Doing it all the hard way...

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

That didn’t work. My 2014 Training experience

 Let me be brief....
My experiment this season was using a coach and it did not produce the results I was hoping to see.  When I first got hooked up with my coach he asked what my goals were for the season.  I basically said I wanted to move the needle.  My results over the past three seasons had been remarkable only in their consistency of unremarkableness.  I wanted to know if I could improve those results as my previous variations had seemed to have no effect on my race placing.   As I measure my results against those I raced with over the last three years my results this season are pretty much identical to the previous three.

For all of my hard work, and there was a lot of very hard work, I didn’t see any improvements.  I followed the plan and while there was a short lull in the middle when I was sick, I expected to see something. In the end I am forced to conclude I saw nothing.  When diets fail it is generally because the person on the diet strays from the prescribed plan.  I stuck to the plan with OCD precision.

My training took a lot of time and it was high value prime time.  Instead of working my training into my bike commutes and YMCA workouts as I had in prior years I would come home from work at dinnertime, kiss Hottie, pet Tux and get on the bike.  As the days grew shorter, training meant getting on the trainer downstairs.  Riding on a trainer is not something you look forward to.  It is boring and your only distractions are listening to music and enduring pain.  It is so boring that you look forward to the pain.
When I finished my workouts I would shower, start the laundry and sit down for dinner somewhere between seven-thirty and eight.  After dinner I was typically pretty useless as far as getting stuff done at home.  Home projects were neglected.   Typically I’d surf for a few minutes and start thinking about bed. Two or three times a week I had morning workouts as well. Hottie ended up having a bunch of dinners alone and was commendably supportive of my folly.

If this effort had produced results I could weigh the value of improved performance against the sacrifice and determine where I wanted to be on that continuum. I expected to see something. I expected to see improvement.   To work that hard and sacrifice that much and see nothing was heartbreaking.  This is why I had no qualms about calling it a season following the MFG finale.
Just like this awesome pancake, I'm done !

The training I did this season was not all wasted. I did learn something important.

In high school and college I competed in track and cross country running.  I did very well and I won more races than I lost. The thinking back in the day was based on your mix of fast and slow twitch muscle you were destined for a certain distance.  All the training in the world couldn’t make a distance runner into a sprinter so the trick was finding an event that matched your physical make up. 

The distances I excelled at were the 400 and 800 meters.  I could compete in the 1,500m (actually the mile back in my time) but I would usually win the 400 and 800 races.  I was competitive in Cross Country (5,000 meters – a tad over three miles) but I didn’t win.  I also would tend to fade during the cross country season.

In hindsight and in light of my most recent training episode I think I finally figured it out.  I’m all about base and volume.   My body responds well to lots of miles and less so to short intervals.  In cross country (and Cyclocross) as the season progresses the mileage goes down and the speed and intensity of intervals goes up.  The hard intervals certainly hurt, but I don’t think they helped me much.  What my body noticed was the decline in long efforts and I would lose fitness.  It is hard to believe that my fitness was going down as my suffering during intense intervals was going up.  Looking back, peaking really never worked for me.  I needed the miles.  When I peaked in high school and college I actually started to feel out of shape and my results toward the conclusions of my seasons were consistent with that theory.
Grandpa planks
I recall competing in the 400m at an off season open track meet at a time when my training for the prior three months had been exclusively long distance.  I was less than two seconds off my PR at the time. I remember thinking at the time that it seemed like an awful lot of hard work to only gain between one and two seconds. 

My one success this season was my first race.  I was still logging big miles and the intervals were still long (twenty and thirty minute efforts as opposed to one to six minute intervals later in the season).  As the season progressed my long rides decreased and the intervals got shorter and harder.   My results returned to the middle of the pack and my befuddlement increased.

I think back to a mini gravel weekend with McWoodie and Einmoton.  We rode eleven hours in three days with thousands of meters of climbing.  Those guys are beasts and I struggled and still couldn’t keep up. Although my legs were quivering on the final day beginning the next week I felt invincible.  I think that is the kind of training that makes me faster.

To be clear I’m selfish and this blog is all about me.  Just because short intense intervals don’t work for me does not mean they won’t work for you.  I’m just happy that I figured it out.  For that clarity alone, the experiment was worth it.  Look for me in 2015 !!

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