Can you ride every day for a year?
Often in the blog, here at RST Sport, we talk about how to improve FTP, or MAP, performance metrics, or other race things. Occasionally, we talk about other stuff, and that’s what we’re going to focus on today!
Last summer, I ‘watched’ with awe, at James Hayden’s victory in the Transcontinental Race. If you’ve read the blogs I wrote on that, you’ll know that prior to working with James, I was somewhat sceptical that this was bike racing. Sure, it’s not a crit, a RR, or a TT. I get that. But on the other hand I coached James to plenty of decent placings in ‘real’ races last year. Both myself, and my partner Claire, were enthralled by the TCR. In some respects I felt it was like the pioneering early days of the Tour de France. It was different and exciting. Really different.
During this period, I wondered what it’d be like to ride every day before some sort of race, and wondered how you’d cope? I’d never done really long periods without a break. So last year I ended up, at one point riding for 90 days without a day off. It felt pretty damn epic.
In fact, after completing the 90 continuous days’ riding I ‘went on’ about it quite a lot (to those that would listen!). I didn’t think much about if after that and sort of forgot about it.
Towards the end of the year, I started trying to do more winter riding, and vaguely had in my thoughts the idea of riding another 90 continuous days. During early December everyone in my house got some horrible lurgy, and eventually, I succumbed to it as well. During this point, as I had about 10 days off, my ‘chronic training load (CTL)’ dropped dramatically. Although I was stoic about it, and not overly stressed, I was a little upset at my CTL dropping! I restarted my riding around Christmas time, and as we approached the New Year I thought about a New Years resolution. I decided to ride all of January without a day off.
Typically, in the UK January is probably the worse month for cycling. It’s cold, often wet, or it snows. I’ve been racing bikes since 1984 and I know that January weather is usually bad, and I often end up flaking out and missing big chunks. I’m seriously not keen on rubbishy weather. Having a resolution of riding daily, would, I hope help me to battle either the weather or motivation and ride daily.
With a moderate CTL score, I set about riding daily. I’ll be honest at this point, and state that 99% of my rides were done indoors on the Tacx Neo using Zwift. I can’t stand the cold and the wet. But never-mind this was daily riding. I got through January and having had the goal of riding daily, it had forced me to ride daily! It hadn’t been too much of a stress. From a training perspective, my CTL stayed constant (I found that doing long rides weren’t quite possible for me indoors). I was through January!
February started, and given that my CTL had remained constant (I was a little disappointed by this) I felt that I would continue rolling through Feb! The weather wasn’t much better, and again most of my riding was done indoors. I rode everyday and felt fine. Before I knew it we were in the middle of March and I’d still not taken a day off!! I carried on keeping on. My birthday is at the end of March (and I love to ride on my birthday) so I kept on. By the end of March I’d now broken my record of continuous days riding at 93!
The strange thing was, I didn’t feel anymore tired than I would have usually done, and I was now in a rhythm of daily riding that I was enjoying! I was due to start racing in mid-April, but I ended up slipping on a shiny floor one day just wearing socks, and hurting my back and leg. Claire (a massage therapist) sorted me out, and while I had to postpone racing for a few weeks (as intense efforts hurt) I was fine riding steady.
As I started racing, I was concerned that the fatigue from racing would mean I’d need a day off every so often. However, I was so wanting to ride every day, that sometime towards the end of April, I took the decision that I would try to ride every day for a year! No breaks whatsoever.
Racing started, and although I’ve only done a few at this point (but managed to get off the front in all of them) and keep my daily riding going, I’m happy with the progress I’m making. Currently, I’m almost 30 CTL points up on the start of the year, and feeling fine.
Some of my rides as you’d (hopefully) expect have been really easy. Either coffee stop rides of just over an hour, or when the weather has been bad, or I’ve felt very tired I’ve meandered along on the Neo for 30 to 45-mins at recovery pace.
As I write this, on day 151 (that’s since December 28th) there has been some ups, and some downs. A few times, I’ve felt pushed (or perhaps pulled to pieces), but even when I’ve been utterly exhausted by some rides (such as the day I rode for just over 5 hours and 15-mins), I’ve gotten up and ridden the next day. I know for definite, that previously, after such epic rides I’d have had a day off.
Interestingly, at this point, I can see that my CTL is down on this time last year, however, last year the winter weather was better and I ended up doing much more outdoor riding last winter compared to this year. That had the effect of maintaining a much higher CTL over the winter period.
Will I manage to complete the entire year? I do hope so. It’s quite exciting for me to ride daily, and what I’d like to do, is also to ride through next January as well without a day off and see how long I can keep this going! Wish me luck!