My client Walt is training for a 500-mile race. He had an excellent race at the Mid-Atlantic 24 Hour on August 18-19. The race was stopped at 16 hours 37 minutes. Our plan was for him to cover about 286 miles by then. He actually rode 307.05 miles and averaged 18.5 mph. He was on pace for ~ 434 miles – 20 miles more than planned, which would have been a personal best.
After the race he wondered if he should be riding more miles. When we started working together I explained to him that miles don’t matter. I give him an endurance workout to ride 10 – 12 hours in training zones 2 and 3. If he rides in the hills he won’t go as far than if he rides on the flats. If’s he’s drafting he’ll ride farther than if he’s riding solo. What matters are duration and intensity – not distance. However, like most roadies he thinks in terms of miles.
He’ll do another 15 – 16 hour ride with his crew on September 22 or 23. This will be a dress rehearsal for the race. The purpose is to practice everything with his crew and take care of any problems, not to ride a certain number of miles.
I have each client ride a baseline time trial several times during the season to gauge improvement and recalibrate training zones. The TT is done on the same course each time. On September 1 Walt repeated his TT to see how much he’d improved since June. He had a disappointing baseline time trial:
- June 26, 2018 vs. September 9, 2018
- 20 minutes vs. 20 minutes
- 7.42 miles vs. 7.25 miles
- 22.3 mph vs. 21.8 mph
- Normalized Power 331 watts vs. 310 watts
This column is divided into two parts:
- This week my dialog with Walt about the 24-hour, his subsequent training and the disappointing TT.
As his coach what would you tell him to do
- Next week my recommendations for Walt.
Dialog with Walt
Walt wrote on August 20 the day after the 24-hour, “Great week with a great race. They called it because of lightning but honestly I was fine with it and ready to roll on 🙂
“Any chance I can ride more than five hours this week? [Recovery week after the race] I usually would ride everyday even if it’s a 1 hour spin to keep the legs moving. Helps me recover a LOT faster!”
Coach Hughes responded on August 20, “I’m very proud of your result in the 24 hour race. This is because you only rode three days the week of the race. Training Stress + Rest = Success.
“If you want do five rides this week at no more than an hour at an easy conversational pace that’s fine.”
Walt wrote on August 25 at the end of the Monday – Friday recovery period, “Felt REALLY strong on the team ride today-pushing 700 watts without much effort 🙂
“I do feel like my volume is so low: are we sure I don’t need more miles this week? I’m usually riding somewhere around 15-20 hours/week, so this volume you’ve got me doing is really really low compared to normal for me…….interested in your thoughts on that one.”
(I’ll share my response next week.)
Walt then wrote on September 1, “Disappointed in Baseline TT test, but honestly not that surprised. I’ve been feeling pretty run down lately and definitely do NOT have the same snap in my legs that I had in June. I’m feeling a little burned out if that’s possible. Just bummed a bit that my 20 minute power was at 310 instead of 330 like June 🙂
“Not sure what to think of it but it’s consistent with how I fell. I would have been shocked to maintain the same power as June honestly. Maybe I’ve peaked too soon??”
What Would You Do?
Ask yourself as Walt’s coach, “What’s the problem here?” “Why did Walt have a poor TT?” “What does the poor TT mean?” “What other information do you need to diagnose the problem? “What should Walt do?”
Post your comments below.
For more information see my 2-article bundle Your Best Season Ever. Part 1 (32 pages) covers in detail how to plan and train for your peak event. Part 2 (37 pages) explains how to peak for your big event. The two articles teach you how to use the same methods that I use with clients. The bundle is only $8.98. You can purchase it here.
Coach John Hughes earned coaching certifications from USA Cycling and the National Strength and Conditioning Association. John’s cycling career includes course records in the Boston-Montreal-Boston 1200-km randonnée and the Furnace Creek 508, a Race Across AMerica (RAAM) qualifier. He has ridden solo RAAM twice and is a 5-time finisher of the 1200-km Paris-Brest-Paris. He has written over 40 eBooks and eArticles on cycling training and nutrition, available in RBR’s eBookstore at Coach John Hughes. Click to read John’s full bio.
Gary Turney says
Walt’s right – he’s burning out. He needs to take a week off completely, maybe two. I’m relatively new to serious cycling, but I have run for decades. In my 30’s and 40’s I always thought I HAD to run at least 5 days a week, no matter what. Somewhere along the line I read the advice of simply taking a week off every 3-4 months. Cross train for sure (ride a bike, walk, whatever), but don’t lace up the running shoes. I was shocked at what a difference it made the following week. It’s very counterintuitive, but sometimes less really is more.
Bernie Burton MD says
Concur totally with burnout. More is not always better- smarter is better. As Poo would say, nothing can often be the bet thing to do.
Schubert John says
It’s SO easy to overtrain. And to peak in your workouts instead of during the competition. That’s what your athlete Walt is doing.
A workout is a tool to make your body improve, not a competition.
Going into the competition, you WANT to feel a bit undertrained, rarin’ to go.
Bike racers talk about burning a match, like you have a book of matches to burn during a race.
You have a different book of matches to burn during a season of training. A hard workout burns two matches, a really easy recovery ride restores half a match, a rest day restores one match. . . something like that. 20 matches in the book. So you can train yourself into a bad place in about a month, or less.
Many of the best runners on my college cross country team overtrained and burned out. I was a wee bit lazy (well, compared to someone who ran 1,000 miles during the summer I was lazy) and never had that problem.
Those guys tore up the early September workouts and the first meet or two. Then they got injured.
I’d peak at the championships in November.
Our arch-rival college, two miles down the street, had an overbearing coach who made everyone on his team overtrain. Two years in a row, they creamed us in the dual meet in September, and we nailed their sorry butts at the championship meet in November. (The third year, we had graduated a bunch of good runners, and they beat us in both meets. . . but there was a marathon in December, and we nailed them at the marathon.)
Randy Brich says
Probably overtrained but not enough info. Eg. What’s his TSB (Training Peaks) or Form (Strava) now vs June? Same for CTL. W/Kg then & now? Prolly could do cortisol profile etc.
ed b says
Midlantic was brutally hot and humid.
Needed a bit more recovery. Thats all
Few rest days and then focus on intensity and not so much on long durations. He has the endurance baked in already. The right mix of rest and intensity until Borrego. I hope that TT is uphill, if not, some work on aerodynamics?