Red or Blue?

There are always decisions in life.  Each decision sets a direction and determines what you focus your time and attention towards.  There is a scene from “The Matrix” where Morpheus shows Neo two pills. “This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill–the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill–you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.” I love this video clip because it about this decision….do you want to know or not know, and it is up to you decide. 

I like to provide my view of the training and criterium racing , and my view of the world is always changing and improving as I continue to ” take” Red or Blue pills.   My recent Red pill has been to focus on base building.  Last year, I was very focused building anaerobic power from March to August.  I had a lot of success building sprint and anaerobic power, but I was still felt like I was struggling in my races and was having mediocre results. 

Starting in August last year, I took a different pill… I was focused on 20 to 30 min power building or FTP or maximum lactic acid level.  Again, I had success following this training protocol but I found that I was only able to handle this training level for a period of time.  I was able to raise my 20 min max from an early July high of 290 to an early September high of 342, but I was not able to push in much higher.  The weather played a big factor on not making further progress but I also was getting burned out by continuing to train at these levels.

Now, I am finding that I can training my base by focusing my training at my maximum aerobic level versus training at my maximum lactic acid  level.  When I train for 2-3 hours holding my effort slightly below my maximum aerobic level (Max HR of 152 and power level of 300 watts), I can do this day after day and during the day my legs feel great.  When I training at my maximum lactic acid level (168 HR and power level of 330 watts), I can feel this in my legs during the day and the next day I struggle to do back to back.  I also find that when I train at this level that I am very hungry for carbs.  When I train at my max aerobic level, I find that I can control my diet better.  Now comes the Red or Blue pill aspect, I plan to continue my maximum aerobic training until the first week of May.  It is scary for me to stick to this level because it feels like a sign of faith that training my aerobic base will lead to improvements.  I am finding that I am able to hold higher power levels and maintain a lower heart rate, but will this lead to me being able to race better? 

Starting in May, I will start adding some FTP and anaerobic  intervals. Based upon my response rate to FTP and anaerobic intervals last year, I was able to see very quick results by following 3 days on/2 days off blocks.  These blocks were painful but I topped off my power after one block.  The continued blocks that I did for the rest of summer did provide incremental improvement but I lost my aerobic base.  The physical changes that happen to the muscles and enzymes happen rather quickly, but the physical changes that happen when you build your aerobic base take longer.  I am hoping that my “Red” pill decision this year will change my ability to races this year.    

Ride Hard,

Steve