Better Late than Never

Since the Dirty Duo race back in March my training has been full of a few ups and downs, leading to questions about my training and my approach to it. I wasn’t questioning whether I have been training hard enough but whether I’ve been training smartly. My pattern in life has been never to shy away from hard work, rather just put your head down and get it done. However, taking a step back and analyzing a situation hasn’t always been my strong suit.  Doing things, “smarter not harder” is often the key to success in the most efficient and painless way. Plus, using the knowledge around you, (in the form of peers) is not only smart but also keeps you from making the same mistakes of others.

Lucky for me, (thanks ladies!) I had a visit with some of my fellow MuddBunnies members at ride lead night the week that I was feeling rather low. I had a miserable ride that early morning which had dampened more than my riding gear. My spirits were low as my body felt weak and fatigued, not helped by the non-stop freezing rain that had left my limbs so cold and frozen that changing gears was close to impossible near the end of the ride. I was feeling cheated, after spending the winter months logging base miles I remember looking so forward to how strong and good I was going to feel once the spring arrived. Hmmm…what am I doing wrong?

Luckily, a few of the ladies there were patient and kind enough to chat with me about their own experiences. One thing they had in common was a well mapped out training plan that involved heart rate zones, something I had always shyed away from since I thought my own, “perceived exertion” method would be just fine. They had great results and seemed to enjoy the fact that all the guessing about volume and intensity of training was mapped out for them; no second guessing about whether more miles were needed or whether they should be pushing harder or backing off. I must say that I have been roughly following a training program that was created for my friend who did BCBR back in 2008, but her life was different, her heart rate zones were different and I was finding it harder and harder to apply it to my own experience. So here are the steps that I have taken since the race is only 3 months away and time is a tickin’ away. 

I started to madly research articles about this science of training, (far from my freeride days of analyzing new lines and jumps) but I was now really intrigued by this xc thing and the science of preparation.  It brought back the days when I did intervals as a high school runner and a young triathlete, (I just did what I was told to do and with knowledgeable coaches). I also wondered why I had strayed so far from this path but then remembered how obsessive it can become.

Back when I did triathlons I was 19 and became serious about it pretty quick. I trained religiously, didn’t go out at night, didn’t eat an ounce of fat, obsessed about my training and unless I had a great race was upset and bummed out for the rest of the day. I think something was missing, can we say, “balance”. This is especially since I was by no means a pro and just jumped right in with unreal expectations and put pressure on myself.  Once the burn out happened I decided to never fall into that again. I continued to ‘train’ and push myself but always maintained a level of fun in competition and training. Perhaps as well so as not to allow myself to get overly disappointed when things didn’t go as planned.

Since I haven’t done a stage race that involves only one activity I hadn’t realized the importance of proper rest and intensity training since the same muscles are being taxed over and over. In adventure racing you can take a day off riding and focus on your paddling and/or running so I found lots of training was manageable since it was a cross training style of regime.

Through this recent training stage my husband has been a great ear, listening and asking questions and at times wondering why I was so worried since he knew how much I was training. He thinks I will do great with all the miles put in. He is a life long biker who still has muscle memory to get him through rides, (albeit DH shuttling) after long periods off the bike. A bit different than a 7 day stage race where proper fuel, pace and preparation are key to just finishing!

Another serendipitious thing occurred a few days ago as well. I was finishing my training ride and was very close to home when I heard someone call my name. It was one of the BCBR crew and long time friend through the world of adventure racing. I simply asked for any advice on training and the floodgates opened. My ears perked up as I listened intently to all he had to say. He too used to fight the science of training and had to experience things going wrong to get on board and realize that there is a better way! He also assured me that my hours may not even increase on the bike but I will use them more wisely. This also means getting a plan, (which I am doing) and sticking to the heart rate zones set for that day. It is tough to ride with others and/or groups since this final stage of training is really important. I am so used to riding solo that I am fine with that, but also will be very excited to ride more with my friends once I achieve my goal in July!

So I have enlisted the help of a few individuals in the bike world that I know and who have ample information and guidance to share. I will let you know how it all works out and if I start feeling like all the hard work is paying off! They are simple tweaks which won’t take major time away from the homefront and will probably save me time in the end.  I know I am making gains but just want to make the next few months the best they can be.  The better and stronger I feel the more fun I know I will have.

By the way, my little guy is doing awesome and is the best part of any day, good or bad on the bike. He is a consistent source of joy.  So the rest is just gravy….but whats wrong with a little gravy?

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