As fall and winter draw near often so does the prospect on hanging up the racing cleats and heading into transition and base phases of your annual training plan. Maybe you are already starting to dream as I am of racing The Growler, a 64 mile mountain bike epic that takes place on May 28th, 2017. And you may be asking yourself; do I really need to start thinking about training for that NOW????? Well, I hate to break it to you, but the long and short answer is YES!
Maybe not today or tomorrow, but soon…the normal base period for an athlete leading up to an A-priority race is about 24 weeks. Fourteen of which are dedicated to base training. This certainly can be shorter for an athlete who races year round or has been racing and training for a long time. But for many of us mere mortals, this phase is instrumental in improving general fitness. In a nutshell the goals of this phase are increasing aerobic and muscular endurance, honing skills and focusing on cadence and speed. Below are a couple of example workouts you can do during the base phase of your season.
Aerobic Endurance: Ride steady in the heart rate zone 2 for two plus hours. This may be harder than you think and require a long easy hill with a steady incline. Your power can fluctuate on this ride, but your heart should stay consistent.
Skill Drills: Take your bike out into a field with a few tennis balls or empty soda cans. Scatter them around them around the open space and practice picking them up off the grass. Make sure to use both hands. This will help improve your balance and ability to compensate for unplanned shifts in body weight. Even better, bring a group of friends out to the field and race to grab the items, whoever gets the most wins.
Cadence Workout: During a given ride plan several cadence intervals. Using an easy gear, increase your cadence to a level that is just slightly uncomfortable for a fixed period of time. Recover for several minutes between intervals pedaling at your normal pace. Over the course of several weeks continue to stretch out the duration of these intervals. This will improve your pedaling efficiency.
The aspect I most love about base training is the testing! I would suggest a Functional Threshold Power (FTP) test as least three times in your base training phase. It is likely, if you are training right, you will have the pleasure of watching your FTP rise over the course of these 14 weeks. You will also likely see an improvement of how much power you can produce at a given heart rate (as long as you are able to control variables that might contribute to heart rate change like heat, caffeine or the amount of overall rest before each test). In order for a test to be reliable it must be repeated in the exact same manner each time. For example, I would suggest you perform your test on the same road or trail, at the same time of day, with the same pre-test meal and with the same amount of rest leading up to the test. Any deviation in these variables makes the test less reliable.
So go ahead and enjoy this long base training phase. Enjoy the cold and the snow, enjoy the quiet trails and roads and remember what you do now will pay dividends on race day. It won’t last forever and once you hit your build block, you will be FIT and ready to get FAST.