As regular readers will know my long term training goal is to get fit enough to ride the entire route of the Tour de France in 2010 covering each stage the day before the professional peloton comes through.
In the past I used to spend the Winter doing lots of long slow distance (LSD) or L2 riding and I think this was important initially to build some sort of core of aerobic fitness. However, I did not feel that long term this type of training was going to deliver the fitness I required. With this in mind I changed my approach during the Winter just gone and moved to a generally higher intensity training regime and essentially gave up ploughing round outside for hours on end in the freezing cold. If nothing else this approach has prevented me getting any colds for ages!
I decided to use the forthcoming tour of Ireland as a means of testing this approach. Essentially the question I needed to answer was: Could I train myself to ride 600 miles in 5 days by training harder over the Winter, indoors, but for shorter periods of time and effectively scrap LSD training? My theory is that if this can be done then this method will serve me well for the 2010 challenge as essentially after 600 miles it becomes a matter of adequate nutrition, hydration, and pacing, rather than pure "fitness".
So, what I've done is trained primarily indoors on my VeloTron concentrating on L3, SST, and L4 training but obviously accruing significant L2 time as a result of warmup and cooldown periods. The road riding I have done has for the most part been tempo (L3) riding with a few more sedate group rides included recently.
Looking at my power numbers the approach I have taken has yielded a significant FTP increase which was my intention, I am about to find out whether this will allow me to ride longer distance events at a lower percentage of my FTP, thus riding more efficiently in physiological terms.
The theory behind this is that it is riding at, near, or above one's FTP that causes the real "damage" during a ride and also depletes a rider's glycogen stores at a far greater rate. If therefore on has a relatively higher FTP one should be riding at a lower percentage of that FTP for a greater proportion of the time and in theory at least this should make it possible to ride more comfortably for longer, or at greater speed.
So, that was the plan. During the few longer rides I have done during this period of training I have felt that this approach has yielded the results I had hoped for. The only way to find out whether in a multi-day event I can keep going at the required pace is to ride one, that event starts on Thursday.
For those who might be interested in this approach to training for longer distance events the percentages of my training time spent in my power zones (yellow) and heart rate zones (red) over the past 6 months are shown below. I have done virtually NO scheduled endurance (L2) or active recovery (L1) work, the sections shown have simply accumulated as indicated above. When you dig into the data it is amazing how this L1 and L2 time adds up without actually scheduling formal L1 and L2 sessions at all!
Over the next few days I'll find out what the results are, watch this space...