Out of Matches?
By Mike Burris of Impulse CYCLEsport
There is a quote from Joe Friel in his book, The Cyclist’s Training Bible, that I believe is the single greatest nugget of wisdom in that book. It reads, “Every time you put your wheel on the starting line there is an emotional investment. After some number of these in a short period of time, the rider loses enthusiasm. It’s as if you only have so many matches to burn, and once they are all used up, the body and mind are unwilling to continue.”
This quote comes from Friel’s section on “Racing into Shape” as a method of training. The idea is to build a base of 1000 miles of easy riding and then race as much as possible. In our area you can race on the weekends, do a Tuesday World’s ride, and a Thursday night time trial every week if you want to. For some, the mental and physical cost of riding hard this much is fine and does produce good results. For many, especially masters racers, training this way quickly leads to burnout.
Consider a competitive, category 3-masters racer that trains 12 hour a week. Assume this rider can produce 4 watts/kg at threshold. If this rider races in a master field or often rides with local, elite riders then this rider will have to dig deep to compete. Said another way, this rider will burn significantly more “matches” on a fast group ride or in a race than the better riders in his field or group. (A “match” is a term used to describe efforts well above threshold for longer than 30 seconds). This means recovery will take longer and the long-term impact or cumulative fatigue will be greater.
Why is this important? Many riders consider local world’s rides, training criteriums, or time trials merely part of their training and not races per se. This can very well be the case depending on the efforts. However, if a rider is regularly putting in more than a few efforts well above threshold (i.e. burning a lot of matches) then these events will take the same toll as races. Furthermore, there is a much higher emotional investment in these rides than there is in doing sets of intervals because of the “competition” factor. If this rider is also racing a lot, then the “matchbook” quickly becomes empty.
The take away message here is to be careful about riding too hard, too much. Just because you see others racing every weekend as well as doing every local event there is, does not mean it is good for you. I am convinced that mental fatigue is just as detrimental as physical fatigue. The two together can ruin a season. Take plenty of rest between hard days, especially if they are really hard days. When you see your enthusiasm start to wane, back it down and ride easy or rest altogether.
Do not feel like you have to be at every local event every week or race every weekend. Make sure they fit your training plan. And, if you do choose to attend, monitor your efforts. Save your matches for when you really need them.
Mike Burris is the Director of Impulse CYCLEsport. Mike is a USA Cycling certified coach, the Training Director at epicPlanet.tv, and the Team Director of the Burris Logistics-Fit Werx Masters Racing Team. Mike always enjoys working with a variety of athletes. For more information go to www.impulsecyclesport.com