My next little adventure on the way to turning fifty is going to take some preparation. The good news is that although I haven’t seen many ‘personal bests’ this year, I’ve still been able to maintain a relatively decent level of fitness, which will provide a bit of springboard towards my next adventure, The Lake Taupo Cycling Challenge!
Held in New Zealand, it involves 160km of cycling around the picturesque Lake Taupo and is New Zealand’s largest mass participation cycling event. My goal is to complete the challenge in a reasonable amount of time AND admire the scenery simultaneously – that is, if it’s not raining, gusting with wind or snowing (well, maybe that’s taking it a bit far, but I have been in New Zealand in January and it has snowed!). From what I have heard, Kiwi roads possess the type of bitumen that sucks the life out of your legs, so improving my strength along the way is one goal.
The first port of call in my preparation for the event has been to start to increase my endurance. Also known as “base building” in some circles the idea of this type of training is to improve aerobic endurance and resistance to fatigue. Typically this type of training is done at between 65-75% of maximum heart rate or effort. This particular range of intensity promotes physiological adaptations for endurance – for example, increased capillarisation of blood vessels (this allows more oxygen to be delivered to body tissues per heart beat), increased mitochondrial density and size (our cellular aerobic powerhouses) as well as aerobic enzyme levels. These physiological changes translate into being able to ride faster and longer – as well as comfortably.
I’ve kicked things off in the last few weeks, firstly participating in Robbie’s Gran Fondo. The following weekend involved a legendary Liz Hepple Coaching journey out to Mt Mee via Winn Road for approximately 140km of undulating goodness. The forecast had been for rain, but we had all decided to come along after receiving a text from Liz saying that although the weather looked a bit patchy, she was going ahead with the ride. The journey out to Mt Mee was a lot of fun and I felt rather smug about getting out of bed and going training. After being brutalised on Beechmont the weekend before, the climb up Mt Mee felt surprisingly good – not easy, though! I got to have some great fun descending with my old teammate Wendy down the hill and upon arrival at the local bakery was looking forward to a Vegemite scroll. Adding to the adventure was the trip home – once happily munching on said scroll at the bakery, a clap of thunder erupted. Rain had developed in seemingly no time at all. The thunder subsided, but the rain remained, and cold and bedraggled, we hoofed it back to Samford, and then home as quickly as possible. As I had only two thin layers of clothing on and no rain jacket, I moved to the front of our group, pedalling furiously in a bid to stay warm. I would describe it from an exercise science point of view as a solid extensive endurance (z2/3) workout.
This weekend’s ride was also focused on endurance and involved visiting the “Seven Sisters” along Redland Bay Road. It was a tad easier than the previous weekends’ rides and I was surprised to be feeling quite chipper after 120km. I still have six weeks until our New Zealand sojourn and I’ll be focusing again on a solid endurance ride this coming weekend.
So why do base training as part of an event preparation? It’s important because this type of training sets into place physiological changes in muscle and metabolism that will set me up for a road racing season in 2019. While I haven’t got a time goal for the Taupo Challenge, I aim to ride it as strongly as possible on the day. It’s fun getting to know how your body responds to training – for me, it feels like my body almost laps up this type of training – I invariably always feel stronger for it and I’m beginning to feel and see the changes in my riding.
I’m still strength training and in a phase of training that is close to the equivalent of base training for endurance – adding more volume (in this case, repetitions) to my training. I’ve had tremendous gains in strength this year and still haven’t slowed down. Maybe I will when I’m 50? (ha ha)