Now, I'm far from fast when it comes to bike racing. I get beat by the winners in the Pro/Elite fields by tens of minutes at bike races. I'm only sort of competitive in the Expert field, for Pete's sake. But, this spring, I've done a slightly better in races than in years past, and a few people have asked me how I've picked up the pace since last year when I was usually dropped before we left the parking lot on some rides. To be honest, I'm not 100% sure it's any one specific thing. But here are few things I've changed over the winter that, I think, are helping me out. Maybe you can use them too.
I Ride My Bike More
This winter, I rode 5-6 days a week at Yen Yoga & Fitness. I also took strength classes for most of the winter, focusing on my core and doing tons of #SQUATS. In short, my offseason was way more intense than it has been the past few seasons. During the spring, or, "spring" as I think we can call it this year, I got outside as much as possible to get some base miles in. I'd guess I'm 400 or so miles of quality training ahead of where I was last year. Obviously, I'm really lucky. I teach at Yen, I don't have kids, or friends, or much else going on, so I have plenty of time to devote towards riding my bike nowhere in the winter. Even when I travel for work, I can usually plan my training to coincide with a rest day or two. So, in reality, I have no excuse for not getting the miles in, other than laziness. Luckily, I'm marginally less lazy as in the past. Pretty sure that's what Team Sky means when they flaunt "marginal gains" all the time.
The Yoga, Man. It Helps.
Yin yoga is my latest thing. Yin is basically just laying on the floor stretching for an hour or so, except you get 3,000 Karma points and smell like Essential Oils when you leave the yoga studio. Basically, If I take a Yin class at Yen once per week, I feel less tired and fatigued and can train about two extra hours each week. The extra training adds up, and I strongly feel Yin is one of the reasons I've been able to train more the last five months or so. Oh, and the no kids/friends/social responsibilities helps with fitting in Yin classes as well.
Dropped Ten Pounds
We did Chubby Buddies again this winter and I dropped 10lbs. as a result. In reality, I had one really good month where it all came off, then I sort of plateaued. Still, hauling around an extra 10lbs over the course of a bike race really adds up. Now that I'm a bit lighter, I feel stronger on the hills, faster on the descents, and it's also nice to not have my gut jiggle (as much) when I hit bumps on the road or on the trails. Cycling, especially road racing, is essentially a math equation; the more you weigh going uphill, the more power you need to put out to keep up with lighter riders. To go faster, you can either add a bunch of power or lose weight. I can't tell you which one is easier because both require a ton of dedication and persistence. But working on both is a good idea if you want to go quicker on your bicycle.
I've Been Riding with Faster People
The only sure-fire way to get faster is to get your head kicked-in on a weekly basis. Last year, I rode by myself a ton. You just can't mimic high-intensity race efforts while riding by yourself; you simply can't push yourself to go that hard on your own. Even when training indoors, I get a way better workout by riding in a class with other people than I do riding alone in my basement. Luckily for me, I live a mile from Cody and we have similar work schedules, so we get to ride together a lot. He can climb, roll the flats, and descend faster than me on the road and in the woods, meaning every ride with him is a real workout. I also got to ride with the 3T-Q+M team in Georgia this spring, and that was quite an experience. Sean Kickbush, Al McWilliams, Danny Soltan, Jay Ellis, Seth Kleinglass - oh, and Cody; it was a real eye-opener to see how hard they're capable of pushing themselves, even with the start of the season several months and a few feet of snow away. You learn a lot just by riding with them, even if you (well, I) only managed to stick with them for half of their rides most days.
It ain't exactly rocket science, is it? Ride your bike more. Weigh less. Look after yourself so you can ride your bike more. Since most of you have kids/friends/social lives, having the time to dedicate to riding is tough. But as I learned from the 3T-Q+M guys, you have to make the most of the time you have to ride and not waste an opportunity to get fitter by half-assing it.
Hopefully this helps. Happy trails and I hope to see y'all in the woods soon! More writing is up on kolotc.co. Check it out.