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?