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Training Races vs Structured WorkOuts(8 posts)

Training Races vs Structured WorkOutsveloB
Apr 2, 2002 10:49 AM
Spring has arrived with longer day-light hours from now through Summer. Most areas have the traditional local Tuesday and Thursday Training Races of various natures and venues. Also, most weekends involve a Sat &/or Sun race.

Questioning the axiom: "Racing is [always] the best form of Training" - I wonder what others have found effective - ie do you routinely participate in the mid-week Training Races; or, do you race the weekend and do structured intervals on "hard" days during the week.

If the latter, (ie interval workouts), I would be interested in specific plans to improve my need for improved speed ( especially criteriums!). (I am familiar with and use Friel's instructive book.)

Comments and experience from others would be greatly appreciated.

re: Training Races vs Structured WorkOutsbrider
Apr 2, 2002 12:03 PM
I took advantage of virtually ALL the racing I could. Tuesday night road races (actually circuit races), Wednesday time trial or track, Thursday criterium (this would be the one I'd skip, as I didn't necessarily enjoy crits that much, and after two days of hard riding already, sometimes I was just plain knackered). Worked pretty well for me, but I had very good recovery ability.
Race all you can,TJeanloz
Apr 2, 2002 12:55 PM
Even if races were not the best 'workout' per se, you will get a lot more out of them than you will with an interval session. There's a lot more to racing than going fast, and while you can teach your muscles to go fast in a solo workout, you can't learn the nuances of racing. So even if the race wasn't as good a workout (but frankly, I can't remember any workouts that have been harder than any race), I'd do the race every time.
Apr 2, 2002 1:04 PM
If you do a 1-hour crit with a mind to get a workout, you'll get a workout. If you're fit and riding to win, it may very well be total waste from a workout perspective. I won a crit a couple weeks ago that was difficult for all of 20 seconds. It's awesome to win, but it wasn't a very good workout.

I used to think racing all the time was the best way to gain fitness. I now do a lot more structured training, spend more time in a mid-aerobic state, and let myself recover completely after a hard workout. My results have improved...

If you don't have a lot of racing experience, then yeah, doing weekly crits can help you learn how to completely relax in a peloton which is a critical skill. You also need experience racing to learn about breaks, bridging, blocking and all those other nuances TJeanloz refers to.

In short, if it's your first or second year of racing, race a lot. Otherwise, you probably have a better plan.

Train Stupid, Race SmartBipedZed
Apr 2, 2002 1:29 PM
It all depends on your goals. For building race fitness, I find doing structured intervals alone to be most effective. However, fitness alone doesn't win races. Training races are great ways to gain pack skills and learn how to read/ride a race. There really is no substitute.

Depending on your fitness level, you can just sit in the pack and never really get much above Z3. The best advice I got about unofficial weekday races was to train stupid, race smart. Use the training race to do things you would never do in a priority race - launch a solo attack 5 minutes from the start, attack from the front, attack from the back, have teammates attack and then attempt to bridge, sprint for every lap "prime". These types of efforts will give you a much better workout than just sitting in. Learn from these so you know what works for you and what doesn't so when the real races come you know what you can do.

Bottom line, I won't use training races to totally replace structured intervals, but I try to make at least one a week just to keep the pack skills sharp. Plus it's fun. Intervals pretty much suck, well, all the the time, but especially after you've been doing them for several months.
Train Stupid, Race Smart - yupRideLots
Apr 2, 2002 3:44 PM
Last summer I got some of my best workouts by doing the training races, except I'd go off the front immediately and see how long I could last before getting caught - with Cat 1's and pros it the group, too. Sometimes I got caught half way, sometimes 1/4 mile from the finish but not by all the group. You're right -- it's totally stupid, but a great workout. (not stupid in one sense, though, as I learned what my (in)abilities are to go off the front :-)

p.s. to those regularly winning crits and not suffering for more than 20 seconds, maybe an upgrade is in order?
Re: p.s.: Force me! :-) (nm)shirt
Apr 2, 2002 6:48 PM
A Powerful Drugmass_biker
Apr 2, 2002 4:09 PM
If you have solid base miles, there is no better way to get fast quickly than through training races. However, use them with caution as they go a long way towards bringing you into form fairly fast. In other words, figure out what you want to get out of training races (speed? race savvy? experience?) and know that coming to the line. It makes the endeavor that much more satisfying, and certainly more complementary to your overall training plan.

You can also use training races as a petri dish to try out stuff - bridging, breaking away, sprinting for a prime, whatever, in a relatively low pressure/low stakes environment.

I find that with the onset of daylight saving and more hours, there are more and more weekday group rides (aka hammerfests) as well as a plethora of weekend races. A few things that have worked for me:

* plan in multiweek blocks - i.e. 3 weeks "on", 1 week "off", or 2/1. That doesn't mean bailing on the weekday ride, just back it off a bit
* if your weekday ride is Tuesday and you had a hard race on Sunday, realize that whatever high end training you will be getting on Tuesday will be somewhat compromised by your recovery (or lack thereof) from your efforts on Sunday
* around here, we have midweek hard rides as well as TTs. Some folks alternate these week by week to develop more completely as racers
* err on the side of doing less. It is always better to come to the line a little fresh and feeling undertrained than physically taxed from being overtrained

I find that my structured training takes the shape of hill work and form drills, while my interval training takes place during the midweek fast ride or training race. When daylight saving rolls around, I replace those midweek trainer pukefests with the group ride, and the sequence continues as normal.