I wouldn't say that my preparation for the Iron Horse is ideal by any means, but there is a pattern that indicates a method to the madness. My excuse for inadequate training, which is shared by countless others, is that I don't have enough time... It's true that work has been crazy busy this month and that there have been numerous parenting responsibilities, so this excuse is credible... even to me. That is, until I met up with an old friend on a ride the other day, and she invited me to do hill work with her friend on Tuesday morning at 5:45. The fact that I have rarely considered dragging myself out of bed early (when there are never any schedule conflicts) demonstrates that time is not necessarily the problem; it is committment. At this point, I am unable/ unwilling to interupt my morning sleep to do the work necessary to really progress. At least I am considering the possibility now, and I might change my ways!
For now, I am pursuing the "here and there" training plan, getting 2-3 week-day rides and 1 longer week-end ride. In the 4 weeks leading up to the Iron Horse, I noticed my so-called "plan" actually looks pretty good, and I have more confidence now that I've analyzed my numbers. This week (week 4 of the training cycle) is my taper week. So far, I rode 18 miles and did 3 5-min intervals at a heart rate at the edge of my sustainable rate. These intervals will improve my ability to cope with sudden pace increases, like when the ladies dropped me last year. The plan is to do this type of work again today, and then do an easy ride on Friday before the race, just to keep the legs loose.
The stunning realization I had when looking over my Garmin data was that weeks 1-3 were nicely periodized. This essentially means that week by week I increased my training load. The increase can be via mileage, ride duration, elevation climbed, etc. To illustrate, here are my numbers (keep in mind that I put less effort into this than probably any other competitor signed up for the Iron Horse.. but that's another topic). Week 1 was 50 miles, 3 hr 14 min, and 3110 feet of climbing; Week 2 built up to 69 miles, 4 hr 43 min, and 6447 feet of climbing; and Week 3 was 106 miles, 8 hr 21 min, and 9049 feet of climbing. Perhaps this has something to do with my fatigue feelings last week, as this is a rather steep progression (happens when you take two weeks off to go sea kayaking). Now, it's kind of a relief to know that I am essentially finished preparing for this event; all I can do is try to keep hydrating, eat well, get plenty of rest and do 2 more rides. After the race, it will be time to start another training period, and the work begins again. Maybe this time I will approach the task with a little more committment and a more concrete plan; then again, who knows!
For now, I'm signing off, as I realized I could look at my Garmin data from last year's Iron Horse... I'm going to see what pace worked, what heart rates were achieved, and where the major climbs are. I know less about mental preparation, but knowing what's ahead is almost as good as complete naivete!