A new favorite cycling route and the importance of base training

May 5, 2008 at 11:09 am Leave a comment

This aerial photo is of the Silver Strand which links Coronado, CA (home of the famous Hotel Del Coronado where “Some Like it Hot” with Marilyn Monroe was filmed) and Imperial Beach, CA (home of some good surfing and the filming location for HBO’s now-cancelled “John From Cincinnati”).  The starting point of the route is just a mere five miles from my place in downtown and just across the Coronado Bridge (also pictured).  Along the east side of the strand is a very nice dedicated bike path that runs the full length of the strand and a mile or two into Imperial Beach, making it about a 15 mile round trip.  

Why do I mention this?  Well, I mention this because this route is going to play an integral role in my base training over the next 12-16 weeks.  I’ve mentioned in previous posts about how I lack power in the hills and overall muscular endurance.  I attributed this to not having cycling-specific power and this may be true to some extent, but after a good deal of reading on the subject, I’ve come to the conclusion that I made a critical error in my training plan: I skipped my base training.

This might evoke a “huh?” in some people.  After all, I’ve been logging miles on the bike.  The three weeks prior I had been gradually stepping up my mileage: 38-44-48.  However, after reading up a little more on base training, I realized that I’ve been training in too high of a heart rate zone.  The hilly routes I was riding often sent my heart rate spiking and I wasn’t allowing it to come back down to a proper zone for “base” training.  

Now, why is this important?  Joe Friel (of Training Bible fame) stresses that the importance of training in a lower heart rate zone is that it trains your body to effectively use fat as a fuel source.  Training in too high of a heart rate zone burns off all of your glycogen stores too quickly and you often hit the wall too early on a ride.  

After reading this, I realized that this was the reason I was struggling up the hills on my rides.  It wasn’t that I didn’t have the raw power to get up those hills, it was that I was so taxed by the time I hit them (typically at the end of my ride) that I didn’t have anything left in the tank to make it up them.  

This is where the Silver Strand comes into play.  It’s flat, has limited street lights, and very little traffic.  Essentially, it’s like being on a cycling trainer outdoors.  Indoor cycling trainers are great, but lord are they BORING.  If your not as blessed as I am and don’t live in a city with only about 40 days of rain a year (about 1/4 of those coming in January) then, by all means, get a good indoor trainer.  Just make sure you have a DVR set up in the same room.  

I’m going to spend the next 12-16 weeks building my base in all three sports before I worry about speed-related work.  Most likely I’ll spend less time in the build on my run since I’m a little more advanced in the run than I am in cycling or swimming, but the goal is to get my fitness to a high level before I start to worry about going faster.  

It’s important to remember that by properly building an aerobic base, you will become faster.  The goal in base training is to stay within a certain heart rate range.  As you become more fit, you will see that you are going faster and producing more power within the same zones.  

After my initial base, I’ll spend some time in the speed training, then taper for a week before my first race which is 21 weeks out.  After the race, I’ll spend a week in a recovery period and then start building again for the half ironman.  This build period won’t need to be as long since I plan on having built up to the minimum levels necessary for this distance by the end of the first build period.  

The bottom line is, don’t be like me: get a good training book and/or coach when developing your training plan.  Don’t think your smart enough to do it on your own because you’ll probably just end up making a mistake and wasting a few weeks of your time.  

Happy training.

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