Introducing the Daily Grind
For most amateur racers there comes an oh-shit moment during the off-season when you realize that it is time to start training again. That the mornings of sleeping in and skipping workouts have come to an end. That the sides of fries and extra beers consumed during cross season finally have to be burned off. That the Grant's Tomb Crit is a few weeks away and the rigors of structured training have officially returned.
For most of the TBD boys that oh-shit moment came this past week. More specifically for me it came on my red-eye flight home from Guatemala when I realized that after a full month off the bike I had a workout the next day. The man to blame for that workout and the rude awakening that would follow: Jacob Fetty from Cycle-Smart.
Why is Jacob responsible? Well after a number of great experiences with Cycle-Smart including at their Cross Camp the squad decided to jump on a Cycle-Smart team coaching program. That means we have more than a dozen racers preparing for the season ahead under Jacob's tutelage. And as we are wont to do with this crazy sport, we are going to document the ups and downs of training for amateur bike racing glory as part of a series on the TBD Daily that we're calling 'The Daily Grind'.
I have the honor of kicking it off with a look back at my 2017 season and a recap of the opening week of the 2018 season...
The Season That Was: It Started so Well
Winter in New York City is usually the toughest stretch of training with too many hours on the trainer and too many frigid weekends on 9W. 2017's early season featured some truly bizarre weather, though this did contribute to some really memorable days on the bike:
Despite a blizzard here and there I still managed to put in a decent stretch of training in winter and early Spring with training interrupted only by a bit of travel here and there which I will never complain about. In total, the first four months of the year looked something like this:
This early season routine was sufficient to build decent fitness going into the start of the race season with results trickling in here and there including a 2nd place finish in the first race of the Castelli Series in Prospect Park and a win at the series opener at Rockleigh Crit a few weeks later.
Then it All Went Sideways
Shortly after my rainy solo win at Rockleigh I came down with what I thought was just a simple head cold. It hit me hard at Bound Brook over Memorial Day weekend so I took a few days off but felt obligated to head to Rockleigh the following Thursday to defend my leader's jersey. That was a bad idea.
From there June was hit or miss. A decent week here, followed by a week where my body just didn't cooperate. I took more time off at the end of the month hoping to recover ahead of Intelligentsia Cup but whatever plagued me continued to linger. Suddenly early July was scrapped. And while I tried to muster enough fitness to race at Intelligentsia the reality was that my body was toast and I put up a series of mostly DNF's/DNS's (it was still an incredible trip).
After returning to NYC it took a few doctor's visits and a few rounds of antibiotics to finally start to break what seems like was a case of walking pneumonia rather than the simple head cold (oooof). Thankfully after the antibiotics and a few weeks off the bike entirely my health started to recover but by now my training routine going into the final weeks of the road season looked something like this:
What does this translate to in CTL? Well it's easy to pinpoint when things started going wrong. My training load dipped in late-April/early-May due to travel and there from there it was pretty much a steady decline as my body rejected any sort of attempt to regain momentum. Lesson learned: take the time required to get healthy, no matter how long it may require.
Back to My Oh-Shit Moment
This trend of declining fitness carried on through cyclocross season. In fairness despite wandering up and down the East Coast to take in great races like Charm City, Gloucester and Noho I treat CX season as offseason with minimal structured training. But throw in long hours at my new job and some excellent travel in the final months of the year that down slope in fitness from the above chart pretty much carried on unabated through the end of the year - leading to some of my lowest training loads since I started racing bicycles eight or nine years ago. Which is why arriving back in NYC on a red-eye flight on New Year's Day was a very large oh-shit moment.
Thankfully we spent an hour on a video conference with Jacob on Monday night walking through the training regime and he helped explain the goals for doing FTP testing so early in our program - yes week one of our program included an FTP test. Of course I somehow convinced myself that my fitness could have survived months of illness and time off the bike reasonably well and targeted too high of a power number from the gun. I failed miserably midway through my test (the whole redeye flight 48 hours bit probably didn't help).
That said by the end of the week I started to feel a bit more comfortable on the bike and managed to put in a decent week of training all things considered including my annual Zwift Century (it is a thing I do. Yes it is crazy. No I don't know why I do it). Net-net at the end of week one it is quite certain that my form still sucks and I have some pounds to work off but there is nowhere to go from here but up (hopefully).