Surprise Yourself with a BHAG (Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal)!

It’s early November 2012 and my cell phone rings from a “Blocked” caller. Should I answer? My inner voice says yes and soon I’m chatting with my old friend, Tom Ritchey. He gets right to the point (as is his style) and asks if I will ride Cape Epic with him. Tom says that he wants me to race with him because “he knows that I can suffer”! My mind races back 8 months when he had asked me the same question in February, 1 month before the 2012 event…I declined explaining that I had only been training for our local Birkie XC event and hadn’t been on my bike since the previous Fall!

This time it’s different. I’ve got 4 1/2 months to prepare for an 8-day MTB stage race over brutal terrain around Cape Town, South Africa March 17-24. 800km and 15,000 METERS of climbing in 8 days. I think out loud to Tom about how I would need to prepare…outdoor riding in sub zero temperatures on the weekends coupled with indoor training 3 times per week. Could I do it, having not actually raced for 15 years? Again, my inner voice tells me to go for it and I commit to Tom that “I’m in”. Oh, and I”ll need the right rig to race on…could he help me with that too? Oh, Tom says as a final thought, “I’d like to win the Grand Masters (over 50) category”!

Like any good professional, I get practical with my training. Break out 3 week training phases that increase in length and intensity with 1 week recovery periods. How far can I ride on 1 day in the dead of the Edmonton Winter? Maybe 100km would be a good target. Now what about all that climbing? Power to weight ratio will be critical so I set a goal to lose 10 pounds and get to 160. Lower than I ever used to race at.

Later in the Winter, my friend and ex-pro Chris Huber calls wanting to have me help him with a road camp in Maui in later February. Perfect mini camp for me, to stack on some mileage and get used to hot, humid ocean air. Sign me up!

November and December are spent building up my base miles indoors and out. My friend Chris Check at Pedalhead in Edmonton helps me by recommending studded Conti tires and heated, insoles for my Winter cycling boots….a perfect remedy for my frost bite damaged toes – too many hard days in the saddle doing crazy cold races in Europe.

My 'winterized' MTB ride

My ‘winterized’ MTB ride

Early January, I schedule myself into the University of Alberta’s Kinesiology dept for a VO2 test. I weigh in at just below 170 with a VO2 of 55….not bad to have your VO2 higher than your age! A few quick calculations show that if I can get to my target weight of 160, I’ll improve my VO2 to 58….magic!

My diet now becomes more intense as I skip beers after work and focus on salad and protein for my client lunches. Sharing my goals with friends, work mates and clients helps me to stay the course and remain on track. I’ve got Honey Stinger protein bars stashed everywhere so I can have the right snack when the hunger pangs hit.

I’ve always valued massage as a recovery tool and my good friend Jolene at Tupelo Flo sets me up with one of her sports massage experts so that I have a weekly work over to ensure that all the old man ‘kinks’ get worked out. What a wonderful feeling to push my body to it’s limit again and feel my systems respond with stronger and stronger recovery each week.

Fortunately, I lead a 1 hour indoor cycling class 3x/week at our local club next to the pool where we sweat rivers and work with intervals and cadence variations to slowly improve everyone’s cycling fitness. I’ve got 26 people who are expecting me to be there and lead them in the morning. Adding 30′ of time at race pace wattage after each workout gives me that much more fatigue in my legs that I need – to prepare for some serious suffering in March.

Outdoor weekend rides continue to build in length and intensity with my longest ride to date in February being 93 km in 5 hours on packed snow trails and slush covered streets. I’m fortunate to have my friend Stephen Paiano to help motivate me through some of those crazy Winter rides, some as cold as -15C, some at 0C that causes slush to build up on the frame and add extra resistance and weight to the bike.

Slush packed winter riding!

Slush packed winter riding!

Single track in Edmonton's River Valley

Single track in Edmonton’s River Valley

As I write this I’ve just arrived home from Maui at the end of February. What a relief to ride with shorts and short sleeves in the middle of Winter – not wonder Ryder trains there!! One week of long rides with good long climbs thrown in including the Haleakala volcano did me a world of good. There are less than 20 days to go before the race start on March 17. My new bike, a Scott Spark dual suspension 29’r has been built and tested by the amazing Nathan at Maui Cyclery. We’ll be riding for Team Project Rwanda in their Louis Garneau kit. Cytomax and Honey Stinger will be my fuel. It’s all falling into place – now it’s time to get the final miles in with race pace intensity added into my training for another week, then a 2 week taper including 2 days of travel, 3 days to recover from jet lag…my inner voice is telling me that I’m ready…time to get this 51 year body ready to rock one more time.

Oh and BTW – my wieght is down to 162 so I’m pretty darn close to race trim and my max VO2 that I can ‘afford’ to get to!

About alexstieda

Cycling fanatic, Olympian and IT geek. Claim to fame: 1st North American to wear yellow jersey in the Tour de France.
This entry was posted in Cycling skills, International Cycling and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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