"For the past 3.5 months, I have backed up, and started from ground zero."
by Alison Powers ALP Cycles Coaching
Two weeks ago, while in Leadville for ALP Cycles Racing's Winter Training Camp, a few of the riders asked me if I had started to train yet, and if so, how it's going. A bit of history here: 3 months ago, I signed up for the 141 mile Steamboat Gravel race in August. My reply to the if I had started to train or not question was, "I'm more in the training to train phase. Meaning I have to get my body back to a place where it can handle a training load required."
I quit professional bike racing 5 years ago. During this 5 year span, I have continued doing many of the things I did when I was racing, but more at a just have fun level. Things that weren't fun or were costly disappeared (stretching, core strength, massage, body maintenance). Things that were fun, I had the freedom to do more of (short lunch time rides, rides with friends, no riding if I didn't feel like it).
During these 5 years of retirement, in addition to nearing 40 (aging), my body was starting to slowly fall apart. After 2 career's of professional sports (ski racing and bike racing), the injuries that comes with those, and 10 surgeries, I was starting to feel and ache like an old woman. Bike rides started lasting 60-90 min not because that's all I wanted to do, but because that's all my back could handle on the bike.
Signing up for this gravel race was just the kick starter I needed to start taking care of myself again. My goal for this race it to ride it fairly fast, faster than any other female. The training required to win this type of race is very different than the training to just finish a race. Plus, I've never ridden 141 miles at one time in my life.
This brings me back to the "I have to get my body back to a place where it can handle the training load" statement. If I can't ride for 90 min without pain, how am I supposed to train for and race an 8+ hour race and expect to win? I can't, that's not realistic.
For the past 3.5 months, I have backed up, and started from ground zero. Consistent strength training and core strength have been the base of my "training". I'm back to stretching and rolling every day. I visited Specialized Boulder for a Retul bike fit. This work on top of the body work I was already getting and I no longer feel like an old woman. I did a 2.5 hr ride and not once did I have to stop, get on the ground, and do some kind of strange twist or stretch to try to relieve my back pain. My body is starting to feel like it will be ready to train again. To handle the training load required to ride fast and hard for 141 miles.
The training before the training might be the most important training period in the yearly training plan. However, it is the step that is most easily brushed aside, and forgotten about. As coaches, we recommend that athletes stick with coaching on a year round basis. We can help you work on your weaknesses in the off season, and build a strong base of "functional" strength and fitness before focusing on the bike.
It has taken me 3 months to start feeling like I'm in a place to be ready to train. While I haven't officially started training yet, imagine if I had waited until March or April to start thinking about my bike fit, my core strength, how to deal with my back pain, etc. I would be way behind the 8-ball and would not be in a good place to reach my race outcome goal in August.
No doubt, I will need to stay diligent on my core strength, and mobility through this process (and throughout life), and I'll be able to focus more and more on the bike soon (but first cross training, Nordic skiing, strength training) to reach my outcome goal in August.