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Article posted: 14/05/2014

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Nik Cook’s goal for 2014 is to convert his forty year old ultra endurance physiology to the higher end demands of Individual Pursuit on the track with an end goal of competing at the Masters World Championships in October.

Having followed the Advanced British Cycling Training Plan through the winter, coming to the end of its 24 Weeks, I was confident I had a solid endurance base in place and was ready to start adding some higher end fitness in preparation for Masters Track Nationals at the end of June.

You’ll never get a better workout than when you pin a number on and, despite a slight technical hitch of a tilting saddle, I manage to post the fastest time of 20:24 and a new PB on the course.

With a week in Majorca to round off the winter, it was time to dust off the summer bike and to start focussing on the unique physical and technical demands of the event I was taking on. Talking to my coach, my biggest potential problem isn’t my long distance physiology but the “steady as she goes” mindset I’ve developed from it. He fears that I have a deeply ingrained governor that always causes me to hold a little bit back, to pace myself too conservatively and not be able to completely empty my tank over 3 kilometres. To overcome that, I’ll have to explore the limits of personal suffering, ride intervals and time trials where I’ll purposely risk blowing up and discover my own pursuiting dark place. Sounds like fun!

Week 11: March 17th - March 23rd

Week 22 of the Advanced Training plan so the end of this training block is in sight. 5 -minute ramped VO2 intervals make my old nemesis, big gear/low cadence hill reps, seem like a walk in the park and, by the fifth rep, my final minute sprint seems like it’s barely above a crawl. My long ride includes 2X20 minutes at threshold, two lots of 10 minutes of over/under intervals, two five minute blocks at threshold and then, in the last hour, 15 second maximal sprints every 15 minutes. I guess all this makes the time pass but how on earth can 15 seconds feel so long and so hard. Sunday’s Club Run is my special Leg Ripper Route, packing 1700 m of climbing into 65 km. It’s great fun but, a torrential hail storm as we descend into Buxton is a reminder that winter isn’t quite done with us yet.

Distance for week: 293.8 km

Week 12: March 24th - March 30th

Last big week of the plan and I’m going to miss it. It’s been great following it and knowing that loads of other riders out there are enduring the same sessions as me. Tough SQT on tired legs, VO2 intervals are a sufferfest and my long ride, with the same efforts as last week, is horrendous. The reward of a recovery week keeps me ploughing on, along with a slightly warped masochistic desire to finish the plan on a high. Sunday’s Club Run is a fantastic ride into the White Peak and, with my knees making their first outing of the year, a tantalising glimpse of spring.

Distance for week: 429.5 km

Week 13: March 31st - April 6th

Recovery week and, with a working weekend allowing no riding time, just a few weekday sessions. A blast out around my local TT course is a solid effort and, without full race set-up, a time knocking on the door of my PB is a real boost. SQT is a great session and, as well as fitness, I’m really noticing an improvement in my track riding skills. I round the week off with a strict recovery spin, keeping my Normalized Power below 200W. Too many riders don’t ride genuinely easy when recovering and just end up increasing fatigue. Sticking in the small ring, I keep repeating the mantra of “crystal cranks” and do my best to ignore the grannies going past on shopping bikes. Humiliation aside, spinning my legs over feels really good and I’m confident I’m in the best cycling condition I’ve ever been in for this time of year.

Distance for week: 87.4 km

Week 14: April 7th - April 13th

Onto the new plan and, although total volume is lower, intensity is up. SQT stays the same on Tuesday’s but a midweek standing start session and a 3-minute interval workout are new delights. The standing starts are a real shock. How can twelve poxy efforts, each amounting to only 12 pedal strokes leave my legs feeling quite so wrecked. It’s just like going back to my early weight training block and the next day my whole body is sore. The five 3-minute intervals are okay but I don’t think I’m digging quite as deep as I can and need to find a way to unlock my true top end.

Distance for week: 297.7 km

Week 15: April 14th - April 20th

Recovery ride on Monday, SQT on Tuesday and then, off to Majorca for a week. Although I had every intention to keep up with the start efforts and intervals, the riding is just too good not to just ride for enjoyment. I put in some big days and incorporate some efforts into the rides but really it’s just about riding on wonderful roads with the sun on my back.

Distance for week: 250.0 km

Week 16: April 21st -April 27th

Second half of my week in Majorca and more wonderful riding including a ride taking in the Puig Major from both directions and the iconic Sa Colobra. Back to the UK and a quick blast on the mountain bike to lift my spirits and a fun spin out with the Club on Sunday. Nose back to the grindstone next week.

Distance for week: 237.7 km

Week 17: April 28th - May 4th

Starting efforts on the Monday are a shock to my muscles again and definitely impact on my leg speed at Tuesday’s SQT. Wednesday I take my new TT bike out ready for the start of next week’s evening club event and have a spin round the course to get back into my testing mojo and to tweak my position. On Friday I head out for a couple of hours, including 2x20 minutes at sweet-spot and then 30 second flat-out micro intervals every 5 minutes during the second hour. Saturday I’m back on the track for another SQT session and thankfully, with only eight riders and a ridiculous number of efforts, my legs have more spring in them than on Tuesday. Sunday Club Run is a good hit out to Jodrell Bank and a first UK outing of the year for my summer bike.

Distance for week: 317.3 km

Week 18: May 5th - May 11th

With a family commitment at the weekend and no chance to ride, it’s lucky this is a recovery week. First club Tuesday night time-trial of the season is a mixed bag. Wanting to use bicarb loading at the Nationals, I use it to experiment with loading protocols and, with explosive results right up to the start line, can definitely say this first one isn’t right for me. Better to find out now though. With the time keeper arriving late, there’s no time for a warm-up and, on a cold and gusty evening, I’m not filled with confidence. With my tummy still unstable, I’m not exactly fired up but, as the starter counts down, my competitive side kicks in. It’s a great course for my training, covering 9-miles over 3-laps with 4 sharp turns on each lap, each requiring a starting effort like sprint to get back up to speed. You’ll never get a better workout than when you pin a number on and, despite a slight technical hitch of a tilting saddle, I manage to post the fastest time of 20:24 and a new PB on the course. Riding the time-trials on a Tuesday night means a break from SQT sessions but I’m able to get on the track on a Wednesday morning and use the time for standing starts and some flying 200’s. Friday’s ride is a miserable experience in the pouring rain but, despite the weather and a misbehaving power meter, I still manage to get in a worthwhile two-hour ride.

Distance for week: 100.1 km

I finished the Advanced Plan in a great place and, along with the rest of the British Cycling Training Plans, you’ve got a great resource for full structured programmes to suit all levels of cycling. I did go slightly off the plan in Majorca and have had to accommodate a number of work and family commitments but, on the whole, I’m really pleased with how the programme has been going.

With more time trials and hard sessions in the pipeline, hopefully I’ll be able to learn to overrule my ingrained pacing mechanism. With my competition pursuit bike hopefully arriving in the next couple of weeks, I should have a month or so to get used to it, tweak my position, decide on gearing and, at last, ride a full blooded 3 km effort on the track.

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