Friday, 3 January 2014

3 and 5 Dams Challenge Training Begins ... Now!

OK, the festivities are over and the New Year has been heralded in. April 6th will arrive sooner than you think and you pretty much have 13 (and a bit) weeks to get yourself right before you point your bike's front wheel away from the start line and toward those hills. This post will explain a little bit about the training that I will be going through and how you might best follow it over the next few months leading up to the event. I'll not be going into any actual training specifics in this post but I will cover what tools you can use to help get you into peak physical and mental condition so that you are completely prepared for the challenge on the day.

Before I get into things, there is a little housekeeping that I need to complete. Please read and acknowledge the IMPORTANT notice at the bottom of this post before continuing.

Not everyone who will be following these posts will be at the same level of physical fitness, have the same level of experience, may differ in age, weight & height and/or have specific medical conditions and/or previous injuries to consider. Some will already be at an advanced level of fitness, possibly better than myself, while others may just be getting back into the swing of things and will build up over the coming months. If you are unsure of any of this, I would advise you to arrange a visit with your G.P. to confirm that you are in suitable condition to train for and complete such an event.

Personally, I have been racing and training at high intensity levels for a number of years and I engage with a personal coach to help me with specific training programs that are tailored to my needs. While I will attempt to write blog posts here that will be more specifically related to the Dams Challenge, any ride data that I might link to are likely to include specific intervals that are not absolutely necessary to the training requirements for the event and you would be advised not to attempt these intervals without prior independent professional advice. Please remember, that I will personally be training for other forthcoming events and some ride data may reflect this.

BWA, along with Chain Reaction Training (CRT), have provided 4 generic training programs on the Dams Challenge website (here) and I will base my training posts on these with some variation here and there. Two of these are for the 3 dams ride and the other two are for the 5 dams ride. For each, there is a program for novice riders and for advanced riders. I will attempt to provide training advice for each level. This advice will be more specific to the 5 dams ride (which I will be completing) but those doing the 3 dams challenge can simply reduce the volume/intensity to suit.

Download the program that would be most specific to yourself. In each of the programs, there are some useful notes that have been provided on the last page. Each of the programs also highlight the weeks in which you should reduce your training intensity and volume. Intensity should be reduced by at least one third although I would highly recommend reducing by at least half while volume should be decreased to about 70% of that completed up to the start of the rest week. In my opinion, recovery is just as important, if not more important than the training sessions themselves. This includes the recovery week and the active recovery between intervals.

The programs also suggest the use of a stationary trainer for those that may not be able to get out on the road. While this is certainly true, I believe that there is no better training for an event than emulating the event itself as closely as you can. This means getting out there on the road whenever you can and riding in such a manner that would reflect the event you are training for. If you simply cannot get outdoors to train, then by all means use a stationary trainer, but make it a last resort.

If you have a power meter on your bike, then it is likely you are already training at an advanced level and these are an efficient tool to monitor your training intensity and intervals. You can use your current power (watts) levels (e.g. Functional Threshold Power or FTP) to quickly determine the intensity of your intervals. I currently do not use a power meter so I will not be providing specific power information but may make reference to power zones and these will relate to my knowledge and understanding of my own power and intensity levels which will likely differ to yours.

If you have a heart rate monitor (HRM), then I would certainly recommend using it. If you do not have one, consider buying one for your training and the event as these are as useful a training tool as a power meter but do not provide intensity data as instantaneously as a power meter. I currently use a HRM and you will often find I refer to my HR zones (RE, E1-E4) but be advised that my HR levels will very likely be different to yours. In fact, my HR range is quite narrow compared to most riders with just 55 bpm between my RE level and my maximum HR (MHR) level. You should be familiar with your own HR zones and if you can't remember them while on the bike, print them out on a piece of paper and stick them on the frame's top tube.

If you are not sure what your MHR is, then there are two ways to find out. The easy way, and the hard way. The easy way, as a rule of thumb, is to remove your age from 220. This will give you a rough estimate of what your MHR might be. For example, if you are 40 years of age, then your MHR would be roughly 180bpm. The hard way, and the recommended way, is to get out on the bike and stress test yourself. The best way to do this is in a sprint for the final in a race by giving the sprint effort absolutely everything you have to win. The peak HR is your MHR. If you do not race, then find a quiet road with a steady incline and belt out as hard an ascent as you can for at least 30 seconds (give it everything). The peak HR during this effort will be pretty close to your MHR.

One way to roughly work out your HR zones is to use your MHR to set them as follows:

Max HR 190bpm
E4 > 90% MHR > 171bpm Anaerobic
E3 80-90% MHR 152-171bpm Aerobic
E2 70-80% MHR 133-151bpm "
E1 60-70%+ MHR 114-132bpm "
RE < 60% MHR < 114bpm "

This is a generic guide. If you have a coach, s/he may have a different method of working out your HR zones and might be specific to the training programs provided to you.

I will try to make it easy for readers to emulate my training over the coming weeks by posting an entry each Sunday night outlining the training completed for the previous week as well as a brief summary for the coming week with a guide available to riders of each level for each ride distance. This training schedule should leave us one more week prior to the event which can be used as a taper week where you will gradually back off your training up to the last day before the event. This is an important part of the training program and should put you at peak condition for event day.

As we will be training through summer, hydration on the bike and during exercise will be of critical importance and we will use the first week or so of training to determine what best works for your own hydration requirements. Ideally, you should be replacing whatever fluid you are losing during exercise. Longer rides will likely require you to consume more fluid than you can carry on you and your bike so incorporating places to refill your bidons during your training is vital. Managing your fluid correctly will also help prevent cramping during longer rides and, importantly, on the day of the event.

In addition to hydration, nutrition before and during a ride is also of critical importance and again, you may not be able to carry everything you need with you so work out places where you might be able to buy addition food during longer rides. If you are not providing your body with the nutrition it needs during long rides and hard interval sessions, then you will definitely run out of energy needed to complete the ride and you will eventually have no choice but to stop riding as the body will refuse to function at the required level. In later posts, I will provide information on items that are easy to carry in your jersey pockets and provide good levels of energy and nutrition during your training sessions and the event itself. I always look for the biggest bang for my buck when it comes to the food I carry and I'll share these with your later.

Finally, motivation can sometimes be the hardest thing to muster when it comes to training for an event. There are a plethora of ways to get yourself motivated and a quick Google search can provide you with plenty of information on building mental toughness. For most, just being able to get out on the bike is motivation enough while others require a bit more to get out there in the first place. To have registered for the Dams Challenge should be indication enough that you enjoy riding your bike so that is a start. Do another Google search for short motivational phrases and stick them on various places on your bike frame that are visible to you while riding. Somewhere on the top tube of your bike frame, stick you full name. This is who you are and the person bearing this name is absolutely capable of completing tough challenges such as the Dams.

If you are using Strava, this too is a great tool for motivating yourself to improve your ability. You'll find me in there somewhere so feel free to follow me if you wish but don't be offended if I don't follow you back. While I encourage you to try and attain PRs and achievements on Strava segments, I do not condone reckless riding in the hunt for a Strava segment KOM. Safety for yourself and others sharing the roads and paths should be your ultimate priority at all times.

By now, you should have found yourself a partner with which you will be completing the challenge. Your riding partner will likely be your biggest source of motivation. If you are having trouble finding someone, use the Bike Buddies page on the Dams Challenge website to help find someone of similar ability to you who is also looking for a ride partner. It won't always be possible to train with your partner and this is fine, you can still complete your training leading up to the event and only training with your selected ride partner every so often. I would certainly recommend trying to train with your ride partner at least once a fortnight to get an idea of how you are both progressing and compare your progress to ensure you will be able to efficiently keep up with each other during the event. It is important that you ride the distance together both for safety reasons and to allow you to complete the ride working as a team.

My first training week will begin next week and I will post a training summary report on this blog this Sunday night. As mentioned, my training regime may differ slightly to the programs provided on the Dams Challenge website, and I may not always be able to ride a long hills ride on the Saturday of each week as demonstrated in the CRT programs and where I can't do so, I will demonstrate equivalent training intensity to these rides in locations a bit closer to the CBD. (TIP: training for hills riding doesn't always have to happen in the hills!)

Let the fun begin.

Regards, Charlie.
Ride Ambassador

IMPORTANT: The above advice and guide ("the advice") is provided to you, the reader, free of restriction and encumbrances, in the hope that it will be useful but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of MERCHANTABILITY or FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. You are free to do with the advice as you so please, but understand that by reading and/or using the advice, you acknowledge that you RELEASE THE AUTHOR and any of his related parties, including, but not limited to, Bicycling Western Australia, the Unicorn-Specialized Cycing Team, and any of their previous and/or currently engaged sponsors and related third-parties, including, but not limited to, Hall Cycle Training, of ANY LIABILITY FOR ANY CLAIM, DAMAGES OR OTHER LIABILITY, whether in an action of contract, tort or otherwise, arising from, out of or in connection with the advice or the use, inability to use, or other dealings in the advice.

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