UPDATE: As of 8:01 PM tonight, I my lottery spot has been accepted – I’m going to Leadville in 2017!
It’s been a little over two months since my last post about my journey to The Leadville 100, and not much has changed except to say that my training has kicked into high gear. This weekend has been a little interesting – a combination of joy in completing a key 52 mile mountain bike ride and nervous energy as I sit and wait for information regarding my lottery entry. For the uninitiated, Leadville entries are gained in a number of ways: guaranteed spots for sponsors, guaranteed spots for charities, lottery entries, and earned spots (through qualifying races). And those would be in order of decreasing expense and (probably) likelihood.
The closest qualifying race for me is a 100km (62 mile) mtb race up at Whiteface Mountain, in the Adirondacks (upstate NY). No doubt a difficult race given the surrounding terrain and closeness to very large population centers filled with talented cyclists. This race is slated for 3 June, 2017 so I need to be ready to race well before Leadville in August. For reference, the winning time in my age group (M30-39) in 2016 was 4 hours and 15 minutes.
My plan is to compete in this race regardless of my success with the lottery. Training, therefore, has to keep in mind these two goals. To tackle these goals, training will be broken down into three general areas.
Without a doubt I need to know I can cover 100 miles on my mountain bike, but also cover 10-12 hours of riding essentially nonstop. This will come by gradually increasing my distances both on the road and off, much like a runner would in training for a marathon. My longest ride will probably max out at around 10 hours and will most likely be on the road. I have started this training already, getting my average hours per week up and completing the Marty’s Fat Fifty (more on this later). I will be planning on completing a number of centuries this year in preparation, most likely using the Gran Fondo NJ route due to its absurd hilliness.
Another aspect of endurance training that is often left out of the equation is purposefully riding consistently hard. In the cycling world, these are often referred to as ME rides, but mostly come about as hammer rides. The goal is to ride in a zone which is uncomfortably painful but can be maintained for 2-3 hours. Consistent with the approach is to even out the pacing as much as possible, reducing both recovery and all-out efforts. By helping your body become accustomed to these types of efforts, you essentially lift up your ability to ride longer distances at lower efforts as well as your ability to maintain harder efforts.
Lactate Threshold Work
To ensure my performance over shorter distances and continued success in the road season, I will begin hard interval training in February. Your lactate threshold, in simplest terms, is the level at which your body’s systems start to be unable to clear your blood of junk. This level of “junk” generally exponentially increases after this limit, providing a significant diminishing returns relative to power output. The goal is to move this mark as high as possible so that you can go harder for longer. There are a number of ways to achieve this, and my plan is to use a hybrid approach of both short, high stress intervals mixed with longer, medium stress intervals, using my existing LT as a marker.
Cyclists will recognize many of the following workouts I plan on completing:
- 20×30+30 – 30 seconds all out followed by 30 seconds of recovery, repeated 20+ times
- 2×20+10 – 20 minute power intervals at or slightly above LT, followed by 10 minutes of recovery
- 5×5+5 – 5 minutes of above LT power, with 5 minutes of recovery, repeated 5 times
- Over-Unders – a loose combination of an interval slightly above LT followed by an interval slightly below LT
One of the most popular methods of training, and perhaps on of the best, is racing! As the weather starts to turn towards spring, it will become essential to combine the above into racing efforts that tax the body in pretty much every possible manner. This will begin with the Branchbrook Spring Series and the NJ Time Trial Cup, and will be followed by the NJ MTB series and the NJ Maxxis Garden State Cup (a mixture of road and criterium races). As these races occur on weekends, it will be important to follow up with extra miles to keep increasing my overall mileage.
A few key races:
- Sandy Hook Time Trial – 7 mile all out effort
- Cherry Blossom Road Race – 60 mile, very hard criterium
- Lewis Morris MTB Race
- Revolutionary Ramble 100 mile ride
- Whiteface MTN 100km MTB Race
I hope this gives a better understanding of where and how my hours on the bike are spent, and why it is so important not only to get a good start but to keep consistency throughout the program. Training is a very complex subject, much of which I do not comprehend, and so the above is general layout of what I hope to achieve.