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What mistakes do most racers make in training?(33 posts)

What mistakes do most racers make in training?DougSloan
Aug 13, 2002 6:00 AM
What keeps most racers from being as good as they could be? Aside from genetics, is it time on the bike, insufficient intensity, too much of either, insufficient rest? In other words, from you experienced racers or coaches, what do you commonly observe about what holds people back? I'd be particularly interested in hearing from some who remained mediocre for a while, but then got it together and became significantly faster. I'd prefer to focus on the physical aspects, not so much the tactical. Thanks.

re: What mistakes do most racers make in training?merckx56
Aug 13, 2002 6:17 AM
they don't ride enough. during the season, i ride about 200-250 a week but in the winter, i try to put in 350-400.
it's not the intensity that makes you that much faster, it the repetition. do a block of 4 hour days (3-4 in a row) take a day off and do it again. a couple of us did it for a month straight two winters ago and when it came time to go hard for two hours, the body said no problem. after about 4 hours on the bike, the body goes into survival mode.
when the ride is only 2-3 hours, no matter what the intensity, the body doesn't see it as being difficult.
people focus too much on intervals and hill repeats and blah, blah, blah...
if you have the time, 6-8 twenty hour weeks will give you more fitness and speed than any intervals.
once it's time to go fast, screw intervals. find someone with a scooter or someone whom you trust to drive their dreaded SUV and go motorpace. you'll get to do intervals and work on pushing over that big gear at a high cadence.
it's funny to read some of things folks say on here and try to glean any training help from it. people who say "i've been at cat. 4 for two years and this works for me..."
if you've been a 4 for two years, your program isn't working! time for a change!
doug, i'm a uscf coach. if you need any training advice or guidance email me off the board. i'll do my best to get you some advice that may actually work! two of my juniors are racing in europe this summer and doing well and a guy here in town went from a 5 to a 2 in a season and a half under my tutelage.
re: What mistakes do most racers make in training?ThighsofSteel
Aug 13, 2002 6:27 AM
Unfortunately for alot of us amateurs, 3 or 4, 4 hour days in a row is impossible. Especially in winter. Work is the downfall of every amateur cyclist.
that's why i said "if you have the time"...merckx56
Aug 13, 2002 6:47 AM
I know that the vast majority don't but time is really what it takes to break through to the highest levels. a pro 1,2 race isn't fun for anyone, unless you win! you can put together a good week even with work though. if you want to be a cat 1, sacrifices must be made. there aren't many 1's who work full-time! and if the do, the are genetic freaks!
that's why i said "if you have the time"...JSchneb
Aug 13, 2002 6:55 AM
What can you suggest for those of us who do work?
that's why i said "if you have the time"...merckx56
Aug 13, 2002 10:12 AM
when you go hard, go hard! here's a sample schedule:
monday-spin 60 minutes no efforts
tuesday-go hard!!!!!!!! 120 minutes (we do our fast group ride on tuesday)
wednesday-off or another spin
thursday-hills, keeping cadence in mind to try and hold onto legspeed. do some efforts but it shouldn't be nearly as hard as tuesday. this is a good night to sprint a few times to really open things up!
friday-take out your SO!
saturday-2/3 hours at moderate pace
sunday-race or do at least 3 hours/60 miles!

in the winter, i try to do at least 7 hours for the weekend.
2 questions for Merckx56...RockyMountainRacer
Aug 13, 2002 12:05 PM
First of all, I have been training with basically the same schedule as you posted here since February, and it works. This seems to be the standard schedule that most coaches recommend during the race season. It is Friel's "race" period schedule, and is also recommended by Edward Borysewicz and Carl Cantrell during the on-season. And it's very similar to the LeMond schedule for the on-season.

Here's my first question: Eddie B. recommends that you do your hardest day on Thursday instead of Tuesday, assuming you race on Sunday. This gives you 2 days to use for recovery before the race if you need them. You can always cut your race prep on Saturday if you're not recovered yet. Also, sometimes you are not fully recovered from a Sunday race for a Tuesday really hard day. Following his advice, I have switched my hardest day of the week to Thursday (training crit or lots of intervals), and train alone on the Tuesday intensity day so it is easier to go home if I'm not fully recovered from the race yet. Why do you recommend your hardest day on Tuesday instead of Thursday?

Question 2: I will be going to Expert on the Mountain Bike for next year--I am a consistent podium or top-5 finisher for Sport now. What should I work on primarily in the off-season? I feel that endurance is my natural strength, though I know Expert races are ussually twice as long as Sport. I plan on doing back to back very long rides on the weekend. Did you recommend seven hours for the whole weekend of on the bike time? If so, should the longer ride be Saturday or Sunday? Also, do you recommend more on the bike time or weight-room time during the week? Coaches differ most in what they recommend for the off-season. LeMond recommends lots of bike time, Friel recommends more gym-time in the base period. What do you think? I think I'd rather be on the bike...I like to ride at night with a light after work.
2 questions for Merckx56...merckx56
Aug 13, 2002 12:31 PM
the only reason i do tuesday as a hard day is that the fact that the training crit is on tuesday night. you can make a training race as easy or as hard as you want to. if you're a little cooked from the weekend, sit in and get the time on the bike. even if you do the race/fast training ride on tuesday, it's easy to sit up or just turn and go home! screw what the rest of the group says!
work on your endurance for expert! we used to go ride in the woods when it was really cold over the winter. first lap of the woods and i was gone...otb baby. but by the third lap i was with the guys with the technical ability and by the 5th and last lap i was alone in the front. it was all endurance. i ride mtb like a bull in a china shop. i have the finesse of a brick!
I really have kind of laid off the gym b/c i hate it so. I have taken to doing plyometrics a couple times a week in the winter. it helps to build explosive power.
I'm with you...i'd rather ride than go to the gym. lifting is fine, but you need to keep some level of base fitness, especially as you get older. i'm 32 and find it increasingly difficult to maintain fitness after a lay-off. I was sick about 6 weeks this summer and has totally dicked my fitness.
riding at night is great fun, as long as i have someone to ride with as i'm a bit scared of the dark! we try to do it twice a week during the winter and usually as the second ride of the day. one ride early, before work, and the night ride. as for the 7 hours on the weekend, the sunday ride should be the longer of the two, at least that's what we do around here.
Thanks! (nm)RockyMountainRacer
Aug 14, 2002 5:33 AM
Gotta agree...Wayne
Aug 13, 2002 8:04 AM
I'm just starting to figure out I race the best on lots of volume with relatively little intensity. I think the biggest mistake riders make in training is too much intensity mainly from hard group rides.
I'm interestedDougSloan
Aug 13, 2002 8:54 AM
Do you have experience coaching people using a Computrainer, or would that make any difference? I have one coming Friday, and I desparately need to get back into shape for the 508 this year, which I'm doing as a two man leapfrog relay (did it solo last year). The relay method means you take turns riding, with each rider jumping up ahead by car, taking 30 minute to 1 hour turns, riding much faster than you would solo -- as series of time trials. It's October 12, and I'm starting to panic. If you are interesting in helping with that sort of thing, please let me know. Thanks.

I'm interestedmerckx56
Aug 13, 2002 10:06 AM
we've played with the computrainer at the OTC and found it took the monotony out of the trainer sessions by giving the rider something to focus on other than the fact that the trainer really sucks. i could achieve higher power and vo2 numbers when on the computer simply because i had something to chase!
as for the 508, you need to put your ass on the bike for long periods of time! it's an odd thing in that you really can't "train" for it. you have to be very fit and willing to suffer! i can't begin to tell you how to train for something like that but can offer the advice to eat and drink like you are a somalian during the event. the longest race i've ever done was 137 miles and i ate almost the entire time. when the break went at 90 miles, i was able to go because i was topped off.
I think for the 508, now that i've been sitting here for 30 minutes thinking, the 60-90 minute turns is the way to go. 30 minutes barely gives you enough time to warm up when you start or to stay warm on your next turn. 60-90 will get the blood flowing and when your partner is riding, you can have time to rest and replenish the store. it's still gonna suck and you will be rendered Gumby by the end! until the start of the 508, do long rides at least once a week (6-7 hours on a sunday!) and one day of intensity per week. try to peak around the start, but keep riding and moving the legs around.
doug- you are a sick man! i'll be glad to help you anyway I can, just let me know!
I'm interestedrbb
Aug 13, 2002 10:10 AM
I'd say the biggest mistake is the helmet mirrors!! :p
Just kidding!
Seriously, don't let the nerves get to you!! Try reading Terry Orlick's book- "In Pusuit of Excellence". It's a great book with many little tips to help tame that anxiety. Good luck!

Read through the following thread:lonefrontranger
Aug 13, 2002 7:05 AM
lonefrontranger "WHAT'S WITH THE TRICK CANDLE SYNDROME???" 7/1/01 11:25pm

This should explain it.

The biggest mistake I see a lot of Cat III/IV guys doing is the following common pattern: Ride/"race" 2-3 fast group rides, and then do one or two training races and a weekend event per week. This will make them strong enough to hang in with their field, which is the initial goal of many. However, it also brings them to a plateau at which they will be consistent mid-pack finishers. Only when they learn to go out and train BY THEMSELVES doing targeted intensity do they improve.

I picked up a couple of these mid-pack finisher types as clients back when I coached. They came to me expressing dissatisfaction with how much they were training, only to be stuck on the "mid-pack" plateau.

I started working with them on a more sensible, periodized type of program, and an interesting thing happened. Their hours per week spent on the bike actually decreased, but their finish placings went up drastically. One guy even started winning races on a regular basis and was selected for a Cat I/II team the following year.

If you just plan to race for fun and to hang in, then by all means, go out and do all the hammer rides you want. My SO does this because he hates interval training and doesn't really care about winning races. He gets what he needs out of the sport and is content, so that's fine with us (except on the days he gets bent out of shape that his girlfriend dropped him, but that's beside the point... :-))

However, if you decide you actually want to do well, you might have to start thinking about quality, not quantity.
Okay, read it, now...Wannabe
Aug 13, 2002 7:49 AM
The intervals that I do are on Tuesday. Right now I am doing 4 sets of 5x30on/30off. Two sets in a small gear two sets in a large gear. Oh, and the sets in the small gear (which I do first) always seem so much harder than the big gear intervals (why is that?). These intervals are done at 100% effort. Total freewheel practically between efforts and 5 min off between like-geared sets and ~10min off between gear changes. During the interval sets, my HR will not reach max usually until the end of the second interval. I usually get my HR up to around 191-192 for the intervals and comes back to 130-140 for the 30sec rest period (closer to 130 after first intervals, closer to 140 after later ones). No matter how hard I try to go on the intervals, I cannot hit my max HR like I can on a hill during a group ride trying to hold onto the "Alpha" group. I've seen a HR as high as 197. I'm 30yrs-old FWIW.

If I am training to race crits and road races next year (although I am gonna try my first crit tonight - wish me luck and then I'll be changing my handle!) are these good intervals to do? They are in weekly training plan that also incoroporates the following:

Thursday is a group ride/training race and Saturday is usually a 4-5hr ride. Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday are recovery days where I ride super-easy for 45min-1hr or so (breath-thru-nose, hr <140). Although ususally, I miss at least one of these days during the week. Does it hurt me to miss one of these recovery days?

Also, in regards to what Merckx56 said about the 4hr+ rides. So true! This weekend it was finally a bit cooler and I tried to keep my HR below 150 or so. I felt great. Kept well-hydrated. But still, after 4.5hrs I was very, very tired.

My experience....CARBON110
Aug 13, 2002 8:39 AM
I work with the Frel program and my coach just happens lve 3 miles away. For crits the best taining is cruise intervals. These will have te best effect on crits without a doubt. Do 15-30 minutes at your LT!! Not Max! Work up to 30 minutes by starting out with 15 miutes interval and a 10 minute recovery between two intervals. Imperative. I have the time to train and I found in my second year that the hard thing to do is keep my HR low on easy weeks and during the week keep it lower than my LT. All year I have been doing 20hour weeks and 8 hour recovery weeks. Group rides always blow my HR way out of where I want it. But after spending weeks with specific training I feel great/strong and want to go due a group ride but usually try to talk myself out of it. During races...HIDE! Hide in the peloton and do minimal work for as long as possible...sometimes this is impossible. Also, if you dont have alot of flat area where you live, get friendly with your trainer indoors. Its harder than rideing outside since you never stop pedaling. I do one 4hour trainer ride during the week all year just to make sure I can control my HR.
My experience....JSchneb
Aug 13, 2002 9:42 AM
Carbon10, I too am using the Friel program. Who's your coach?
Okay, read it, now...lonefrontranger
Aug 13, 2002 8:52 AM
4 1/2 hour training rides at low intensity are great for building base and endurance during the off-season / winter, and to some degree while you are tapering (which is now since it's the end of the season) if you plan to maintain aerobic fitness. I'd agree with that point. Some of us have the time to do this, some don't. Many beginning racers also think a 4 1/2 hour ride done with the local racing club qualfies as base, when in actuality it doesn't (tends to be Z3 instead of Z1-2).

Just my own experience: I am a crit racer, like many other Americans, because crits are what is offered in this country. I also have limited time to train due to a 40 + hour work week, like many others on this board. I am not ever going to be a pro in Europe riding 5+ hour stages (sorry Merckx56, specificity is my focus, not endless hours in the saddle training for events I'll never do).

Lance Armstrong and Jonathan Vaughters both claim to be pretty lousy at crits. Why? Because they are too short, and that kind of effort is not what they focus on.

I found that I became a much better crit racer and started finishing higher when I stopped doing the 4 1/2 hour rides mid-season and focused on intensity instead. If you are racing a 30-45 minute crit, you need to train for 1-2 hours of endurance, and do blocks of intensity - 45 minute VO2 MAX intervals, 30 minutes of sprint intervals, etc... Unless I'm peaking for a long road race, the longest rides I do during the middle of my build phase are 2-21/2 hour aerobic (Z2) efforts, oftentimes on the mountain bike.

Doing long base rides mid-season is great but not very specific *unless* you are doing them as recovery / rebuild coming off of a peak so that you can build back up to another peak. At this point I'd have to ask - after tonight's crit, what are you are planning to peak for? Cyclocross season? If not, and you don't have a target event in mind, then you should probably back off the intensity and focus on tapering / recovering and going on some recreational rides instead. This is the time of year when cycling should be fun, not work. As I've said before, doing tons of intervals and intensity in the middle of January (when the weather is crappy, you're stuck on the trainer, and intervals are what keeps you focused) is a good way to be absolutely flying in the March spring training series, and absolutely fried by the June State Championships.

Build / high intensity intervals are best done in 4-6 week "blocks" before a target event, with a recovery / taper period afterward.
You're a cross racer as well right?Wayne
Aug 13, 2002 10:18 AM
So you might find this interesting. Out of curiosity I e-mailed Erwin Vervecken last year about his training. So basically this guy is training for crits, in a sense. Here's what he said a typical training week looks like for him:
M: 1-2 hour Recovery Ride
T: 4 hour Ride with Hill Sprints
W: AM 30-40M Steady State Run, PM 3 hour Ride
T: 1-2 hour Recovery Ride
F: 2 hour ride with a few threshold efforts
S & S: Cross Race

I was surprised by the lack of intensity and the relatively long rides compared to race length.
Aug 13, 2002 10:27 AM
but I must repeat, I have a 40 hour per week job. Vervecken is a pro. We're talking about the real world here.

If you don't have the TIME to train, you must train QUALITY, not QUANTITY.

End of statement.
Wasn't meant to be a critique...Wayne
Aug 13, 2002 10:55 AM
of your training plan. Just thought you might find it interesting that here was a guy (cross racer) training for one hour events that does very little intensity and lots of volume. This seems to fit in with what I've heard referred to as the Belgium way of training, lots of long easy miles and racing to provide the intensity to get into top shape.
Have you read about the "Maffetone Method"?JSchneb
Aug 13, 2002 11:47 AM
Maffetone basically advocates no training above your aerobicthreshold (no LT or VO2Max intervals at all). He feels that you can get genough intensity just from racing.
but racing how often - 3x / week? nmDougSloan
Aug 13, 2002 11:57 AM
I think that I read that he recommends 2 anaerobic efforts...JSchneb
Aug 14, 2002 6:28 AM
per week, assuming that a good aerobic base has been extablished (he says in the neighborhood of 3-5 months of base).
I got my feet wet in Triathlon...Wayne
Aug 13, 2002 12:09 PM
initially and I remember him from there. But I remember him making some claims that we're a little far out, or at least not supported by any evidence. Depending on how much you're racing I would say I could agree with him especially if racing every Sat/Sun. I find the really hard efforts (VO2max or long LT intervals) are very draining. And I wonder how much "extra" fitness they give you beyond doing your basic aerobic work and racing a couple of times a week. And if that "extra" fitness is worth the risk of showing up on race day flat or worse leading to overtraining.
Limit to 2 or 3 hard days a week...JSchneb
Aug 14, 2002 6:34 AM
In-season I limit myself to 2 or 3 hard days a week, with at least 36 hours between them. One day is intervals at "TT" pace, one is a hard group ride (usually on Sunday) and one is a race (usually on Friday night). The rest of the week is spend doing *very* easy rides.

If Friday's race was really hard, I might skip the group ride (or just sit-in) on Sunday.

I only keep this schedule for max of 6 weeks (a three week "on", one week "off" cycle), and then I return to riding "base" for a couple of months.
that's what zabel does...merckx56
Aug 13, 2002 12:40 PM
he rides tempo all week and races on the weekend. of course, we're talking about a freak of nature!
Okay, read it, now...merckx56
Aug 13, 2002 10:21 AM
that's all fine and well, but my races aren't 30-45 minutes long! a crit will go at least 60 minutes and road races are, in fact, 5 to 6 hours on the saddle. ride for 4 hours and then the 60 minute crit doesn't seem so bad. your body doesn't protest nearly as much. any way you slice it, a 100-130 rr sucks balls. i won't lie to you, if a race is more than about 90-100 miles i try to avoid it. and 60 isn't worth driving to! everyone is different and has different goals and aspirations, but it's still fun to kick everyone's ass when you go to a training ride in a strange place or to a race where no one knows you.
I work at night and help run a shop during the day, so i can ride, pretty much, whenever i want to. plus, having a wife who's a corporate exec doesn't hurt either!
Okay, read it, now...Wannabe
Aug 13, 2002 10:36 AM
When I started riding with a local club this spring and would go on the group rides, I would be absolutely cashed at the end of the 30 miles. As the year has gone on, my one long ride of the week has gone from 45-50miles to 75+ miles. Now, at the end of the 30 mile training rides I don't feel bad at all. I feel the long training rides have helped a great deal in my endurance.

Next year I plan on racing RR where I can, but as LFR pointed out that this is a crit country. Although why can't we call 'em by a cool name like Kermesse? Sounds so much better than crit!

I want to have a coach next year as I'm not young and want to get the most bang for the buck out of my time in the saddle. I've made big gains this year I feel and after tonight, I hopefully will have a good idea on what I need to work on. The course is flat with gentle turns and good surface. So unless the "B" race plans on averaging 27-28mph+ I ought to be able to hang in the pack w/out much difficulty. Then again, I say that now!

Okay, read it, now...merckx56
Aug 13, 2002 12:38 PM
the thing i tell my juniors is to ride their bikes! as long as you have some sort of fitness, the rest will come!
the most important thing to remember is the fact that this is supposed to be fun. when you get to europe, it's a job, but for now, it's fun!
I agree with your idea about kermesses. it's way cooler sounding than crit! one of the kids (i say that because he's 18 and i'm not anymore!) i'm working with is racing in belgium this summer and doing a lot of kermesses. he says it's way faster than any crit he's done over here! i knew he was going to be okay when he pulled out of the paceline, at 45kmh, and rode away from the group. one of the cat3 guys commented that he had seen the future, and it didn't include him!
to quote from FrielDuane Gran
Aug 13, 2002 9:08 AM
To quote from Joe Friel (of Cycling Training Bible) here are a few common mistakes:

* Going too hard on easy days
* Going too light on hard days
* Training without a purpose (junk miles, saddle time)
* Doing group rides when solo rides are more appropriate
* Practicing one's strengths rather than weaknesses

Doug, you are quite experienced and I'm still a grasshopper, so I won't claim to have mastered these tenets, but I think they are good gems. The first two I have especially noticed in myself and others. When I first started training for racing my average speed was very similar day to day, but anymore I'll have a wide swing as far as 10 km/h from one day to the next. I have come to see this as progress.

The latter two are still a challenge for me, I'll confess. ;)
I would say that's about right...TJeanloz
Aug 13, 2002 10:14 AM
My experience has been that people tend to not know how to go slowly on their easy days, and not know really how hard to go with intervals or other hard efforts.

"Junk miles" or saddle time can be worthwhile. Well, everything should have a purpose, but things don't need to be either easy or hard- there's nothing wrong with doing a long ride that's somewhere in between.
re: What mistakes do most racers make in training?skip work to ride
Aug 13, 2002 9:19 PM
Two mistakes i see in training:
1. Following the current training trends or adding something mid-season from another program. If you are disciplined then that will count for more.

2. Waiting too long to get an experienced coach. Everyone says that once they did, it was the best thing they did.

It seems to me that whether or not you race on this week day or do these many hours or miles, is immaterial if you have a sh*tty diet, don't rest right or don't mentally prepare.

I would say the biggest thing limiting one's performance is not surronding yourself with an experienced support staff... Coaches, teammates, mechanics/shop... Become an expert at racing not coaching, nutrition, bike set-up or other frugal things. RACE.