the ümabomber


Race Your Strengths, Train Your Weaknesses

Back when I was still a hard-core roadie, our team met every Saturday at a café for a “base miles” group ride. About 20 of us—men and women—would arrive early for a fancy cappuccino and hang out for a bit before heading out for 4-5 hour long ride. No matter the weather—rain, sleet, snow, snain—nothing kept us from riding together. I was preparing for the coming early season races and had my goal set to go to Nationals that summer. My winter “off-season” training consisted of about 3 rides a week, a day of skiing, a couple days of indoor rock climbing, and a daily yoga practice. I’d never been more fit, and coming out of that winter riding with the team I was strong, fast, light. I went to bed early, arose early, and drank beer and ate desserts only on weekends.

My coach disapproved. “Why are you doing these long rides in winter?” my coach asked, disapprovingly.”You’re not training for endurance races. Just maintain your base this winter, then start with intervals in early Spring. These long rides just make for more recovery. It’s wasted energy. Junk miles. You should stick to the training plan.”

I ignored my coaches advice and came out the next spring stronger and leaner than ever. I prided myself on only doing one ride indoors that winter. All my training rides—about 3-4 per week—had been done outside.

This year I’m coming back after a pretty wretched 2014. Injury and illness robbed me of much of my season last year, several key races and packed on about 12 pounds I don’t need. Pushing extra weight around is a game changer in terms of regaining fitness.I’m also dealing with a lung affliction that makes riding outside in the cold challenging if not dangerous. In fact, I’ve never had to work harder to get “in shape” coming out of the holidays. The solution isn’t as simple as it would seem: more calories out than in and riding smart, not necessarily more.

Since I can’t really get out there for rides during the week, I’ve begun doing training sessions at The Lumberyard, an indoor bike park in Portland. There, I can get a great workout in that targets core, glutes and quads—like going to the gym and working on leg presses and squats—but much more fun.

Some (many) of my riding buddies tell me pumping laps at the Lumberyard is a waste of time. Junk miles. They tell me I should be out doing night rides on real trails or even doing road rides for training. But riding at the Lumberyard not only affords me a great workout, it also provides opportunity to work on skills. And hey…junk miles was a fantastic strategy in the past, despite what my coach said.

Where my coach my have been wrong about junk miles’ impact on my racing fitness, she was right about one thing. It’s relevant for just about any sport at any level. It’s s training strategy reduced to its simplest terms.

Race your strengths, train your weaknesses.

Anyone who’s ever ridden with me knows I ride with a lot of heart. I love to go fast. I’m less excited about taking chances. It’s been an issue, particularly after last year’s injury. My heart? Well… that part’s just fine. I’ll race on heart, this year, as I have every year previously.

As for those weaknesses? Junk miles.



Send me your burning questions about bikes, business, riding, life, love, and the pursuit of pedal-powered pleasure. I don’t claim to have all the answers, but I definitely know how squeeze the crap out of the questions and make them squeal. Send me an email using this secure and anonymous email form, here.

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