Base training blues

After three weeks of ‘preparation’ my actual training program began on Monday. Of course it happened to  coincide perfectly with the onset of bad weather. I’ve been hoping against hope that the Autumn sun would hold for that bit longer – long enough to allow me to get into the swing of things again. Sadly it was not to be, upon waking up on Sunday I was greeted with an ominously grey sky that soon gave way to the first real rain of the Winter. Great start.

Fortunately, it cleared up – going from wet, grey and miserable to merely the last two. Monday marked the first real training ride of the 2016/7 season. It wasn’t exactly one to remember; traffic, potholes, puddles and mud – though it was mercifully devoid of punctures and crashes. My mostly white Bike had turned to a murky brown after 4 hours of negotiating the Devon Lanes.

Checking the calendar doesn’t exactly fill me with hope. It’s only November and if past experience is anything to go by, the next three months will be much the same, only darker and wetter. It is at this time of year that I find goal setting to be particularly useful, vital even. The competitive season seems like a very long way off and staying at home often seems like the best option, at least when looking at the forecast. I’ve taken to writing down a series of goals at the beginning of each week. At the moment they are very basic, such as “fill in my training diary everyday”. But it works.

I’ve decided to include some higher intensity sessions in my training plan, following contemporary advice. Unfortunately, limited daylight hours mean they usually have to be performed on the turbo trainer. My pain cave has been well set up – fan, riser block, mat and TV are all being used to try and make the experience more bearable. They do help, but I’ll never look forward to an indoor session.

I have had the opportunity to take part in a study involving some physiological testing. Inspite of having suffered a great deal in my time, I wasn’t quite prepared for the ordeal of a VO2 max test. At the end I was informed that the equipment probably wasn’t working as it should have been – the results having been puzzled over. A power output typical for a VO2 of 65-70, with the actual reading being in the mid 40’s. I either have an efficiency at the very limit of what is physiologically possible, or my mask straps weren’t tightened quite enough. Another test may be on the cards – can’t say I’m especially looking forward to it.

My Gym sessions have recently taken a step up. I’m pleasantly surprised by the progress, my upper body strength still isn’t great but at least my arms no longer resemble those of a stick insect. I have noticed a difference on the bike, I’m climbing well inspite of having ridden little and eaten lots. I still don’t especially enjoy weight training but am fairly convinced that it works, from now on it will always form part of my winter regime.

Long endurance rides have never been my favourite, especially at my current level of fitness they are a real drag. I’ve tried to find ways to make them more interesting, trying new routes and occasionally stopping to take photos. I will admit to the odd unplanned Cafe stop. I’m training by heart rate alone in these long sessions, only looking at power output afterwards. The numbers are not good, high average HR and very low average power. I have to reassure myself that it always the same, year on year. After a couple of months I’ll probably start to see significant improvements, being able to reduce volume and up the intensity.

There is a popular phrase – “winter miles = summer smiles”. I’ve taken to repeating it over and over again in my head – picturing myself standing on a podium again, thinking that this grafting will be worth it. Winter riding is simply a necessary evil.

I have to remember that there are positives to be taken. A cold and crisp winter morning can be the perfect time for a ride, though these clear days are something of a rarity. The low temperature makes it easier to burn a lot of calories, in the past I’ve found this to be the perfect antidote to festive indulgences. Last but not least, there is a great satisfaction that comes along with putting in the hours and miles when conditions are sub-optimal. I am hoping it will make me faster than those more sensible individuals who choose to stay at home and wait out the cold Winter months in relative comfort.

Anyway, thats all for today. Stay tuned for more.

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