A brief story about how I became involved with cycling time trials.
Cycling allows you to feel free and close to nature in every sense. More and more people are starting to ride a bicycle for two reasons: to get fit and healthy or to enjoy leisurely rides with family and friends through the countryside or by the coast.
It is often the way once you start cycling it becomes addictive and the sense of freedom fills you with peace and joy. At first you will not be able to cycle too far, because your body is not use to the strain, however, the more you cycle the fitter you become which in turn allows you to cycle further.
The good thing about cycling is you can start at any age, there is no age limit. I have seen ladies and gentlemen in their ages 80s cycling and racing. You can see the enjoyment as they pedal away. Really it’s never too late to climb on a bicycle and enjoy the freedom it brings.
You will find once you start cycling you become part of a close bond with other cyclist. As you pass by other cyclist on your travels a nod or a wave will be exchanged, even if you have never seen the person before. And certainly if you have a puncture or a mechanical problem other cyclist in the area will stop and ask you if they can help.
Sometime you may find yourself in heavy traffic which might scare you, but I can honestly say that the majority of motorists are aware of cyclists and they will allow enough room for you as they pass by. Likewise you will find cyclists are courteous towards motorist and understand we all have to share the road.
You might be of a competitive nature and the thought of a cyclist overtaking can inspire you to chase after them. I have seen this many times. I have been out for a long ride in the saddle and had someone speeds pass me. I look at the back of them and can sense the triumph they feel. But, I had probably cycled 60 mile. Well that my excuse and I am sticking to it.
There are different cycling disciplines that you might find suitable to your style of riding and challenges. Here are briefly some of those disciplines: Cyclo-cross, Road racing, Mountain biking, (MTB) and Cycling time trials. I suggested for further information search on the internet or visit your local bicycle shop.
I started cycling in the same manner as above, at first just a bit of fun and to ride for a charity. It did not take long for the competitive side in me to show itself; mind you I have always been very competitive. I am not a person who would be involved in a team; I am more of an individual sportsman. I was a boxer in my younger years and you had to depend on yourself. Your level of training had to be 100% committed, otherwise your opponent will hurt and beat you. If you failed to win, you had only yourself to blame, as if you are in a team, it can be someone else’s fault. It is very rare to have a like minded team member all thinking and having the mental goal to win.
I feel in cycling you cannot hide behind your team mates, you have to work just as hard as your colleagues and everyone has to work for one another. But like I said I prefer to work alone and that’s what drawn me to cycling time trials.
Cycling time trials are known as “The Race of Truth.” Time trialling is the simplest of competitive formats: race against the clock. The race of truth why? There is nowhere to hide, no one to draft behind, just you and the bike. The clock starts ticking as soon as you set off. Your mind has to be strong and prepared for what’s about to happen. The wind, the rain, your aero position will all be fighting against you and of course the route and distance. 10, 25, 50, 100 miles, 12hrs and 24hrs. The challenges are presented to you as you ride at pace, pulling, tugging and fuelling all has to be mastered just to get that extra wattage out or a bit faster. Your determination and desire has to be at its strongest point. When I sit on my bike at the start being held by the pusher, my mind is focused on what lays ahead. Knowing I have trained hard for this event, knowing I am prepared mentally and physically and my machine is in good working order. I am ready for the unexpected but most of all I will enjoy every second of the race. Seconds make the difference in winning and losing.
Cycling time trial has a way of pulling you back for more for more pain, it’s something that is hard to explain and no doubt other time triallists will same the same, “I just want to be faster and beat my personal best,” but this goes on, on and on.
I have total respect for my fellow riders but I have a special respect for the men and women of all ages ranging from 60 – 90 getting into the saddle for a time trial event. What shocked me once was when I entered a 100 mile TT, I observed this wonderful elderly lady walking with a stoop, at a slow pace to her time trial bike. Seconds later, this same lady was like a bullet, the speed she rode was unbelievable. I thought to myself, I hope I am like that when I get older.
If I was at a younger age and with the prospects of reaching the pinnacle of my sport, I would seek the help of a professional cycling coach, but at my age and the knowledge I gleaned through my physical fitness life, I decided to use my experience and teach myself. Through research and asking questions I soon learnt there are a lot of aspects about time trials. It’s a combination of many skills and equipment. Example: bike, aerodynamic, training, nutrients, recovery, pacing, and mental attitude. You can be researching for years about what or which way are best for improvement. It got to the point I was just chasing the dream of going fast or faster, then the penny dropped. You have to steadily improve your overall fitness and learn about your bike and equipment. Build yourself around the machine; once you are comfortable on the bike, it’s time to create a training plan. If your training doesn’t work for you, then try another and so on.
When I started two years ago I was desperate to improve my time trial times, it became an obsession to the point I was not totally focused of what I should be doing to improve. My training was going for long club rides at the weekend and riding during the week. I always suffered on the hills, maybe that’s because I was 82kg, or my training was not improving. I was under the impression that the more you rode the faster you become; “As I was told.” But this advice is totally wrong. Yes, I have improved on my PBs, but I still lack quality, something was missing. I was in awe of the fast riders, they rode with a breeze without any signs of pain or they was but did not show it. This inspired me further to become just as good; I had to rethink about my goal and what I needed to do.
I leant that you cannot expect to be a fast time triallist by rushing your training and by not having a structured training plan. I remembered I use to fight (boxing) for 3×3, or 6×2 minutes rounds and spar for over 30 minutes, plus other structured sessions. My training consisted of endurance for the distance so I could still stand on my two feet in the ring. I did speed work by doing interval training which was needed at times. You had to be mentally prepared as well after all is your mind what control your body. You have to gain experience and learn all aspects of the sports discipline then you can accommodate this in your training. This kind of training I did when I was in my younger years, 22 – 30 age brackets.
The first thing I had to think of is my age 58; therefore I would not be able to train to the demands when I was younger. I also had to think about my legs whereby I have had five operations in the knee area. It is a good idea to have goals, something to aim for, but realistic goal, goals that are reachable. I have this thought of becoming the fastest cycling time trial veteran in the UK, but I know that title is a long way down the road for me. My realistic goals at the moment are improving and smashing my personal best. I find this way of thinking helps me to stay focus. I never worry or think about any other rider at an event nor think about what they are doing or how fast they are. It’s about me and how I perform, as long I do my best I will be happy with the end result. You have to think long term in your training; it takes dedication and time to build up the strength in your body especially if you have not any history in cycling. For me this is a major realisation knowing and identifying what needs to be done to improve and hopefully my CTT times will push me further up the leader board.
Having said that, it’s time now to create a structured training plan for this winter, a plan that will put demands on my body. At the same time improve my overall aero position on the bike. If you are not comfortable on your bike then you will not improve your speed, due to obvious reasons. There are different positions for the distance you want to ride and I like to ride events; 10, 25, 50, 100 miles, so my position will cater for those distances.
For me it’s not about how many miles you cycle or how far, these are known as junk miles, unless your training has some sort of workout built in them. I use a turbo machine where the lowest amount of time is one hour structured training and the longest is one and a half hours. The demands can be very testing and this will place stress on your body.
I believe it is advisable to train in the aero position all the time, why? Because riding in the tuck position takes time to get use too and it takes time to build up your speed and power. When in the lower position you will find it extremely difficult to take deep breaths because your diaphragm is smaller. You need to get use to breathing in this position because it clears the toxins out of your body and frees your muscles from lactic acid. Believe it or not this is vital and very important part of your cycling.
Lactic acid quickly build up in the leg muscle if you set off to fast, it takes time to slowly warm up your muscles to try to minimize the lactic build up. You will soon know when this has happened, you feel your legs becoming heavy and all your strength suddenly disappears to the point you cannot turn the pedals. This has happened to me on occasions and at the time my inexperience allowed this to happen. It can place you in an embarrassing situation but remember all cyclists go through this. It’s about learning from it and understanding how to delay the process of lactic acid build up.
During prolonged strenuous activity, the high amounts of lactic acid may produce hydrogen ion that causes a burning sensation in muscles. This is typically quite painful and many serious athletes and cyclists experience this discomfort during intense riding. The pain is fairly brief, however, and helps prevent serious injury since it usually makes the person stop using a certain muscle groups. As you can see you need to understand your body chemicals and learn how to deal with this build up.
My training will consists six weeks, “sweet spot,” then eight weeks “base training,” followed by “specialist TT training.” This will be completed three times per week covering all aspects of intervals and endurance sessions. It is going to take some dedication on my part because no doubt during this long program, there will be ups and downs. I don’t mind training on the turbo, providing I can listen to my music which helps me to stay focus.
I will complete all my training rides in the time trial aerodynamic position and I will adjust accordingly until I feel comfortable. The reason why I have decided to do three sessions per week is because I need to recover fully, otherwise overtraining will creep in. These sessions will place huge demands on my body whereby it will be vital to recover. However, during my rest days I will do some stretching exercises to keep supple and the odd outside steady pace rides.
At the moment my weight is 82kg and my target is 76 – 77kg. I will concentrate on dropping a few kilograms January 2018. Even though I consider my diet to be good, I do like my sugar and I know I have a sweet tooth. But come to the dead line I will focus my mind to change and improve my diet. Losing weight is a gradual process and it takes time, if you lose weight to quickly your power output drop accordingly, so therefore the aim is to lose weight at a steady pace and keep some of my power.
I am in the opinion that there are three parts in your training; physical, nutrition and recovery. If you lack in one of these then the other two will fail you as well. Therefore you will not perform at your best. Let’s take a brief look at these:
I feel it is best to do all your training on the time trial bike and certainly in the aero position. Training has to include intervals and endurance type of workouts over a period of time. Before any training program starts you need to do a “functional Threshold Power,” (FTP). These are usually a 20 minute workout to establish what intensity you can hold during your training plan. I usually check my FTP every six weeks or when my training program suggests. Once you know your FTP then it’ easy to develop a workout program to suit you. You need a good program to build your power at a steady rate. The harder you work the more you will get out of it. Remember it does not happen overnight.
This is a vast subject which can get you totally confused if you are not familiar with the terminology of food ingredients. I usually learn about the basic of the requirements and take it from there. To have the full benefit of a fuelling diet, then maybe seek a specialist nutritionist who will provide you with a complete breakdown of what good to eat and what’s not so good. But if you are like me, learn the basic’s; Carbohydrates, Proteins and fats.
Carbohydrates are good for fuel, and energy. Quality carbs will provide you with energy to keep you from bonking on your bike, (stopping, being exhausted). You need carb’s that can be easily digested to promote glycerine which is stored in the liver and muscle. Once this runs out you need to replace quickly with carbs that can be easily digested as you ride your bike.
Protein is the building blocks that repair you muscle after a hard training session and after a workout it is suggested that you take protein straight away. If you do not eat the required amount of protein, your muscle will not repair and you will find the muscle will, “basically eat itself”), which prevents growth and repair. There are eight amino acids that the body requires and unfortunately we do not produce these. This amino acid protein can be found in products naturally. Protein needs to be consumed in a certain quantity over the period of the day. Two grams of protein for every kilograms of body weight is a rough guide.
Fats for me this is a tricky subject because I cannot get my mind round that there are good fats, which we need. I will not elaborate on this subject due to the fact I lack the knowledge regarding what’s good fats and what’s bad fats. All I know is that I try not to eat fats. My diet is mainly carbohydrates and protein.
This is the one part of training that nearly everyone fails to understand, and I was no exception. But I decide to research and learn about recovery. After a tough cycling session it is very important that recovery takes place for your body to repair itself. That means include adequate rest days, you need to learn about your body and learn about the signs of fatigue. You also need plenty of sleep, no I don’t mean after a workout you fall asleep, I mean a good night sleep, 6 – 8 hours will allow you body to repair. In deep sleep your body releases hormones to repair and help you to recover. I have realised I need two full days off the bike per week after my hard workouts. At the end of a training program I take a complete week off, maybe I will do some light cross training, but certainly nothing to stressful. This is when I really build my energy levels and find my muscles repair. Also I come back stronger and fitter, ready for my next set of training. Above all my mind is focused and ready for that training challenge, which keeps me motivate.
Watch out for my updates to this blog: During my training plan
By David Golden