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Randonneur Redemption
Permanent #41, March 18, 2013
by Fred Rockwell

On March 18th, I was looking for redemption. The results of my January 200 km permanent were very disappointing. I had struggled to maintain an average speed of 17 kph. With stops, I barely finished within the time limit. My speed for 200 km had been declining steadily since October and I couldn’t afford to get any slower. So I revised my training plan and managed 18.9 kph on the same route in February. But, was I improving or was February just a fluke? March 18th would tell the tale.

It was still dark when I left home to ride to the start. Dawn came soon and it was a beautiful day for riding. The roads were still wet from the previous night’s rain, but even though the temperature dipped to near 0 C, the roads didn’t freeze. Soon it got warmer, eventually reaching about 13 C. The wind, seemingly always be in my face, was not strong. The passing scene was worthy of the cover of American Randonneur- a blacktop road winding its way through farmland and forested hills, under blue skies with clouds, and past ponds, lakes and marine shorelines. I saw flocks of tundra swans (or maybe trumpeter swans) resting in a field while two avid birders watched. Elsewhere there was a great blue heron, various geese and an unseen woodpecker drumming noisily on someone metal stovepipe. What a joy to ride in daylight again!

At 11h 56min I rolled into the final control - average speed, 19.1. Yes, redemption!

The Training Plan that Didn’t Work
The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley

Last year, 2012, was my first full season of randonneuring. My goal was to complete several 200 km brevets and improve my average speed in preparation for trying longer distances in future years. I used Training Plans for Cyclists by Gale Bernhardt and Distance Cycling by John Hughes & Dan Kehlenbach as guides for my training. In September 2011, my solo riding speed for 200 km was 18.0 kph. During 2012, it gradually increased from 19.4 to 21.2. In August, I even managed to complete my first 300 km brevet with an average speed of 19.0 kph. It was a good first year.

Longer distances seemed to be within reach. I wanted to get faster so I had some time to sleep on longer brevets. So, for the fall and early winter I decided to try strength training at the gym, to help me get faster, and weekly long rides, to maintain my endurance. Each month the planned long rides were: a 200 km permanent followed by a 50 km ride, and then two 100 km outings. By January 2013, it was clear this was not working. My endurance was waning and I was getting slower, not faster.

The training plans described by Bernhardt and Hughes & Kehlenbach entail riding several times a week at different intensities, something I was no longer doing. In January, I went back to a modified version of Hughes & Kehlenbach’s 12 Week Double Century or 300 K Program and began to improve. So, next winter, I plan to ride three times a week: (1) a tempo ride on a gym bike; (2) a spinning class instead of a brisk ride with intervals; and (3) a long ride of up to 100 km outdoors, during daylight hours when there is no black ice. Instead of the recommended recovery rides I will use other low level aerobic activities. Perhaps that will work better.


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March 19, 2013