Two weeks until Gran Fondo Leavenworth! Time to taper. So, next week (#19), I get to do about 8 hours and then 4 hours to be ready for GFL.
The training over the last 18 weeks has been good. I've tried for a good deal of structure. Basically, two hard weeks followed by a recovery week. The complication was that on the 1st week of February I got the flu and I didn't do anything for 10 days. So, to try to "catch up," I did three weeks working up to 16 hr. Week #10 was hard - I got kind a grumpy there for a while with the cold, dark, rainy riding.
I have found that the recovery weeks to be really good for feeling fresh and focussed.
Generally, for weeks 1-14, I did one V02 Max interval workout on rollers, one long (3-6 hr) weekend ride, morning recovery rides (Zone 1) on my commute, and evening commutes of 45 min - 2 hr. Basically, I tried to keep my heart rate out of Zone 3 and Zone 4 - I've been trying to ride easy (recovery in Zone 1) or ride solid (endurance in Zone 2) or ride hard (intervals in Zone 5).
For the V02 Max workout I began with 3-5 x (6 hard + 4 easy). Starting week #12, I've been doing 5-6 x (8 min + 4 min easy). If I get 40 min. in Zone 5, I call it a super great workout.
I have found that my warm-up to doing these workouts is extremely important. I can't be lazy. During one session, for example, I warmed up for 15 min. in Zone 1 with two or three 30 sec. hard efforts. This was inadequate. I know this because when I tried to do the first interval I couldn't get to Zone 5; instead, my heart rate hovered just below zone 5. At first, I thought "bummer - I must be particularly tired or about to become ill." But, I persisted and the next interval followed the usual pattern: With a lot of effort, it took about 2 min. to get to Zone 5 and then I was able to stay there for 6 min. By the time I got to my 7th interval (I called the first one a "warm-up"), I got to Zone 5 in about 1 min. 15 sec. and I was able to stay there for the next 6 min. and 45 sec.
My performance on the V02 Max workout seems to be highly sensitive to level of fatigue, amount of sleep, amount of stress, etc. For example, on the week before I got sick with the flu, I had a terrible time doing the intervals and I had to bail after 3 of 6 planned efforts. If I do two long days in a row (total of 6 hours) and then do the V02 Max workout, I can't get to Zone 5. If, however, I take an easy day before the intervals, things go much better.
But, fascinatingly, I never really know how I'm going to do until I try. Some days, I start out feeling not so good and I get better; other days, I seem to feel good at the start but the efforts are pretty uncomfortable. All very interesting. Most recently, I have found that intervals 3-5 are easier than intervals 1-2. I wonder if that has something to do with being warmed up.
There is so much to say about V02 Max intervals - each workout is filled with sensations, challenges, and accomplishments, part physical and part mental. The pain and success. There is a weirdness about looking at the heart rate numbers, the cadence, and the count-down clock: "four more minutes to go ... oh crap ... I better try to relax... Oh, still 3 1/2 minutes to go... oh crap I better try to relax, etc. ..."
For weeks 15-18 I have increased the riding intensity while keeping the volume about the same with more work in Zone 3 and Zone 4. I've done, for example, a couple of hill interval workouts in Zone 3 and lower Zone 4; a couple of 60 min. efforts in high Zone 4 on flat terrain; and three sessions with 45 - 60 min. Zone 3 efforts on my long rides (in the best case I got 3 hours in Zone 2; 2 hours in Zone 3; and 1.5 hours in Zone 1).
So, hopefully, these four hard weeks will consolidate the training, and allow me to ride well in GFL. I'm looking forward to the challenge. What's missing? Specificity - that is, long sustained climbs, long descents, and then again. The longest I climb for is about 10 minutes and 450 feet. Still, when I do climb I feel comfortable on the bike and I think I've done much more climbing this year than last year. And, most of my climbing has been very controlled - in high zone 2 and low zone 3.
During my training, I've lost about 15 pounds (after gaining about 10 pounds November and December 2016). It's hard to know how much to eat. For me, I'm guessing that it's probably not good to be less than 145.
Its good to be alive; its good to ride. I'm very lucky to have the opportunity to train for and ride in the Gran Fondos.