Road cycle training only works if you cycle on the roads! A good friend of mine signed up for an Ironman triathlon last year.
He was a decent swimmer and good runner. He also loved playing cricket- so he was a master of 22 yard (20 meter) sprints (running between wickets) but he also had a couple of marathons under his belt.
So far, so good. His weakness was the road bike as he had simply not spent much time cycling. ( read…none)!
Great – you would think- the bike is probably the easiest to learn and the least technically difficult. Get some road cycle training and he would race well.
Or was it?
About 1/4 the way into his preparations– I asked him how he was doing (expecting him to have spent a lot of time cycling).
I was horrified to hear he had not been out on the road once- he was just turbo training in his garage.
He had done no road cycle training- at all
Mate- I said- you really need to get outdoors and put yourself on some hills, feel the wind resistance, practice some road cycle training.
He said he would think about it.
About 1/2 way through his training, I asked how he was going.
He said he was doing open water swimming, and running was going well, mileage increasing.
Nothing was mentioned about cycling….
Oh no- I had a sinking feeling…
So bravely, I asked if he had taken the bike off the turbo and taken it for a spin outside.
No- not yet, he reasoned but how hard can it be?
He said, “I mean, I am riding the exact bike I will be riding in the race, I am working hard on the bike and increasing the time I spend on it. I have downloaded a training programme and I am following that.”
Again I discussed road cycle training, hill training, bike handling, wind, rain, hot weather, cold weather… he said he would think about it.
About 3/4 way through his training programme I asked how he was going(praying he had taken the bike out). He proudly told me he had taken the bike out for a proper ride.
“Awesome”- I said.
“So are you going out on it a couple of times a week now? How is it going?”
“No” he said, “I took it out once- I planned to go 50 miles, the hills were so bad that I had to walk up them, the wind was so tough I hated every minute, my groin hurt from the chaffing, I nearly got side swiped by 2 cars and I got a flat tyre at mile 37!
I called my wife to come and collect me- So I will not be doing that again!”
What can you say?
Obviously these experiences are exactly the reason he needed to go out and do some road cycle training
– and learn to cope with high wind, learn to change a tyre quickly and teach his body how to climb hills and prosper.
And also learn that just because it gets both physically tough and mentally tough– you cannot call someone to come to pick you up!
Anyway, all my suggestions fell on deaf ears so I dropped it and wished him well.
He did 98% of his road cycle training doing steady state on a turbo trainer in his garage.
Of course I begged and pleaded with him to get out on his road bike AT LEAST once a week- but he chose not to.
He blamed traffic, time inefficiency, bad weather-rain and wind, difficult hills and all sorts of excuses.
But basically the fact is, it was more comfortable to cycle at home in front of the TV. He did not even get stuck into some tough Sufferfest interval sessions which would have helped him considerably simulate racing.
Maybe he had forgotten that he was training for an Ironman Triathlon. Things are not meant to be easy!
Personally I find cycling indoors as dull as watching paint dry. But that is not the point. Of course indoor sessions can be intense, amazing and are very valuable.
But you still need to get outside on your bike, to do road cycle training, learn how to fix your bike and put yourself through different weather conditions, different gradients, go with a group who will push you beyond what you think you are capable of and push your own boundaries.
The tougher you make the road cycle training, the easier the race will be!
Needless to say- in his one and only Ironman Triathlon race the bike leg completely destroyed him. His goal was 12 hours.
But he had to walk up nearly every hill. His legs were completely destroyed for the run. (He had done no brick sessions either).
He cramped up during the run and had to move to the side of the road to stretch out his calves multiple times. He had not practised his nutrition well enough so he took on board too many sports drinks then was throwing up every 5 km.
He did eventually cross the line over 17 hours later.
His friends and family were waiting an extra 5 hours (!!!) for him to finish the race!
He did not have a good day out and finished in over 17 hours.
Still a fantastic achievement and he can now say forever he finished an Ironman Triathlon but… boy- he suffered.
So to any indoor enthusiasts, please take your bike outside and do road cycle training. It is so valuable for so many reasons.
The same goes for running by the way….
People who ONLY do treadmill training, do suffer when they run on the road.
For two main reason: there is a certain amount of cushioning on the treadmill which is very different to running on concrete.
Also on the treadmill the surface moves and it is your job to keep up. But when running on the road- the surface is stationery and you must generate the forces required to move your body over it.
This has very different muscular requirements in your body to make this happen.
Of course, I am a firm believer in indoor training. I do some of it myself- whether it is turbo, treadmill, flexibility work, core training or strength training. BUT you MUST train outdoors as well- and simulate all sorts of conditions which you might encounter during race seasons.
Fortune favours the prepared!
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