26 weeks to go: Training for Race Across America

I’ve never trained harder. I thought I’d trained hard before, but actually I just fitted my training around my life. When life got too busy, my training had to take a back seat. It has to, most of us are juggling busy lives, families, kids, social lives, kids social lives! Where’s the time? So how did we make the change? Pretty simple…. Pure FEAR.

Race Across America is just that. It’s a race. The time to finish is under nine days and is very tight. We have to average 16mph over all the terrain, in wind and rain, day and night, over mountains and through deserts without slowing. And I ain’t no cyclist. Well, I guess there’s a correction there, I wasn’t a cyclist. After clocking up over 5,000 miles on my bike this year and having a room in my house dedicated to bikes and training, I cant really escape the reality that I am a cyclist. I still feel a fraud though when I go cycling with someone like Tom who actually knows what he’s doing on a bike and also knows how to fix it!
My training plan for Race Across America has been pretty simple. I know from running the Ultra Tour of Mont Blanc, which took over 30 hours solid, that my endurance base was pretty good. The key point for me to start was with improving my weaknesses (well one main weakness), my little skinny runners legs. They are good at moving my lightweight frame up and down mountains on foot, but no good for powering a bike along. From a bit of reading and discussions with Tom it became clear that my main limiting factor was power (Watts) ,which many of you may be familiar with. As Tom said in his last blog, power to weight is important, but the weight only really becomes a factor when you are going uphill. Most of our ride will be flat roads. I needed more power.

Training started in the early year and I focussed on just riding my bike, into and out of work just to get the miles in. This helped build muscle but we needed to measure how we were doing. One of the great things about cycling compared to running is that it is much easier to measure how hard you are working and how much power you have and how your training goals are progressing. I invested in an indoorWahoo Kickr bike trainer and linked it up to Zwift. For those who don’t follow these geeky things, it means I can use it to measure my fitness (FTP) and to do controlled interval training. And you can’t cheat it. When I was doing running training if you felt a bit tired you could just back off and cruise about, it was very pleasant. Zwift is a virtual training world. It knows how fit I am, it sets the power I have to produce for every session `I do and it controls the resistance on the machine. So once you start a session, you can’t back off. Its utterly horrible, but at the same time incredible quality training.

When the weather got a bit nicer in March/April I started to do some rides out with Tom. I should come clean about these rides with Tom, I was scared of going out with him because he is ridiculous on a bike. Tom’s slowest efforts were stupidly hard for me. He would ride 15 miles to Tatton Park and I would meet him there (to save my energy) and then we would do 2 laps around Cheshire. About 25 miles. It always followed the same pattern, he would chat, I would pretend I wasn’t dying ha ha . I remember at the end of the first rides that we would part about five miles from my car; he would cycle home, I would cycle to my car. I would already have given everything to keep up with Tom and as soon as he’d left I didn’t have to keep up the pretence anymore. I literally crawled home through Tatton Park on my bike, just managing to overtake the little kids on stabilisers. I even turned my Strava off by this point so Tom had no idea id completely died ha ha But that is the benefit of having Tom on the team, we kind of compliment each other. He drags me along and my power increases to a point when I can occasionally lead him along now. He has learnt about endurance and about going long.

When I started in Jan I set myself a power target to achieve before Race Across America, last week I achieved that target. It’s pleasing, but it was just a number, we still have a long way to go in our training. It just means now I have a new target. The FEAR is still there and still driving us both on. The next two months will be about increasing my power as high as I can and then in the 4/5 months before the race, we will build our endurance ready for the 3,000 mile race. We figure we can race at 50-60% of our maximum speed (FTP), so the more powerful we are, the faster that speed will be.

Any regrets? No not really. It’s a great challenge for a great cause and nothing is achieved without hard work. Training 5 days a week is hard but it has to be done to complete this challenge for Prevent Breast Cancer. My only regret is that we haven’t dome time lapse photography of my skinny legs as they have grown to become more appropriate for cycling!

If I had any training advice I’ve learnt it would be to set yourself a bigger challenge than you thought possible, if you work hard enough you can do it. The second piece of advice that I hope is going to work for Tom and I is to be honest with what you are bad at and what hurts the most in your training and to concentrate your efforts on improving the things you naturally avoid.

Tom and James will Race Across America in June 2019 to raise £125,000 for Prevent Breast Cancer.

If you are interested in the campaign then Tom and James could really use your help. Giving your time is the most valuable help you can give, giving your time to do a charity event for the campaign such as a Cake Sale or a Bag Pack would make a huge difference.