Update On The Training Front

Another 28+ hour week in the hopper and Mel is feeling GOOOOOD! 5.5 hours of swimming (20km), 3.5 hours of running and 19.5 hours of riding. It is a balancing act of mixing intensity with volume so a week this large included mostly base aerobic efforts. However, for each of the three sports there was at least one workout that I call quality aerobic. For the swim, the bike and the run, at least some of the week was focused on quality base work.

I think some of us get a bit too caught up in the concept of base training and think it all needs to be very low intensity, low quality work. I disagree. I think base fitness should start with some easy miles after a break so that you give your body some time to get used to doing work again. After that, you just need to decide on what you plan to focus, and then build a training plan that focuses on addressing that need. For XTERRA I think a large aerobic base is most important because you need to have a very strong aerobic engine in order to build some anaerobic capacity on top of it. Last year I tried to build a lot of aerobic strength incorporating a lot of running but unfortunately, I am not a strong enough runner to withstand the stress of it and my cycling really suffered for it. So for me, as a stronger cyclist, I am probably better off to do more of the work on the bike to maximize my strengths. Of course, doing that additional running last year really has helped me get to a new level of running for this year. It never showed in my splits last year but I have done some local racing which has indicated that yes, I have taken leaps in my running ability. So now, I will go back to focusing on the bike while carefully nurturing this running ability for the coming season. Depending on your strength between the two, you may choose one or the other option… more running or more riding. However, more time is up for grabs on the bike so if it is your weakness, it is well advised to put some emphasis on overall riding strength.

I have been doing lots of strength work that I am going to post an entire story on. I think the strength stuff has done more for my running than my running… if that makes any sense. Also, lots of single track riding. LOTS. Two to three workouts a week on my mountain bike, rather than one. The difference is shocking, really. You just can’t ride single track fast unless you ride a lot of single track really fast. It was easy, actually, to find another workout to do on my mountain bike. I got a Powertap for my mountain bike and replaced an interval workout on the road bike with one on my mountain bike. Magic! I am such a stickler for numbers for myself that I always preferred to do the intervals on the road just so I knew where I was at… so now that I am creating a database of numbers that are specific to mountain biking I think I am going to get a much better understanding of what exactly we do offroad and how to better prepare for it….

An example of the kind of quality running I do at this time of year includes a run at a very hilly golf course with about a 4km loop. I did a workout with a half loop warmup and then three loops, increasing the pace each loop from a "steady state" pace until I felt like I was running a good half marathon pace. That pace is about a minute off what I could do for that loop running harder tempo. I started with a steady state loop (just starting to breathe a bit harder) and descended my times about 30s/lap from there. I feel like these kinds of strength workouts give me some feeling of good running form, some quality aerobic base and some decent mileage. With a long cooldown this is almost 90 minutes of running. Since I only did three runs this week, each one has to include some running with decent form, which takes more than a plodding pace to achieve. My other two runs were on the treadmill for one and in a very hilly park where instead of thinking about running faster I just had to get my butt up the hills. That is my favorite kind of run.. where I am in deep forest and I am no longer thinking about training, I am just enjoying running.

The bike workouts included two long rides (up to 5hours), two interval workouts and a long hilly mountain bike ride with the boys, Palmer and Scotty. Seamus McGrath joined us on this past Sunday’s workout, which scared the crap out of me. I mean, I am in a 28 hour week and a potential Olympian came out. I was determined to not suck on that ride. We rode the Partridge Hills trails which have some very steep sections. I was hurting a bit on the climbs but my single tracking ability has come a long way. In the past I would redline every climb and every flat section to make up for gobs of time lost on any technical bits. Now my technical riding has improved so as long as the pace wasn’t "kill your buddies" I was good to go. I wish I was able to ride this well when I was just mountain biking but regardless… it will help this year on the XTERRA circuit.

I am going into my last two small cycles of volume, one of which will take place during some training in Bermuda (sun!) and I am getting ready to head to Minneapolis for the annual Frostbike trade show at QBP. I am speaking to the whole group of dealers and vendors during the Friday dinner. I think I have broken out in hives already. It seems easier to speak to corporate groups that have no idea of who I am versus this group of people intimately aware of my sport and the industry. Calm yourself woman! I have been waffling on my 2008 schedule quite a bit but I think I am going to stick with the plan to do the first two of the US national mountain bike stops in Fontana and Arizona rather than the half at Oceanside. I really wanted to add an early half ironman to my schedule but because so much has gone into my cycling program this winter it just makes more sense to finish the block with bike races rather than a triathlon. The halfs will just have to wait. Europe is also on the block right now.. more thought needs to be put into that schedule but likely that will evolve according to my form during the season.

This winter has been really great. We did have a day or two of snow but really I think the weather has been better this year than last. Of course, this week I did a three and a half hour ride that I finished in pouring rain AND snow (at the same time). It sucked. I believe these kinds of rides will pay off when I go back to Tahoe this year and ride through the snow again. Or at least, that is how I am justifying the insanity of it all.

So now that you have some details on what I have been doing.. it is a completely different build leading into this season. I am feeling pretty good about it. Especially since I have been feeling adaptation already that is indicating some success. As a coach and as an athlete, all of these experiences help me to learn how to train better. Unfortunately, sometimes we have to NOT have success to learn how to be successful. I know I have taken my share of lumps and accolades over the years.. both of which make a career exciting and fulfilling. So as we inch closer to the 2008 season…. lets keep focused on the future while we remember the past.

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