Margaret and Dick   

     

    
Pyrenees - Training
My training schedule in 2003 was developed by coach Andrew Johnston, who spent several years as a professional cyclist in the US and Europe.  You can learn about Andrew and his coaching services at www.triumphtraining.com.  Early-season training in 2004 was done on my own, allowing for some unstructured time after the rigor of training in 2003.  Progress was slow.  In mid-May I started working with Andrew again, and things started looking up.

Goals for 2002 included finishing three races with dignity.  Goals for 2003 were distance and endurance, in particular the ride to Austin.

Goals for 2004 were all chosen with climbing in mind.  First, though, I needed to re-establish the aerobic base that has been deteriorating since October 2003.


Training goals
for 2004:
Lose weight:  improve power-to-weight ratio for cycling in the mountains
March:  200km brevet (124 miles), Audax Atlanta
April:  300km brevet (186 miles), Audax Atlanta
May:  half of the 400km brevet (124 miles), Audax Atlanta; Pyrenees
June:  Albigeoise cyclosportive race
July 26-31:  cycle the Pyrenees from Atlantic Ocean to Mediterranean Sea

Off-season:  October 27 - December 31
Mostly was a slug.  Avoided getting on the road bike except for occasional 50-mile rides on the "silk sheets" route of southwest Atlanta.  Joined WeightWatchers, with some progress.  Off-season can also be the easiest time to lose weight since nutritional demands are lower than in full training mode. 

January:  Began strength training phase in the gym, continue through mid-February.  (See Training 2003 for more details.)  Travel schedule and weather precluded much riding.  Very little progress on climbing, with just over 5,500ft for the month.  Some work on the trainer, but discipline is hard to muster.

February:  Totally pathetic start to the year.  Weather has been uncooperative, and my appetite for riding in the cold and rain is pretty low.  I'm looking forward to getting to the Pyrenees soon (the foothills, anyway) to begin serious climbing.  Progress has been better in the gym, where I've finished the strength training phase (530lb leg presses, up a bit from last year).  Another change from last year is that I'm not yet working with my coach...with very predictable consequences.  WeightWatchers progress has been modest.

March:  Climbing!  Enjoying some better weather, and definitely enjoying some time in the Corbieres mountains.  Initially shamed by my French cycling buddies for my lack of early-season training, conditioning seems to be improving.  An inaugural climbing ride had me above 2,000 ft, below freezing, with 4" of snow beside the road.  Climbing was not a problem, but the descent was unbelievably cold.  The days are now turning beautiful and very motivating.  Weight loss appears to be continuing (slowly) despite occasional indulgences in cheese and foie gras. 

With the 200km brevet just a week away, I haven't even done 1,000 miles this year.  Coach Andrew says that I shouldn't be concerned since I have so many miles "in the bank" from last year, i.e. the aerobic conditioning should be on track.  Climbing is starting to feel much easier now that the muscles are developing and especially now that I've had several months of weight reduction.  A huge effect!
 
April:  Moving from Atlanta to Decatur.  Very little training time.  Much aerobic conditioning lost.

May:  Climbing again, notably the Cat-1 Pic de Nore.  Also started working with coach Andrew again.

June:  Lots happening, with serious training to build up to the Pyrenees week in late July.
Albigeoise cyclosportive race:  I'm preening after winning a trophy for being first (and only!) in the category of women 50+.  I finished in 7:05 for a very hilly race of about 100 miles.  Among the last to finish, but when you're the only one in the category, finishing is all you need to do.  No, it's not cheating.  ;-)
Climbing with Limoux cycling buddies:  the col de Jau, le Peillofo, col d'Aussieres, and the killer col de Pailheresbefore climbing on the plane back to Georgia.  I've cycled about 2,300 miles year-to-date, and my fitness level is evolving nicely.
Back in Georgia, I did my fastest-ever century at 6:05.  While pokey compared to most of the guys I cycle with, it's very fast for me.

July
:  Okay, so I've got thunder thighs.  You got a problem with that?
Strength training again in the gym:  build back some of the muscle I've been catabolizing since February.
The Georgia mountains are providing lots of fun.  I returned to the legendary Hogpen Gap -- first time in years -- for a rainy climb, a flat, and lots of dancing on the pedals.  A kind motorist helped me rescue a kitten that had been dumped near Unicoi Gap.  I had tried, without success, to tuck the kitten into my jersey pocket or to teach it to balance on my shoulders.  Unlikely that these solutions would have worked for 40 miles back to the car.

Rest week
came a little earlier than usual when I fell off my trainer and wrenched my knee.  It was more comical than serious, and I expect to be back on the bike momentarily.  

The Plateau de Beille is a monster climb in the Pyrenees, and it was the "beyond-category" finish of the Tour de France on July 16.  I was more than pleased to climb it easily...more testament to the benefits of training.  Of course I was climbing at less than half the speed of the racers, but still it's a relief to have a two-hour climb fall behind me relatively easily.  Watching the Tour de France on the giant screen at the finish line, then seeing Lance attack in the last fifty meters right under our noses, was an experience I won't forget.

I thought the Plateau de Beille would be my last big climb before the Pyrenees, but we followed the Tour into Provence where the giant of Provence, le Mont Ventoux, was calling my name.  Lance calls it the most difficult climb in France.  It was amazing.  At 2:20, I definitely didn't set any speed records, but I was really encouraged to find that it felt like just another (hard!) bike ride.  I can't wait to get into the Pyrenees.

August:  The Pyrenees!

September, October:  Ready for off-season.  Lazy.  Trying to heal an esophagus that doesn't like cycling and eating nearly as much as I do.