After a slightly ‘meh’ ending to this year’s cyclocross, I thought a bit about how I train for races. The high level answer is “haphazardly”. Like everyone else, cyclocross is just one of many things I do and so I fit training rides in and around the rest of my life. That mostly means using commutes to work and the odd longer weekend ride as my base. I generally try to ride as hard as I can, but that’s pretty variable in practise given Scottish weather conditions, traffic lights etc.
My biggest training success this year was on the Arthur’s Seat hill climb. I started the year doing the climb in about 4m40, and with focused training lopped 45 seconds off that. The hill climb has the advantage of being repeatable and quantifiable, and the only downside is that the wind direction has a large impact.
But while a 4 minute burst of full-on ascending speed is handy (eg. Glentress or 10UTB) it doesn’t help much at races like Dig In At The Dock which is flat as a pancake and an hour long.
To quantify progress, it’s handy to keep as many variable fixed as possible. I don’t have a turbo trainer, so instead I’ve picked two wide, traffic free and usefully long stretches nearby. Rather than trying to “ride fast”, which usually means “ride fast initially and then tire” I’ve decided to do each stretch at a fixed speed. If I complete the distance at (say) 18mph, then next time I ride it at a fixed 19mph and keep stepping it up until I hit the threshold. So far, my threshold for the shorter 1k stretch appears to be around 22mph, and I’m still stepping up through 19mph on the longer two mile stretch.
This isn’t intended as training, per se. The world says that intervals are the most effective way of getting faster. But this approach gives me a fairly constant reference point to see if the other training is having an effect.
So that’s the plan for the sustained-fast on the flat. However, I’m also signed up for the Glentress 7’s this year, so there’s a big need for the ups and downs too. Hence, I’ll be alternating the flat days with more Arthurs Seat loops (or just hill reps) since that’s served me perfectly well for xc in the past. Eleven weeks until Glentress 7’s, so no rest for the wicked.