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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I've been reading the forums for a while and need to ask some questions specific to my situation. Thanks for taking the time...I appreciate the expertise on this forums!

First about me.
39 yrs old, 5'11" & 180lb (down from around 200lb 4 years ago). Not skinny but not fat, large leg muscles and larger upper body than most other racers.
Track sprinting and weightlifting background, riding at least twice per week since 2004, 2008 was first true race season, did a race or two in prior years.
I finished mid-pack in the regional races and top 5 in local series (3rd overall in Sport class out of ~20 man field). I know I've got a way to go. The road riders were the ones who seemed to eat my lunch, just kept the throttle higher for longer. I found that I don't run out of gas anymore, but I'm pretty near my limit the whole race long. I usually end the race near where I started, and I have a pretty good start, get passed by a few road guys and pass a few slower riders and settle into a pace that I can hold. I try to stick with a passer but my burst is short-lived not usually intense as I'd hoped. I can usually climb most anything if I see it coming and can get ready and I am pretty respectable climbing, I'm decent cornering, and not the fastest downhiller.
I ride a ~23lb aluminum hardtail with very good wheels/components.

Ask if there's any other background information that'd be helpful!

My questions are in four categories.

STRUCTURED vs UNSTRUCTURED
I read Friel's MTB & Road Biker's Training Bibles and created an annual plan (using Gupster's spreadsheet) but I didn't really follow it to a tee. This is probably because I like to ride the trails and a lot of the rides from Friel's book are on the road. So I'd end up riding less than the weekly hours goal but riding harder than prescribed during BASE, and more than the weekly hours not quite hard enough during BUILD/PEAK/RACE phases. Late in the season I started doing more long rides and it felt really good, but mostly I tend to default to what I know: riding the trails hard and fast. This is a challenge for me, taking the limited riding time I have and using most effectively and enjoyably.

BASE TRAINING
I started BASE training last year a little late, like mid-February. And the weather here isn't too bad and it starts getting better then, up until then I'd been running and doing some spinning classes. This year I'd like to do better. I am a fairly new rider, and I skimped on BASE last year so base training should be a priority. But is it really that important? How do I get that Long Steady Distance when there's snow (I don't have a trainer yet)? I have read a lot that seems to question the necessity of LSD; they say just do intervals as the adaptations are similar but more efficient. Any thoughts?

ROAD vs TRAILS
Not trying to stir up the old controversy, but in my area there are lots of trails and lots of roads to choose from and I do have a cyclo-bike to do road rides. The roadies are fast, they seem to have got that way on the road. So I plan to incorporate more road riding into my plan, I have done intervals and other workouts last year on the cyclo-bike, it was enjoyable. The question is to what degree should I go road? Should I ride my MTB on the road, for geometry, etc.? How about group rides with local club? I have a 35 mile roundtrip mostly flat commute to work that I could do more consistently.

TRAIL vs WORKOUT MENU
This is the toughest one to describe on the internet. We have some good hills to climb and some nice long flats along the canals and trails a plenty (some flat & some hilly). But how do I match up the trail with the workout? For example, I know I can ride the canals and do a tempo workout, but even then there are some dips where the HR drops and then a climb where HR spikes. Intervals on trails? HR goes up on the climb and down on then descent...for short (Anaerobic Endurance) hill climbs I found a hill but it requires some technique to manual at a couple places. You see the hardest thing is to match up the menu of rides against what the training plan calls for in a given week. Hard to get anything but general advice since no one knows the trails here. I just never 'got' how to select which workout (from Friel's appendix B) to choose I know it should be a M or an A but A1, A4, or A5? My self-assessment shows that muscular & anaerobic endurance are limiters so during late base and build phases I do some intervals, but for how long? How often? These workouts are short so my total hours in the saddle are light. I don't ride 5 days/week, more like 3 or 4 days/wk. So I like to really ride hard when I get out there...


So my bottom line is to maximize training effectiveness (whose isn't?). I can't ride everyday, but there are opportunities to ride more. What is needed? More commuting? Riding with a fast group, or ride the roads, or really stick to the annual plan structure, etc. Big challenges are BASE Training and actually using the Friel workouts. My intentions are good, we'll see about follow through! Again, thanks in advance for reading...

James
 

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A short answer to a long question but....

The three big things I see in the 1st paragraph are:

1. roadies seem faster.
2. You don't run out of gas but you're at your limit the whole time (who isn't?)
3. You try to keep up with people who pass you but you can't.

From that it looks like a lack of intervals. Especially point 3. It sounds like you have a pace and can maintain that pace, but struggle with changes in pace. Roadies (to generalize) are all about changes in pace (i.e. intervals). Keeping up with a passer by is nothing more than an interval. You're traveling in your comfort zone, you need to get out of your comfort zone to keep up with the passer and ultimately get back into your comfort zone at the higher pace.

Intervals...

The trainer is more scientific than the road and the road is more scientific than the trail. It's very hard to do anything structured on the trail as the terrain is constantly changing. The road is better if you can find a long stretch without traffic or stops. The trainer is better still. There's nothing to stop you from doing highly structured intervals on the trainer (except boredom and pain).

If you want to maximze training effectiveness, you need to be more structured and more than likely need to add some significant road and/or trainer workouts to your schedule. You know the road workouts work, as the roadies are on the podium in front of you. However, you have to be aware of turning your hobby into a job. At 39 (I'm 40 btw) I'm betting this is a hobby and not a job. With that in mind, be as structured as you can stand while still looking forward to riding each day. That's my perspective anyway....

As for base, I'll let someone with more experience chime in. I'm in one of those year round riding locations, and structured training is my achilles heal as well so I don't really have a "base" part of the season.

My background - 40 years old, 6 ft, 190 lbs. Currently racing beginner b/c the races last an hour vs two and usually finishing in the top 10. I raced a lot between 1988 and 1998 and then retired until 2006 or so. Back into it now with a much different perspective. It is truly a hobby and for fun. 99% of my training is on the road and mostly in 1 hour durations during lunch (hence racing beginner).
 

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NC2WA said:
I've been reading the forums for a while and need to ask some questions specific to my situation. Thanks for taking the time...I appreciate the expertise on this forums!

First about me.
39 yrs old, 5'11" & 180lb (down from around 200lb 4 years ago). Not skinny but not fat, large leg muscles and larger upper body than most other racers.
Track sprinting and weightlifting background, riding at least twice per week since 2004, 2008 was first true race season, did a race or two in prior years.

BASE TRAINING
I started BASE training last year a little late, like mid-February. And the weather here isn't too bad and it starts getting better then, up until then I'd been running and doing some spinning classes. This year I'd like to do better. I am a fairly new rider, and I skimped on BASE last year so base training should be a priority. But is it really that important? How do I get that Long Steady Distance when there's snow (I don't have a trainer yet)? I have read a lot that seems to question the necessity of LSD; they say just do intervals as the adaptations are similar but more efficient. Any thoughts?

James
If you race on the track, just switch up your events. A 40km points race one night a week, one night of tempo, and 2 endurance rides a week will be more than enough to get you in shape for Sport races.

In terms of "Base Training", the most important thing is that you're getting plenty of saddle time. I am not a believer in the "Long SLOW Distance"; for damn near everyone that's a waste of time, not to mention incredibly boring. Long STEADY Distance, however, is great for you. You'll get most of the physiological adaptations of pure FTP work, while not putting your body under nearly as much stress as a real interval workout.

Right now I'm doing between 10-15hrs a week; 15hrs most weeks, and a 10hr easy week once a month. That will be switching to 15-20+ once it gets remotely warm outside; it's much easier to put in big hours outside when you have something besides a laptop to look at while riding the CompuTrainer or rollers.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Less is more?

Just for clarification, I was a running track sprinter NOT a bicycling track sprinter!

Duke of Kent:
Thanks for the big picture weekly breakdown, I'm not going to get 15+ hours per week. But I usually do between 5-10 hours...including some x-training during BASE.

Greg WJs:
Appreciate your thoughts. You're correct this is my hobby...I have not CONSISTENTLY performed intervals as part of a periodized program. I end up riding the same (off-road) training rides because of the factors mentioned above: time, familiarity, difficulty choosing which workout to perform when, etc.
 

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NC - I'm guilty of the same thing. Often I allow the route to dictate my intervals. More hills, more intervals. And I have paid for it in the same way you have in terms of being passed and not being able to do anything about it. If you really want to move to the next level, you might try one of the following.

1. buy a good trainer (I just got a kurt kinetic fluid one) and spend a couple nights per week doing scientific intervals. You can put a slick tire on the back of your mtb and use it. The plus side is it's very scientific and very effective. The down side is it begins to turn your hobby into a job.

2. Either put slicks on your mountain bike or buy an moderately expensive road bike and join a local weekly hammerfest on the road. This is the "if you can't beat them, join them" option. The plus side is it can be fun, it brings variety, you make new friends and you're almost assured to get into shape very quickly. The downside is you will more than likely have to purchase a road bike to keep up with them and you control none of the variables. You leave when they want to leave, you ride as fast and as far as they want to go etc... I struggle with this option b/c the group rides invaribly conflict with my kids' practices and games.

3. Buy a road bike and do your thing solo on the road. I'm a huge fan of this one b/c I can control the variables (start time, distance, intensity etc..), it's outdoors and brings the variety. You can do it on a mountain bike as well but my experience has been riding a mountain bike on the road sucks. I do like riding my road bikes on the road however.

Bottom line: if you do what you've always done, you'll get what you've always got in terms of results. Structured intervals will bring you to that next level, they're just not very fun.


Edit: I'd also add, per Friel, that your training time ought to be in the same neighborhood as your racing time. For you, that means 2 to 2.5 hours at least once a week. Get used to being in the saddle a little longer than your normal race and your races will be more enjoyable.
 

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Twitch

It sounds like our body types are similar. I'm in the 5'8" 170lb range with little body fat. I have legs bigger than the waists of a few of my teammates! For me, I can train on the trails all I want, but my weakness are better worked by getting on the road. I have extrememly high 5s, 10s and 30s Power due to the tree-trunks. I could be a competitive road sprinter...in those last 30s of a race! (unfortunately I'd be 10 miles behind by then) I just struggle with the long steady tempo (and above) work. The road bike is the best way to overcome that. It's just too hard to get 20 min steady intervals on the trial without jumping into LT or Vo2 occasionally, and then recovering on some short downhill. The coaches I've worked with recommend around 50% training on the road for me. I've really learned to enjoy it.

If I am on the trails, I try to pick out ones that work best for a particular workout. I can choose between fast and smooth, 2 hour extended climbing, short punchy hills...you name it. I may not always ride the trail I want to on a given day, I'll ride the one I need to.

In regards to base training in the winter, snow and cold aren't as bad as I once thought. In the past years, I refused to go outside and wasted away on the trainer or did spin classes. The spin classes were not good for Base at all. I saw a HR of over 200 multiple times. Not real basey... This year, I'm out on the cross bike during morning, day, and night. I've actually found a new love of being out there alone, when others won't. Is soooo much better than sitting on that trainer.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Twitch slower?

used2Bhard said:
...could be a competitive road sprinter...in those last 30s of a race! (unfortunately I'd be 10 miles behind by then) I just struggle with the long steady tempo (and above) work.
Right on! I feel that if I were in contention at that point I'd be very happy. :)

used2Bhard said:
The road bike is the best way to overcome that. It's just too hard to get 20 min steady intervals on the trial without jumping into LT or Vo2 occasionally, and then recovering on some short downhill. The coaches I've worked with recommend around 50% training on the road for me.
Yes. This is really the answer I arrived at, maybe I just don't want to hear it! Seems like a local coach might be a good option, someone who knows the trails and roads and can prescribe accordingly...

used2Bhard said:
The spin classes were not good for Base at all. I saw a HR of over 200 multiple times. Not real basey... This year, I'm out on the cross bike during morning, day, and night. I've actually found a new love of being out there alone, when others won't. Is soooo much better than sitting on that trainer.
It's a good idea, non-competitive solo rides, except that is what I do a majority of the time already. And I usually push it hard :rockon:

Thanks for the input.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Same Boat

Greg WJs said:
Often I allow the route to dictate my intervals. More hills, more intervals. And I have paid for it in the same way you have in terms of being passed and not being able to do anything about it.
Exactly! I'm at my limit already...

Greg WJs said:
1. buy a good trainer (I just got a kurt kinetic fluid one) and spend a couple nights per week doing scientific intervals. You can put a slick tire on the back of your mtb and use it. The plus side is it's very scientific and very effective. The down side is it begins to turn your hobby into a job.
I tried a trainer once and I could probably handle it on a limited basis.

Greg WJs said:
2. Either put slicks on your mountain bike or buy an moderately expensive road bike and join a local weekly hammerfest on the road. This is the "if you can't beat them, join them" option. The plus side is it can be fun, it brings variety, you make new friends and you're almost assured to get into shape very quickly. The downside is you will more than likely have to purchase a road bike to keep up with them and you control none of the variables.
Already got that covered, got a cyclo-bike with road tires on it. It's just unknown whether it's good enough to ride with the road group, I think it probably is.

Greg WJs said:
3. Buy a road bike and do your thing solo on the road. I'm a huge fan of this one b/c I can control the variables (start time, distance, intensity etc..), it's outdoors and brings the variety.
This may be my sweet spot, I'd probably need to ride solo just due to scheduling.

Greg WJs said:
Bottom line: if you do what you've always done, you'll get what you've always got in terms of results. Structured intervals will bring you to that next level, they're just not very fun.
Too true. But they're not that bad...are they?

Greg WJs said:
Edit: I'd also add, per Friel, that your training time ought to be in the same neighborhood as your racing time. For you, that means 2 to 2.5 hours at least once a week. Get used to being in the saddle a little longer than your normal race and your races will be more enjoyable.
Yeah, I need to re-read Friel and be more rigorous about the weekly long-ride...I did a 2.5 hour ride on Saturday with a couple of pals and it turned from a nice pace tempo ride into a hammerfest up every long climb in the area! So I may need to do these solo as well :crazy:
 

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what i am hearing is that you are running at your limit(your LT) and don't have any more left for passing, keeping up and a surprize hill.


simple. work your LT higher. to so this you need a strong base.

yup knew that was comming. base is key for most hard workouts or improvement. with a good base you can hammer a good LT interval twice a week.

two months of LT training and you will be very much on your way to keeping up with the lead pack.

here is another point. the higher your LT the more you are resting or not working as hard at the level you are at now. instead of watching riders slowly pull away, you stand up, hammer away(at LT) and catch their wheel. take a short rest(remember that higher LT), recover and pass that guy at your LT rate. he can't hang and you drop him.
 

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NC2WA said:
Exactly! I'm at my limit already...

NC2WA said:
I tried a trainer once and I could probably handle it on a limited basis.
If you live in a harsh climate, and really want to race you bike, you need to get used to indoor training.

NC2WA said:
Already got that covered, got a cyclo-bike with road tires on it. It's just unknown whether it's good enough to ride with the road group, I think it probably is.
I can hang on many group rides with cross tires mounted on my 29er. There's absolutely no reason you couldn't do the same with road tires on a cross bike.

NC2WA said:
Too true. But they're not that bad...are they?
If you're doing a regular set of FTP boosting intervals, below threshold intensity, maybe not. If you're doing an FTP test, yes, you should be cursing the day you were born.

NC2WA said:
Yeah, I need to re-read Friel and be more rigorous about the weekly long-ride...I did a 2.5 hour ride on Saturday with a couple of pals and it turned from a nice pace tempo ride into a hammerfest up every long climb in the area! So I may need to do these solo as well :crazy:
Solo rides are great for clearing your head, and for recovery, but you need to push yourself. A big, bad group ride on the road or in the woods is the best way for a relative beginner to boost his/her fitness while still having fun.
 

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I am in the same boat as you in that it is "hard" not to push "hard" anytime that I hit the trail even when I know that my workout says that I am not supposed to. Your workouts during base are lower intensity for a reason. Do you have a heart rate monitor? If not, I suggest that you get one that will allow you to set your lower and upper limits for a given workout's HR zones. This is how I keep myself reigned in. Today for example, my workout was to do a 3.5hr ride off road in HR zones 2-4 and to not push too hard on the climbs. For me it is just instinctive to attack the climbs with vigor, BUT I am "paying" a coach to set up my workouts so I would be foolish not to follow them. So I set my upper HR limit at the top of Zone 4 and when I here the alarm sound it is letting me know that I am pushing too hard, so I immediately ease up and allow my HR to get back in range.

Also, I truly believe in base training. Last year I put in 3 really good months of base that I really feel made a huge difference throughout the entire season.

If you do buy a trainer make sure that you buy a good one. Some of them REALLY suck. I can recommend the 1-up from Comp USA.
 

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Flat Ark said:
I am in the same boat as you in that it is "hard" not to push "hard" anytime that I hit the trail even when I know that my workout says that I am not supposed to. Your workouts during base are lower intensity for a reason. Do you have a heart rate monitor? If not, I suggest that you get one that will allow you to set your lower and upper limits for a given workout's HR zones. This is how I keep myself reigned in. Today for example, my workout was to do a 3.5hr ride off road in HR zones 2-4 and to not push too hard on the climbs. For me it is just instinctive to attack the climbs with vigor, BUT I am "paying" a coach to set up my workouts so I would be foolish not to follow them. So I set my upper HR limit at the top of Zone 4 and when I here the alarm sound it is letting me know that I am pushing too hard, so I immediately ease up and allow my HR to get back in range.

Also, I truly believe in base training. Last year I put in 3 really good months of base that I really feel made a huge difference throughout the entire season.

If you do buy a trainer make sure that you buy a good one. Some of them REALLY suck. I can recommend the 1-up from Comp USA.
"Base" training:

http://ryderhesjedal.ca/

Watch the video, check out his Garmin stats. I'd imagine he knows a bit about getting ready for a hard season.

Traditional "base" is overrated and ineffective for the vast majority of the population.
 

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Losing body mass helps. It's a long slow process for our body types (mesomorph). I too was a track sprinter (200m,400m, sprint relay, mile relay) as well.

Never in my life I ever thought I'd be capable of endurance events, but in the 30's, the body changes, and it seems to convert well to endurance events. But the body doesn't forget it was once a sprinter.

I started in sport class at 5' 10" 172 pounds, podiumed my first sport race at 166, and moved to expert at 162. Achieved a few podiums in the small expert 40+ field, but as I look around me on the starting line, can't help notice the small BMI's of my fellow riders. The only guy in our group who is 180 is about 6' 2". Another guy is 170, but is absolutely ripped to shreds, pretty much a physical freak!! (Usually wins the flatter, rolling courses) Our points champ is 155 and his nemesis is around 140, and an ex-pro.

As others above said, work that LT power (long threshold intervals, Sweet Spot training, Tempo, etc.) and reduce your body mass. This year I'm doing LT improvers during base, usually 3 times a week, instead of lifting weights on the legs (btw, with Friel, base and weights go together, hand in hand). Will see if it adds a few watts to the 20 min average. My 5 min and 20 min powers are just way, way, way too far apart (20 min = 78% of 5 min).

Another thing I do that helps me, is to pick courses that have rolling hills. If a course has 4 or more major climbs per lap, that helps. Helps me use my 5min, 1min, and 5 s powers more often. I stop entering races that has 1 or 2 major climbs per lap; exploits my weak 10+ min power.
 

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Base

duke of kent said:
"Base" training:

Traditional "base" is overrated and ineffective for the vast majority of the population.
With my 7-10 hours of training time a week, I can't afford to waste time cruising along easy. I think my coach has a pretty good outline to help with my weakness. For me, base this year just means a bunch of sustained tempo rides followed with weekly hilly workouts. I'm avoiding anaerobic work. I'm trying to improve my 20 min power and climbing. Last year, I was doing 4 hour drones on the weekend and then spin class during the week where I spent half my time at 190bpm. Neither were good for base...

In the past I mistook what "don't go hard" meant. It doesn't mean go easy all the time like some folks do, it just means don't kill yourself in the top end.

I'm staying out in the cold and snow on the bike and away from the spin instructors this year. I'm also avoiding the 4 hour bike path 125 bpm rides even more.
 

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I'm not a training expert by any mean and 2008 was my first racing season, racing in Sport 30-39. I learned a lot, mostly about what not to do. :p Here's my take for the base period:

My base consists of 'traditional' base riding these days but I also do some harder efforts here and there, similar to used2Behard, not too hard (staying under the LT) but I try not too lose too much power and speed from last season by only spining easy gears forever. I focus on endurence but remind my body about power and speed.

I also like to vary with some spin-ups now and then and contrast that with lower RPM on not too severe climbs. I split my bike time between the trainer and riding outside, still commute everyday, even at temps around -30, working some skills in the snow. I will soon add more resistance training, to slowly improve the power and later the obligatory intervals.

Time spent each week depends a lot on the time we each have, I try to have the most volume I can in the base which is about 15 to 18 hours per week. That's a lot more than I did last year (I only commuted last year, without thinking about what I was doing) so I'm pretty sure I'll see nice improvements in 2009.

I think the OP is pretty good with his endurance but could improve a lot by adding intervals, I'd start with longer, less intense ones to keep the endurance work and gradually add some shorter, more intense ones to add the kick needed to accelerate and keep up with the passing riders, even becoming the rider who passes and that makes others suffer to hold on.
 

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....

OilcanRacer said:
those of you who are saying "traditional base" is not needed, are you saying that longer milage at zone 2-3 is not helpful?
I'm not saying that.

I think Zone 3/Tempo is very helpful. I also think Zone 2 is good right now with some shorter harder work (3 and 4 with a touch of 5a) mixed in on climbs.

I was originally coached to do zone 1 and 2 only this time of year and avoid any intensity. Alot of the guys I ride with do nothing but 4 hour cruises at 120-145 BPM for hours on end right now. That might be great if you can get 30 hours in during a week. As for me, with less than 10 hours to play with I need some work in there, and not just a bunch of snooze time on a bike.
 

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OilcanRacer said:
those of you who are saying "traditional base" is not needed, are you saying that longer milage at zone 2-3 is not helpful?
No.

I'm saying that avoiding LT/FTP work will result in regression, not improvement. Or, lesser gains might be had by following that sort of program, than if the athlete did some threshold work throughout the winter.

Of course longer mileage is helpful. But "old school" ideology that was nothing but little ring before March (on the road, 39/53 double) isn't flying anymore.
 
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