I guess there is such a thing as “too much of a good thing”. Everything in moderation they say. Imagine, in the first 48 weeks of 2011, I rode 10,819 kilometers (8,321 in 2010) in 446:16 hrs (387:48 in 2010) and used up 241,788 kilojoules (206,166 in 2010). This means that on average, I rode almost ten hours a week for 48 weeks. The last three weeks look quite different: zero training, six hours of training and zero training. This week I should do about six hours of easy riding. It is hard to take a break when things go well and you feel good on the bike like I have recently. According to the experts though, I am doing the right thing by taking some time off.

Why such a change in my training regimen? I am being encouraged by my CTS coach Jason Tullous to recover from what was a long and hard cycling season. My 2011 season actually began in October 2010 when I started getting ready for the eight day (shorten to seven because of the snow) CTS Tour of California Race Experience event in May. My racing calendar had as the last event of the season the El Tour de Tucson 111 mile race on November 19. The season eventually got extended until early December.

Mary Lou and I had planned on being in Tucson at that time to find the perfect little house in the desert. We ended up buying a lot on which we are getting a brand new four bedroom house built.

There will soon be a house on this lot.

When in Tucson it is hard to resist the temptation to ride my bike in the desert. So guess what? I brought my bike down and I put in some solid training. I even had the opportunity to do my first Shootout group ride. I had heard the Shootout being described as the longest standing group ride in the United States and one of the toughest. It was most definitely on my list of cycling events to participate in. The ride leaves from the University of Arizona every Saturday morning. Fortunately, I only read this “warning” from CTS coach Jay Guyot after the ride:

“In the winter the Shootout will have an international flavor. A lot of pro teams come to Tucson to train in the Dec-Feb time frame. In 2004 & 2005 a few of the T-Mobile guys were in Tucson for a couple of weeks. More recently, you may see athletes from Garmin-Transtitions, the BMC and others. Lots of national pros will drop in for a week or two during the winter as well.”

So on Saturday December 3rd, I got up just before 6 am, had breakfast, got dressed and drove to fellow CTS athlete Dave Burke’s house to get ready for my first Shootout. Dave and I rode down from his house to the start of the 52 miles ride and yes, we did line up with some pros. We knew we were going to suffer. The best description of what happened next came from Dave’s wife Tricia when she wrote in an email to her friends:

“Here’s a pic of Biker Boy with friend Alain, ready to ride the ShootOut ride on Saturday morning.  The only thing that makes Dave happier than 4 bikes and all his bike gear in this apartment apparently is adding another bike & a bike buddy.  They came back with their tails between their legs, though, having gotten dumped on the ride by mile 10 or so.  The US tandem champs were there, along with the Cdn Olympic cycling coach and some other prominent pros.  So I’m not sure why they felt so bad that they couldn’t hang onto the pack.  The male ego is an astounding phenomenon, incomprehensible.”

Dave Burke and I getting ready for the Tucson Shootout

The day after the Shootout, Dave and I decided to head over to Mount Lemmon for some good Tempo work. We had planned on doing four intervals of 15 minutes while climbing but we had to turn around and head down after 9 minutes of the third interval. The road was unsafe because of snow and ice.

The ride down was a little bit chilly!

That first week of December ended up being a great training week for me and a satisfying way to end the year. It was my third highest TSS week since Tour of California and the sixth highest TSS week overall in 2011. A few days after the ride up Mount Lemmon I wrote to my coach that I felt great. I was ready to just keep going and train some more. Jason assured me that it would be a mistake. This is how Jason responded: “Rest is the biggest factor.  You have had your biggest year to date in terms of hours, kilojoules, and power produced.  You will only be as good as your rest. So with big rest comes big adaptation and again motivation when it comes time to ride again.” I guess Jason had in mind the fact that between the beginning of October 2010 and today I spent 503:30 hours on the bike travelling over 12,714 kilometers and using up 282,986 kilojoules.

In case I wasn’t totally convinced that resting is a good thing to do right now, at the same time my coach was urging me to take it easy, I read in Cycling News an interesting article on 2011 Tour of California winner Chris Horner. I was surprised to learn that even the pros really do take serious time off the bike. It helped me not to feel guilty about taking it easy:

“Normally I wouldn’t even be riding now,” Horner told Cyclingnews. “Normally two hours in a day is the very most I’d have done in early December. Then I’d take the last three weeks of December off and start riding the home trainer while I’m up in Oregon for a week, and then I’d go up to San Diego the second week of January on the road, and then we’d normally have training camp near the end of January.”

So there you go: “Zero training, six hours of training and zero training”. I am being told that resting now is even more important given the fact that I have really ambitious goals for 2012. My main event will be CTS’ USA Pro Cycling Challenge Race Experience in Colorado from August 20 to 26. This event is similar to the Tour of California race experience I did in May.

It will follow the same seven stage pro racing event as the USA Pro Cycling Challenge being held on the same days. The 2012 edition of this challenging Colorado race (won this year by Levi Leipheimer) will start in Durando and finish in Denver. After six road stages that crisscross the Rockies — perhaps with a mountaintop finish on the penultimate stage in Boulder — the race will probably not be decided until the Denver time trial. This event should suit me as there is quite of bit of climbing involved. But doing well will require some serious preparation. To that end I have already mapped out my 2012 season.

I will kick off my preparation for this event next week, ending the easiest four week training block of the last two years. I will step up the preparation in mid March with a week of riding (and climbing) in Tucson. In mid May I will go down to North Carolina for another week of riding and my first race of the season, the famed Assault on Mount Mitchell, a 102 mile race that includes 10,357 feet of climbing.

In July I will head over to the Pyrenees for ten days of riding (and climbing!). While in France I will be doing the Etape du Tour, an annual cycling event put together by the organizers of the Tour de France. During the Tour de France the pros get two days off. On each of these days, the organizers open up one of the mountain stages in each of the Alps and the Pyrenees to over 9,000 participants. This year the Etape will include four categorized climbs – including the Cols du Tourmalet and Aubisque – over 197 kilometers. This is our full itinerary for our 2012 trip:

2012 Pyrenees trip itinerary 

I suspect 2012 should be an even more exciting year for me than 2011 was. I have a pretty good base of fitness, I am more experienced and I have a better understanding of what kind of training produces the results that I am looking for. So stay tuned for some pretty interesting training and racing updates.

In the meantime, Merry Christmas to all and I wish you a happy and healthy new year.