Recovering from a broken radius/ ulna and two surgeries this summer has been a challenge for my training, but today’s workout gives me some hope of peaking for the rest of cyclocross season.
Cyclocross is always my main focus during the year, although next year I plan to branch out into some gravel racing and some trail running. And I had planned peaking in November for the Wisconsin State Championships and try to hang onto some form for USA Cycling Regionals in December.
But this year, due to injury, I’m going to have to accept that peaking will be at a much lower level. And I’m okay with that. I miss the racing!
Periodization Prepares Endurance Athletes for Peaking
Periodization in endurance sport training is like a triangle with the long base on the bottom. You build a big base with long endurance rides and some long intervals and a lot of strength training. Then as the season progresses, you do less volume and more intense, shorter intervals.
And when you’re close to your peak event, your volume drops way down and the intensity of very short intervals increases.
So my spring and early summer had a lot of long slow endurance rides with quite a few days of 2×20 or 3×20-minute intervals on the bike at a hard pace. Right before we left for vacation to Boston, I put in 10 days of really hard training with long days and shorter, more intense intervals. I planned a long recovery block with lots of easy walking, eating good food, and drinking good whiskey.
The Best Plans Can Get Derailed. Then What?
I snapped the radius and ulna of my right arm at the beach in Cape Cod while trying to use a skim board. The next day, I had emergency surgery to release a carpal tunnel block and pin together the radius.
Yet when I returned to Milwaukee to see my orthopedic surgeon, who has already repaired both shoulders from previous bike crashes, he didn’t like how the arm looked. So he did surgery #2 to fix the problems.
I wasn’t able to ride or do any strength work for nearly three weeks. That’s a lot of fitness to lose. I tried riding on a trainer in the garage, but the splint prior to surgery #2 was just too unwieldy, even with a pillow on the handlebars.
After I got the cast, and my daughter bedazzled and painted it, I did start to do very short and easy rides first on the trainer, and then outside. I did some Cycle classes at the Wisconsin Athletic Club in Greenfield where I work as a trainer. These were pretty effective, and I felt like I was regaining some fitness.
When Fitness Falls, the Triangle Becomes “Stout” Isosceles
The point to all of this is that I started off with a strong base and a strong middle in my periodization triangle. That would mean the point of the triangle is pretty high (my math teacher wife tells me this is like a “tall” isosceles triangle. And obviously the taller the peak, the stronger I’d be on the bike.
Now, with the big reduction in fitness, my triangle is a little more, well, “stout” with a long base and short sides.
Once a week, I’ve been doing longer over/under intervals by going hard up hills in a local loop, and keeping up the pressure on the downhills and flats. And once a week, I’ve been doing 60-second hill climb intervals. I’m also getting in at least one endurance ride and one strength session.
Honestly, even that little amount of work wipes me out. My body is clearly still recovering.
The cast is gone now, and I wear a splint with velcro fasteners that I can take off easily. I’m doing a lot of therapy at home, and I can do more strength training at the gym – primarily split squats, single-leg leg presses, and some plyometric jumps.
Finally, a Bit of a Breakthrough
I do the hill repeats on a trail up the Rock Sports Complex hill. It’s a paved trail that is a 6 to 8 percent grade. It’s a good place to return to each week to see if there’s progress.
Tonight, there was some progress.
I got the best one-minute power numbers in several years, and I was able to do more consistently strong efforts up the hill. I’m beat now, and the arm hurts a bit, but it feels like there is some hope of peaking for the end of the season.
We have a group of new cyclocross racers at the WAC in a class I teach, and our first race – and my first race back – will be in Dousman at the Tough Udder Oct. 20. My bike handling skills will be terrible since I still can’t lift a bike over the barriers.
But we’re going to have fun. I’ve taken cyclocross way too seriously for too long, trying to reach a high level. This year, it’s a chance to come back with better breathing after a year of working with a good asthma doctor. I’m not going to waste any of that time ruing my “misfortune” this summer.
I’m just going to go out, holler, and ride as fast as I can. Even with a stout isosceles of a peak!