Sunday, April 20, 2008

Ch... Ch... Ch... Changes

A couple things. Definitely in a funk here, but changes are on the horizon. Check that... not on the horizon... changes are right here, right now, staring me in the face.

Today I start working again. I call it work anyway. 20 hrs a week on a two-year software task. From home. On my schedule. Minimal travel and meetings. Sounds pretty good, yes? Well I don't know where I'm going to find 20 hours. It's been nine months since I did any paying work, and I've gotten pretty accustomed to constraint-free days. And it's amazing how easily those days can get filled up. Puttering around my tract-house backyard farm; riding; bike work; emailing; blogging; lunch dates; reading; ...

I don't expect any sympathy.

Further, due to the above, as well as disappointing fitness and results, I need to make some changes on the racing front. Figure out how to train more efficiently, and reduce the off-the-bike time-expansion factor. I don't know about you, but it seems for every hour I train, I spend at least another hour or more of miscellaneous bike-related tasks. Maintenance and cleaning; stretching and massage; extra sleeping and eating; planning; ...

15-20 hours a week of pedaling expands into damn near a full-time job.

Obviously it can be done on much less time. Plenty of good racers successfully balance their cycling with a career, family time, and social lives. I need to figure that out. The problem is, as I see it, if you train in a rushed and frantic manner, forsaking the sleep, nutrition, and recovery your body wants, then much of the training is wasted. I've had my best fitness and racing performances when the rest of my life was really relaxed and stress-free, and not necessarily when my training load was greatest. It's my opinion that many racers neglect the off-the-bike aspect of training. But maybe it's time I scrimped a bit there too...

It's also probably time to reevaluate my motivation for doing p/1/2 races. Is it more satisfying to be a mid-packer with the best riders in the region, or to be a contender with riders my own age? I'm not sure how I feel about it, but I do know that the physiology window is closing and if I give up now on the faster, longer races, then I'll probably never do them again. That realization hits me pretty hard.

Lots to think about...

ps. I just discovered last week that this stupid blog looks horrible in Firefox and probably on the Mac too. (Maybe you think it looks horrible in every browser!) The pics don't align with the text the way I intend, causing some difficult reading and awkward confusion. E.g., a few posts back the text said something like, "This is Jake Erker..." but it bordered a picture of Kayle Leogrande. So, that'll be another change on the horizon, cleaning up this blog and maybe switching to another format, or, GASP, actually learning some HTML so I'm not slave to the blogger UI.


mateo372 said...

What kind of work is it that you do exactly? You mentioned a software task. I'm returning back to school, but still am not to sure about what I want to do. Looking for a career change, and somethng that would allow me to train and keep racing would be great!

Marco Fanelli said...


I design and build computer simulations that support analysis of complex aerospace systems (radars and such). The only reason I can do it in such a flexible way is that I put in nearly 20 years of long hours and butt-busting work to prove myself. Plus I saved and invested carefully.

I often wonder what life would have been like if I gave bike racing a real go when I was in my 20's instead of the half-assed, train-in-the-cracks approach I did back then. But then I think how lucky I am to do it on my terms now, albeit a bit older. It's still a blast.

Not sure about your situation, but if you develop good skills in computer hardware and/or software, then you should be able to write your own ticket eventually. I don't see any drop in the demand for talented people in that area. My $0.02 for what it's worth.

Gary said...

I would be happy to share my Microsoft Project Ghant Chart that outlines how to work 50 hrs a week, ride 15 hrs a week, sleep 8 hrs a night and have some time for a life. I would be happy to do a s/w simulation that adds standard deviations to each of the factors as well as the wife and kids variables and do some random number generation to determine worst and best case scenarios.

Or, better yet, you can just pick up mtn biking. You could train just as much but spend less time thinking/planning/obsessing and just go out and hammer. Oh yeah.

jen said...

Doood... 20 hours a week? At home? There's women riding the NRC who would kill for that setup. Plenty of training time to be had there. It's not like you're working something like retail or restaurant where you're standing for hours on end. You're only looking at 4 hrs a day M-Fri. Typical day: Go ride. Eat some food. Plop down on your couch with your lappy top and your leggies all propped comfy. Commence typing. Child's play.

Marco Fanelli said...

Gary- I will tell wife and kids that you can condense them down to variables in a simulation. That may not make you particularly popular with Gina though...

Jen- It's a hard life, but somebody has to do it. (pssst, I'm having a difficult time getting started on the 20 hrs gig... coicidentally, I got slammed with a nasty cold/sinus infection on the very day I was supposed to start!)

TnA said...

You probably only need to scale back your 15-20hrs per week of on bike time to 10-15. Here's what Doc AC had to say on this subject recently:

"Let me try putting it this way: given unlimited time to train (and to recover from training), I think that most people would improve the greatest by training as hard as they can for 15 h/wk (on average) than by training as hard as they can for 7.5 h/wk (where the average intensity would obviously be higher) or by training as hard as they can for 22.5 h/wk (where the average intensity would obviously be lower)."

kraig said...

Interesting feedback thus far, Marco!

So, yeah, I'm the champion of the line of thought that one can reach their potential on something like 5 hours a week average annually, but really, that's just my own personal deal/experience - there are many paths to the same spot, so to speak.

Though, globally, I dig what is written on the tag of the t-shirt I'm wearing right now:

"Do what you like. Like what you do."

Good stuff as always, Marco!

dblrider said...

Marco-Ah, the life of a Master's racer... I think you've got everything covered - you need to scale back on the training, make the most of your recovery time, probably go back to racing 35+ 1/2/3 instead of the Pro's (BTW, here in Norcal, the 35+ 1/2/3's are just about as fast as the Pro's, so you'll be averaging 29 MPH instead of 29.5...still OUCH!). I think you'll find that with a reduced training schedule, you'll need less body maintenance. Less miles = less wear & tear, usually. Best of luck! So, you'll have a little more time in your day to take care of the work, and still race competitively. You'll just have to act your age (like the rest of us!) As a friend of mine noted a couple weeks ago - There are worse problems to have than trying to decide what field to race on the weekend. We have it so good - we live in probably the best place in the world (CA), spend our free time training for races that feature t-shirts or (gasp!) bike parts as prizes and our families support our efforts.

Marco Fanelli said...

Thanks for the comments all. Yes, the key is time management and making the most efficient use of actual on-the-bike time. OSM repeats!!!

K-Dub, I can't imagine racing on just 5 hrs a week, but maybe 10. Although I find that the older I get, the more warm-up time I need before I can start going hard. If I push it too quickly, my legs get all kinked up and never seem to work right. Just you wait, you'll see what it's like in your mid-to-late 40's!

dbl, Oh believe me, I know how fast the 35+ is, and the 45+ too! You are so right about how good we have it. Let's never take it for granted!

kraig said...

I hope I have the good fortune (and mental fortitude ;-) ) to still be racing my bike 10 years from now!

And yeah, I couldn't imagine racing on 5 hours a week 15 years ago, yet here I am, racing on less than 5 hours a week and producing power at the same level (as I have on more hours in the past) yet going faster than I've ever gone before (well at least in TT's I focus on...).

Interesting to note that when I was 22-ish and built my "base" with 20-30 hour weeks, that I used to say stuff similar to what you are describing. I don't know if that means anything, but it did pop up on the radar. :-)

I hear similar stuff today from various folks of all ages - i wonder if it's not so much a function of age as it is something else? What do you think about this?

Anyways, I seem to have adapted quite well these days to rolling out of my house and pedaling/coasting for about 5 minutes to the bottom of a 17-ish minute climb - then throwin' down "au bloc".

If anyone is interested, here's a couple of recent threads on the BTR forum pertaining to warmup (some different perspectives on this topic):

click here

and here

I don't know how old these folks are, but their thoughts and your perspective does spark some more thought! Good comments, Marco - thought provoking as always!

Marco Fanelli said...

Great stuff K-Dub! I can't wait until I get a PM so I can join your forum!! (I know that's not really a requirement, but still...

I also don't subscribe to the long warm-up theory before tt's or anything else. Getting my heartrate up a few times over a ~15-minute interval seems to work fine. But 15 minutes on each ride is a significant percentage if you're only doing 5 hrs a week, assuming you ride most days.

Although it's a sample of one, I can say with high confidence that as I've aged, I need a more gradual ramping of effort on training rides. Inevitably, some muscle group is too tight or strained, and needs a bit of time before I can apply high force or rapid cadence. If I push it too quickly, I get pains in my knees, hip flexors, and/or my lower back. Some people's bodies just seem more robust and balanced than others; I'm on the weak side unfortunately. But it hits everyone eventually!

Interesting to note that, as I type this, riders are starting the Devil's Punchbowl RR, which begins pretty much immediately with a wicked climb. How many people over the years were rudely shocked by that hill, having nearly no warm-up before hitting it, and (correctly?)blamed that for getting dropped?!?

Anyway, I hear what you and others are saying, but I still cannot imagine racing on just five hours a week. At least not a robust schedule of races. Maybe just short crits or TTs, but certainly not 3-4 hr road races.

Plus, like I'm about to do right now, I need pretty frequent "mental health" rides where no real physical training is accomplished, but the psychological benefit is huge!

kraig said...

oooh - the punchbowl. I think your write-up of that race last year made me a loyal reader of your blog - the good the bad and the ugly I think it was, eh?

my problem there is a pretty simple one. not enough watts, and too many kg's! :-)

That climb, at least as far as I can tell in the 35+ race last year, required probably 5 W/kg for the duration of that climb - maybe 10 minutes or so for the quick guys?

I can make that kind of power for about 6-7 minutes or so - which is when I got popped last year. From the looks of the results this year in the 35+, it's possible you would have had to make more than 5 w/kg on that climb - that's tough for a pure sprinter like me! ;-)