I received the following e-mail from a triathlete who has the interesting background of having been a professional hockey player, and who now falls under the umbrella of M2 Boston coaching.
M2 athletes will enjoy seeing what they already know to be true demonstrated yet again. To traditionalist Base-phobes, you really ought to stop and consider the “how could that happen without so-called proper base training” as well as consider just how much slower those roadies would have gotten if they had shifted from traditional base training to the same old stuff but under a different name, “IM specific long training”… think really, really slow and tired and you have an idea of what so many of you experience under the guise of periodized training.
Enjoy the read.
Read many articles on your site and found them intriguing.
In particular I enjoyed your article titled “Rethinking Base Training”. I have first hand experience that reaffirms what you obviously have discovered over several years.
During my 10 years as a professional hockey player I had some friends who were roadies and at the end of one hockey season they challenged me to try to ride a century with them. I had played about 100 games that season and usually spent about 30-45 minutes per day on the exercise bike mainly as a way to get some aerobic benefit (hockey is mainly anaerobic) and to help flush the inevitable lactic acid build-up after a hard practice or game.
When I told them I was in pretty good shape after a full professional hockey season and my time in the saddle, though limited, would serve me well. My roadie pals all laughed (keep in mind that this was 1992) insisting that there was no way that anaerobic training and a few 45 minute EZ rides on an exercise bike could make up for the many hours of LSD training they had put in on the roads and on the rollers over the winter. They said I’d get dropped within the first 30 miles.
Turns out I had a chance to do a couple of rides of about 30-35 miles on a borrowed bike (I didn’t even own a bike) the week before the century. I felt pretty good once I got used to being clipped in and working the gears.
I was accustomed to pushing myself into Heart rates in the 200 range and then recovering for a few minutes and doing it again and again. Repeated this in games over the course of a long season. We also did some long intervals in practice but nothing longer than 2 minutes. I was a little concerned if I would be able to maintain a less strenuous effort over several hours. But figured I could will myself to finish.
Well to make a long story short I stayed with the group easily. My effort level never pushed anywhere near what I was used to in hockey and though I was certainly tired after about 75 miles, I felt like I had something left in the tank. As often happens, the last 10-15 miles turned into a macho-fest and the pace kept increasing. I easily could handle the surges as it was right up my alley to go anaerobic and then recover quickly.
Turns out several of my boys got dropped, but I wasn’t one of them. They could not believe that a 220 pound guy could stay with them (they averaged about 165-180) with what they perceived as virtually zero traditional cycling training.
Skating and cycling use basically the same muscle groups so that was obviously a huge factor. This was in late May and they had only been going long and slow all winter while I had been going short and fast. By the end of the summer after doing Crest and time trials maybe they would have kicked my ass, who knows.
However it was a good lesson that proves your point about the benefits of threshold training during the base period.