(I began writing this on Monday while lying down at the back of the bus for the 10th and final Denver Airport to Boulder bus trip of the season).
Yesterday was the last race of the year–the Doyelstown crit. At 50 miles, it’s a long one. I had a hard time getting motivated for it. It took a few attacks before I felt like actually racing. The crit, for me, was uneventful. I got away briefly a few times (once with fellow ex-HBer Ian Craneimal) but the move that stuck didn’t have me in it. I finished in the pack and made sure to sprint hard and take some big risks in the last hundred meters for 31st place. Half a lap after the race was over I already had a beer in my hand and the off-season had officially commenced.
This has been the first time in a long time that the season has ended and my form is still good, my health intact, and my motivation still high. Though, of course, I ended the past two seasons in Belgium in October. If you’re still fast, healthy and motivated to train hard and race after October 10th you didn’t go hard enough when it actually mattered back in the spring. And you’re also probably insane.
Although I guess I’m looking forward to time off the bike, I feel like I have a lot of unfinished business with the 2013 season. The big win I was certain I’d get never came. I had good results from the start back in February…great results for an amateur even. I’m currently ranked #1 in the country on USA Cycling’s road race standings for current cat 1s (not including the two guys ahead of me on the list that are actually on pro teams). Anyways, it doesn’t mean a lot, other than consistent top 10s and such. Winning gets you on teams, top 10s and 20s do not. I need to learn how to win in 2014, even if my main goal isn’t to get on a team. I just want to stand on top god damn it!
Alas, it was a breakthrough year for me—something that I needed if I was going to continue doing this (Who am I kidding I would have continued if I’d been sick for 13 weeks and DNFed a third of my races).
Starting from way back in March, people have been asking me what I did differently this year. I’m not good at keeping secrets so here’s my recipe for (marginal) success. Some of these things likely had no impact, while others definitely did. I’ve thought about it for quite a while now and I’ll give my summary afterwards.
-40 hour/week desk job.
-Allowed me to eat slightly more expensive/nutritious food
–Forced me to rest
-Forced me to ride fewer hours during the week and more on the weekend
-Gave my mind something else to focus on other than cycling
-External motivation to do well at races
-Made me happier
-Gave my mind something else to focus on other than cycling
-Different training because of job
-More intervals at higher power zones
-More six-hour rides for my long days as opposed to five-hours rides
-Fewer pointless “in-between rides” (example: I did almost no three-hour Zone Two rides)
-More rest days
-Pushed myself harder in training. I’ve been able to go harder each year since I started but this year I seemed to make even better gains.
Most other stuff remained the same. I had the same diet and did the same races for the most part. I changed teams from Hagens to Rio, though I ended up quitting Rio half way through the season and guest rode with a few other squads, finally settling down with Firefighters. In total, I rode for five teams this year: Rio Grande, Firefighters, Full Circle, Horizon, and Battley Ducati.
I didn’t go to Belgium this year. I also didn’t do as many races, despite traveling more. My total race days were about 50 this year, compared to 60 last year and 68 the year before. The only reason I raced less this year was because I didn’t do the Belgium trip and ended the season a month earlier than I did in 2012 and 2011. If I’d gone to Belgium after Cascade my total race days would have been around 90…had I not gotten sick. So it could be argued that I actually did race more, at least throughout the spring and early summer.
I will not ever be a believer in equipment making that much of a difference. With that said, I did ride much better wheels, had a better TT set up, and had a road bike that was about a pound lighter than prior years.
My sleep time went way down. For the past couple years I’d been getting between 9 and 10 hours a night, even more at times. For the 2013 season I got between 7 and 8 due to time constraints with work. I also had very little spare time. With work hours, commuting, training, racing, travel time, making up hours at work, etc, I was devoting 60 or more hours a week to work and cycling. For race weeks it was of course much more. I didn’t have much down time this year, which caused extra stress and reduced recovery.
Here’s my training hours for the past five years by race season (the first year was mostly rowing, then the second year I only did a handful of races due to overtraining in the fall/winter). These hours include all other types of exercise as well as cycling, like cross training, running, weights, etc. I did way more of that sort of stuff from 2006 to 2009. I did very little in 2010 and did absolutely none from 2011 to 2013.
You can see that my total training volume was about the same as 2011 and 2012. The main difference is that for all the other years (2006-2012), the training volume was SOLELY determined by what my body could take, as in I would have done much, much more if I hadn’t gotten sick so often. This year my training volume was determined by time constraints.
Year Hours Total sick weeks per year
2006 659 13 (plus an additional three weeks off due to a back injury from rowing too much)
2007 695 13
2008 728 9
2009 686 9
2010 818 7
2011 747 9.5
2012 768 9.5
*2013 744 4
*All other years include the full 52 weeks, but so far this “year” has only had 45 weeks in it and the total training time I’ve put in since October 15th of 2012 until September 8th of 2013 has been just 674 hours. Assuming I’ll do roughly 10 hours a week for the next seven weeks for cross training and so I don’t go insane, the total for 2013 will be similar to the last two years at 744 hours.
Something big changed between every other year and this year. I was sick half as much. Even less than that actually. Getting sick means you can’t train properly (it doesn’t mean you can’t train). It means you can’t race properly. It means you don’t recover at all. It drains you both mentally and physically and if it gets to your lungs, you will have diminished lung capacity for up to FIVE WEEKS afterwards. Not getting sick was most likely the biggest contributor to my good season. But why didn’t I get sick?
Answer: the job and the girlfriend. I had less time to do medium-length zone 2 junk miles and overly fatigue myself. This also meant I had more energy to train hard when I needed to go hard.
While I did the same volume this year as the last two, the weekly median was lower. My weekly average for the 52 weeks in 2012 was 14.7 hours. I’m guessing the median was 19-20. For 2013 the average was 14.3, while the median was more likely 16 or 17. The sick weeks brought the 2012 average way down. Basically, I had almost a month and a half of extra racing and healthy training time in 2013. When you train and race sick, you will never get good results and the form declines. That’s a mother f-ing fact.
If you’re inconsistent from getting sick, you have no momentum to build form and the necessary mental strength and alpha male mindset to position well in races, attack when everyone else is completely fucked, and to continue pushing day in and day out of a stage race. You need to build throughout the season, starting as early as possible if you want to have good form throughout the spring, which is when things really count (at least for us not racing, Colorado, Utah, or Alberta. Almost all of the big races on the domestic scene are over and done with by mid July).
As the results steadily came in throughout February and March, so too did my confidence. By April I was never afraid to attack in a big race, and not just in the opening miles when it usually doesn’t count, but later on when things really mattered when it was hard. I knew that I could recover and do it again and again. I had the confidence to look around the pack and say to myself, “Fuck these guys. I don’t care if they’re wearing an Optum or UHC kit, they can’t hold MY wheel.” Of course this isn’t true and they’re likely as strong or stronger than me, but that’s what my mindset was. I was sure I could attack and not get dropped later on because of it. I also positioned myself better before climbs and other important race-deciding moments because I knew I belonged at the front, as opposed to prior years.
When your form is good you can train harder and you can race harder. Neither of these things have anything to do with racing smarter though.
If my results haven’t shown the improvement this year, my power numbers did. I didn’t break many of my previous records, like 5 second, 1 minute, 5 minute, 20 minute, etc (I never went out to try to break these either and am confident I could if I had). But what I did on a consistent level was hold much higher numbers for my intervals, namely my 4-minute intervals, which were really the only intervals I did save for a dozen other occasions when I would do 20 minutes of 30×30 seconds, or my 8 or 6×1-minute barf-fest intervals.
My previous record at altitude for an 8×4’ set of intervals was around an average of 420. This year I did multiple days where the average power for all eight was just under 440. I’d never broken 300 watts for five hours before at sea level. This year I did 306 for five hours fairly easily at sea level and then a week later I did 300 for five hours at altitude.
My sprint also improved this year. My max 1 second is 1,550, which I’ve done like twice in my life (once this year). The past couple years I’ve been hitting mid 1,300s on really good days and mid 1,200s on most. Sometimes even lower. This year I was up above 1,400 for a dozen or more races, which I think comes thanks to having fresher legs.
The last thing I can think of is that maybe, just maybe, seven years of hard work and dedication finally paid off and I reaped the benefits of thousands upon thousands of hours spent training my brains out. All I needed was to taper for a year. I’d hardly call this year a taper though.
So there you have it folks. Rest more. Train and race more intensely and skip the extra miles. Focus that energy like a magnifying glass. Go to a lot of races because the more times you try, the greater your odds of winning become, but keep in mind that doing too much can of course be a detriment. My Rio teammate Scott Tietzel gave me some great advice early this summer: chalk out a major goal, train specifically for it, refrain from racing every weekend, rest, and then NAIL that race. In a way, that worked for my end of season rampage at Steamboat and Bucks County.
Last step: get a girlfriend. Or boyfriend. Or both.
Whatever team I end up on in 2014, I know I’m in for an exciting season as long as I follow a similar path. I’ve finally proven to myself what works and I’d be a fool not to do it the same way again next year. I’m 100% confident I’ll keep improving strength-wise and with some luck I’ll take a step in the right direction race-tactis-wise as well. For the time being, I’ll take a big chunk of time off the bike, except for commuting, and see if I can’t make some off-season improvements with my weight, strengthen my joints and random little muscles with a good amount of running, core work, general intoxication, and free love.
2013 Top Results:
1st KOM overall Sea Otter Classic
1st Stage 2 Steamboat Springs RR
1st US Air Force Road Race
2nd GC Steamboat Springs Stage Race
2nd GC Superior Morgul Stage Race
2nd Stage 3 Superior Morgul RR
3rd Stage 2 Superior Morgul Crit
4th Stage 1 Steamboat Springs TT
5th Elite National Championship Road Race
6th Stage 1 Superior Morgul TT
7th Stage 3 Sea Otter Classic TT
10th Thompson Bucks County Classic UCI 1.2
10th Stage 3 Nature Valley Grand Prix RR
12th Stage 2 Redlands Beaumont RR
12th Stage 2 San Dimas RR
16th Stage 4 Redlands Sunset Loop RR
16th Stage 2 Valley of the Sun RR
17th GC Redlands
–2nd Amateur GC competition at Redlands
18th GC Valley of the Sun
20th GC San Dimas
20th Stage 5 Nature Valley Grand Prix
25th Stage 3 Redlands Crit
27th Stage 2 Nature Valley Grand Prix
28th Stage 4 Nature Valley Grand Prix
29th Stage 5 Gila, Gila Monster RR
30th GC Gila
33rd GC Merco Cycling Classic
36th Parx Casino Philly Cycling Classic