by Gordo Byrn
Following on from my last piece on the Leadville Mountain Bike race, I want to dig deeper into how I’m preparing for the event.
Previously, I’ve shared what’s proven to be a very effective approach for me to race well in triathlons up to 70.3 distance:
- A big week once a month. I get this with training camps.
- Try to run most days. Pace doesn’t worry me, I just run.
- Try to ride (at least) every third day. Again, I don’t worry about the specifics, I get out there for 90-120 minutes of steady to mod-hard.
- Two solid swims per week.
Now that I’m focusing on Leadville, I have modified the above to:
- Ride every day.
- Only run during training camps.
- Strength training twice per week.
- Swim three to four times per week.
I noticed an immediate improvement in the speed of my recovery (swim/bike) from dropping the running. Even though my running was almost exclusively easy pace, it slowed my recovery. As a result, the average intensity of my revised week is higher. It’s not a goal to lift intensity, however, I find myself bouncing back a lot quicker from the days where my overall output is high.
Note: This isn’t a recommendation to drop your running. One of the reasons I run well in my triathlon races is my prior dedication to long-term daily running. I have a concern that dropping the running may have an adverse impact on my bone density.
My strength routine is designed to keep some eccentric load in my week. It is very simple and I complete it in 20 minutes after swimming:
- 3x12 deep squats (45, 95, 145 lbs)
- 2x12 leg press (180 lbs)
- 6/6/6/6 (L/R/L/R) single leg press (45 lbs)
- Single leg extensions (12/10/8 reps at 30 lbs)
- 0-2 sets of palms away chin ups (6 reps)
- Single leg hip bridges (total of 20-25 reps per side)
- Single leg calf raises (total of 20 reps per side)
Swimming has a focus on strength (gear and medley). I’ve been surprised that I’m swimming well given the total load is only 12,000 to 16,000 meters per week.
We had a fantastic March in Boulder and I completed three consecutive weeks of big bike training. My week looked like:
Monday - An hour that includes a little single track and dirt climbs
Tuesday - Kilojoule ride (focus on total work, not elevation or effort) in the hills or three hour ride that includes extended single track
Wednesday - Same as Monday
Thursday - Two hours that include a steep 12-minute best effort climb and 4,000 feet of climbing
Friday - 5,000 feet of climbing
Saturday - Kilojoule ride: rollers or hills
Sunday - Same as Monday
The overall focus is:
- Learn how to relax on the mountain bike
- Build my capacity to do work via single and back-to-back long ride days - the kilojoule rides are up to 5,500 kj
- Improve my economy riding uphill, at altitude, at a mod-hard effort
- Develop my dirt skills
I guessed (correctly) that the fastest way to develop my skills would be to do as much as possible on my mountain bike. I have a long way to go but can feel the improvement coming.
Some tips that are specific to Leadville:
- Power output is limited due to altitude. I’ve favored longer over faster. When riding with other athletes, there has been some fast work but it is non-key training. Right now, the most valuable training is extended blocks of steady to mod-hard climbing on the mountain bike. The single-track power requirements are too variable to give me the aerobic development I want.
- My initial skills focus is high-speed descending on pavement and dirt. The mountain bike handles differently than my TT bike so I’m working on non-technical terrain first. My easy days include a bit of technical work. There’s a terrain park in town that I’ll check out in the weeks to come.
- Know if the event is long, or short, relative to your energy capacity. 6,500 kilojoules of output is a big day but is within my current capacity. Track max kilojoules per day, per two days and per week to get a feel for where the event will place relative to your personal capacity. I’m coaching a larger Cat 1 athlete for Leadville and kilojoules per week is the No. 1 metric that I’ve focused him on.
- Understand how altitude will impact your capacity to climb. From many seasons training in Colorado, I know that I can hold 240w for 2.5 hours ending at 14,000 feet. So that’s a good “tempo” altitude benchmark for me. I also know that I can do 300w for an hour ending at 9,000 feet. These two values give me a likely climbing range of 235-275w for the Leadville course.
My plan is to build -- then test -- the capacity to ride 10,000 feet of vertical, around 245w, between 9,000 and 12,500 feet of elevation. If you’re getting out your calculator, I weigh 74 kilos.
One wrinkle is my preferred climbing style is big gear, standing. So I’ve been riding steep dirt to build the capacity to sit and spin at high outputs.
The fact that I get to do a stack of new climbing routes is a bonus! I love the process of learning about a new sport and event.
Gordo is the founder of Endurance Corner. You can find his personal blog here.