Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Different Kind of Race

The Spinning program has a specific workout called a Race Day profile. I've only done a couple in the 4 years I've been teaching because I never really believed I could pull it off. I mean, come on, how do you race when the bikes don't go anywhere?

Here's how I did it. I set up the ride as if we were racing around a designated route. In racing, that's considered a circuit race so that's what I called it. I thought about doing a criterium but crits in my experience are shorter in nature and usually don't involve any significant climbing. The circuit I designed had some rolling hills about half way into loop. The beginning and the end of the circuit were flat.

So how did I pull this off. I took the opportunity during warm-up to set the stage for the race. I shared with them what the course looked like so they could try to visualized what kind of terrain they were riding on. I also told them that we were racing and to imagine that we were all in a big group together. Because of the fact that this was a race, I told them it was important to keep up and not get dropped of the back of the pack. What I intended there was to encourage them to keep pushing even if they wanted to quit or slack off a little. In cycling, especially racing, it's important to push yourself a little harder at certain periods of time to ensure you don't get dropped. Or it's worth expending a little bit of extra energy to bridge a gap so that you can draft and recover. These periods of time might just be a few seconds, but those few seconds could be the difference in a win, a pack finish, or finishing dead last. The good news is that no one would get dropped because the bikes don't go anywhere :) I warned them that the ride would be hard at times. The pace would be high and would require, at times, an intense effort to keep up.

I told them the first lap would not be that intense. As in many races, the group tries to see the terrain and take the first part of the race to try to size up the competition. However, sometimes, you'll have some riders attack from the starting line. I wanted them to ride hard but look around, see what the terrain looks like, gauge their effort. As I mentioned earlier, the first section of the loop was flat so the pace was high. I divided the class into two groups with the guys on the floor being group one and the guys on the back tier being group two. After a little while I had them take turns pulling. For those of you non-cyclist, pulling is when you are in the front of the group. It's you against the wind setting the pace for the whole group. Pulling or being on the front requires extra effort. Some say that when you are up front, you can expend 10-20% more energy than if you were in the middle or back of the pack. On the flip-side, when you are drafting, you can save that much energy. I shared with them that this is the time to recover a little and get your breath back. I didn't mention that sometimes if the pace is high, and your riding with some of the boys that I ride with, it's even hard to recover when drafting. That's another story though. So that was the first portion of the loop.

The second section consisted of rolling hills. Rolling hills are tricky in cycling because they require some extra effort to get up, especially if some of the lightweight fellows decide to push the pace. So i got them to envision small hills that took anywhere from 30 to 45 seconds to climb. I had them stand up and climb then sit back down as we got to the top of the hills.

The last section of the course was flat as well. We did some pulling but since this is the backside of the loop, the pace was likely to pick up, especially on the last lap.

On the second lap I explained to them what an attack looks like. Basically, whoever decided to attack would add alot of resistance, transition to a standing climb, increase their cadence for about 10 seconds and then sit down and go as hard as they can for about 20-30 more seconds. Often times an attack is an anaerobic effort, or at least part of it is. An attack is really painful. The goal is to separate yourself from the pack and try to put distance or time between you and the group. Normally when one person attacks, you have several others counter to try to form a smaller group in front of the main pack. Attacks are HARD, they are PAINFUL, and I told them if they decide to launch an attack to make it know by yelling, "War Eagle". That went over real well being in Vol country but it was fun. I think I painted a really accurate picture of an attack because no body attacked until the third lap and that was only because I did one myself first. I was not gong to do one because I had been sick that week-end and was trying to take it easy. After I attacked, several people followed. It was fun to watch. I could see in their eyes that it was hard, that they were pushing themselves to their limits. Remember, the pace was already high, we were racng the whole time so the intensity was described to them as being a 7-8 out of ten on a scale of 10 for most of the ride. The ones that were using HR monitors were riding between 90-100% of LT. For those of you who don't know what that means just trust me and believe me when I say "it's not easy". So with that said, pulling, rolling hills, and launching an attack when you are already working hard is, well, hard.

Overall, I feel like they "got it"! As I said earlier, I've only done a couple of these race simulation profiles but this time I think it worked. Even thought the bikes are indoors and they don't physically move, I was able to portray or communicate to them the necessary things they needed to get them to experience a race.

1 comment:

  1. Dang, I just found your blog and this entry. Thank you! I have been thinking about how to structure a "race day" class; this helps a great deal. What is still missing, however, is an external measure of achievement. As there's no order of "finish" (1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc) and class ends when it ends, I still would like to have some external indication when >each< participant crosses the "finish line." I've thought of using a sprint finish with a specific number of turns of the cranks (50, for example). That's about the best I've come up with so far...any thoughts?