Category Archives: Training

Training Camp 2012 (Adam’s report)

MIT sent a group of 16 riders to the warm deserts of southern California to prepare for the upcoming road cycling season. No one on the team had been to Borrego Springs before, but flights to San Diego were cheap and google revealed Borrego (2 hours NE of San Diego) as a cycling hot spot. The locale more than delivered. A tiny town of 2500, Borrego is surrounded on three sides by mountains but is pancake flat on the fourth side.
A five minute ride from our rental house, Montezuma climb formed the backbone of many of our training rides. With 3600 vertical feet over 10 miles, it’s known as the “glass elevator” because when descending you can see the desert floor, thousands of feet below, all the way down. To the south, Yaqui pass provided 1500 ft of climbing with a slightly shallower grade which proved perfect for shorter (painful) intervals. When it came time to practice the team time trial or sprints we used the flat and empty stretches of road around town, and for variable paced “hammer rides” (i.e., make each other hurt as much as possible) we rode east towards the Salton Sea. To top if off, it’s against town policy to install stop lights and the entire week we never saw one. I don’t think you could design a town or terrain more perfect for cycling training, not to mention the weather was almost perfectly reliable at 70 degrees and clear skies all but one day.
The Group
In-line with coach Nicole’s training plan, many of us put in 30 hours over the 8 days with upwards of 30,000 ft of climbing and 500+ miles. The group also highlighted another trend for MIT cycling: PowerTaps! Eight people started camp with PowerTaps and two more actually placed orders while in Borrego. FXDD indicated an interest in displaying team power data. We’re still crunching the numbers for them, but the gist of it is individuals did close to 20,000 kJ of work over the week (equates roughly to calories burned) while averaging about 200 watts (while pedaling). The max instantaneous wattage for the week was 1342 by Sebastian GP (look out men’s B field).
Riding Past Palm Trees
Perhaps the most beautiful part about training camp is the simplicity of it – to maximize on-the-bike gains, time spent not riding should be spent resting, recovering, and eating. Joe Near led the way in in this department, firing up the house’s hot tub immediately after a ride and mixing up some chocolate milk. By the end of the week he had most of the group following suit and I’m sure it showed in the quantity of milk and chocolate syrup we went through.
If an army fights on it’s stomach, a cycling team certainly trains on it. Thanks to alumnus John Detore, we arrived in Borrego with a Jeep full (literally, FULL) of food. Katie Q and Jen W went above and beyond in planning and organizing meals, and everyone else chipped in as chefs, sous chefs, and bus boys. The result of the effort is that we ate like kings every night. From chicken tikka masala, to buffalo stew, to homemade pizza, to apple crisp desserts, everything tasted good and there was a lot of it (remember that bit about burning 20,000 calories?).
Overall the experience was incredible and the training was excellent. MIT is ready to race; look out ECCC.

Training camp got Juls really excited to race!

Since I joined the cycling team less than a month ago, most of you probably don’t know me. However, I still jumped (literally) at the opportunity to tell you all about the fabulous training trip we had in Tucson during IAP! I am very new to cycling, and before the trip I was not planning on racing much in the coming season. While the rest of the team were following Coach Nicole’s fall training plan of riding Zone 2! Zone 2! Zone 2!, I mostly rode my bike as a means of getting from A to B. However, despite my lack of training in the fall, after riding with the team for only a week during truing camp, I could not be more excited about the upcoming season

According to Katie, the current women’s road captain, the rides we went on during the trip were “Not that far”, “Not that fast”, and “Not that hard”. Haha! These rides were the farthest, fastest, and hardest rides I’ve ever done. And although this trip was one of the most physically challenging experiences I have encountered, I have absolutely no regrets about going on the trip! Below are a few reasons why this year’s Team Training Trip was the best trip I have ever been on:

1. THE TEAM: As you all know, everyone on the cycling team is awesome! After going on a few rides with the team in Boston I quickly picked this up. The rides at training camp are vey similar, but instead of running off to lab after the ride, in Tucson we had time to hang out with the team for the rest of the day. You really get to know your teammates, and this is just as valuable as the training experience you get on the trip.

2. THE TRAINING: As I mentioned above, I had never trained this hard before in my life. The rides on the trip were not only the most difficult rides of my life, they were also the most enjoyable. This is not only because I was in a place where the weather and views were fantastic, but rather (like everyone else there) I came on this trip to ride. So I rode, and I rode, and I rode! The best part is: for one week, you don’t feel guilty about having your life revolve around your bike! 🙂 My biggest worry was holding the others on the team back, since I lacked the base training they got during the fall. However, this was never an issue. I stuck with them for as much of the rides as I could, but everyone is always free to ride at their own pace and cut the ride a little shorter if need be. Everyone is at a different level of fitness, and you gauge the trip to meet your training needs. Everyone understands and respects this (did I mention the team is awesome?) But don’t worry! – the team is still there to push you harder than you ever thought you could go! Even after a week of hard training, the last few rides were some of my best!

Triumphant Engineers at training camp

3. THE TRIP: We all know how much better it is to bike in nice weather. Unfortunately this time of year, Boston has little to offer. Although the sole purpose of this trip was to bike, it was so much more than that! I couldn’t have asked for a better vacation, or any cooler friends to spend it with! I know, I know! I’m preaching to the choir. You alumni already understand the joy that comes from cycling and how amazing the MIT Cycling Team is. Still, I hope this report reminds you of the awesome times you had on the MIT Cycling team, and makes sure you don’t forget how incredible this team really is!


Collegiate and amateur racing in the New York Times

This isn’t really about MIT directly, but a recent post from the New York Times’s City Room blog deserves a shout-out. It’s called “For Would-Be Armstrongs, Some Bike Racing Tips,” and it’s all about the transition from riding to racing in the amateur and collegiate circuits.

It also features advice from the coach and riders from my own undergraduate alma mater, the Columbia University Cycling Team. ECCC pride!

Columbia is a squad that has had an enormous amount of success in the past few years and has turned itself into one of the largest and most successful organizations in the Eastern Collegiate Cycling Conference. The Lions almost always place talented and skilled riders in every men’s and women’s category. So it’s well worth reading their advice in the Times post.

‘Cross Musings Vol. 5: Online Resources

Greetings ‘Cross racers and amused onlookers,

Our first ECCC cyclocross race is one month from today! In this month’s newsletter I’ll discuss October training, and then some tips on “indoor training.” Such techniques are useful when it’s thunderstorming or hurricaning outside, or when the lecture/lab meeting you’re attending is really boring . . .

If you’ve been diligently training all summer and are currently in good shape, consider the following. You should try to do two really challenging, or “breakthrough” workouts per week for the next three weeks. One day should be just below race pace, either long intervals or an actual race. Consider the race in East Falmouth this weekend, MTB Easterns next weekend, and Canton the weekend after that. There’s also a Sunday morning training series at the velodrome in Londonderry, NH. Your second hard day should be several days away from your first, and might consist of short (3-5 minute) VO2max intervals or a long (45 – 120 minutes, depending on ability) steady tempo ride. The remaining days of the week should be fairly easy, perhaps two days aerobic, one active recovery, and two days off. Sleep lots! Take the final week or week and a half of October as a taper before the double-race weekend Nov 1-2.

If you haven’t been diligently training and fear that hard workouts could induce a stroke and/or torn Achilles, but you still want to do some races, consider the easier plan:
– Ride your bike 4 to 5 days per week, however you feel like, for the next three weeks. Take a recovery week at the end of the month.
– Get lots of sleep, eat well, etc
– Tune up your bike, make sure it’s in great shape, and then pray to the Gods of Pinch Flats and Dropped Chains to strike down upon your competitors with great vengeance and furious anger.

Watching other people ride their bikes is a great way to learn how to ride yours. Some good cyclocross videos here:

For training advice from a pro, check out some of Adam Myerson’s articles:

For ‘cross related news, race coverage, etc:

To find out how you stack up against your favorite pros (or teammates!) play with the gizmo here. Extra credit if you can come up with a superior ranking algorithm and prove to me why it’s superior:

If you need to buy cyclocross parts, this is the place to go. They’re located in Massachusetts, so regular ground shipping is generally next day, and they’re super great folks too.

You *may* be able to learn a thing or two from the chat rooms. The first is full of propeller-heads debating things like which brake straddle cable is the most aerodynamic, while the latter seems to center around the quality of the cupcakes at last year’s Sucker Brook race. Mostly inside jokes, but occasionally a worthwhile post.

Lastly, if you want to improve your Flemish before making the leap to the Benelux ‘cross circuit, read up here:

That’s all for now. In a few weeks, our sixth and final (yay!) newsletter will discuss race-day preparation.


‘Cross Musings Vol. 4: the New England Race Calendar

Welcome back, or welcome to MIT, as the case may be! Our first ECCC cyclocross race is two months from today, and the local USCF races start in just a couple weeks, so I thought I’d use this month’s newsletter to highlight the local calendar and share my (completely subjective) opinions about some of the races on it.* First, though, some training goals for September.

We’re just finishing Week 1 of the Build 1 phase. With base training complete, now is the time to make your training more race-specific. An important workout to include once a week in your training is threshold intervals. Start with two 12 minute intervals at 95 – 100% of threshold (time-trial pace) heart rate and add a little each week. By the start of race season nine weeks from now you should be able to do a single interval the length of your race. The biggest challenge around here is to find a course where you can do 20 to 40 minutes continuously without stoplights, traffic etc. The Charlie Baker course is one option, or take your ‘cross bike to a local park and do it off-road. Here’s one decent route with few stoplights: Ride to Waverly as your warmup, start the first interval up the Mill St climb, and finish the last to the top of the hill on Concord Ave before coasting back down into Belmont.

Continue to do one day per week of tempo work and two days aerobic. The fifth day might be sprints, VO2max intervals, or handling skills. Keep the remaining two days for rest or active recovery (<75% threshold HR) - threshold work takes a lot out of you. Hours come down to perhaps 10 per week. THE NEW ENGLAND RACE CALENDAR New England has arguably the richest cyclocross calendar in the country. There are races every weekend from mid-September to mid-December, many a short drive from Boston. With gas averaging $3.59 of late, it's probably sensible to choose your races by proximity. To that end, I've created an interactive Google map of the races. Red markers indicate races we'll target as a team, and dots in the markers indicate official, points-carrying ECCC races. Check for more detail on each race. Sun 9/14 - Amesbury Cyclocross, Amesbury MA Fairly close, in its second year, moderately technical, fun course. A bit rooty last year, but supposedly they've corrected that. Recommended. Sat 9/20 - New England Velo-Cross Challenge, Londonderry NH Located at the New England Velodrome! New course for this year. Sun 9/21 - Sucker Brook 'Cross, Auburn NH Just off I-93, fast non-technical course, the cupcakes at last years concession stand were highly acclaimed by none other than master framebuilder Richard Sachs. Sat 9/27 - Green Mountain Cyclocross #1, Williston VT Sun 9/28 - Green Mountain Cyclocross #2, Williston VT The first weekend of the Verge New England Championship Cyclocross Series, held at a cross-country ski resort outside Burlington. The Verge series races tend to be well-run, well-attended, and very competitive. With national-caliber pros in the A field, many local A's race the B race, and some B's the C, etc. Start line staging is by order-of-registration, and the closer ones such as Gloucester will fill up fast. Sun 9/28 - Quad 'Cross 2008, Bedford MA Very close by, sponsored by Quad Cycles in Arlington. The second year for this course, last year was fast and dusty, like racing in California. Fun! Sun 10/5 - Coonamessett Eco-Cross, East Falmouth MA I'm not sure what the Eco- means, other than that they have limited parking and strongly encourage carpooling. Sun 10/5 - Casco Bay Cyclocross, Biddeford ME Second year for this one as well. Basically a long dirt road climb followed by long winding grass descent. Fun, in an intervals sort of way . . . Sat 10/11 - Gran Prix of Gloucester #1, Gloucester MA Sun 10/12 - Gran Prix of Gloucester #2, Gloucester MA The Queen of them all, Gloucester is the biggest and one of the oldest races in New England. Part of both the North American Cyclocross Trophy Series and the Verge New England Series, it's a great race to compete and/or spectate. Most of the top pros will be in attendence, and the venue is simply gorgeous. Fast, non-technical course, but the big fields (up to 125 racers) pose challenges of their own. Note that this is the same weekend as MTB Easterns, so if you have a mountain bike you should do that. If not, registration opens Sept 8, sign up early! Sat 10/18 - Downeast Cyclocross, New Gloucester ME Another New England tradition, held at a cross-country ski area and conference center in southern Maine. Moderately technical course - years past have featured mud, a steep run-up, and a long off-camber section. Formerly part of the Verge series. Sat 10/18 - Mansfield Hollow 'Cross, Mansfield Center CT An under-rated little gem of a race in Central Eastern Connecticut. Moderately technical, with some beach runs to make things interesting. Sun 10/19 - Canton Cup Cyclocross, Canton MA One of my all-time favorites. Very close by, a fairly fast course with a good mix of terrain. We'll use Canton as a pre-ECCC warm-up race, so stay tuned for details! Sat 10/25 - MRC Cyclocross, Wrentham MA Also close by, but I've never done it so I don't have much to say. They run a training series on Wednesday nights on this course, starting this week. Sat 10/25 - Opa Opa Beer Cross #1, Dayville CT I once did a night-time training race here. They lit it with dozens of electric lanterns and hundreds of yards of extension cords. Logistically impressive, but still super sketchy. Their daylight races were pretty dangerous as well, from what I hear. As Phil Liggett would say, I'd give this one a miss. Sun 10/26 - Wicked Creepy Cyclocross, Bennington VT Don't know much about this one. Bennington's nice! Sat 11/1 - Cycle-Smart International #1, Northampton MA Sun 11/2 - Cycle-Smart International #2, Northampton MA Finally, the first ECCC races of the season! Previously a one-day race, the old course was short, twisty, turny, rooty, with a gnarly run-up. I'm not sure what promoter Adam Myerson will do with the second day this year, but we'll find out! I'd like to send a decent contingent to each of the two days to start off the ECCC season with a bang. Also part of the Verge series. Sat 11/8 - Plymouth North Cyclocross, Plymouth MA Site of two cyclocross national championships, held at Mark McCormack's high school, a nice balanced course. Past primes have been known to include oysters! Sat 11/8 - VT Psycho Cross, Brownsville VT Another sophomore effort, near Mt. Ascutney. Technical, I believe. Sun 11/9 - Plymouth South Cyclocross, Plymouth MA Day 2 of Plymouth, at a completely different venue. Super-positive fans cheering you up the tough ride-up. Awesome. Barriers before and after the sand pit. Not so awesome. Sun 11/9 - West Hill Shop Cyclocross, Putney VT Another classic New England race, featuring a killer run-up a hundred yards before the finish. Sun 11/9 - Highland Park Cyclocross, Highland Park NJ OK, not New England, but the closest non-New England ECCC race. If we can find the money, I'd like to send a few people down to show Rutgers how it's done. Four day weekend for MIT. Sat 11/15 - Brockton City of Champions Cross, Brockton MA Did this a few years ago, can't remember much except that they scored me as "Pam Williams." Which was OK, since I'd had a crummy race and didn't need any cyber-stalkers finding that result on the Google! Sat 11/15 - Opa Opa Beer Cross #2, Dayville CT See comments above. Sun 11/16 - Shedd Park Cyclocross, Lowell MA Another close one, and an ECCC off-week, so maybe we'll put together a carpool. Fun course, well balanced. Sat 11/22 - Cheshire Cyclocross, Cheshire CT Fun woodsy descent, followed by an epic run up. Search youtube for "Cheshire Cross Hill People" and see for yourself . . . Sun 11/23 - Easthampton Cyclocross, Easthampton MA No idea. Sat 11/29 - Baystate Cyclocross, Sterling MA The closest ECCC race, and part of the Verge series. The course is fairly non-technical, but the cool weather could make it interesting. Sun 11/30 - Palmer Cross & Bike Swap, Palmer MA Another New England tradition. Pretty technical, I believe, with a lot of dismounts. Talk to Eric or Illana for details. Sat 12/6 - NBX Gran Prix #1, Warwick RI Sun 12/7 - NBX Gran Prix #2, Warwick RI The Verge and ECCC series finale. Another beautiful venue, in a large park on Narragansett Bay. Good mix of terrain, well balanced with a couple good sand sections. Sun 12/14 - Natz Schmatz Opa Opa Beer Cross Finals, Dayville CT Irrelevant, since we'll be in Kansas City at Nationals! Go Engineers! Bill *The opinions expressed in this email are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of MIT Cycling, the Eastern Collegiate Cycling Conference, or the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

‘Cross Musings Vol. 1: Training for Cyclocross

Cyclocrossers and cyclo-curious:
Finals are over, days are long, the weather’s great, all of which suggest it’s time to start base training for cyclocross!  The ECCC schedule will likely run from November 1st (the first Saturday after Mt. Bike Nationals) to December 7th (the Sunday before ‘Cross Nationals).  In this email I’ll lay out a general training philosophy, based largely upon Joe Friel’s methods but with some cross-specific adjustments.  Additional references are listed at the end.  This schedule assumes that ‘cross is your primary focus, but the sport can also be good preparation for road season or just a way to keep the winter weight off.

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