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Backpacking Fitness

Living the Life, Act 3

Every year I'm pleasantly reminded that good training plans work

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This past weekend I was fortunate enough to do the Copper Triangle bike ride with my wife and 3,000 other recreational cyclists. It was a nice ride, 78 miles with roughly 6,000 feet of climbing over the passes between Copper Mountain, Leadville, Vail, and back to Copper. The weather was perfect, but more than that, the ride was, dare I say it, easy—enjoyable, even. And that was a nice surprise. Sure I could’ve gone harder and faster, but that wasn’t the point. I just wanted to have a good time, and I did.

On Sunday, the day after the big ride, I did an hour-long ride here in Colorado Springs up a moderate-grade and felt relatively strong. Again this surprised me: I thought I’d feel wasted after the previous day’s epic ride in the high country. I’ve been training pretty consistently for the last three weeks, putting in solid efforts as directed by the cycling workout program I picked up from my days at Carmichael Training Systems (CTS). One of the lynchpins of this program is managing energy levels by building up intensities over months (Truth be told, this is pretty standard endurance training protocol worldwide.) but being careful to prevent burnout.

I’ll admit that leading into the Copper Triangle, I was a bit nervous. I hadn’t ridden more than 2.5 hours before last Saturday, nor had I biked up that much elevation in a day. And I was unsure that the relatively easy workouts I’d been following for the last month would work. But they did, and I enjoyed every mile of the ride.

I should be used to epiphanies like this by now, but I’m not, and I’m not alone. While I was at CTS, I constantly overhead athletes complaining that their initial programs weren’t hard enough. And then they’d be shocked at how well they did later in the season, but more importantly, how much more they enjoyed their season—their first in years where they weren’t injured, exhausted, cranky, or suffering from performance failures. The biggest compliment I think I heard from CTS’s athletes was that once they started working with their program, they actually enjoyed their sport more than they had in years. That neatly sums up where I am right now—enjoying my sport of the moment. It took a several weeks (see this earlier post here), but it happened.

I’m not done riding my bike, and this month my training plan kicks up a notch to prepare me for my season’s goal: five days of 80- to 100-mile rides back-and-forth over the mountains of Colorado and Northern New Mexico spread over Labor Day week. But unlike the small trepidation I had going into the Copper Triangle ride, I think by this time next month, my training plan will leave me feeling fully charged and ready to go. God bless the plan.

[For those of you readers who are wondering when, ferchrissakes, I’ll start talking about hiking and backpacking on this blog, that starts in earnest after this ride when I switch to running/trail running/hiking through the fall and into winter. Stay tuned.]

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