Building a Base

I’ve read lots of books on training, and I’ve spent the last 15 years trying various strategies for getting ready for different cycling events. Now, to be clear, I’m not some highly advanced cyclist, and I’m not someone with unrealistic expectations of what I can achieve. I have just two simple goals with this RAAM Challenge ride. And they are: 1. I want to finish, and 2. I want to enjoy the experience. Pretty basic huh? But having said that, I do want to  do it in a time that is reasonable, and in a time that doesn’t mean that my wife is waiting around for days for me to finish (and eat into the rest of the holiday we have planned!).

So, OK, what training should I be doing at this point? Reading blogs and any number of  articles, there always seems to be a debate between high intensity vs long slow training.

I read a great book awhile back called ‘The Prefect Mile’ (Neal Bascomb – 2004) which was the story of breaking the 4-minute mile, and delves into the training differences between the three main potential candidates –  Roger Bannister, Wes Santee, and John Landy (who coincidentally taught at a Geelong private school, and also gives his name to our local running track, where I pathetically competed as part of ‘little athletics’ when I was a child). Bannister, given his intense studies to become a medical doctor, focused mostly on short, intense training sessions, whilst Landy, relied on long runs, and at times a fartlek approach when teaching at Timbertop in the Victorian high country. History of course records that Bannister was the first to brake the 4 minute mile, and so in many people eyes validates the HIT (high intensity training) approach, against the long slow distance approach of Landy as well as other proponents (such as Arthur Lydiard, a famed New Zealand coach).

I’m also an avid follower of Clarence Bass (, who at 79 is one of the most ripped bodybuilders and eloquent bloggers of the HIT approach to training (he’s a bit of a hero of mine, and has been for many years). Clarence approaches this from a power and bodybuilding point of view. (I’m sure I will mention him more from time to time, and recommend anyone to look at his webpage).

So, HIT is clearly a good strategy for training. But in my opinion and experience (I’m afraid just a evidence base of one….me), the one thing that I truly believe that HIT proponents miss, is that when training for endurance events at least, is that it is more important to train for the mental side of an event, than it is the physical. Whilst I appreciate the interval approach, I really believe that I have to teach not only my body, but  my mind to put up with long distance cycling, and the pain and discomfort that comes with it. I really believe this can only be done by putting time in on the bike.

I think it is correct to say, that physically it would be possible to do long distance rides of any duration, just with highly intensity training. But I do also think that this approach is really missing the one ingredient, and that is to fulfill one of my previously stated goals, which is to enjoy the experience. Riding this distance will be  hard work, and for a long time. It is going to require me to push through barriers of pain, and to endure discomfort for hours on end. So whilst running a mile may take 4 minutes, and power lifting or bodybuilding sessions may last up to a few hours, this  RAAM challenge ride is going to take over a day (maybe longer). So physically I may be able to do this ride on a HIT programme, but mentally, without a long slow distance training base, there is just no way.

So, right now, I’m going to concentrate on longer and longer rides. My strategy is to build up to 480km in a single ride (which is 75% of the total RAAM Challenge ride), whilst at the same time, start to build strength and intensity in the program, but only further down the track. Right now, it’s about training, so that I can properly train…if that makes sense. This ride is going to be more mental than physical (I rode last year with Ron Skelton who rode a full RAAM a few years back. He mentioned that it was his eyes, not his legs, that are the first things to give out…interesting).

So, to recap last week then, I went on a great ride last Sunday around the Bellarine Peninsula (I did a write up of this ride, and created a new page, listing my favorite rides in the region, if you are interested. Every time I do one of my longer, or best rides in the region, I plan to add it to this set of pages). I rode with two friends, who absolutely hammered me. To Byron and Steve, I hate you with all my heart…but thanks. The rest of the week my training involved hitting Zwift (I’ll provide more details in the future if you are not familiar with this) due to my time constraints, given the commute to Melbourne and work commitments.

Tomorrow I plan to ride to Lorne (this will definitely be listed in the Fav Rides section of the blog, as this is one of THE best rides from Geelong).

Cheers, drop me a message!

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