In 2011, it was easy:
- lose 40 pounds of body fat (+10 pounds of muscle, -40 pounds of fat).
- complete Everest Challenge.
- do 1+ million vertical feet.
Now in January 2012, I’m still at 95% of my fitness of August 2011, and I’ve only 5-6 pounds of winter body fat (~175 pounds vs race weight of ~170).
So how does one improve on that for 8 months? For the 2012 Everest Challenge. And to win it in the M45 category (Master’s 45-54 age group).
In a way, 2012 is going to be much harder— no low hanging fruit, only the goal of improving strength by 5% to 10%, trying for body fat of 6% instead of 8% (to save 3 pounds while climbing in EC). And maybe a goal of climbing 1.3M vertical feet is not so compatible with peak strength.
So I’m in research phase of what I should be doing now. I’d like to get my average power up by 5-10%, and to drop 3-4 pounds by March. How to do that ideally is less than clear, but one suggestion I’ve heard is to lower the ride intensity most days, and do two days of 3 X 8 minute max-efforts up a moderate grade. More research is needed.
Late November/December of 2011 I put in a huge mount of climbing. I wore my legs down, that was clear by the New Year. But I did get to 1.04 million feet for the year.
- My hunch is that aiming for 1.3 million vertical feet for the year (3560' per day) is too high a training load to make strength and fitness advances— recovery problems. Maybe if I did it at lower intensity, and kept the cadence up (e.g., a good part on the mountain bike, and some on cyclocross bike).
- Mixing MTB, cyclocross and road cycling might be key to keeping fresh mentally, and being able to cross-train the leg exertion too.
- My intervals have been 20-23 minute repeats of Old La Honda. I’m told that maximum intensity 8-minute intervals X 3 is perhaps a good way to build strength. So I’ll try shorter and harder for 6 weeks to see what happens, interspersing with low intensity days at higher cadence.
Bottom line: For the Everest Challenge, I need a training plan that trains me to go at ~88% of max heart rate mostly aerobically for six hours. Or put another way, to average ~280 watts for ~5 hours of riding. Seems to me that part of that training strategy necessarily involves workouts of ~3 hours at that level, if for no other reason than mental training to deal with that kind of exertion!
The information out there is so complex and often so poorly explained (even by experts), that it might be counterproductive. My feeling in 2011, having made big gains in power and speed, is that rapt and critical attention to what one’s own body is “saying” during and after and before workouts is probably 80% of it— throwing a mix of workouts at it. Beyond that, it gets very technical, and perhaps that just gets too serious and too boring as well.
On another point— stretching, it’s hard to trust “experts” who claim stretching is often useless. I know what feels good and what does not— basic biofeedback on one’s own body (my body is not some “average”). Sometime stretching feels useless and other times it gives real relief as well as power increases that can be seen on the power meter (mid ride stretch). So be cautious about accepting claims by experts about the merits or doubts about stretching— feel it for yourself and stretch or do not stretch accordingly.