Training Progress – March to mid-April

A bit late for the March training update so we’ll make it cover the first half of April also. The past 6 weeks have been a bit frustrating from a cycling perspective. I had a vacation week in March but due to bad weather and travel I spent very little of it on the bike. I also felt very fatigued and had started to struggle to complete the high intensity portions of the planned workouts. So, I took some more rest days in the hope that things would sort themselves out. In general I’m finding that it is easier to hit the power targets when doing workouts earlier in the day rather than in the evening after work. Perhaps the increased stress of work is leaving nothing for  cycling?

On a more positive note, the brighter evenings and improving weather certainly makes it easier to get some outside spins. With about 12 weeks to go to the Etape, I’ve started some long spins with a 152km spin with 1600 meters of climing around the Clare coastline yesterday. My aim is to complete 6 spins of this distance in the 12 weeks leading up the Etape. I consciously stayed in Z1/Z2 for the entire spin except for the climbing which was in Z4. Although feeling somewhat fatigued for the first few hours, I was completed the spin without too much difficulty and was pleased to still find some power in my legs over the last climb.

So, base plan is complete. Starting the build plan now.

Training Progress – February

Another month has passed and one month closer to L’Etape. February’s training was good and had more variety than the earlier weeks of the winter training plan. The highlight had to be the Tour of Sufferlandria which was 11 Sufferfest videos spread over 9 consecutive days. Although the intensity of most of the workouts (10/11) was high, I felt myself getting stronger as the tour progressed and I was able to hit or exceed the power targets for each video. This was a nice confidence booster.

Following a recovery week after the TOS, I did an FTP test and my FTP has increased by 12% since the beginning of the winter training plan. I suspect that this explains being able to hit the power targets throughout the TOS!

After planning out the months leading up to L’Etape, I’ve decided to extend the base training period until early April. During this time, I will focus on Base 3 training as outlined in Joe Friel’s book, “The Training Bible”. For the individual workouts, I will mix and match between the workouts in the book and the equivalent workouts from the A1 Winter Training plan. Once the Base 3 training is done, it will be time to head into a 10 week build + peak phase leading to the Etape itself.

At the end of January I was worried that I would not be able to find sufficient time to get the required training volume done. Thankfully in February things improved and I was able to hit the training volume targets most weeks. Hopefully this trend will continue through March.

Beyond the fitness improvements, one thing I am noticing is that my mental approach or attitude has changed slightly. The Etape course still scares me and I still have big doubts about my ability to complete it but I feel a sense of gratitude for being able to do the training and to be able to attempt the event. The simple sense of feeling lucky enough to be able to do this is starting to mute the fears and self doubt. This is welcome but unexpected.

If

If you can keep your head when all about you
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
    And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,   
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
    If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,   
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it, 
    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

Training Progress – January

Its almost the end of January and my training is progressing. I’m still following the winter training plan and getting close to the end of the 12 week block. Unfortunately, I have not been able to hit the prescribed volume for the past 6 weeks or so. It is mainly due to a combination of bad weather at the weekends and not being able to get enough time at the weekends to get a 3+ hour ride in on both Saturdays and Sundays.

Although I have not been able to fully keep up with the plan, I certainly notice an improvement in power. I increased my FTP from 212 to 218 based on hitting 218W for 20 mins on an outdoor ride and I am still able to easily hit the power targets on the plan workouts, including the HIIT intervals. The same for a couple of Sufferfest videos that I’ve thrown in to alleviate the boredom on the turbo.

The plan for the next couple of weeks is to get outside for a 3-4 hour spin this weekend and have somewhat of a low volume week next week followed by the 2016 Tour of Sufferlandria (TOS) between Feb 6th and Feb 14th. After that comes a recovery week and a fitness test so it will be nice to test and see what my FTP will be. After that a final block of base work followed by 10 weeks or so of a build phase.

Given the progress so far with the plan I’m worried that I won’t be able to find sufficient time to do the required volume for the build phase. Without the right level of training, if fear that L’Etape will be really difficult if not impossible to achieve.

First Spin of 2016

After the Christmas break and many many wet days. I got a welcome break from the Turbo and got out for a spin. It was mainly an easy spin to explore a new route incorporating Woodcock Hill. Into a headwind for the first 20km or so and then 5.5km up Woodcock Hill. The hill has a 5% average gradient but ramps of up to 10%-13% in places so it was a nice fitness tester. Got to the top without too much trouble and the legs felt fine even though I was out of the saddle for each ramp. I guess the winter training and strength exercises must be paying off! A chilly downhill descent and a tailwind home completed the 63km spin. Unfortunately the Garmin went to sleep while I was fixing a puncture 3km from home and I lost all of the data from the hill climb. Does it still count if I can’t post it on strava? 🙂

Training Update – December 2015

The A1 12 week winter base training program started off to a good start. I was able to stick to the prescribed training routine and was relishing the workouts that contained high intensity intervals as they were a welcome escape from the long (and boring!) Z2 workouts, especially when those Z2 workouts were performed indoors! After the strength training workouts, I could really start to feel the increased strength in my legs during the Z4/Z5 intensity intervals.

After 5 weeks I had to take a 2 week break to go on a work trip. Although I got a number of early morning runs in during the 2 weeks, I came back from the trip feeling very fatigued. I resumed the training plan at week 6 (basically I picked up where I left off) and found the week 6 workouts difficult and I struggled to maintain the intensities for the prescribed durations, especially for the 2x 20 minute Z4 intervals. I’m feeling less fatigued in week 7 but unfortunately with the Christmas break looking I will miss a couple of the longer weekend workouts. Hopefully it will be a good opportunity to rest and I will have more energy for the week 8 workouts and then the final third of the base training plan.

Once the base training plan is complete, I plan on doing the 2016 Tour of Sufferlandria and then starting into the build plan from the guys at A1 coaching.

Col de Jous Plane

Information on the Col de Jous Plane which is billed to be a brutal climb by all accounts. From wheelsuckers.co.uk:

“Totaling 7.3 miles (11.8 km) at an altitude of 1700 meters, the Col de Joux-Plane, approached from the town of Samoens, has an average gradient of 8.5%, with a maximum of 14%. Statistics that may not immediately strike one as particularly intimidating, but it is the unrelenting nature of the climb that makes the ascent to the Col so merciless and unyielding”

<snip>

“They don’t come much harder than the Joux-Plane. The first two kilometres do nothing but lull you into a false sense of security as you leave the town of Samoens. At the first hairpin the climb gets tough with you, and by the top you will feel brutalised by the savagery of its slopes. The compensation though is the view. The top of the Joux-Plane is an open, grassy place dominated by Mount Blanc and its image reflected eerily in a summit lake.

The climb is more difficult than Alpe d’Huez The great Tour climber Lucien van Impe rates it as one of the hardest he’s seen, and you can’t get a better recommendation than that. The road travels upwards by twisting and turning to seek out the natural lines of least resistance up it’s fearsome slope, but cannot avoid a terrible stretch of 13.5% at just over six kilometers.”

After that comes a short stretch of 8%, but don’t get carried away here because it is not time to celebrate. Save something for the final three kilometers of 9 and 10%, the last two of which is dead end straight and a little bit soul destroying.”