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Old 04-16-14, 05:55 PM   #1
Debusama
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Comeback failure

I Raced often and trained hard for my first 3 years. Although I went through phases of semi-focused training for specific events, mostly I just rode a lot. My third year, I was a fairly solid Cat-3. It isnít as if I was headed for the pros or anything like that, but I was finishing in the top-10 in most of my races and having fun.
I got a new job the following year which leaves me fewer daylight hours for riding, and was sent on a bunch of trips out of town last spring. I pretty much took last year off from racing. I was still going on a few quick mountain bike rides each week and a somewhat longer road ride most weekends.

Because I knew my outdoor ride time would be reduced from 10 or 11 hours/week to more like 8, I tried to compensate for it in the following ways:
1. Base training- Before my base training during the winter while there was too much snow for much riding consisted of a few Sufferfest videos each week. This year I was on the trainer grinding out two hours in zone 2, 5 nights per week
2. Diet- I used to eat pretty much whatever I felt like knowing I would burn it off on the bike. Now, to stay at my race weight, the most heavily processed foods I eat are an occasional bowl of (old fashioned, not instant) oat meal or cup of plain yogurt. Other than that, itís pretty much all vegetables, fruits, eggs and meats. No refined sugars, I even make my own energy drinks using a juicer to mix fruit and vegetable juices to fill my bottles with.
3. Structured workouts- I never just go on a ride, itís always AT/LT intervals, hill repeats, sprint drills etc.

I started this race season expecting to jump back in where I left off, and Iím just nowhere near the fitness level I was a couple of years ago. I feel like I did in my first year of racing; Giving my all just to stay with the pack, not competing for a possible podium spot. Iím fairly surprised that Iím so far behind where I used to be and Iíve come up with some possible explanations:

I may just need to wait for the fitness to come back; since fitness is cumulative it was silly of me to think I could come back so quickly after a long layoff.

Maybe I need to give up the all-Natural diet plan and start letting myself have some bread and refined sugars again. The problem with processed food is that half of the digestion is already done for you, and it is too quickly passed to the blood stream (this might actually be a good thing for an athlete in training?)

All of these intervals are swell but maybe I just donít get the intensity I need on solo rides and I need to do more group rides to get the competitive juices flowing

It may also be possible that I need to accept that I no longer have the training time I need to be the rider I once was.

Any thoughts on what my problem may actually be?
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Old 04-16-14, 06:08 PM   #2
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Might help to have a race report. We're you dropped and where? Miss the break? Didn't have legs for field sprint? Lost too much position etc etc
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Old 04-16-14, 06:41 PM   #3
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how long have you been training to come back? what's the weight now vs. then. using power?
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Old 04-16-14, 07:06 PM   #4
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Might help to have a race report. We're you dropped and where? Miss the break? Didn't have legs for field sprint? Lost too much position etc etc
I can do that;
I’ve done a couple of the Local Tuesday night crits (cat 1/2/3 “a” pack”. Whereas I used to be one of the guys in front, launching attacks, chasing attacks down and crossing the finish toward the front as well, now whenever I made my way toward to front and spent second or two in the wind I could feel I was about to burn out, and ended up receding into the pack in order to attempt to recover a little for the rest of the rack and mount a lame sprint which only resulted in a mid-pack kind of finish on both occasions.

The third race was a Roubaix-style race which would have been 3 22-mile laps though rolling terrain with 4-mile stretch of Gravel. The pack was a 1/2/3 pack with cat-3s scored separately. That is how many races in my area are done. Often the pack splits with most of the Cat-1/2 types ending up on the front end of the split and the 3s in the chase group. About all a Cat-3 often has to do is manage to hang on to the lead group in the splint and often he’ll end up on the podium because all the others who made the split were cat 1 or 2 racers.

In accordance with the prophecy, the pack started to split several miles into the first lap and by the time I realized that nobody was going to try and organize any kind of chase, there was probably about a 150-foot gap. I took off to bridge in hopes someone would follow me and we could work together to catch the lead group. Nobody was on my wheel, however, and I ended up bridging alone. I was fairly proud of myself for catching back on, but once we got to the gravel, we hit some deep patches and things got squirrelly so I left the rider in front of me a little more space so we wouldn’t take each other out. When things smoothed out, I just didn’t have the juice left in my legs after that bridge to catch back on.

I dropped back to the second group with all my fellow cat-3s. I stuck with them for a while, and about halfway through the second lap when I had finished my first bottle, I reached down for my second and realized it wasn’t there and must have dropped somewhere in the gravel and potholes I had ridden through. I opted not to finish the last 30 miles without water… my first DNF since my first year of racing. I’d like to say it was the bottle-cage’s fault, but the truth is that if I didn’t already know I was fading and likely to get dropped from the second pack, I probably would have suffered through some dehydration to finish the race.
I think the big difference in my fitness is my lack of ability to recover. It seems my matchbook only houses one match this year.
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Old 04-16-14, 07:08 PM   #5
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If dropping down to 6-8 hours a week has done this to you.... NEVER get married, take a more demanding job, or heaven forbid... have a child. ;-)
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Old 04-16-14, 07:23 PM   #6
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in my experience, and in reading what your issues are, it sounds to me not so much the time but what you're doing with it.

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I think the big difference in my fitness is my lack of ability to recover. It seems my matchbook only houses one match this year.
Your hours are roughly on par with mine.
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Old 04-16-14, 07:27 PM   #7
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how long have you been training to come back? what's the weight now vs. then. using power?
I started my Base training on January 1st, and building in March. We had a relatively mild winter for my location, so I was actually able to star riding outdoors earlier this year than two years ago My weight is about the same (72 inches tall/ 167 lbs). I don't have a power meter, but my LT threshold heart-rate is 7 BPM lower than it was two years ago.
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Old 04-16-14, 07:36 PM   #8
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If dropping down to 6-8 hours a week has done this to you.... NEVER get married, take a more demanding job, or heaven forbid... have a child. ;-)
You assume none of those conditions already exist?
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Old 04-16-14, 07:49 PM   #9
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I started my Base training on January 1st, and building in March. We had a relatively mild winter for my location, so I was actually able to star riding outdoors earlier this year than two years ago My weight is about the same (72 inches tall/ 167 lbs). I don't have a power meter, but my LT threshold heart-rate is 7 BPM lower than it was two years ago.
jan, feb, march, april...

yeah, 3.5 months to jump into a race with adverse surfaces against p12 riders?

little soon to call the comeback a failure. I mean, do you have a terminal illness or will you not have double the "comeback" miles in the late season aug/sept races?

Just stick with it.
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Old 04-16-14, 07:51 PM   #10
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My fitness does this a lot, so I feel your pain. For me training is much different than racing, even with interval work, I often find the actual races to be different/harder because you don't get the same level of breaks that you do in training. If you are not training and racing with a power meter, you really can't compare the two, so it is hard to know what is going right and what is not.

In general train with a higher cadence than you think is comfortable and with less resting time a few times a week. To me this makes it more like a race and is something that might help you. 8 to 10 hours is enough to keep up with the 2/3 level races if you train right and have been there before. For me that means intervals up to 3 times a week, for you maybe something else, but I would start to focus on some mixtures of intervals along with some varied cadences to help simulate races.

I do one FTP session per week, one VO2 Max session and one sprint session total of 5 hours. The I add in one endurance session at 2 to 4 hours at mostly below FTP/easy breathing, to me these are the 4 workouts not to miss each week, the other 2 or 3 times I ride are JRA and meant to spin out the bad stuff, top off my fitness or make a single effort depending on how I feel. I sub in races for any of the days depending on where I am with my schedule.

Also make sure you are not working too much in the races, a lot of time spent with your nose in the wind could be your issue as well. Stay back and be lazy if you feel you are not finishing the races strongly enough - or go harder and build up some fitness, but don't be overly worried about things until you feel your fitness is back to where it was in the past.
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Old 04-16-14, 07:53 PM   #11
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You assume none of those conditions already exist?
If they do exist, and you still get 6-8 hours a week of structured training... you WIN!!! :-)

Do you really think its the extra 3-4 hours a week that would be that big of a difference. I think you just may need to get a little more racing and stress under your belt to recover from the hard efforts quicker and respond again. It sounds like your power is still there...
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Old 04-16-14, 07:55 PM   #12
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In accordance with the prophecy, the pack started to split several miles into the first lap and by the time I realized that nobody was going to try and organize any kind of chase, there was probably about a 150-foot gap. I took off to bridge in hopes someone would follow me and we could work together to catch the lead group. Nobody was on my wheel, however, and I ended up bridging alone. I was fairly proud of myself for catching back on, but once we got to the gravel, we hit some deep patches and things got squirrelly so I left the rider in front of me a little more space so we wouldn’t take each other out. When things smoothed out, I just didn’t have the juice left in my legs after that bridge to catch back on.
This tells me you are doing fine, like ygduf said, just keep at it.
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Old 04-16-14, 08:04 PM   #13
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All of these intervals are swell but maybe I just don’t get the intensity I need on solo rides and I need to do more group rides to get the competitive juices flowing

It may also be possible that I need to accept that I no longer have the training time I need to be the rider I once was.

Any thoughts on what my problem may actually be?
That's my initial thought. Just doesn't sound like what you're doing is much fun. All of these structured workouts to the nth degree and this strict diet and all.

Sometimes the best fitness comes when you're having the most amount of fun. Going out and ripping it up on a group ride with everyone trying to destroy each other and then a cold beer and some nachos afterwards. Just the fun parts.

At the end of the day, the more fun you have the more motivated you're likely to be and the more you'll get out of your training time.
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Old 04-16-14, 08:06 PM   #14
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That's my initial thought. Just doesn't sound like what you're doing is much fun. All of these structured workouts to the nth degree and this strict diet and all.

Sometimes the best fitness comes when you're having the most amount of fun. Going out and ripping it up on a group ride with everyone trying to destroy each other and then a cold beer and some nachos afterwards. Just the fun parts.

At the end of the day, the more fun you have the more motivated you're likely to be and the more you'll get out of your training time.
X2

grinding out z2 on the trainer 5 nights a week seems like a sure fire path to burnout.
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Old 04-16-14, 08:31 PM   #15
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That's my initial thought. Just doesn't sound like what you're doing is much fun. All of these structured workouts to the nth degree and this strict diet and all.

Sometimes the best fitness comes when you're having the most amount of fun. Going out and ripping it up on a group ride with everyone trying to destroy each other and then a cold beer and some nachos afterwards. Just the fun parts.

At the end of the day, the more fun you have the more motivated you're likely to be and the more you'll get out of your training time.
x3

I admire your tenacity but forcing yourself to do stuff like that is a good way to burn out. I don't do intervals primarily because of the few winters of intervals I did way back when. After that I cooked myself mentally. After a while (5-10 years) I turned my training into JRA, fun stuff (chasing trucks and such), and racing. Even the year I upgraded to 2 I was doing JRA + races. I love racing. If I could just race that's what I'd do. I don't even have to win, it's the whole process that's the fun part. Training, ugh.

A big month for me nowadays is if I break 20 hours.

Granted I don't do road races, I stick with flatter crits, but my FTP is such that I've virtually never finished a road race. I've never made it to the finish with the lead main group in a RR.

Also last year in the Tues Night races I don't think I finished one of them. P123 if you will, but for us that means it's a 123 with a guest pro showing up every now and then (local kid raced for Jelly Belly last year).

Finally if you bridged but other 3s didn't then you're riding stronger than they are.
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Old 04-16-14, 08:50 PM   #16
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jan, feb, march, april...

yeah, 3.5 months to jump into a race with adverse surfaces against p12 riders?

little soon to call the comeback a failure. I mean, do you have a terminal illness or will you not have double the "comeback" miles in the late season aug/sept races?

Just stick with it.
This.

Patience!

And also what @needmoreair said, keep it fun so you don't burn out.

Did you do Walla Walla, with the cat3-only field? Seems like some cat3-only racing will do your ego well.
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Old 04-16-14, 09:02 PM   #17
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I don't do intervals primarily because of the few winters of intervals I did way back when. After that I cooked myself mentally.
For me, intervals are the only way to avoid burn-out indoors. Having a purpose and keeping the sessions shorter makes the time pass more quickly. Obviously, each to his own applies here, but the bottom line we all seem to agree on is find something that engages you and do it. People who enjoy doing things tend to do them more and that tends to result in improvements without feeling like work. JRA in z2 on a trainer seems to rarely be the formula for anyone.
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Old 04-16-14, 09:51 PM   #18
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another thing to look at along the burnout lines is time off the bike. I just looked at my schedule and I have already had 20 days this year where I did not touch a bike, and I consider myself on a hard schedule this year. Everyone is different, but it is also possible you are trying too hard. I go 2 weeks full on each month, one week mostly off, and then use the 4th week as a variable, hopefully it is on, but if life gets in the way, I let it.
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Old 04-16-14, 10:10 PM   #19
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jan, feb, march, april...

yeah, 3.5 months to jump into a race with adverse surfaces against p12 riders?

little soon to call the comeback a failure. I mean, do you have a terminal illness or will you not have double the "comeback" miles in the late season aug/sept races?

Just stick with it.
Yeah, I thought that might be the case. I may need to re-calibrate my expectations for how long it takes to back in race shape after skipping a year. Typically the mixed-surface race is my favorite race. There's not much road racing in my area after July, which seems counter-intuitive for an area with harsh winters. I guess everyone's switching to Cross mode, which starts in September. Tour of Walla Walla is this Weekend, which might be a better gauge for my fitness since the fields are large enough for cat-3 to race separately.

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