Goal setting and categorizing races

One aspect to goal setting for the new year is to decide on the races you want to do.  There are races that you want to do well in and others that are simply fun races that you enjoy doing.  There are lots of reasons why we all race and generally they include doing well and being competitive.

In cycling, we often prioritize our races as A, B, or C races.  Generally, the priority refers to how competitive and fresh we want to be for the race.  It’s important to prioritize your races so you (or your coach) knows how to manage your training schedule for the season.

A Race.  An A race is a race you want to focus your season on.  You will be managing your workouts to bring you to a peak for this race and to have a pretty big taper to get your fresh as well.  This generally means that after the event, you will have compromised some fitness for this event, but since it’s your A race, that’s the point.  A good example for an A race might be national championships.  However, you may actually not have an A race, which is perfectly fine.

B Race.  Your B races are ones that you want to be competitive in but are not necessarily season goals.  This could be important races that you want to get upgrade points in or otherwise do well, but you don’t want to sacrifice too much fitness for this type of race.  This will be the bulk of the races for the season typically.

C Race.  A C race is a participation event where you don’t need to be competitive.  This could be a training race or a race where you’ll do some work for the team.  Another example might be a second race in the same day in which your strategy is to focus on the first race and merely complete this second race.  It’s fine to have some C races in your plan, but you probably don’t want to have too many of these either or you won’t really be having fun in your races.

So make sure you give some thought on why you’re doing a particular race and set some goals for the event itself, including prioritizing the race as an A, B, or C race.

Darkest before the dawn…

Winter is still in full effect, throughout my area at least.  I know that I’m a little tired of cold weather riding and yearn for those warmer days that will come with spring-time riding.

Hang in there!  The key to remember is that those who persist, continue to put in the efforts required, are the ones who will make progress and have the best results during the upcoming season.  The “off season” is the the ideal time to build upon last seasons results and set yourself up for a great year this year.

Whether you’re grinding through another trainer session or enduring frozen fingers and toes during a long outdoor endurance ride, continue to persevere.  Those folks who give in and short cut their workouts now will be steps behind you while you are continuing to make progress.  Keep it up and have a great season this year!


Focus is the ability to put aside distractions and put attention and effort into a specific objective.  Focus is often considered a positive attribute.  Many times today, we hear the term “in the moment”.  I consider someone who is focused to be in the moment.

Focus in terms of cycling means several things.  In the narrowest sense, it means being able to hit the objectives of the specific workout for the day.  Or, if we are in a race, it means keeping the objectives of the race in the forefront of our consciousness and doing what we can to achieve them.  A good periodized training plan has objectives for the week/month and includes goals for the year.  Focus allows us to keep those longer term goals in mind.

So as you go about your training, stayed focused.  Attain the objectives for each workout and continue to make progression on your goals/objectives for the year.

Preventing Colds and the Flu

Now that the season transition is in full swing, cold and flu season is upon us. At least here in the northern hemisphere, the days are short and it’s harder to train given the limited daylight and uncooperative weather. The last thing we need is to get sick to further disrupt our workout schedule.

I came across this article from RealAge.com and found the advice to be pretty good common sense. You can read the details for yourself, but basically, the gist from a nutrition standpoint is:

  • Vitamin C supplementation might be helpful for athletes who work out outdoors
  • Echinecea won’t help prevent colds but might help reduce the length of a cold
  • Probiotics are like echinecea in that they won’t prevent but may reduce length of a cold

Other healthy habits mentioned include washing your hands and disinfecting surfaces likely to harbor cold germs, such as doorknobs and faucets.  That extends to your work environment of course, so if you wash your hands and then have to open the door, you may have contaminated your hands again — keep some disinfecting gel at your desk to help with that.

From a cyclists perspective, the other things to consider include making sure you keep up on your fuel intake and don’t let yourself get too drained and become susceptible.  Keep up with your hydration as well, since the air tends to be drier in the winter time.  If you have any other thoughts or tips that work well for you, feel free to post your favorites.

“You can’t out train a crappy diet”

I attended a webinar this evening presented by a sports nutritionist. The topic was on training in a hot and humid environment, including potential negative effects from dehydration and heat illness as well as strategies to overcome those potential effects.

One of the strategies included diet. Laura Anderson, the nutritionist, said she tells the military special forces personnel she works with that “you can’t out train a crappy diet.” It seems that not only cyclists, but also military personnel may have the belief that their active lifestyle allows them to get away with having a poor diet. Certainly, there’s more room for being less strict and indulging a little here and there, but the concept seems pretty valid. To perform at your best, you need to fuel your best. When the conditions or races are harder than normal, perhaps that’s the time to be even more conscious of what you’re putting in your body for fueling performance.

Something to think about and incorporate into your daily routine.

Interval Training Workshop on 3/14/11

This past Monday, I hosted a workshop in Northern Virginia at the local Tyson’s-Pimmit library.  A small but enthusiastic crowd attended.  I’m often asked questions about interval training, including how to do it, what types of intervals, and which ones will give the best benefit.

Of course, “it depends” is often applicable.  The first thing an athlete needs to determine is what it is they are trying to improve.  Naturally, greater threshold power is (or should be) one of the type priorities for any endurance cyclist.  Lots of ways to accomplish that but this time of year (early Spring), lots of tempo work, longer endurance rides, and some threshold intervals (e.g., 2 x 20) are a pretty traditional way to ramp up for the season.

I have a handout in the Resources section of my website.  Of course, the ideas were described originally (perhaps better too?) by others and I’ve hopefully credited everyone properly.  Check it out and let me know what you think.  If you have favorite intervals or questions, drop me a note and I’ll see if I can answer.

Ramping Up With Spring

Here in the mid-Atlantic over the last week or so, it’s really starting to feel like Spring is on its way.  Anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere, though, the days are getting longer.  Warm days are not too far in the future.  Early season races are starting to show up on the calendar (and even being raced).  The enthusiasm for racing is building and so are the thoughts of getting out there and going for epic rides, especially when a warmer day (or not so cold day) comes through.

I want to ride until my legs falls off.  Depending on your training to date, that might be a short ride or a long one.  Remember that training load is:

Duration  x  Intensity  x  Frequency

How often you ride, how long you ride (miles or hours), and how hard you ride, all determine your “base fitness”.  Duration and frequency are the easy ones to track.  Intensity becomes somewhat harder unless you use a power meter on your bike (and then it’s relatively easy).

The rule of thumb.  Since this is a cycling blog, let’s use the rule of legs.  A pretty common training concept is to increase weekly mileage or duration no more than about 10%.  If you have a good base in your legs, that works fine to help manage fatigue and prevent injuries that might occur from ramping up too quickly.  If you’ve got nothing else to go on, then use that as a guide.

More rules.  Okay, not rules but more like guidelines.

  • Keep track of your morning weight.  Do this to track hydration status more than anything else.  Some folks are better than others at replenishing after a ride and if you’re not as good as you can be, this is something that might help you.  If you have weight loss as a goal, you can see the longer term trends by gathering more data points.
  • Use morning heart rate.  I’m not a big fan of heart rate in general because of the myriad external (non-performance) factors that influence it, but here is a good example of how heart rate can provide some insights.  An elevated morning heart rate might just indicate that you have not fully recovered from your previous workout and that you may need to go a little easy or take a day off.
  • Learn to listen better.  Get in tune with how you feel and use that as a guide for when you might need rest.  Your body is talking to you; it’s up to you to listen closely.  However, don’t let poor motivation be an excuse to skip your workout.
  • Eat better and sleep more.  You’ve heard it before.  Good nutrition can have a significant impact on your health, energy levels, and recovery.  Sleep is critical to recovery as well.  Plan these as much as you plan your workouts because you only get better with good recovery.  Don’t waste your workouts by not recovering properly.

Sometimes it’s okay to break the rules.  Just know the consequences (fatigue, soreness, etc.).  Now get out there and ride until your legs fall off!


Perseverance – steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc., esp. in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement.” *

What a powerful word perseverance is.  Despite difficulties or obstacles, you will continue with your course of action.  Even fighting your own discouragement, arguably one of the most difficult challenges, you will persevere and drive on.

Perseverance is one of the strongest attributes you can bring to your cycling (and the rest of your life as well).  Cycling is a hard sport.  It requires many long hours on the bike.  During this time of year those hours are often indoors on the trainer — a discouraging proposition if there ever was one.  Other challenges include learning technical skills (which can get bloody or worse), rainy or cold weather, and sometimes even just signing up for a popular race is a challenge (since they can sell out in minutes).

All the efforts of training are paid back when it’s time to race.  Racing is the easy part, right?  We get to enjoy the fruits of our labors.  If it were only so simple.  The truth is the other competitors lined up with us want to demonstrate their level of preparation as well.  Racing demands we dig deep within ourselves and put out all the strength we’ve gained through training.  We have to push ourselves to discomfort or even pain if we want to be competitive.  We may have to overcome unforseen obstacles thrown our way — mechanicals or other course elements we didn’t expect.  Folks who raced in the recent Snotcycle MTB race in Leesburg VA were confronted with a challenge — the snow was mostly un-ridable for the early racers so the choice was to run the ~9 mile lap or give up.  That’s a true test of perseverance.

Achieving your goals for the year also requires long term perseverance.  You may have specific performance goals (achieve a certain threshold watts for example) and it will take a lot of dedicated work to achieve those goals.  No one said it would be easy, but that’s partly why we like our sport.  It’s not for the weak willed.  It’s for the strong willed athlete.  Show us your perseverance in 2011.

* definition from Random House Dictionary as obtained at dictionary.reference.com