Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Stronger But Not Faster

Getting to be a better cyclist seems to evade me. For some reason, and it might just be me, cycling speed doesn't follow the same rule as swimming and running. And it's such a simple rule: work hard, get faster.

Except, on the bike, I work hard but I don't get faster. I've been working hard all year. I ride hills. I ride tempo and speed intervals on my trainer. I strap on a heart rate monitor and it "says" I'm riding hard (as if I can't already tell from the screaming burn in my quads). I even feel stronger -- like, I can ride hills in a higher gear. And yet, "faster" doesn't happen. Is it me? My methods? Something mechanical? Technical? Why would it work in all other endurance training but not on the bike? Then I wonder, is it something mental?!?! But how could it be?

At this point, I'm nearing a state of desperation. The thing I fear most is having a fast swim split in November in the Clearwater 70.3 only to get on the bike and feel that familiar ache in my legs at the start of the bike leg and realize I can't ride faster than 21 mph all out on the flattest road imaginable. (Have you seen the roads in Clearwater?)

I do have a plan for training, but I'm not holding out much hope (maybe it IS mental). For the next seven weeks, I will assume I have a good enough base to concentrate on short speed intervals twice a week on the trainer while getting at least one long ride per week outside.

Then, if that doesn't work, I'll have the whole winter to figure out why. Or consider an alternate approach. One so-called alternate approach involves teaching myself discipline to be on the bike for seven or eight hours at a time. Because if I can't figure out the speed issue the easy way, I might as well do it the "hard way" by applying what accidentally worked in the early days of my running career.

It's what happened when I started running marathons. I used to race a one-mile relay leg at work every spring and fall. One spring, my all-out mile time was 6:05. I desperately wanted to break six minutes, so I did many weeks of track work targeting a six-minute mile pace. That fall, my all out-mile was 6:00. Frustrated I gave up that dream and started training for a spring marathon, my first. That spring.. you guessed it, my mile time? 5:33.

Long slow distance equals faster mile times? Not bad. Perhaps the same thing will work on the bike. But it's a heck of a price to pay in terms of training -- the time commitment is mind-boggling. Thus, I beg you, O gods of cycling, please shine a light on my humble bike intervals. Let the law of hard work pay off in Clearwater so I don't end up losing my mind over the winter.

Oh, and while you're at it, help me do all those other things right this time. You know, nutrition, pacing, sleep, etc. Because it doesn't matter how hard I work if I'm just going to go out there and act like a disaster magnet.


  1. Sometimes you can be too close to something to recognize what needs to change in order to reach that next level. In the case of this post, the photograph is worth a million words and I will now help you reach that next level.


    Okay, on your next ride….PUT YOUR FEET INSIDE YOUR SHOES AND BOTH HANDS ON THE HANDLE BARS. You look like you’re shaking hands at a hacky-sack contest in this photo..

    Once you’ve made these two changes I think you’ll notice some improvement.

    You’re welcome.