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Monday, October 29, 2007

Base Miles

Base miles. Bah.

Ever noticed how much cyclists are into base miles? If I'm going to mock I might as well refrain from discriminating-- runners sometimes get overly fired up about base miles too, but I'll focus on cyclists. Road bikers think that every season requires a month or longer of menial drudgery at no greater than 75% exertion. This, they claim, is the foundation of every successful cycling season and without it, oh horrors, there's sure to be physical ailments in the knees, emotional ailments of lack of status amongst other cyclists, and those curious and otherwise inexplicable ailments also referred to as being slow. If the mantra "high hips" is the Holy Grail of Nordic skiing then the idiocy of "base miles" is the Holy Grail of cycling. Come on guys- there are better things to do with your life than to languish on your trainer in your small attic bedroom for months at a time, letting your unnaturally geometric tan lines fade to your natural but sickly white.

This guy's probably feeling virtuous, getting ready for another race season and plotting out his next tattoo to commemorate what he hopes to be his third season as the best rider at the local Sunday morning group rides.

Cyclists are a fastidious bunch. They hunt down training dogma like High School girls hunt down The Twilight Saga vampire trilogy. And like trashy teen romance novels involving vampires, surreal beauty, and rainy towns in Washington, the base mile credo is equally mythical and prevalent. Instead of fastidiously riding below a heart rate of 140 for oodles of time in a misdirected attempt to be fast and machinating the purchase of a dura-ace grouppo in a

$1,477.77 pursuit of speed, they should actually TRAIN.

I mean, if this guy spent half as much effort training as he does preparing to train, half as much time being concerned over the firing of his muscles as the falling drops of sweat on his fine hardwood floor or the sweat that he fears will drip onto his handlebars, he'd probably have some potential.

Not that he's planning on sweating on this ride. Who wears glasses on a trainer when they plan on having sweat dripping down into their faces? No, this fellow must be about to check off some of those crucial base miles. Looks like he's ready to go for hours with his water bottles lined up within easy reach along with a healthy snack to replenish his glycogen stores while he's riding. Ah, the perfect set up for success. All it's missing is consistent and challenging training sessions.

No, base miles are great when you're just starting out in a sport-- ease the muscles into the movement and build up the supporting ligaments and muscles. What kills me is that cyclists never seem to move on from base miles. They start over from zero every year. Will they ever realize that last year's race miles are this year's base miles?

...uh, I quit running and lately I've been riding my trainer a couple times a week. You can tell it's making me crazy.


Anonymous Death to base miles! said...

Damn that was good! You should write more venting stuff like this! Your rank on bikers was awesome. Good thing I wasn’t on a bike trainer or I would have fallen off from laughing! You are dead-on accurate on this issue.

Got to admit, master’s xc skiers have these “base miles”-like hang-ups too. Very few of them say: “Snow! Time to hammer!” Most spend the whole winter standing around getting coached the correct single kick double pole technique, or whatever, same as the lessons they got last year, and the year before, and the year before that … By the time they are ready to get down to skiing, it’s spring and they climb on their bike trainer. How’s that, I ended my rant with a connection to your rant! :-)

October 30, 2007 10:57 PM  
Blogger Colin R said...

Why the heck is a pro nordic ski riding a trainer in october?

Oh wait... is it so that every other workout you do suddenly seems 200% more fun?

October 31, 2007 2:41 AM  
Blogger Cyrus said...

Ya, riding a trainer in October? I don't get it. According to fasterskier.com, Oystein says now is the time to start using your legs when rollerskiing though. ;)

I agree though, base miles are looked upon too highly in cycling. I guess its reports of guys like Ivan Basso, while serving his two year suspension for being a lying cheat, riding 30,000km a year. Those are some crazy miles. But I highly doubt he is riding all that on his trainer as he has the Tuscan hills at this doorstep.

October 31, 2007 6:37 AM  
Anonymous oregon bike shop said...

While I realize you were mostly joking with this post (or at least invoking a little hyperbole), let's not forget the length of races that skiers and cyclists do. Base miles might be a little more important when you are regularly racing 6-hours plus!!

What's the longest normal ski race? 50km for me, 30km for you. About two hours and elite skiers only do that a couple of times a year.

Most distance races are well under an hour and for you as a sprinter, let's see, about 12 minutes of racing total.

Cyclists, on the other hand, race many days in row, frequently at farily low intensities for much of the time, for many hours on end.

I think training differently is probably justified.

October 31, 2007 7:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah, what a debate you've started! I'll play the game..

Here you've critiqued cyclists' training methods- but I believe that you have quite opened the door for critiquing training to race IN GENERAL.

Wouldn't paying attention to the "firing of muscles," as you've said, be its own obsession? And if not Sunday Rides, is the Super Tour any less silly an event to strut one's leg firing prowess at? What practical purpose does being 'faster' serve other than for egotistical satisfaction? Other than the pursuit to be the Alpha Dog?

No one is moving to and from a location for the sole purpose of transporting oneself. No one is gathering food or creating shelter. And we all know that we are all 'healthy' wayy before we started training high-mileage weeks. In fact, high-mileage weeks actually put you in greater danger of getting sick!

So why do we have to tell our friends, "sorry, I can't go for a random, fun, adventurous ride with you for the hell of it.. because it's not part of my TRAINING PLAN." If we're going to rant about training methods- why not rant about TRAINING and then indirectly so about the ego-circus of RACING?

My disclaimer is that I am (or at the very least I WAS) a racer who logged my weekly miles, rode for hours and hours on my trainer, and skipped out on friends & fun events- all in the name of 'training'. And I enjoyed the hell out of race season. And I love being pushed by myself & by competition and I love feeling fast. So you know that I've got to be playing Devil's Advocate here (..or am I?)



October 31, 2007 11:40 AM  
Blogger LAV said...

Colin r & Cyrus- I know, I shouldn't be on a trainer at all but my right leg decided that it was done running for awhile and there's too much snow to rollerski and not enough (especially since it all melted today) to ski by my house.

I wouldn't mock base miles completed in Italy.

October 31, 2007 3:43 PM  
Blogger LAV said...

OBS- why do you have to go and bring reasonableness into this discussion?? Since we are pointing out the practical errors here I will say that on your website #9 is Langlauf, not Lanlauf. Marshall should know that, I'm sure he's won it before ;)

I still think that year-round intensity would be good even for cyclists. You may have longer races at an AVERAGE lower intensity but due to hills/sprints/breaks they end up being a long and glorified interval session. And if you can't keep up on the uphills, you're done. And if you can't recover after the uphill in time for the next hard effort, you're also done.

October 31, 2007 3:54 PM  
Blogger LAV said...

Miss Rj knows I love her philosophical opinions on athletics and life.

Sisyphus, I say, our poor hero Sisyphus. Punished to roll a stone uphill forever and always to have it escape him and roll back to the bottom. Why was he punished so? Hubris. Desire for life beyond life provided to mere mortals.

As my favorite philosopher that I fail to understand said in his essay The Myth of Sisyphus, "The struggle itself is enough to fill a man's heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy."

(gold star to whomever can tell me who I quoted without looking it up...)

October 31, 2007 10:19 PM  
Anonymous stosh in tahoe said...

That's a Vincent Price quote from the Thriller video !

November 01, 2007 4:31 AM  
Blogger Christopher Tassava said...

Well, Camus is my guess. I wish I had a little statue of Sisyphus to put on the tip of my rollerskis, so that I had something to look at during my next two-hour double-pole workouts. Talking about base miles...

More seriously, this conversation is intriguing to me because I don't have the time to build up a huge base - a two-hour run/ski/rollerski is something that I can fit into my schedule possibly once a month. I'd be very interested in hearing more about the use of intensity to build fitness.

November 01, 2007 6:00 AM  
Blogger Colin R said...

I'd be very interested in hearing more about the use of intensity to build fitness.

Us weekend warriors call it "racing into shape."

Hey, it worked for Jan Ullrich!

November 01, 2007 12:10 PM  
Blogger LAV said...

Tassava's right on with Camus. Stosh is even crazier than I am.

November 01, 2007 12:50 PM  
Blogger LAV said...

& colin r has a very good point about racing into shape. If you have a hard race once or twice a week that's great intensity :)

November 01, 2007 1:04 PM  

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