When I began drafting the race report, I had to refer to the training a fair bit – things going badly in a race can usually be somewhat explained by mistakes in training. Given that SRMR requires a range of cycling skills, training should probably cover a wide range of areas too. If you miss some, like I did this year, it shows. That’s one of the nice things about this race, one-dimensionality doesn’t work… …even (n-1)-dimensionality might not work. So here’s a concise philosophy of my training for SRMR 2023.
Even in the spring 2023 I still had zero conditioning for long hours on an MTB, I had some base fitness though. I was training ~750-800h/year (including non-cycling) and mostly needed to up the endurance type of fitness. Spending many hours on a bike seems like one of the key ingredients. The only question was how to fit this into real life.
I knew I wanted to keep some intensity, so I usually did 2 sessions each week, unless life got in the way. One would be either strength-leaning or hard efforts above threshold. The other would be more tempo/threshold based. Sometimes it felt like my legs were the limitation at the end of a threshold session, so I added more strength. Sometimes I felt I needed a spark in my training, such as when threshold felt hard :), and I did a VO2max session earlier in the week to put things into perspective.
Then there were weekends. Those I reserved for some longer rides. The one new addition to my training was intensity under fatigue. From the fitness perspective, bikepacking races seem to hinge on the following: after 4-5d everyone is soft-pedalling most of the day. The watts are tiny. So the goal would be to be very good at soft-pedalling, i.e. the cruising/default power output when legs and the engine aren’t fresh. I figured a way to up these values would be to repeatedly simulate similar situations and patiently wait for adaptations to happen. Standard training, nothing new here. I read some studies on fatigue resistence (or durability, as some call it), and took some inspirations from them, but it didn’t seem like much is known. Also, I wasn’t going to be measuring all kinds of values and analyzing progress too much. So the approach had to be simple enough to make sense even if I just went by feel. I thought that was fine as long as I was consistent for a while.
Fatigue resistence pseudo-training
Besides the fact that the approach I outline below guarantees you success everywhere and in everything, you should also know that I spend more time brushing toddler’s teeth each week than I spent on researching this. So maybe don’t expect much from this approach if you decide to try it yourself.
The general idea of what I did was to shift the “usual” training to a different base level of fatigue. I did this in two ways. At the macro-scale, I initiated myself into a constant state of semi-fatigue by upping the volume, and then I did what I’d usually do – intensity sessions etc. Of course, everything had to be adjusted that little bit to be sustainable. Intensity wasn’t so intense and there was less of it. I dropped the 3-4wk training block structure I usually default to in order to keep the fatigue going. At the micro-scale, I started doing threshold/tempo (or whatever, really) efforts at the end of my long trainings on the weekends. So a multi-hour ride would end in 15-30min threshold/tempo done in 10-15min chunks. Or 2 simulation climbs of 1500m each would end with 10-15min of threshold towards the end. Those sort of things.
I got all this wrong a few times and had to ease off to recover a little. Classic. However, I suspect I still progressed somewhat in the right direction, although maybe I would have progressed just as much or even more purely based on volume :). We’ll never know. One important thing was that I made sure I backed off rather too early than too late - I had no time to come back from serious overtraining. That said, maintaining a level of fatigue that is not destructive but significant seemed very tricky. Sometimes I felt like it was a very slippery slope and that I was losing too much time backing off. Also, I suspect that pro athletes (like triathletes, not bikepackers :)) would train like this most of the time. The fatigue builds naturally if you train a lot, and they do. So from that perspective, my approach is the same old thing, and that too probably not done very well in my case.
We live in Uppsala - town famous for its mountains… So I had no choice but spend a lot of time on the kickr doing simulations. Quite important was also a month long visit to my parents’ place in Slovakia, ending only a few weeks before travelling to KGZ. Adults per child ratio improved (albeit no kindergarten…) so I could train more, and uphill. There, climbing comes easily. I did 7k, 9.5k, 13k, and 17k of elevation during the 4 weeks (being sick the first 1.5wks). And finally, I made sure I climbed on easy dirt roads, rough surfaces, loose rough gravel, hard singletracks, steep stuff, etc. I was riding as much different stuff as I could, as long as it was going up.
I did not do almost any riding in an aero position in training. Some riding on the drops on a road bike, but that was it. I regret this now.
Off the bike
When not cyling, I was eating, sleeping, working, being a dad, and doing errands or housework (if necessary). Or I was sick with something/everything that went around in kindergarten. I wish I did more core and other strength exercises (notably neck strength). I had more of these planned, but they ended up being the first things that got crossed out when time was tight.