This season I chose to make some changes to my usual racing and training program. I've been building the last few years with Gordy Paulson and have had many really good races, but I am still looking for breakthrough top results consistently on the pro cyclocross level. Last year I did 49 races including road, mtn, and cross - that is a lot of racing for me since I work 45hrs a week and every other Saturday. A lot of those races in the fall require lots of travel too so that makes it even harder. The last 4-5 years I started racing in March or April and was still going in December or January. I took breaks during the summer but to me I seemed to peaking in June each year and then not getting those same great feelings back later in the season. Being that I usually train 10-14hrs a week I am not able to build huge fitness doing long 4-5 hr rides for months on end so I do lots of structured intervals to increase my fitness with 2-3hr rides tops. I think this works, but when you include racing in on top of the interval workouts, that's a lot of efforts in one season that can wear you down over 6-9 months. Being in my situation is a learning experience every year but dialing it in closure year after year is what we are working on.
This year we started focused training in March instead of February so about a month later. I also did not do any racing until May and now the plan is to pick and choose which races fit into the training plan and which ones don't much more than previous years. That's hard for me because I love racing so much but it's the chance I am going to take this season to see how it goes. Normally, I would be racing as much as possible right now since June is probably the best bike racing time of the year in WI with an abundance of races. It was tough to skip state road champs last weekend (and the first two WORS races) but it was just one of those races that we decided just didn't need to be done. Our reasoning is, normally I would go easy Friday before a race like that, do a medium ride Saturday with some openers and then race Sunday. Monday is an off day and then Tuesday I would probably not be fully recovered yet so we would skip my normal hard workout for something else. By not racing Sunday, I trained 3hrs on Friday, 4 on Saturday and 3 on Sunday for a total of 10hrs plus I trained like normal on Tuesday. That is probably about an additional 5-7 extra hours of training/riding over the weekend I did since I didn't race and that is a lot. We are hoping that spacing the races further apart and the benefits of better training will have a greater impact on the fall season than just full on racing all year long.
I use TrainingPeaks software and Gordy has been tracking my fitness the last few years, most of the time I can raise my fitness to a certain level but once racing starts, all those recovery days before and after races really add up to a lot of time I could be using for training if I didn't get beat up so much over the weekends. Sure, I could train through races but then you aren't really getting the most out of the race, and after the race you aren't getting the most out of training, in my opinion, just from being fatigued. So, what happens normally is that my fitness levels off usually in June/July and I more or less stop building even though I am racing a ton and going good. This year, according to my Software, I have already raised my CTL higher than previous years which basically means I have trained myself to a higher fitness level overall even though I have raced less and been training for less amount of time. If I can continue this tragectory for another month or two potentially I can could raise my overall fitness considerably from other years. Whether or not that makes me faster is still to be proven, but that is the hope.
So, we'll see how this experimental season plays out compared to others. Maybe it will have no effect over the long term or maybe it will mean being a little more fresh when September rolls around with a little extra fitness and fuel in the tank. I know it's tough not racing every weekend like I want to but if there are a few better results down the road I think it will be worth it.
I'll be testing the legs at WORS Camrock this weekend, Gordy gave me the OK so I'll be ready to go and see if I can repeat the hard fought victory from last year.