Well, my first triathlon of the season is now in the history books and I am now flying back home to do some bike racing before I head out east. Unfortunately, race #1 did NOT go as planned, but it was good enough to bag second place. I am going home a little disappointed only because I felt that my form was much better than my performance. I think I miscalculated some training and ended up pretty flat on the day of the race. My run absolutely sucked, there is no other way to describe it, and I didn’t ride much better. This was a bummer for me but great for Jamie Whitmore and great for Candy Angle, who nearly caught me by the end of the race. The result was still pretty good, no matter how much I hate to lose, but the race was well below expectations. There was one positive aspect to this race and that was, thanks to Neil Harvey and the Pacificsport National Triathlon Center, my swim! I screwed up the start, swam alone for much of the first 400 meters, dropped back to a group and still ended up coming out of the water with the lead women fresh as a daisy. Normally with that kind of open water tactic I would have lost a lot more time so my swim fitness is good. I had a lot of fun, as usual, down in Southern California, so read on for the details of our trip…
(this is an exerpt from the print version of this article…)
The off-season is so named for a reason: It’s time for you to at least occasionally get off the bike. Cyclists who pedal year-round might love their sport, but they’re not showing the same affection for their bodies-or their two-wheeled aspirations. "It’s physically and psychologically impossible to train on the bike at a high level year-round," says Neal Henderson, M.S., C.S.C.S., coordinator of sport science at Boulder Community Hospital in Colorado, who calls cross-training for cyclists a "crucial necessity. Without it, there’s a huge potential for burnout, as well as for injury."
Getting out of the saddle doesn’t necessarily consign you to soul-draining intervals on a treadmill, or to classic off-season sports such as cross-country skiing or speedskating, which almost directly mimic the muscular and aerobic demands of cycling. In fact, some pro riders believe the best cross-training sports are the ones that get you the furthest away from your cycling regimen while still delivering great fitness benefits. "I don’t stick to any routine in the off-season," says Dave Watson, a member of Kona’s Clump freeride team. "I like to surf, ride longboard skateboards and play floor hockey, basketball, racquetball and ice hockey." The bonus, he says, is that by spring, "I’m always hungry to get back on the bike."
To catch up with her mountain biking buddies over long, wet winters in Victoria, British Columbia, Melanie McQuaid hits the squash court. "It’s much more fun than just meeting for coffee," says the 2003 Xterra World Champion and seven-time member of the Canadian national mountain bike team. The self-taught McQuaid, who plays once or twice a week in the off-season, says she "is certainly not good, but I’m willing to hack away at it. The more I play, the better I get."
Regardless of her skill level, the 31-year-old says her mountain biking technique has benefited from the time she spends swatting a low-bounce ball around a small, white court. "Squash is a reaction sport, just like mountain biking," she says, "and when you ride tricky descents, you use your feet and require lateral strength. I build that up playing squash."
Calories Burned Per Hour: 1,080
Squash Works Your: Core muscles, leg muscles (especially fast-twitch), shoulder muscles; eye-hand coordination
Will Boost Your: Average speed. "Because squash conditions your total body, from quads to lungs, you’ll get on the bike feeling stronger and more capable," says Henderson.
Bonus: "Unlike other sports that use a large field or court, squash requires a focus that clearly improves your concentration," Henderson says.
Alternate Workout: To improve overall strength and power, try the dumbbell front squat-to-press. Stand holding dumbbells at shoulder height, with your elbows resting on your ribs, palms facing each other. Beginning the movement with your hips, squat back and down until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Explode upward with your hips and quads, using momentum to drive the weights off your shoulders and overhead. (Keep your feet on the floor.) Lower the dumbbells back to your shoulders. Repeat 5-10 times.
As my last block of training before heading into full blown race season, I had planned a training camp at altitude but I wanted to do it at home, in Victoria. Following the "sleep high, train low" philosophy, I decided to sleep at about 6000 feet while continuing to follow my VERY demanding training schedule without modification. This can be facilitated by using an altitude tent by Hypoxico. This year I have pushed to new levels not only cycling but definitely with my swimming and running, but using altitude can improve your aerobic fitness quicker and with less damage on your body because it will challenge your cardiovascular physiology without impact/training. There is a lot of debate over the effectiveness of altitude but I find it is mostly scientists that are debating whether it works. Coaches and athletes are just doing it and winning and not worrying about debates over scientific evidence. I truly believe that altitude, whether it is real altitude training or in a tent, works well for developing endurance fitness.
However, altitude is very demanding. There were some very ugly days in the pool, on the bike and trudging through some runs because altitude adds another heavy load to your body beyond what you are treating it to while training. Because I was still training at sea level, I could still do all of the quality work that I had planned, which really isn't possible when you go to altitude to train (at least until you are acclimated). It is important to use every physiological marker you can to determine how your body is recovering: your morning heart rate, your weight, an evaluation of how you are feeling and, particularly while training with altitude, your blood saturation (as determined with an oximeter). While training at altitude I use an oxygen monitor to determine exactly what % oxygen is inside the tent and an oximeter to see how this % oxygen is affecting me. HOWEVER, if one of these markers should be inaccurate, say due to an oximeter that is a piece of junk, you may make unfortunate decisions based on the marker. One of these poor decisions might be increasing the altitude. And thus begins the story as to why I skipped the NORBA in Fontana….. Read more