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Training Camps: the value of planning to get the most from your time away.

I’ve been on many cycling trips or camps in the past where the focus has really been to just ride your bike and get the miles in, and that’s ok and more often than not will help your cycling in many ways. However, with a little more thought and planning I do think you can extract more value from the precious time you have away.

If you’re half serious about your cycling then having some sort of loose plan on what each day should look like is a great place to start.

On a recent trip to Tenerife I did just that – I sketched out a plan for each day's riding and included routes on Stava that would fit in with my goal of developing my fitness levels in a more structured way.

When drafting my plan for a week in Tenerife my key consideration was current fitness levels and also the time of year. As it’s mid-January most of the recent training has been low on intensity with the focus being longer aerobic endurance rides, save for the odd Zwift race and over/under session.


My aim was to ensure that the week away complimented what I’d been doing so far. Therefore, I knew that most of the riding was going to be lower intensity (i.e. not race specific), with some focused efforts on a couple of the days (i.e. targeting power around threshold) to try and build a bit more muscular endurance.

To give an insight into my approach, the below was  my rough plan day by day, together with some commentary on what actually happened over the course of the week.

Arrival day – Bike check and spin to wake the legs up, the plan was 90 mins if possible.

What actually happened was that I got into accommodation so late, so that by the time I sorted my bike there wasn't much daylight left. But I did get 60 mins of riding in as I chased down the sun.





Day 1 – Ride up to Teide at a nice steady tempo, find the climbing legs and get those descending skills honed.  This would be around 4hrs so not a mega long ride but still after a travel day a decent ride with over 9000ft of climbing.

So this was probably the day when I felt the least special, which makes sense given it was post travel day. I really struggled to find my rhythm up the climbs and my HR seemed quite elevated for the power. The ride ended up being 4hrs 21mins. When climbing I tried to keep my HR in what I would describe as that tempo up to sweet spot level, so 85-90% of threshold but the power was definitely below par.

Below is the TP file with the main climb section highlighted. An EF of 1.8 is quite a bit lower than normal.



Following the less than ideal first day I was feeling like I might not be able to make the most of this trip. I really rate Tenerife as a cycling location but to get the most out of it you need to be in half decent shape.

Day 2 – I’d planned for this to be the longest day with the focus being on  getting a solid 6 hours in the saddle. No real intensity but ideally a ton of time turning the cranks to create the right stimulus for greater aerobic endurance, while leaving enough in the tank for the subsequent days.

This is the sort of day where you need to be disciplined and focus on how much effort you are putting out in the first half of the ride; if you overdo it then no amount of gels or energy drink is going to bring you back to some sort of level and the ride will end being a miserable one.

Following the previous day of not feeling too great I wasn’t sure what to expect from this day, I didn’t feel too bad when I woke up, but I did have to faff around and change my front tube. I’d also arranged to ride with someone I coach who was also on the island, so there was a bit of rushing around and the day didn’t start how I had envisaged.

That said, it turned out to be a solid day of riding, with over 11000ft of climbing and 6 hours of riding. Np was 236w for the whole ride with and EF of 1.86 so a slight improvement on the day before especially as this was a lot longer in duration.


Day 3 – Easier recovery day

The plan was to keep to more flattish terrain, which is quite difficult in Tenerife. A couple of hours to just spin the legs and try to increase the blood flow and therefore hasten recovery from the previous couple of days.

I actually felt really good on this day, and it was reflected in my numbers, 2hrs 41m of riding which was little more than planned with an NP of 234w and EF of 2.03.


Day 4 – harder efforts focusing on power around threshold and upwards.

The route I had planned was designed to help achieve the day's training goals, which was to accumulate as much time in level 4 upwards without totally cracking. Up to now the most I’d accumulated was around 35 mins.

If I could get 60-90 mins weaved into a 5 hour ride that would be great.

In the end I think this was my strongest day, gauged from both the feeling in my legs and from the numbers. I could tell as soon as I started the first few pedal strokes that I was on for a decent day. Without even really trying the first 80 mins seemed comfortable with an NP of 262w and EF of 2.18. It’s worth noting at this point that usually if your HR is suppressed that can be a sign of dehydration and/or fatigue and can result in a higher than usual EF if not accompanied by good sensations. However on this day I did feel ok and my HR definitely wasn’t suppressed.


After the first 80 mins I then reach the first real climbing of the day and I started to push on the pedals. This was 25 mins of a fairly sustained effort, short recovery through a town and then back on it for the final section. NP 334w and an EF 2.20.



This was followed by 10 mins of recovery whilst descending before another 16 mins @ NP of 320w and EF 2.22

Then into a nice long recovery of 25 mins before the longest climb of the day which was around 10 miles. Depending on how I felt I was either going to just ride this steady or do blocks to break it up into more intense efforts. I decided to do 1 mile on 1 mile off.

This ended up being 53 mins at NP of 302w and EF 2.04. I was starting to feel it going up this climb but I managed 5 efforts, all at or slightly above threshold (see below).



A quick stop to refill the bottles and I was into the descent and the rolling roads home. I still had a short climb back into Valle San Lorenzo and I was going to try and hold a decent effort to finish the day off.

The final effort was 17 mins @ NP of 304, EF was now below 2 at 1.99 so there was a clear decay in output relative to input. Still after 5 hours I was pretty pleased with how this day had panned out and went pretty much according to plan.


Day 5 – Longer Tempo efforts (if possible)

The plan was to ride the first hour steady as it’s largely downhill and then rolling in the hope that it would give some time for the legs to wake up from the previous days' efforts. This was going to be around a 4 hour ride and very similar to day 1, in fact it was the same route but in reverse. I would be climbing Teide from the west, from the lowest to the highest point of the day this would be around 27 miles of pretty much uphill. Basically a real grind it out type of effort and other than a short stop to refill a bottle this would be over 2 hours in that high tempo / sweet spot range, the sort of effort that just creeps up on you.

You can see in the below image that power starts to drop away as I get closer to the top, this will be firstly due to the altitude effect, the air really starts to get thinner above 1000 meters and you will start to see a small drop off in performance but probably not noticeably. It’s when you get above 2000 that I personally start to really feel and notice the difference. This is a very individual thing and everyone will respond differently to the effects of altitude.



The other reason will be just general fatigue of such a long effort and not to mention the accumulated fatigue which was now starting to bite. Overall I was fairly happy with how this day had planned out, I’d not done long back to back days like this for some time so difficult to know how you will respond.


Day 6 – Last day empty the tank.

Up to this point I’d accumulated around 23 hours of riding, which compared to a standard week is over double what I would normally do. There’s quite a bit of time in here going downhill and not pedaling and similarly when you are pushing on the pedals it’s a bit harder than if you were in Essex. Still it’s a lot of time on a bike regardless of how you try and carve it up.

My thoughts on the last day were that I would plan a route that made it easy to cut the ride short and abort if needed.


There was no plan in the sense that I wasn’t targeting a particular type of intensity or duration, this was more just see what you have left and go on feel.


In the first half hour of this ride there is a short 15 min climb and I thought I’d test the legs and I was pleasantly surprised with 15 mins @ NP of 316w and an EF of 2.24. Following a short downhill section I was then into a another short climb so thought I’d push a bit harder this time, it’s a 5+ min effort so in that Vo2 max range. Here I managed NP of 393w which really surprised me. At this stage I was thinking maybe there would be no reason to cut this ride short today.


This followed a 20 min ride on relatively flat terrain before the first climb. This is one of my favorite climbs but at this stage the wind really started to whip up and it was blowing from the NW, so basically up hill and into a headwind.


I did push on up this climb but it was hard work given the conditions. At the top I was already talking myself into  cutting this short, the weather although warm and sunny was just getting too blustery, a fresher me would have probably completed the full route despite the wind, however as you get tired and fatigued so your RPE goes up in all respects. I therefore missed out the other main climb and called it a day. I wasn’t disappointed and in fact I was really pleased how the week had panned out so was content with just getting back and starting the recovery process.


Recovery


If we look at single day from when you wake up and the period of time you sleep, recovery starts at that moment you wake i.e. when you can control it.

During this week, the first thing I was doing upon waking was a glass of water straight in, quickly followed by a cup of tea. Trying to get on top of the hydration as early as possible.

Breakfast wasn’t huge, just some yogurt, granola and maybe some toast and fruit.

It goes without saying plenty of hydration and fueling during the rides, getting tired towards the end of a ride is one thing but you don’t want to be bonking, that will really mess up subsequent days. You want to be grazing, eating little and often where possible.


The evening meal should cover all the main food groups but particularly weighted towards carbs, ideally complex and with high nutrient content to help replace lost vitamins and minerals through sweating.



Timing of the rides is also something that can be augmented to ensure you are recovered as much as possible before riding. I structured the week so that there was no pressure to ride at a particular time of day.

For example on the 5th day after the previous days harder efforts I didn’t venture out until after lunchtime. By doing this that allowed time for more recovery and also to replace lost fuel stores. Similarly day 6 was also started just before lunch time.


And finally the big one: sleep. When you are doing this sort of riding you naturally just want to sleep and will generally head to bed earlier than usual, however you need to make sure the quality of sleep is good, and what you don’t want is being woken at 4am by barking dogs and cockerels. So take some ear plugs and do whatever you can to ensure the best quality of sleep.  


Key takeaways:

·        Know your goal for the trip – i.e. is it to improve endurance? Prepare for a long race/sportive? Hone your technical skills?

 

·        Consider fitness levels and time of year – what have you been doing leading into the trip?

 

·        Prepare each day as much as you can (and accept there may be deviations depending on how you feel, weather conditions, etc.)

 

·        Track your numbers and pay attention to how you feel. Don't ignore or try and override any niggling feelings of illness or fatigue.

 

·        Prioritise fuelling and recovery – good hydration, low/no alcohol intake, appropriate nutrition and good sleep.  

 

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