Setting My Baseline for Race Across the West (RAW) Training
Update (4/15/2020): My wife and I ended up getting pregnant and having a baby so this adventure was put on hold :-P
"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step" -Lao Tzu
Today, I took the first step towards my big goal for 2020 - the annual 930-mile Race Across the West (RAW), which sets off every June from Oceanside, California, finishing roughly three days later for solo racers (if and) when the finish line is crossed all the way in Durango, Colorado. That's a minimum of 250 miles of bicycling each day over four states: California, Arizona, Utah, and Colorado.
In 2015, I attempted the annual Race Across America (RAAM), which is 3,000 miles of bicycling within 12 days for solo racers (also 250+ miles each day, but over 12 states). Sadly, however, my rookie year was plagued with an unfortunate sequence of events which forced me to pull out of the race, coincidentally, near the finish line of RAW in Durango, Colorado.
Effectively completing RAW in 2015, I know exactly what I'm signing up for today at a minimum: non-stop blistering desert heat ranging from 90 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit for around three days, on top of sleep deprivation (roughly 1-3 hours of sleep every 24 hours) and many, many miles on the saddle. Not to mention the hundreds of hours of training before even reaching the starting line!
First Steps, First: Collect Data!
My first step today on this new thousand mile journey was establishing a baseline for my training by obtaining my body weight (138.8 lbs), body fat percentage (12.1%), resting heart rate (40-45 bpm), functional threshold power (255 W), and power-to-weight ratio (4.05 W/kg).
In spite of having trained and participated in ultra-endurance bicycling events for over nine years now, oddly enough, this was the first time I actually set a formal baseline for my training and I'll use it now to structure my workouts and recovery.
I came from a running background - cross country and track & field through high school - and then went into bicycling shortly after college so I've always considered myself to be a serious athlete. But thinking about it now, I realize I never really had a professional coach or any type of formal education on how to train seriously using tools and data which are plentiful these days. In fact, I never even bothered pursuing formal training techniques even though through the years I would always hear people talking about monitoring their resting heart rate, working out in specific heart rates zones, and utilizing something called a power meter.
I've always just stuck to my guts, intuition, and the basics of what I learned through high school running: carefully building up my training (i.e. periodization), pacing myself properly, and then later on in life, proper nutrition, which I learned the hard way after bonking very badly after my first San Francisco Marathon.
Pacing, Periodization, and Proper Nutrition
I already have a lot of long miles in my legs through nine seasons of ultra-cycling so I know a thing or two about endurance pacing. In fact, my Strava stats show that I effectively biked over 25,000 miles preparing for RAAM in 2014-15, which included a 21-day bicycle ride across the same route that allowed me to qualify for RAAM.
Now I should clarify as before: I have a lot of instinctive experience, through brute force and trial-and-error over the years, with how my body feels and what it may need, but up until now I've never used anything like a Training Stress Scores (TSS) or any other metric to project, quantify, or correct my course. So this time around I'd like to try to do things more disciplined and efficiently, and perhaps in the process I will also find it to be more effective. Sounds like a fun experiment doesn't it?
Since 2015, I've also made a full transition to a whole plant-based nutrition. My whole life, I've mostly consumed a plant-based diet anyway, thanks to my mother and wife's nurturing and delicious cooking. But in recent years as my family has become more educated and informed about the health and performance benefits of a whole plant-based diet, we've all made the full commitment to better our own health and lives while sustainably supporting our one and only planet Earth.
Looking yonder over the next 12 months, though, I naturally feel a bit baffled and unequipped when it comes to structuring my training more optimally to be ready for a perfect performance come June 2020. My goal is to get as fit and fast as possible through several structured mesocycles over the next 12 months. Needless to say, I've been Googling a lot lately and I'm determined to become a great coach... for myself.
Needless to say, I'll also need an entire team surrounding me with their love, support, encouragement, experience, expertise, and patience. And this is my absolute favorite part about undertaking big endeavors like RAW - knowing it takes team work to make the dream work!
Onwards and upwards!