By: Chris Carmichael
Right now many of the domestic pro teams are having their early-season training camps and CTS is gearing up for our week-long Spring Training Camps. Before you know it, long events like the Belgium Race Experience (10 days), the Amgen Tour of California Race Experience (8 days), and mountain bike stage races like the Trans Portugal race will be upon us. Whether you are headed to a big multi-day event or doing your own big block of back-to-back training days, there are some important steps you should take to be at your best each day.
The physical demands of these multi-day events, training camps, and training blocks vary, of course, but they all feature back-to-back bouts of significant energy expenditure. Personally, I have both the Belgium Race Experience and the 8-day CTS Tour of California Race Experience coming up, during which I’ll lead a team of about 20 amateur cyclists as we ride every stage of the Tour of California. To make it more of a challenge, we partnered with the race organization so we can start each stage with a head start on the pros and have access all the way to the finish line. But we’ll only get to ride across the finish line if we work as a cohesive team and get there before the pros force us off the road!
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Here’s what I tell the athletes to do in order to thrive during a week of consecutive days of long rides:
1. Go in as fit as you can be: Sounds self-evident, but fitness itself is an often-overlooked component of recovery. You have to know the demands of the event you’re getting into. At the ATOC Race Experience, if you’re shattered after 5 hours in the saddle and 3000+ kilojoules of work, it’s going to be very hard to start the next day feeling fresh. This is more important for events than for training camps, since camps are designed to be a training stimulus rather than the endpoint of training.
2. Eat with tomorrow in mind: When athletes are used to big single-day rides and events, they think of eating for today. In multi-day events and camps, you can’t afford to get behind in caloric intake or hydration status. If tomorrow’s another big day, then on the bike and after the ride you have to remain focused on energy intake.
3. Don’t get lazy when you start smelling the barn: In the last 60-90 minutes of big days, a lot of riders stop drinking. They figure they don’t need to bother since they’ll be off the bike pretty soon. Don’t make this mistake, because it takes much longer to recover from a hydration crisis than it does to come back from a caloric deficit.
4. Your day’s not over at the finish line: Get out of your cycling gear, get cleaned up, get into the shade and get cooled off. Grab some fluids and get some food. Don’t stand around in the sun in your nasty chamois. The longer you remain overheated, hungry, thirsty, dirty, and on your feet, the more you’re hindering your recovery. If massage is available, get one. Nothing too deep, just enough to help your body get oxygenated blood to tired muscles and facilitate venous return of blood and extracellular fluid from the legs. Pneumatic compression boots like those from Normatec are other another option.
5. Go to bed: Hanging out after the ride/race and having a great dinner are part of the multi-day event, camp, or stage race experience. But after dinner, start winding down with the idea of getting in bed early. If you’re normally a night owl, start gradually going to bed earlier in the weeks before your tour or race so you’re not attempting to make a dramatic change in your sleep pattern during your event. Aim for 10 hours of sleep (so you’re more likely to get at least 8).