I’m excited to have this opportunity to be part of the Bob’s Red Mill Train with Grain Family this road season. I’ll let you on to a little secret though, I am not a pro bike racer or even a really great amateur one. What I am is really enthusiastic – about my own racing, the races I put on, and most especially training and getting ready to race. I love the discipline of bike racing.
My season got off to a poor start. We had a terrible winter and my pre-season training was not what it should have been – quite frankly I am a big wimp when it comes to suffering in cold, icy conditions. To be fair, all the women I compete against were in the same boat, but for some reason I started the season further off the back than usual. Throw in loads of work travel and I fell far short in some of my early season goal races.
Compounding less than ideal winter training was the fact that I was coming off an injury that spooked me – a broken Orbit bone in my face and my second concussion in less than 4 months. In those early season races, fear was definitely as much as a factor as being 4 pounds heavier than I wanted to be and the fact that I had fewer miles in my legs than I wanted. After a very disappointing result at the Sea Otter Classic in April I realized that I needed to regroup, re-evaluate my training and diet, my personal goals for the season and most importantly face some down some demons.
Here in Kentucky, where I live, the racing starts in March and the local racing dwindles to virtually none once June comes. So, facing down an early season of disappointment, I needed to find some races to focus on later in the season. Masters Road Nationals, held in Bend, OR, at the end of August, immediately leapt to mind. It gives me time to dial in my fitness, get my diet back on track after too much time off the road, and some time to face my bike racing demons down. I’ve raced Masters the last two years and have shown significant improvement from year to year. Now I’m going to tell you something that I have only admitted out loud to a couple of close friends. My biggest goal – stretch goal in the parlance of coaches far and wide – is a top 5 finish. This is VERY ambitious especially on a road course that isn’t exactly suited to my strengths (but there are very few races that are dead flat with strong winds so I suppose I will have to deal with it…), and more realistically I am aiming for a top ten. There, I’ve said it. Now how do I get there?
A very wise coach, who is also a very good friend, has been advising me on my training.
He’s also been helping me get my head back into a healthy place. A tall order!
First things first. A blunt and honest evaluation of my current fitness. Happily, not as bad as it feels. Check. The base is good, the top end is lacking. We can fix that.
Second – identify strengths and weaknesses. Time to become a more complete rider. Okay. This bit is a little harder. But essentially what it has meant is that instead of training all the things that I am good at (did I mention that when it comes to racing I like flat with a headwind?) I need to start focusing more on my weaknesses. In my case, this blunt evaluation means I’m working on hills more, working on my cadence and developing my capacity to withstand repeated hard efforts instead of just doing my favorite long, steady TT-type rides.
It’s also meant working on my downhill skills. I’m not a small girl compared to many of my fellow racers, I should be able to go downhill with the best of the them because gravity is my friend. But my head was a mess. At the dread Sea Otter, I was climbing great, riding the flats powerfully. What I couldn’t do was go down the dread Cork Screw. It was embarrassing. The moto official came by me and told me to stop braking. I wanted to tell him “DUH! If I could, I would. But my fingers have assumed minds of their own, I am no longer in control of my digits…” My friends at SRAM NRS took me in the car during the women’s pro race so I could watch them go down that hill, my nemesis, and see how they did it. I got out of the car on the hill and watched my friend and fellow BRM Train w/ Grain blogger, Meredith Miller, drill it down that hill lap after lap. How did she go SO FAST???
And Bend, OR? Not flat. I will need to be able to go up AND down.
So descend, descend. Go through the mechanics of going downhill. Weight in the outside pedal. No braking through the turns. Look ahead through the turn and see your exit. Follow fast friends down hills, re-learn how to find the best lines.
The next step in the training plan? Researching the course profile and the little race details that will make a difference. You’ve got to base your training on what you’re going to be asked to do in the race. The road course in Bend is either climbing or descending. Very little flat to be found. Nothing steep. But a lot of 3-4%. A steady power course, always power to the pedals. Okay. Now we know what we’re facing. The TT course starts out with the big uphill, then descent down to flat lands. A fair course that won’t really favor one type of rider over another. But I’ve got to be able to go downhill.
Devil’s in the details, right? Time to work backwards from the end of August. Every week needs to include training designed to help me on race day. Every week also needs to include rest. A season that started in March with a very late season goal in August means making sure I rest and don’t get burned out too soon. It means tailoring specific workouts for this race. While all my friends and teammates might only have 35-minute crits on their calendars for the rest of summer – I’ve got to keep doing workouts that will get me through a long, hilly road race. And I need to find races between now and then that aren’t crits. I will be logging lots of time in the car this summer to find some road races that is for sure!
Last but not least: diet and hydration are key. With all the traveling I’ve done for work, my diet hasn’t been great. Airport Starbucks is not a food group – yet. So now, time to get back to healthy eating. Planned meals. I’m not much of a meat eater – getting enough protein in my diet has always been a problem. In fact if I could, I would pretty much exist on fruit, vegetables and oatmeal cookies. Not exactly the menu of champions. Happily my friends at Bob’s Red Mill are stocking my kitchen with lots of goodness to give me the fuel I need to compete. Quinoa to go with veggies of all varieties. Morning oatmeal or granolas (for those super hot days), 7 Grain Pancakes with real Vermont Maple Syrup, and of course Salted Cherry Oatmeal cookies (enhanced with hemp protein so they’re healthy I swear!!). Turns out that eating a well balanced diet isn’t that hard after all when you’ve got the right ingredients…