It took me a while to break out of the post Dirty Kanza funk. I worked really hard to get to the starting line in Emporia fit and ready to rip. I had a race there that I was 100% stoked on and couldn’t have been happier with my fitness on the day (Thanks Cody!). Of course there was, and still is, a little part of me that wonders “what if” I hadn’t broken my wheel at my 90 while hanging on to the tail end of the lead group.
Once my legs and body recovered a bit I started thinking about how to prepare for Gravel Worlds. For me, I find it really hard to target a second big race of the year. I never lose my motivation to get out the door every day to ride or run but mustering up the motivation to actually “train” and do workouts is tough. A good example is last year when I trained and peaked for Bailey Hundo in June and then just kind went through the motions and didn’t really train for the Leadville 100 MTB. Thankfully my wife knows me better than I do and knew this would happen. So I bounced all my ideas off of her and she’s helped keep me in line and motivated. I knew in order to be ready to race at Gravel Worlds I’d need to change things up and try some new things to make it fun and experiment a bit. So I decided to go back to coaching myself and rolled the dice.
I got back to training the last week of June and focused on some strength hill reps and sweet spot work. A big component of my training this time around have been Criss Cross intervals. Before the build I’d never done them before but have always wanted to… and they were awesome. Read about them here. I kept the workouts relatively short and sweet and all the sessions were 3 x 10′. I used them through whole training block and progressively made them harder. The progression when something like this: tempo/sweet spot, tempo/threshold, tempo/VO2, sweet spot/VO2, Threshold/VO2. This worked great for me and it was something new so I was excited each week to tackle them. I also included a few standard VO2 max workouts (6×3′). Just enough to rev the engine a bit and then back to more sweet spot and Criss Cross work.
The best part of this block was that ALL my long rides were done with Maggie. We’re extremely lucky that both Maggie’s mom and dad moved out here and Fiona loves to hang out with them and they love to hang out with her. We got in a few weekend long rides and then, as we typically do, took some days off of work to get in some mega rides. She’s getting ready for Ironman Maryland and she’s smashing right now and it’s been rad to watch her progress on the bike this year… how fast she is going is blowing my mind.
I didn’t charge a lot of huge volume until 3 weeks out from race day. I did a big overload/fatigue/over-reach week (whatever you want to call it). A really solid week of training for me is knocking out about 300 miles of riding. For this week I went above and beyond that and rode 412.6. That week included two back to back 100+ mile days. The first one was on Friday with Maggie in which we got caught in a gnarly thunderstorm 15 miles from home and the second day was up in Fort Collins at the Foco Fondo. The Foco Fondo was rad. It’s not technically a race and the big goal is to go under 6 hours. The course was 90% gravel and just super fun. I like these kinds of events because you kind of just do/ride however you feel on the day. I was stoked to team up with a few like minded dudes and we rode hard but didn’t race each other. We all took our turns at the front into a gnar headwind the last 50 miles and got it done and I got exactly what I wanted out of the day… a long, hard ride on tired legs. The event was so rad. It started at ended at New Belgium Brewery and they had everything dialed. I definitely want to get back up there next year.
After the big week I took 4 easy days to recover and then started a 7 day block of alternating hard (intervals) and easy (just spinning & having fun) days. Yesterday was my last hard day. I didn’t feel great but I’ll bank that as a good sign. Saturday is when I want to feel good.
I got back to some solid strength work this block too. I did 4 weeks of building strength and then went into maintenance mode. I wasn’t lifting the same kind of weight I was this spring but that was to be expected. I’m still way stronger than I used to be and I’m looking forward to hitting the weights hard again this fall. One thing I experimented with this block is more running. I really tapered off my running getting ready for DK and for most of the spring. To change things up I ran 3-5 times a week for the last couple of months. 90% of the runs were just 30-40′ jogs with the pups. I view these as kind of #secrettraining. They are just little doses of aerobic volume and I feel like they harden my legs up. I like I’ve written about before I don’t have big blocks of time to train during the week so knocking out a 30-40′ jog on top of whatever I do on the bike helps bump up the volume/CTL…. and plus I still love to just run… and it’s even more fun when you not training for any kind of race.
With all of that I was able to keep it fun and build upon the fitness I had a Dirty Kanza a couple of months ago. I’m super stoked to race 150 miles of new gravel roads but also ready to shut it down for the year and lay off the intervals for a bit.
My goal for Gravel Worlds is pretty much the same as Dirty Kanza….. hold nothing back. At DK I wanted to see if I had the fitness and strength to ride with the lead pack and I proved to myself I did… at least for 90 miles. I am guessing that because the field isn’t quite, but still super stacked lot of mega fast dudes, that the race will get a bit harder earlier on in the race with attacks than it did at DK. My plan is the same though… get in the lead pack and hold on for dear life.
My good friend Pete always uses to say “don’t get your ambitions mixed up with your capabilities” and I don’t think I have those mixed up. I know I have the fitness and ability to suffer to ride with the lead group but who knows for how long… and that’s what I’m there to find out. With the dudes on the start list it’s not like I’m going out there thinking I can win the race. There are a lot of young buck professional and former professional cyclists and some dudes that have had great success at these longer gravel races (a lot of podiums at DK and GW on that start list). So I’ll be there to test myself and go as fast as I can on the day and whatever happens happens… but I for sure want to cross that finish line as close to the front as possible, knowing I gave it all, and took some chances.
I’m heading out tomorrow morning super early… solo. Since there is no support allowed at this race and Fi has a friends birthday party to attend we decided I’d just charge this one solo. I’ll definitely miss having “my crew” out there with me but I’ll use that as motivation to hammer harder and get back home knowing I gave it all.