Marcelle is the Madone, and she's taken me on quite a ride these last 3 months. I finally finished base training - 12 weeks of cycling training for a large amount of time in specific heart rate zones. I told my Mom I was almost finished and she said, then what? You get a gold star? So yeah, gold star for me.
As I wrote a while back, the idea is to use the heart rate monitor and apply your cycling training in targeted HR zones. For me, Z1 121-140, Z2 142-153, Z3 154-162, Z4 163-174, Z5 175-185. Most of base training is 10% of the time in Z1, 60% in Z2, 15% Z3, 15% Z4. It varies a bit as the weeks go by, but that's the bulk of it. Now for the times - Week by week, it's the number of hours that gets progressively harder with every 4th week a rest week: 5, 7, 9, 4. Then the next set of weeks: 6, 8, 10, 5. Then the third set of weeks: 7, 9, 11, 6.
I'm on that last week now, with the 6 hours, so no problems finishing that out. That 11 hour week was a killer! I rode over 200 miles last week and all on the road. When I started out I had to get a lot of time on the rollers indoors, or in spin class. Now with longer days and daylight savings, I can ride after work. Mile after mile - a few rides by myself, but mostly group rides with great company from my GCBC riding buddies. I'd plan a ride, post it on the message board, and someone was always there. All except the snow day, and one long solo ride on a Thursday. Sometimes, they think I'm crazy.
So now my legs feel like rocks. Still a little fat to spare, but I've lost 8 pounds since New Years and all my clothes either fit or are too big. I have not been sick a single day since before Christmas. My lungs feel stronger and clearer than ever in my life. Here's a big one -- no injuries or overuse problems. Had a hint of trouble with my right knee towards the end, but I think I held it off by paying attention to my position on the bike. I've kept up with yoga and a little Pilates, but not a lot of strength training. Now I need to get back into that.
The rest weeks are the most amazing thing. It's like you're coming out from a load, becoming refreshed, renewed, reenergized. The body takes this progressive stress and adapts day by day, but then to have this period of less stress is so important.
Trusting the training plan... that's an important part and it takes a lot of the mental stress and second-guessing away from what you might usually have. You don't have to wonder, am I working hard enough? Riding too much? Should I rest more? You just plan your rides to fill the zones and times you need, and trust the plan.
OK so now what. I have endurance and aerobic capacity, now I build power and speed on top of that "foundation". Build phase follows base phase - less riding, but more intensity. I should start to see some payoff and get faster, if I do harder rides and more specific drills like speed intervals and hill repeats. I also need to retest my "LT" heart rate - that's what the zones are based on. The highest average HR you can ride and sustain for 3 miles, twice. I measured it New Years and it was 174. Now I need to measure it again, maybe this coming Sunday. As for riding, right now I can ride solo for 50 miles at 18 or 19 mph average. I want > 20. The hard rides and the racing events have started for the year.... I just want to see a marked improvement, and not push myself to injury in trying to get faster. That and get below 150 pounds. I came so close! Saw 150.2 on the scale one day. Now I'm back around 153, but I want to get to 145. I'm patient, though. And happy with where I am now. NEVER so appreciative of my body and health as I am now. It's not perfect, and I have no desire to pursue perfection! I think it can limit you. Spend time trying to be perfect, and you don't have time to be great and find new heights. Perfection has limits, greatness does not.