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What it takes #2 (February)

Antsonline's picture

By Antsonline - Posted on 25 February 2014

Welcome back! If you are reading this – then I think it means you liked the last one, or you just want to pick further holes in what I am saying!

I hope all of you have had a good time in Feb and have completed some solid training based on some of the guidelines I shared?

Some seated, big gear, hill reps? Perhaps some steady state threshold intervals? Maybe even some longer rides at a little bit harder than you might normally have gone? Just slightly above “constant chatter” levels of discomfort?

I am slowly getting into Strava – having people look at what I am doing, and also what other people are doing too. To be honest, it really doesn’t give the game away - its one thing to see what’s being done, but another thing altogether to get out there and do it.
I did my 20mins threshold test, and posted it up – I had a few people send me a note to say “erm – you know everyone can see that data now?” – it was very considerate of them to tip me off.
To be honest, if anyone had asked me directly what the numbers were, I’d tell them – them knowing is a different thing to them doing it, or working out how to make me suffer based on it…

The racing is really getting close now. In fact, it has begun. Training should be adjusted with that in mind. The heavy, over-geared work should be wound back a bit now. Don’t stop it all together, but perhaps include it only in your longer rides. Stay seated, push a bigger gear. But don’t do entire sessions dedicated to that strength exercise alone.

Its time now to start to train more specifically. To get into a bit more of a ‘race’ mode. This is often where people slip up, or don’t know where to turn.

It would seem pretty much everyone understands ‘base miles’ – if you ask anyone, they will tell you about it, and most will actually explain that they are in a ‘base mileage’ phase. How many times have you asked about someones riding and had them say “I’m in a race phase now. Some really specific training that is linked to the races I am looking to do” – ever?

There is really only one other phase worth thinking about after this one – which is the really specific ‘tapering’ type phase – and that’s the one with lots of rest and actually a distinct chance of getting ‘less fit’ but ‘more sharp’. We’ll take a look at that next month.

Not many people understand the transition from ‘base’ to ‘race’. I’ll attempt to explain it here for you. At least – its my beliefs and approach to it. Like I’ve said before – others have different ways.

Typically the first thing people do is drop the hours and up the intensity. And broadly, that’s not completely wrong. What you tend to see though is the move from one extreme to another.

An example:
If you are doing mostly endurance riding, with some slightly harder threshold efforts once or twice a week as part of your base riding, its really hard on your body to just add some shorter, even harder efforts and drop the longer rides. In fact, you still need those longer rides. To be honest, you need them throughout the year, unless you are doing some REALLY specific training for a short event. You really don’t need the extremely short, hard efforts. Most people would be better spent riding at tempo or threshold and including some 30second ‘spikes’ (30mins of tempo riding with a 30sec sprint every 3 or 5mins is a cracker-jack session to do with mates – keep the pace high, stand and race for 30secs – then back to a high pace even though you are breathing through your every orifice).

Mountain Biking, in most formats is an aerobic sport. XCO, Marathon – its all aerobic. The best way to build aerobic capacity is to ride aerobically (some real genius thought that up). However, at the edge of aerobic capacity is where the hurt comes. So introduce it slowly as you move into race phase.

The threshold efforts you were doing. Perhaps if they were 5 – 10mins long you might make the final minute or so even higher than threshold – so essentially, try and practice a 1min long sprint finish at the end of each effort. Or the hill reps – once you hit the top of the hill, stand up and press on over the crest for 30secs of real power. Seated for most of the hill, then standing and driving at the top. Hopefully you get the picture.

In order to do this, you might reduce the number of intervals by one or two. But you have upped the intensity of the session. The ‘total stress’ of the session is the same, but its occurring from less time at the effort, but more discomfort for the given time.
The message here is not to throw the baby out with the bath-water. Aerobic riding is the key to great mountain biking. It can never be removed – so the longer rides, the threshold efforts – they always have a place. But don’t be afraid to dial it back a bit, and replace it with a bit of hurt.

Think of the races you are looking to do well in, and be honest with what you are good or bad at. If its XCO do you find it hard hurting for the first 5mins of the race before you settle into a good rhythm? If so – then try to replicate that. Do a couple of 10min efforts where the first 2mins is ‘full stink’. You get very used to it, very quickly. Do you battle with changes of pace in the middle of a marathon? The long rides – lets say they are 3hrs. Perhaps include a few 10-15mins of tempo in there, or put a few ‘race’ sections at the end with your mates. Everyone is fresh at the beginning – its less fun if people can respond to your ‘attacks’ -people are smashed at the end – that’s when you can really start the sledging….

Blended sessions. Race simulation. It will make racing much less of a stress. I’ve said it before – you cant expect to be able to do something in a race if you have never done it before…

Remember – its likely to tire you out more than you expect in the beginning. Take a bit more rest if you feel tired. On a micro level (in each session – maybe 3mins rest would be better as 4mins?) And on a macro level (tough sessions might be spaced 3 days apart instead of 2?) – it’s important to listen to what you are feeling. Eat well, drink well, rest well etc.

As a guide, my training (in terms of hours) will come back by around 10% - although there will still be some longer weeks in there. The intensity is up now. For example, my ‘week’ would be a crit race on a Tuesday, a solid interval session on a weds, and hill reps on a Thursday. Lots of intensity there. Monday and Friday – easy rides. Weekend – race and a long ride. I’m not sharing any secrets – like I said – its all on Strava now…;) Feel free to replicate it and join me!

On a personal level, Feb has been ridiculously fun. I got not one, but two new MTBs!! How lucky? Chatting with the guys at Cyclery Northside I decided on a trail bike and a race bike for 2014. Both Specialized. For going VERY fast, I now have an S-Works Epic World Cup. Jeez, it’s a racing snake. Fantastic. For pretty much all other occasions however, I have my new ‘go to’ bike – a Camber Carbon Evo. This bike is just the best thing ever. I’d go so far as to say that if I wasn’t racing, I would just own the Camber. Sooo much fun.

Feb also has my birthday, which coincided with both my first race of the year, and also the first ride of the Epic! What a day - at Ourimbah (a lovely low key club XCO) with a load of other Nobmobbers. It was gratifying on so many levels. Firstly – more people were happy to race A-grade, despite pretty much 100% confidence that they wouldn’t win. Having 15 people on a start line is fun. Only one person can win anyway – and after that, everyone ‘loses’ or gets dropped – so there is nothing to be ashamed of. Its worth reminding yourself of that sobering thought sometimes “Other than the winner, everyone gets dropped”. I was also hugely impressed that there were quite a few women at the race. I counted 5, but there could have been 6 (some dudes look a lot like women once they shave their legs!) – which would have been at least 10% of the total turnout. Really good to see.

As it happened, of the people who did race A-grade, I was the one most able to move around the course quickest, the one that didn’t get dropped, taking the first win for the year too. A good birthday I’d say! Don’t worry – with bigger races to come – I will certainly get my fair share of ‘getting dropped’!

Lots of racing coming up – Awaba for the Rocky Trail 4hr this weekend, then a weekend off, then Cap Punishment, James Williamson, Mogo (Silverback100), Wombat, Otway and Convict. I think in 7 weeks there are two weekends off.

So – if you ask – I am in a ‘race’ phase Eye-wink

Have a great month, and say “Hi” out there. As always – questions, comments – fire away. I hope you continue to find use or interest in this.

jp's picture

Another great blog Anthony. Thanks for sharing and keep 'em coming!

Brian's picture

Great write up Anthony

andyfev's picture

These insights really help, thanks again. I am one of those fortunate enough to follow you on Strava. Like you said, it really doesn't matter that people can see what you're up to they've actually got to do it themselves to match you and at the insane intensity you no doubt do yours at.

On a personel note, I'm still stuck in block 1 for another few weeks. After a cracking start I caught a common cold that knocked me for six. After 2 weeks off the bike and feeling quite ill I've finally succumbed to antibiotic treatment. Must say, after 2 days I'm feeling markedly better and might try a very easy ride tomorrow night to spin the legs. CP is only 2 weeks away and I'm still focused on my goal of sub 3hours even if it's 2hrs 59 mins and 59 secs Eye-wink Your blogs, amongst other literature I have read, give me the knowledge to hopefully achieve this. Much appreciated

Happy training everyone

sly_artichoke's picture

Good stuff Ants. And, as it is said, the road to hell is paved with good intentions...



andyfev's picture

Ants (open forum for others to comment also), what is the logic for seated climbs verses standing? Everything I have read reads to stay seated and grind out the climb but when I'm getting fatigued I really have to resist the urge to stand on the pedals, which I often don't manage. Then, the standing component lasts only a very short burst before my legs burn like a raging fire and I return to the grind.

Antsonline's picture

Its actually a very good question. I have read a fair bit of research that suggests there is almost no difference between seated and standing from an efficiency and energy expenditure perspective.
If you look at the difference between a rider such as Alberto Contador and (extreme example) Bradley Wiggins, you'll see a very different style, but broadly the same outcomes.
With all that being said, the nature of mtb riding - especially marathons, and especially on a dually, you want to be looking to maintain an even, light, cadence. Its really hard to stand and spin at 90+ rpm (you should try it some time - its funny), so by standing, you are forcing yourself to chose a bigger gear than would be optimal. If you are seated, using your gears, you are able to avoid the muscular damage that occurs from too much big gear mashing.
From a training perspective, we work on seated big gear climbs because it prepares you for moments in a race that require such high force. This phase of training should include some standing - so that when you might stand, it doesn't blow your legs up completely. Typically, people would use a 'stand' just to stretch out and use some different muscles for a bit, or to respond to (or create) an attack.
Try standing up 30 secs earlier than you would normally do - so you use it not as a 'last resort' but as a moment to get comfy again, and then sit down and get back into things...

I hope that helps? Its a really interesting topic with lots of studies and research. Not everyone is the same - so identify your style, and work on making that as efficient and smooth as possible...

andyfev's picture

Thanks Ants, great reply as always. Appreciate your time to answer so comprehensively

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