Times are tough, and I’m not sure when they’ll return to normal.
My one and only goal this year were to try and get my KC Corporate Challenge record back from Jordan Miller. I also planned on doing a handful of road and gravel events, but the one thing motivating me this winter was winning that silly five-minute and forty-five-second time trial. Well, KCCC has been canceled along with just about everything else, and now I’m sitting here with some solid fitness and nowhere to use it… or do I?
All of you are in the same boat. Events through June have been rescheduled to later in the year or canceled entirely. It’s a bummer because we’ve been pushing hard all winter and all our immediate goal events are gone.
There’s light at the end of this tunnel and all it takes to see the light is a shift in mindset.
You’ve been eating like a champ, right? You’re lighter, leaner, and overall healthier. This is awesome, acknowledge that and pat yourself on the back. I’ve personally made some big improvements to my eating habits after finishing up the Precision Nutrition coach certification, and I’m feeling better than ever!
In full transparency, I’ve struggled to maintain my new healthy habits with the change in my daily flow and increased stress. I’ve been here before though, and a couple of weeks of quarantine happy hours and extra trips to the fridge aren’t going to undo months of hard work. If you’ve also fallen off plan that’s okay, but it’s time to start adjusting your mindset and get back on track.
Let’s talk training. Chances are you were also targeting a spring event and have been training hard to this point. I have a lot of very fit athletes on my client roster right now itching to use their fitness and I imagine you’re feeling the same way. Events and racing are just one way to get to enjoy all that hard work and it would be a shame to see it all go to waste just because you had to shift the plan. Very few of us are relying on results at these events for anything besides personal satisfaction and that can be achieved in quite a few different ways.
Here’s a list of other ways you can get out and enjoy your fitness, scratch your competitive itch, and come out the other end of this quarantine stronger than ever before.
Normally this time of year gym work takes a back seat, especially for younger athletes or those of you with limited access to gym equipment. Instead of dropping strength from your routine because you need to sharpen up for race events, knock out 2-3 x 30-minute strength sessions each week. It’s just enough to help you build/maintain strength and not impact your volume on the bike, which takes me to my next point.
Ride your bike… a LOT
I’ve always thought fall cyclocross was the ideal time to race bikes. You get to perform all of your longer aerobic training during the Spring and Summer months while the weather is consistently great and days are long, then once racing starts up you switch to shorter intense workouts and 45-60 minute races. The season (locally) is over by the time the worst of winter hits and you don’t have to feel bad for not riding 4 hours in 20˚ weather.
And my point is… It’s time to ride.
Take this time to keep building your aerobic engine with longer rides, even if it’s only an extra 20 minutes over your normal ride duration a few days a week. It will make a difference, especially if you can take advantage of the nice weather and consistently hit those long, 3-5 hour rides on the weekend and push your weekday volume up as well.
This is a very general recommendation, and with the athletes we work with this is done methodically and balanced with the whole of the training plan. Still though, if you can ride your bike more and you’re having fun you don’t need a coach to tell you this is a good thing. Watch your fatigue levels and mood, and don’t be afraid to rest if you feel tired.
Plan a Big Adventure Ride
With a little planning, you can have an epic adventure starting at your front door. Here’s an idea of how to do it safely in this difficult time:
- Build a route close to home in case something unexpected happens. Aim for a distance or elevation gain 10-20% higher than you’ve done before. Maybe don’t utilize this recommendation if you’re a DK200 finisher, but plan something challenging that you can get stoked about.
- Get your household involved – when planning your route, find parks and other nice areas your family can hang out and meet you for a SAG station. You’ll be pushing your body’s limits so it’s best to avoid the added risk of public gas stations.
- Explore new roads – Do some homework and ask for suggestions on routes. I personally have 5-6 different routes I love showing off to people because they’re so unique and fun.
Here’s one of my favorite routes out of Lee’s Summit: https://www.strava.com/routes/11025636
This isn’t a personal favorite of mine, but it’s something to consider. These races are extremely difficult and require a certain level of skill to be successful. I recommend limiting yourself to one race per week, maybe two if you’re an experienced racer that’s accustomed to frequent high-intensity efforts. Seriously, don’t underestimate how hard these races are and how much recovery they require.
Check out the event schedule here: https://zwift.com/events/
Strava Segment Hunting
Plan a route that attempts to get a bunch of Strava segments in one ride. I personally like going after my friend’s KOM and seeing how many “oops, somebody stole your KOM’ emails I can send them.
Get Lost (Sorta)
This maybe isn’t the best advice during the pandemic, but with proper planning, I feel this can be done safely. Take a camelback, big water bottles, basic tools, an extra tube, and go explore some new roads. Ignore your HR, Power, and all that training-related stuff if you want this to be a proper “connecting with your inner adventurer” style ride. All you need is a computer that allows you to pan/zoom and see the road options around you. Head a general direction, then pick your road choices based off the shapes that please your eyes (I really like windy-looking roads) and look safe to ride on. This is especially fun in the country where roads are usually quiet and unexpectedly awesome. Take your Lauf True Grit with some 38mm Panaracer Slicks (shameless sponsor plug) if you want the ultimate adventure machine for road/gravel mix exploration.
Find some new challenges
Gravel is so hot right now. While you can’t attend gravel events right now, you can still experience plenty of gravel adventure action (see above). If getting lost in the middle of nowhere or riding 200 miles solo isn’t your jam, then try a different challenge.
Have you ever done a 10K time trial? It’s short and painful and feels nothing like a 100-mile gravel ride. You might find this is a weakness that you want to work on, and I promise learning how to smash a 10K will prove beneficial down the road when normal events start back up. Consider it another arrow in your quiver of skills and knowledge (the learning in this sport never stops).
Not stoked on the 10K? Then try something a little longer. If the 10K TT is pure pain and power, then a 40K TT will test your pacing and grit and is an excellent benchmark for your aerobic fitness.
I think this is crazy, but a lot of you are crazy and I already have a handful of friends that have done this. Find a big hill on a quiet road, then go up and down however many times it takes to climb the equivalent ascending of Mt. Everest.
Races and other group events are certainly more than just a chance to be competitive, they’re a chance to be social and enjoy the awesome cycling community. We can’t enjoy this aspect of the cycling world at the moment, but that doesn’t mean our pursuit of self-improvement, exploration, and competition should end. In fact, I think adapting and finding ways to keep focused and enjoy the process is a sign of a strong athlete.
You are a strong athlete. You got this. We got this.