Spring training in New England


Fortunately my early season pace allows for plenty of reaction time, because the roads are rough out there right now – full of potholes and frost heaves.

Take a look at this doozie I came accross today along a pond in Harold Parker State Forest. It’s a good two bike lengths long. What’s nice is that the line of sight also includes the ice on the pond. Ah, spring training in New England…

10th annual George Street Bike Challenge

Spring is here and summer will come before you know it. Have you set any goals for this season? This looks like a fun event to try.

Now in its 10th season, the George Street Challenge, run by the Major Taylor Association, will take place on July 24, 2011. Find out all the details on the event website. And check out this 1:10 YouTube promo video:

Wells Ave racing starts in one week

The Boston Road Club’s Wells Ave training race series has been going on since 1981 (30 years! wow!). It’s a criterium race series that is geared to help new racers get into the sport and seasoned racers sharpen up for the season. And to stay sharp – the series continues every Sunday through the season into September.

Races are broken out into different categories, competing along a 0.8 mile circuit in Newton with wide corners. “D” racers (juniors and women) go first at 8:30AM, followed by “C” racers (novices) at 9:00AM. Each of these races is 12 miles long, or 15 laps.

At 9:45AM and 10:45AM, the “B” and “A” racers compete in 24-mile and 32-mile races, respectively. These races are for more serious and seasoned racers, and you’ll even see local pros in the “A” race from time to time, sharpening up their skills.

Racing is a great workout. You’ll likely never push yourself as hard as when you’re competing – even if you have no chance of winning. And even if you drop off the back, racing can be a great incentive for workouts. After all, you can come back the next Sunday and test yourself again for improvement.

The 2011 season starts on Sunday, March 13th. Check out the full details on the Boston Road Club website page on Wells Ave Racing.

Photo credit: thisisforever

Learn to race, even if you’ll never race

The Northeast Bicycle Club (NEBC),  a developmental club with a variety of programs and events for riders of all ages and capabilities, is putting on their annual bike racing clinic.

It’s a great program that features two off-bike discussion sessions in March, and four on-bike clinics out at Fort Devens on Saturdays in April.

The “graduation” exercise is participation in an actual bike race, on a short and safe course in Newton, the Wells Ave racing series run by Boston Road Club.

Even if you’ll never race

Even if you have no intention of racing, this clinic is a fantastic way to learn to appreciate the sport of bike racing, and to seriously upgrade your skills for safe and fun riding in groups or with clubs.

Check out what is covered:

  • Bike handling: Cornering; pacelines & double pacelines; riding in close groups; incidental contact.
  • Racing skills: Sprinting; time trialing; climbing and descending; starting and finishing.
  • Tactics and strategies: Road racing as a team sport; applying team strategies and tactics in race situations; using the race course and your strengths to your advantage.
  • Training and equipment: Periodization and specificity; training effort zones; racing bicycles & equipment; maintaining and performance tuning your equipment; proper bike fit.

The instructors are great – patient, knowledgeable, and enthusiastic about the sport and educating riders. The price is cheap, too.

Find all the details on BikeReg here: http://www.bikereg.com/events/register.asp?eventid=12615

And hurry! Registration closes on March 18th, but this class tends to fill up quickly.

Photo credit: spunkinator

Finding The Right Balance With Rollers

Balance Riding the rollers can help with winter training doldrums. A little more lively than the trainer, they give you much more of a real road feel. Riding the rollers also requires a bit more concentration which can help to keep you mentally engaged during a workout.

Beyond providing a little mental balance, you can get in some effective cardio workouts on the rollers without straining your legs. You can ride intervals, working up to tempo or threshold zones, and really get a great aerobic workout. But, since there isn’t much resistance on the rollers, your legs won’t be required to generate a lot of watts. That can be really great this time of year when your legs really aren’t ready for a lot of strength training yet.

So, dust off those rollers to achieve a little balance – mental and physical – this winter.

Photo Credit: SeeMidTN.com

Spice Up Winter Training: Ride Outside

Getting outside on the road in the winter can be a refreshing break from basement workouts and indoor cycling classes. While there are many virtues of indoor training, cycling was meant for the open road. And, you’ll burn more calories in the cold weather, improve your handling skills on sloppy roads, and gain some bragging rights.

If you’re interested to try some outdoor winter riding but not ready to go it alone, find a group to ride. Many groups shut down for the winter, but there are several groups that ride all year round.

The Charles River Wheelmen (CRW) are have a busy calendar of rides planned for January. Yesterday offered the traditional New Year’s Day ride in downtown Boston. Each Sunday has rides in a variety of locales across the state – Concord, Wellesley, Brookline, Quincy, and Natick.

Dress warm. Dress in layers. Get some booties, long-finger gloves, and a skull cap. Then, get out on the road.

Photo Credit: k.steudel

Don’t Give Away Watts!

Photo Credit: Rick McCharles
I’m taking a great training class this winter, led by a professional coach and using professional equipment (Computrainers). At my most recent class the coach encouraged us not to “give away watts to poor technique.” What a great mantra.

When training, it’s important to build fitness by exerting a lot of energy. You need to be in the right training zone for the right amount of time in order to build strength and endurance. But if you allow your technique to become sloppy, you’ll be a mess on the road. A strong mess, perhaps, but you won’t be fast (at least not as fast as you could be).

When the rubber hits the road this spring, you need to be fit and efficient. That’s how you’ll shake and bake your friend, “win” the next club ride, or get to the next racing level.

It can be a lot to focus on, and ultimately you need to meld all these little details seamlessly into your riding. It’s not unlike working on your golf swing. But just as in golf, the devil is in the details (and practice is key).

So keep working hard. Build endurance. Build strength. And hone your pedal stroke – Don’t give away watts to poor technique!

Photo by Rick McCharles

Build Power to Build Speed

from New England Sports Magazine

Improving the average power output you can sustain over the course of a ride or race is critical to becoming a faster rider. Incorporate this simple fact into your training and you can become one of the faster riders in your group. A great way to build power is to do time trial intervals twice a week. These can be done in short 1-hour workout sessions during the week so you can still get your long endurance rides in on the weekends.

When riding a time trial, you are essentially riding at or near your anaerobic threshold – the point at which you go into an anaerobic state and fatigue rapidly sets in due to lactic acid accumulation in your blood stream. The more power you can generate for sustained periods without going anaerobic, the faster you’ll become. The purpose of this workout is to mimic the time trial effort for two 20 minute intervals.

The workout is tough, but it can be done in less than an hour and the results are significant. Follow the workout faithfully for 8 to 10 weeks and you could increase your average power output by 10 or 15 percent, which would certainly reshuffle the pecking order of your favorite weekend group ride in your favor.

First, warm up with 10 minutes pedaling an easy gear. Then, change to a harder gear and pedal at your threshold steadily for 20 minutes. Take 5 minutes to rest by spinning in an easy gear, then go hard for a second 20 minutes, again at your threshold. The second effort will be much harder than the first because you are already a bit fatigued, but push through for maximum training benefit. Finally, rest with 10 minutes of soft pedaling in an easy gear. Repeat twice per week for 4 weeks. Take a rest week. Continue to train during your rest week, just skip the threshold intervals. Then, repeat for the next 4 weeks. You’ll see noticeable improvements in just a few weeks, but continue the entire regimen to maximize your power for the season.

To get the maximum benefit out of this workout, it’s critical to get the intensity right. You need your threshold efforts to be at the all out maximum capacity that you can sustain for a 20 minute period. Go too hard and you’ll “blow up” before 20 minutes is up. Go too easy and you won’t be working hard enough to improve your power output. To get it right, you need to maintain a hard effort for the whole 20 minutes but have nothing left at the end. The effort should be very much like riding a time trial. In fact, a great way to find the right intensity is to ride an 8 or 10 mile time trial and measure your average heart rate over the course of the race. Then use that heart rate average as a guideline for your 20 minute interval efforts. A local club time trial race is safe, fun, and gets you to push yourself much harder than you likely would on your own solo training effort.

Having a good place for this workout is also important. Look for flat or slightly rolling terrain with minimal traffic interruptions, or use an indoor trainer.
Time trial interval training is a basic building block that should be the centerpiece of a good training regimen for anyone looking to get faster on the bike. As always, consult your physician before undertaking this or any other training routine.

Tom Catalini is the author of Road Biking Massachusetts, a cycling guide book available on Amazon.com, and cycling blog www.RoadBikingMassachusetts.com.