And that’s where we stand.  I’ve got my gear, I’m rested, I’m stronger and more well rounded than I was earlier this year or last and I’m lighter/leaner than I’ve been in as long as I can remember. I’m as prepared as I’m going to be. Tomorrow, the fun begins.

Read Tour of Chicago: Race Report Part 1

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