I don’t know if you’ve noticed yet but the shops are starting to stock Christmas cards. Depressing isn’t it. And here I am about to talk about winter training when the season isn’t over yet. Sorry, but I’m not sorry.
I used to hate turbo training. In fact I didn’t do any until after my first real season of time-trialling.
At the end of 2012 I’d decided to give it a proper go in 2013. I took delivery of my first TT bike, a skinsuit and a pointy hat. I rode my bike a lot at weekends but I did no specific training. I certainly didn’t use the turbo. I followed the aero school of get as low as you can. I was all-in for free speed. With hindsight, of course, it was anything but a “proper go”. That year I rode 23 open events. I set PB’s of 23:06, 57:55, 01:57:02 for 10, 25 and 50 miles respectively. I was mostly in the top half of the races I entered (which were mainly in Cheshire) and 4 times I broke the top ten.
At the end of the season I realised I needed to train over the winter. So I bit the bullet and concocted a bit of a training plan that involved the turbo trainer. I read the black book. I had some sessions suggested when I took undertook some performance testing. So I had half an idea. I took October off (other than social rides) and started in November, and built my training through December, January, February and the start of March. Once the race season started I relied on racing for training (specifically club 10’s). In 2014 I was able to ride 36 opens. I set new PB’s of 20:48, 54:06 and 01:53:09 for 10, 25 and 50 miles and I rode my first 100 in 04:20:17. This year I was mostly in the upper quartile and top ten 9 times. Averaging my speeds across all races I was nearly 1mph faster over all distances.
I wasn’t sure if I could progress much more on my own so I started working with a coach. My workload over the winter of 2014/2015 was both higher and more structured. I followed it religiously. When the season came it was clear that I was in better condition and faster than I had ever been. Then illness knocked me out for a couple of weeks. Possibly my body wasn’t able to cope with the increased demands. However, I still set PB’s at 10, 25 and 100 miles of 20:12, 52:30 and 03:52:14 and I was in the top ten in 12 of the 31 opens I rode.
I was back doing my own thing during the 2015/2016 off-season but I had a much deeper understanding of what I was trying to achieve. I upped the volume and overall intensity of training again, progressively. The extra efforts were considerable, the additional gains much harder to come by. It’s not over yet but by any measure it’s been my most successful season, which I’ll document in a future post. And the goalposts have moved. The standard of amateur time-trialling is higher than ever due to better training techniques, aerodynamics and improved equipment. If you standstill, you go backwards.
The takeaway from all of this is that training is important. No shit Sherlock. Yet you’ll be surprised how many people think that a skinsuit, a pointy hat and a TT bike is all you need. I should know, that was me in 2013.
So coming into the 2016 season I built my training volume up through November, December, January and February. I had a 20 minute W/Kg figure in mind as a target for March but that’s not the whole story. The image above shows % training time spent in specific power zones, from Zone 1 at the bottom to Zone 6 at the top. Again, I built up to working for longer and harder periods in higher zones, although for time-trialling the most important ones are around threshold level. The aim for this winter is to do the same again. I’m currently constructing an approach that will see me using Trainerroad as the basis for it with some personal tweaks on top. I’ll follow the general approach set out of base, power build and speciality phases. If you are fairly new to time-trialling, and you are already using a turbo trainer, or planning to, then you are ahead of the game. My advice would be to use a tool like Trainerroad and/or TrainingPeaks to give you some structure and direction and then follow the plan! Whilst it can seem daunting, you then just focus on each individual training session, safe in the knowledge that each one you complete is a step in the right direction.