Monday, February 2, 2009

A Shift in Gears

February is here. I have to change my training strategy.

Not that "training" is something I usually do, per se. I tend to go with the old Eddie Merckx maxim: "Ride lots." I've been doing it for years, and although I do not ride like the Cannibal, I eat like the Cannibal. (No, not human flesh. Just Belgian chocolates.)

Unlike certain ex-Presidents, I have nothing against science. I believe in lactic threshold training and power-to-weight ratios -- probably because I've been on the wrong side of that equation before. It's just that I like to ride a lot, so old school training usually suits me.

Three of them, to be precise. And, as with Chico, they are like brothers (and a sister) to me.

Enter the Heart of the South 500

I'm part of a four-person team racing the Heart of the South 500 the first weekend in April. Jeff Bauer, Alan Gosart, Vida Greer and I will attempt to ride 500 miles in northeastern Alabama and northwestern Georgia as fast as we can. This route includes climbs over Fort Mountain, which used to be on the Tour de Georgia, and Cheaha Mountain, the highest point in Alabama.

Part of the fun will be that we are self-supporting, so that none of us will get much rest. When you ain't biking, you're either driving the support van, navigating the route, mixing up and passing out bottles to the rider, or refueling/recovering so you can get back out there soon and ride yourself. Since it's 500 miles, and we figure we will be lucky to average 17 mph, this will mean about 30 hours of this kind of fun.

The other part of the fun will be the riding, which ordinarily would be more fun that the support stuff. However, it will be very hard riding. As I said, we'll be trying to average 17 mph, which means you really have to do 20 mph on the flat sections and do what you can on the climbs, and try not to lose anything at the rider exchanges, going through towns, or various other things that come up on these kinds of races. And, nibbling at the back of your mind as you ride are thoughts like
"If I can go a little harder, maybe we can be done earlier. Then I can sleep."
"If I do go a little harder, will I be able to go out and do it again in one hour?"
But, ultimately, you keep thinking this:
"I must not let my team down."
So, basically, you ride your hour at just under time trial pace. This means staying right at the edge of your lactic acid threshold, trying to keep your muscles from filling up with toxic things that will make them jump right out of your body, bitch slap you, and call a cab home.

There is no "I" in team, but there are lots of them in Mississippi. And some of them should be "me's," as in "You'uns wants to go to the movie pitcher with I?"

That's probably not relevant here, but training at time trial pace has been known to kill a few brain cells.

Uncomfortable Pause Here

Oh, yes. Training.

During the next few months, I'm going to ride fewer miles, but they will be more focused. For example, this Saturday I plan to ride one of my 200-kilometer permanent routes, Dog Meat, but will have two intervals where I ride at time trial pace for an hour. Between these, I will take the pace down to an endurance mileage level for active recovery. After the second interval, I will look like this:

Although I'll probably be wearing bibs and a jersey.

The theory is: By tearing myself down to this level on a regular basis, by April 4 I will look like this:

I have the Randowife's unflagging support in this effort.