Let’s get one thing straight right off the bat… Well, a few things:
1. Yup, I am a nut. Technically, they call us “avid enthusiasts”. But nut, “freakin’ nut”, or even “freakin’s” older, dirty cousin works. I don’t mind if you think I’m crazy, I’m happy. It makes sense that a good portion of the population thinks I’m a little off.
2. I really do feel great, but I’ve tried this before and ended up burned out. I like the term “dead legs”. That’s what I had two years ago.
3. The idea for this little experiment came from Tour de France coverage last year. They were talking about what the cyclists would spend their “day off”: Three hours on the turbo trainer to keep their legs spun up.
I have noticed that it is harder to get my legs spun up after a day off, or worse, two days in a row off… Two days off is so bad that I’ve resorted to starting off with a mid-tempo ride, around 18 mph, before trying to get into the speed the next day.
4. Now if they can ride at average speeds up to five or six miles per hour faster over distances triple that which I’m capable of*, day after grueling day, and spend their day off on a trainer. If they can do that, there has to be a way for me to do the same thing, only slower and over fewer miles.
5. My bikes have been through a meticulous setup process so that I’m riding in a manner which won’t mess with my body’s mechanics… Everything lines up right so I am efficient and not working some parts of my body against others.
*Speed and capability is a tough concept to put down on paper/ether… I’m certainly capable of riding 200 km (125 miles). That’s not a big deal. I can also ride at 25-26 mph (if I have a group to ride in). The trick is putting those two together. Best I’ve ever done is a century in 4-1/2 hours. That’s fast, but not that fast. Though we have to deal with stop signs.
So let’s get two years ago out of the way first. My average speed was around 19 mph for a week of riding. Maybe even closer to 20. My hardest efforts were between 20.5 – 21.5 mph average. Medium efforts between 19.5 & 20.5 and “easy” days were at 18-19. The easy and medium days were way too fast. This led to my burning out after 13 days. I had to take a day off and rest because my body just couldn’t take that much effort without a rest.
This year, my hard efforts are faster but the easy days are much easier. 16 mph as a ride average, isn’t unheard of on the easy days. This isn’t a day off but it’s close enough for government work. Going slower on my easy days has made a world of difference in how I handle the faster days and how my legs can recover. More important, how I feel when I’m not riding. In this sense, active recovery is actually recovery, not just another ride.
Today will be my 14th day in a row and my legs feel great. Just one day off for the month of June. I’ll be fast and nimble and just rarin’ to go. We’ve got a 60 miler (or more) planned so that will get me to (or slightly over) 800 miles for the month with two more days left (Monday and Tuesday)… I should be able to horse in another 55 or so.
Finally, there are a few things that I don’t do to maintain that torrid pace… I don’t stretch, foam roll, get massages (though my wife throws in a mean back rub now and again). I also don’t try to fuel my muscles with beans, leaves and friggin’ tofu. I eat meat and potatoes and french fries and more meat and pizza. I’m not knocking the beans, leaves, twigs and granola lifestyle; whatever works for someone else, go for it. I also don’t take (or need) pain medication other than an Aleve every now and again, I feel spectacular.
The trick lies in the easy days. As long as my easy days follow this simple rule: On an easy day, I should be embarrassed if one of my friends see me riding that slow. I do two or three of those a week, mixed in with some good, tough days.
Here’s the schedule:
Monday: Easy, 16-20 miles.
Tuesday: Hard 30 with an easy 8 warm up.
Wednesday: Easy 16-20 miles.
Thursday: Medium 16-20.
Friday: Easy 25-35
Saturday: Hard 50-80 miles
Sunday: Medium 40-60 miles.
Do the math and that’s a whole lot of miles. I get my speed and the shorter days during the week mean I get my stress-pressure valve release so I can perform at a high level at work and still keep my legs spinning for the harder efforts on the weekends and Tuesday. Again, the key is the slow days. If I try to do too much on the easy days, put a fork in me. I need a day off every week in that case.
To wrap this up, this is my fourth year of cycling. There is a possibility, if I honestly assess myself, that my legs were just too immature to handle this schedule two years ago. Whatever the case, what I’m doing now works.
UPDATE: I just got back and showered up… We hammered out 52-1/2 tough, windy miles at a little over a 20 mph pace… Not that big a deal unless you know that we took it easy for the first fifteen miles and at 16-1/2 we were only pulling an 18 mph average. We spent a lot of miles heading home, north of 27 mph. I felt fantastic all the way into my driveway. Oh, and I have enough left in the tank to go out and get my other 7-1/2 in with my wife and kids so I can have 800 for the month…
This brings to mind one of my favorite Anti-New Thing statements: I’ll taper when I’m dead.