Well, well, well, it’s that time of a year again. The time of year where the snow starts to melt away, I start to get antsy to ride outside, the spring classics are in full-swing with the Giro on the horizon, and the Zwift National Championships are in the rearview mirror. Wait…no. That’s not right. Sure I’m antsy to ride outside, but COVID-19 has the cycling season indefinitely suspended and Zwift Nationals has failed to materialize. But if I start basing the timing of posts on Zwift’s whims and fancies then this may never get out. Instead, like last year, I’m arbitrarily deciding that March is when I should take some time to reflect on the last year of cycling.
So what’s happened?
The last year has been rather a roller-coaster for fitness with training load and conditions not staying steady enough for more than a few weeks to actually settle into a particular level.
From looking at my fitness/freshness graph (only showing fitness), there’s clearly some wild fluctuations. All this variation came from just riding/running/hiking as much as I felt like with no planned events to build or peak for. Some interesting takeaways from this graph:
- The highest fitness peak I hit was at the end of ‘Cross Canada after pulling a massive day to make it to Halifax a day early
- The lowest fitness point was in the couple months following that peak when the number nearly halved. I don’t think that is a linear relationship though, I wasn’t suddenly half as strong as before. My overall fitness did drop, but my endurance was still insane and the drop was a conscious effort, I needed a break from riding 5hrs a day
- The two orange dots are 10K running races. The first was an organized event in Toronto, the second being a “virtual” (ie. solo) race in Calgary. Adjusting for elevation and altitude differences, if I had run both on the same course my more recent time would’ve been ~30sec faster
- I’m now on the steadiest build and training load in the last year. Being able to settle into somewhat of a routine is providing me ample time to work as much cycling as I would like into my schedule. The consistency in that training is clearly paying off
Events & Milestones
While the training and riding was far from consistent for most of the year, preventing me from reaching levels I know I’m capable of, that didn’t diminish – and, in fact, was in part due to – the events and milestones I accomplished over the year. The milestones that stand out the most to me are:
- Completing ‘Cross Canada, obviously. It took almost a year to plan and two months to execute. Finishing it was surreal and makes me incredibly proud of what we did. It also netted me a sweet job in the end, so that’s an extra bonus
- Setting the tandem world record at WHPSC 2019. This didn’t rely as much on my fitness as the bike was limited by aerodynamics not power, though we both needed to have some relatively high-level latent fitness to pull through when the long days and sleep deprivation caught up to us
- Unintentionally matching my 20min power PR. Twice. I drew a very fast build over the Zwift Tour of London to finish Stage 5 with a massive effort equaling my official 20min power PR of 331W. More recently, I accidentally matched that number in a race a couple of weeks ago just from riding aggressively. (Unofficially I’ve hit higher in the past with 340W in a 19min race, but that effort wasn’t finished so I won’t count it)
- Running a 40min 10K. On a pan-flat course in Toronto in May 2019 I dropped my PR by a staggering 3min down to 39:31. More impressively to me, I recently ran a 40:40 10K here in Calgary with 4X the elevation change and an extra 1000m of altitude. I was square on pace for 40min until the last 500m when the road pointed straight up hill. Based on elevation and altitude, I speculate that on the same course I could shave close to 30sec off my time.
Last year I made concerted efforts to tackle different mental barriers I felt were limiting my race performance and fitness growth on the bike. This year I took a much more laissez faire approach. Armed with knowledge from the previous year that I could reach a reasonably high level of competitiveness if I put in enough of the right work, I backed off this year. With the ‘Cross Canada adventure scheduled in the calendar and some uncertain months ahead as I job hunted, it became a priority that I would only ride when I wanted to and as far as I wanted to. The goal was to get away from feeling compelled to put in a certain number of hours or do a certain number of races. Frankly, I felt I had bigger concerns so this was just supposed to be a way to unwind and have some fun. If very few kilometers came out of that, so be it.
I’d say I achieved that balance. Now as my life settles into more of a routine, I do find myself drifting back towards wanting to be competitive in races. Or at least maintain a high standard of fitness relative to what I know I’m capable of achieving. And that’s okay. I’ve dealt with the bigger concerns so I have the capacity to put more thought into riding and training again. At the end of the day though, the important thing for me is that I’m still having fun doing it. What’s the point in a hobby if you don’t enjoy it, after all!
And that brings me to the end of another year in review! I won’t even say that I hope the next year is as exciting as this one; I don’t think I could handle that wild ride every year. The important thing is to make conscious decisions towards whatever the goal is. For me, this year, that’s a bit more stability. So take some time to reflect, marvel at what you’ve done, then look ahead at the path you want to take to get there. And if that isn’t working for you, hope on your bike and forget about your problems for a while 🙂
Cheers and Ride On!