Noob Questions @ Season's End



was7g

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May 11, 2006
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First of all, let me say to all the regulars, thanks for reading and advice on my various questions so far. These forums are great.

OK... so the end of my first biking season is approaching; I had been in spinning classes at the gym for a long time, and since several people at work bike a lot, I got a road bike last April. I've gone from from almost dying on my first 30 mile ride to doing a 20+ mile ride about four times a week and riding in two centuries and a metric century over the last four weeks. At the end of the season, I've bumped up my average speed by several mph on the various loops that I do.

Now that winter's approaching, I want to make use of the time off the bike (I'm not one for riding in the dark, much less the cold) in order to try and become more competitive next year. My questions relate to this idea- can I effectively ride on weekends and several nights a week on a trainer in order to get ready for some sort of racing next season?

I don't even know what the various Categories mean, but I don't imagine that I'd be up to that level anyway, but I'd still like to get into racing.

My goal for this season was to ride a century. I've done that, and now I want a goal for the winter. Can I get better over the off season, or am I just treading water, so to speak, until I can get out on the bike more often in the spring?

Also, does anyone have books and/or Web sites that they recommend for 1) winter training, and 2) newbies interested in racing?

Thanks again to all.
 

spinner32

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Jul 8, 2006
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Well, if you have made the gains that you claim to have made (good job by the way :)), I'd say take some time off starting in october. Focus on some other good cardiovascular activities (low impact would be best). Examples, nordic skiing, swimming, ultimate frisbee. This will get your mind off of biking for a bit while maintaining your cardio fitness, and allow you to be fresh mentally and physically to start training HARD come later november/ early december.

When that time comes, begin training back on the bike. Depending on where you live, this can be outdoors, or indoors on rollers/trainers. Start with regular, low intensity 20-30 mile rides, or whatever distance leaves you feeling energized at the end. During these rides, focus on fast pedal drills (30-45 seconds at at least 120 rpm cadence), one pedal drills (helps develop a more rythmic, rounded pedal stroke), and general techniques that you feel weak with. Practice keeping your pedal stroke smooth, efficient, as well as practicing your position on the bike.

Also, ease into weight lifting. When you begin racing, you will be running in Cat 5s, which often times come down to a sprint at the end if you stay with the peloton. Sprinting well comes from two practices: Strength training (developing those key fast-twitch muscle fibers), and technique. Start lifting at high repitition, low weight for a few weeks, then gradually increase to low rep, high weight for a couple of months. Talk to a trainer to determine where to start, as it will involve calculating your one rep max (1RM).

As you come out of your strength training phase (usually sometime in march), begin focusing on your on bike-training again. Get out and ride often, getting in 150 miles or more per week. Start interval training on your solo rides. Most importantly though, ride with a group on a regular basis. You will learn the basics of riding a slip-stream, sprint tactics, fast turning, and gain confidence riding in close proximity to other riders of your ability. Keep track of your speed during 40+ mile rides. I'd say if you can muster about a 17 mph average on most of your rides, that you'll be fine for your first race attempts.

Most races, probably criteriums, will begin in the spring, and if you've been training according to the basic outline above, you should be ready. Also, don't forget about getting your USA cyling license, and if you are concerned about crashing... maybe take the dive and shave your legs :p.

Good Luck
 

normZurawski

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Dec 27, 2005
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was7g said:
Can I get better over the off season, or am I just treading water, so to speak, until I can get out on the bike more often in the spring?
I'll address this only. It seems to me you're shooting a little high. Consider that most of the people you were riding with out there actually take much of the winter off. So if you "tread water" you're really making ground, since you won't be starting in the same hole you started this year in. Treading water is great, phenomenal in fact. If you can start next season in the same shape you ended this season, you're probably doing what 99 out of 100 people can't manage to do. Maybe 100.

I think some downtime is good, if you think you need it. Conversely, if you don't need it don't take it. Biking is the best way to be a better biker. But don't go blowing out your tailpipes over the winter only to be ready to throw down the gauntlet in March, when a lot of people are just getting the cobwebs off. If you can maintain through the winter and then ramp up as spring approaches, you're in great shape.

You really need to lay out your goals for next year and work backwards from that. Most, if not all, books are going to tell you to take time off the bike and lift weights in the winter. I don't really agree with that approach, per se. So you'll need to collect as much info as you can and see what works for you.
 

frenchyge

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Apr 3, 2005
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was7g said:
can I effectively ride on weekends and several nights a week on a trainer in order to get ready for some sort of racing next season?
If you train like that during the winter, your buddies will be demanding drug tests when springtime comes. The reason being that they are most likely following some form of Spinner's advice above - take time off, then lift weights, then think about biking again around March, then be in some kind of biking shape around June.


was7g said:
I don't even know what the various Categories mean, but I don't imagine that I'd be up to that level anyway, but I'd still like to get into racing.
The lowest (beginner) level of road racing is Category 5, and the numbers work down as the ability increases. See www.usacycling.org for more details. There's a link on the left for "Rider Resources". Spinner is right that you'll need to obtain a license in order to race (~$60/yr), but most events will provide one-day licenses for a fee, to let beginners give it a try.

was7g said:
My goal for this season was to ride a century. I've done that, and now I want a goal for the winter. Can I get better over the off season, or am I just treading water, so to speak, until I can get out on the bike more often in the spring?
Winter goals are kinda tough without a power meter. I used to set a target mileage or target hours type of goal, which I think is better than nothing. People may argue that just putting in miles or hours isn't a great way to train, and I'd agree - you still need to do something with those hours. Still, having a goal is better than not, if it helps get you on the bike. You might work on a season goal instead, and use the winter to help build toward that. Maybe look at more challenging century rides in your area, such as those that include long mountainous portions, etc. I trained for the Triple Bypass Ride in Colorado 2 years ago, and that served as the launch platform for my racing endeavors. You might look for something like that closer to home.


was7g said:
Also, does anyone have books and/or Web sites that they recommend for 1) winter training, and 2) newbies interested in racing?
Training and Racing with a Power Meter by Allen & Coggan has great training guidance (geared toward, but not exclusively for, using a power meter), but it's not winter specific. I still highly recommend it, since I don't believe there's any reason that winter training should be different than goal-oriented training during the other seasons (although the goals themselves *may* be different). Other than that, I can't really recommend any, since most of the ones I've seen reflect the approach Spinner has outlined above.

A great first-step that I'd recommend is to read Andy Coggan's paper here. Don't let the title scare you: there's info in there for training with power, HR, and perceived exertion. After that, you'll have some questions -- post them. :)
 

frenchyge

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Apr 3, 2005
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normZurawski said:
You really need to lay out your goals for next year and work backwards from that. Most, if not all, books are going to tell you to take time off the bike and lift weights in the winter. I don't really agree with that approach, per se. So you'll need to collect as much info as you can and see what works for you.
Our posts crossed, but I agree 100%. :)
 

was7g

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May 11, 2006
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So in addition to a trainer, should I buy a power meter? I've read here and elsewhere (including the link you posted- thanks) that they're much more accurate than a HRM. I presume that's something I'll have to have the LBS install?
 

Sillyoldtwit

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Jan 13, 2006
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was7g said:
So in addition to a trainer, should I buy a power meter? I've read here and elsewhere (including the link you posted- thanks) that they're much more accurate than a HRM. I presume that's something I'll have to have the LBS install?
Well that statement should put the cat among the pigeons.:D Tyson
 

BullGod

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Apr 6, 2006
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Don't bother with a Power Meter - just get a trainer that has a reasonably accurate power measurement. Maybe the numbers aren't 100% accurate compared to SRM but as you're not competitive at the highest level you don't need to be 100% sure of your FT etc. As long as you can measure your own values on the same tool, watch for improvements and devise some good workouts you'll be fine. You will also save yourself a couple of thousand,a dn you won't turn into a nerd.

I now expect a flurry of posts displaying an almost religious like defence of power meters and the Coggan bible....
 

BlueJersey

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Jan 5, 2005
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Trainer?? You guys are hardcore. I just did a sub-threshold workout at 85% of my FT for 2 hours. That was something. My goal is to hit 3 hours. I couldn't imagine doing it that long on a trainer. :D


BullGod said:
Don't bother with a Power Meter - just get a trainer that has a reasonably accurate power measurement. Maybe the numbers aren't 100% accurate compared to SRM but as you're not competitive at the highest level you don't need to be 100% sure of your FT etc. As long as you can measure your own values on the same tool, watch for improvements and devise some good workouts you'll be fine. You will also save yourself a couple of thousand,a dn you won't turn into a nerd.

I now expect a flurry of posts displaying an almost religious like defence of power meters and the Coggan bible....
 

frenchyge

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Apr 3, 2005
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BullGod said:
Don't bother with a Power Meter - just get a trainer that has a reasonably accurate power measurement.
Well, if I may chime in with an almost religious-like defense of power meters, they, unlike a power-measuring trainer, can also be used during outdoor rides and races. :rolleyes:

Personally, I think a PM is the best monetary investment one can make to improve performance (assuming it fits within one's budget, which it probably does in this case since the OP is asking). Not everyone can afford one, of course, nor has the inclination to learn how to use the data, but a PM will do much more for one's training and riding than a tricked-out set of new wheels or a frame that's a pound lighter.
 

BullGod

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Apr 6, 2006
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Personally I torture myself for about 8 hours a week doing intervals, self designed crit simulations and sprint drills on the trainer during the winter and try to get an endurance ride outdoors or two on the weekend if weather permits. In March when the races start I always feel that I'm in the best shape ever and have the numbers on hand to back myself up. In December I was pushing so hard on the trainer I actually damaged my liver....

Then in the first races I get totally bollocksed. Nothing can really prepare you for racing. Even if you have a PM you will still always be choosing when you do high power intervals, and if you're alone at home the temptation to ease off when it hurts is so much harder to resist than it is if you're hanging on the back in a race you're determined to do well in.

I think also you should beware a remark like "if you can average 17mph" you'll do fine in racing. Don't think that implies that if you ride at a constand speed of 17mph you'll be ready to race. You will be dropped. You have to work on your speed intervals.

For example I know I am in good shape when I can average 32km/h for a 100km ride, but my speed is hardly every reading 32.....I am trying to push as many 3-10 minute intervals at +40km/h as I can and also I need to be able to make regular sprints to 50km/h+ at any time. Always mix it up.....sprint out of every corner, grind into headwind, try and max your speed when you have a tailwind etc.
 

BullGod

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Apr 6, 2006
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meandmybike said:
Can you elaborate on what happened?
Had digestive troubles, discolouration....seemed to indicate liver troubles - which was strange as I felt fine and was hitting some amazing numbers in training. Doctor ran some blood tests and said the liver enzyme activity was elevated, but no other signs of infection or problem. Probably just over exertion, dehydration or possibly the liver digesting the extra red blood cells my body was making during the training...especially after a week at altitide in Tenerife.

pro riders take pills to clean the liver out.
 

meandmybike

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Feb 7, 2005
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BullGod said:
Had digestive troubles, discolouration....seemed to indicate liver troubles - which was strange as I felt fine and was hitting some amazing numbers in training. Doctor ran some blood tests and said the liver enzyme activity was elevated, but no other signs of infection or problem. Probably just over exertion, dehydration or possibly the liver digesting the extra red blood cells my body was making during the training...especially after a week at altitide in Tenerife.

pro riders take pills to clean the liver out.


Think I'll be giving your crit simulation trainer workout a miss then! :D
 

frenchyge

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Apr 3, 2005
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BullGod said:
I think also you should beware a remark like "if you can average 17mph" you'll do fine in racing.
I agree with that, but someone who is asking "what speed do I need to be able to ride to start racing(?)" probably needs just the shove that a blanket "oh, you'll do fine" attempts to provide. In any case, you just don't know the real answer until you jump in and try it. Riding solo until you can average 25mph for an hour before entering your first race probably isn't the best either.