I’ve heard this time of year described as the time “Everybody goes to Mexico.” In the mountains April wins the prize for the biggest contrast between the beginning and the end of the month. April starts with snow on the ground and ends with wildflowers. March is the blue collar month that is just as busy but much more unassuming.
If you’re looking at March visually, the beginning of the month and the end look similar with only the temperatures really changing. March is when we quietly ramp up our training. In January and February you get a gold star just for riding, but in March it counts. It is time to start laying the foundation for the summer. You don’t make or break your season in March, but if you haven’t started rolling until April, there will be extra work to catch up.
One of the hard truths I have reluctantly accepted is that I am getting too old to catch up I need to make and execute a periodized training plan. The other day Hottie asked me what I was training for and I simply said, “Summer.”
We get worldwide respect
As my focus has shifted from 45 minute cyclocross races to four to nine hour Fondos I’ve been moving away from an emphasis on FTP intervals. Instead I’ve been fascinated by the concept of MaxFat.
MaxFat is the maximum effort you can sustain while still burning fat. FTP stands for Functional Threshold Power. FTP is a measurement of your maximum effort over twenty minutes. If you step back and ask what your twenty minute performance has to do with a nine hour event be prepared for an awkward pause.
Depending on your individual physiology you may be more or less suited to those long events and one of the keys is finding the maximum level of effort you can sustain while still fueling your effort by burning fat. Once your body switches to burning all glycogen (stored in your muscles) you are a ticking time bomb. This is why you can train hard and feel like a beast for the first four hours of a long Fondo only to explode later.
Getting ready for some serious hurt
MaxFat tries to find the sweet spot just below where you stop burning fat and to gradually increase that threshold so you can go faster and save your stored glycogen for when you really need it (that final thousand meter climb).
Just to be clear this isn’t riding slow and easy. The LSD of the seventies has died a deserved death. MaxFat is tempo riding at 70% of FTP effort. This level of effort is on the bubble because the level of effort is in a no man’s land between hard and easy. If you go too easy they become junk miles and too hard and you burn your glycogen stores without going really hard so they just become faster junk miles.
By pure luck much (but not all) of my 2016 training lined up with this philosophy. After blowing up in Leavenworth and seeing God in Winthrop in 2015 I resolved to try and hold to Zone 3 for anything that wasn’t intervals in 2016. I recall my wonder near the end of Ephrata when, having kept my HR Z3 I felt like I could leap tall buildings at a single bound. Putting a ceiling on my HR produced the added benefit of burning more fat thus lowering my weight and increasing my watts per kilogram.
I doubt this is a miracle, but it should be another weapon in the training toolbox.
Dang, discipline is required. Such is the humble journeyman work of March.