Monday, February 11, 2013

Training for AdventureCorps

AdventureCorps holds its 'Corps Camp' cycling event (or 'Death Camp', as Jill M. recently re-named it) in early spring. CorpsCamp is a weeklong series of daily out-and-back rides, the shortest of which is only 25 miles (but surprisingly brutal, more about that in a minute), and the longest up to 100 miles. And then at the end of the 5-day camp, there's always the Spring Century/Ultra/Double. Pick your poison.

For those of us living in northern climates*, the timing of this event presents a special challenge. How do you get in enough training miles and intensity to feel strong enough for the big miles and big climbs (and big headwinds) you'll face at the end of February?

All the planned routes begin and end at Furnace Creek, which is situated at 190 feet below sea level. Unless your destination is Badwater, (18 miles away and, at 282 feet below sea level,  the lowest point in the US), you're gonna be doing some climbing. In fact, the first ride of CorpsCamp (and also the shortest) is the 25-mile Artist's Drive loop, which starts off so gradually that when you get to the 10% part you wonder what just hit you. And then you stay there, hovering upwards of 7% for 2 miles or so, legs burning and lungs sucking in the desert heat.  You're not in the Cuyahoga Valley anymore...

AdventureCorps requires commitment, and preparation. Here's what I find works well:
  • Set a goal. Signing up for AdventureCorps back in November immediately motivates me to start training.
  • Follow a plan. Just riding a bike for a few hours 3 times a week isn't gonna cut it. To be effective, the plan has to be intense enough, with some long days thrown in to build endurance and pain management.  I've followed Chris Carmichael's "The Time Crunched Cyclist" training methods, specifically the 'Experienced Competitor'** plan, for this event, and it has served me well. The training requires a full 10 weeks or more; plan accordingly.
  • Wheneven possible, I ride outside, in the elements. Elements are unpredictable, and in the desert, they are extreme. Best to go outside and remember what they feel like before putting rubber to road in sunny California.
  • Just freakin' do it. If the workouts are grueling, oh well - Artist's Drive is grueling, too. So is the climb to Hell's Gate (and beyond). So are the desert winds every afternoon. Here's where mental toughness training pays off, big time.
  • Consider survival. Learn to ride stronger, and faster, and more efficiently. The desert can be completely unforgiving, and so limiting exposure to the elements should always be a consideration.
*All of our returning friends live in brutally cold places: Jill and Tim are from Minnesota, Chris is from Toronto. Maybe that's why we all ended up in Death Valley, in February, to begin with.

**It seems like it would make more sense to follow the 'Experienced Century" plan from the same book. But I opted to trade long, less intense hours on the trainer for shorter, higher intensity training time. Mainly because riding a trainer for longer than 2 hours is a life-sucking endeavor.

I've done my time, I've sacrificed evenings and weekends for hard, solid training rides. With only two weeks to go, I feel ready for this.

Next post: What it's like to ride in Death Valley.

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