For years, riders in Traverse City queue up and elbow for prime spots in Lauri Brockmiller’s Eight Weeks to Iceman. With riders like Nick Wierzba, Tim Pulliam and others making huge improvements from the structured program, we thought October a prime time to see what all those riders are doing in “The Hive” right now ahead of not just Iceman, but Peak2Peak in two weeks.
It’s been a few years now, but I did Lauri’s classes one fall with the hopes of going from a pretty average Expert rider into a less average one. Over the course of the program, the biggest thing I learned from Lauri was to understand what efforts I was doing and how they translated to the real world. There’s a difference between holding or hitting Tempo or Climbing Repeats, measured by power numbers that simply don’t lie, and going ‘hard’ based totally on feel. The classes taught me what those efforts really are and what works best for me.
Lauri’s classes are hard, but that’s what we need. We don’t all have time to do 20 hour weeks with multiple 3-5 hour rides on the weekends. We have jobs and families. Knowing what you’re doing and measuring that effort is a huge advantage and a more effective use of your time in the saddle.
Lauri answered a few of our questions about the block, and you can read her responses below.
1. What is the basis or the thought process behind your 8 Weeks to Iceman block?
My goal for athletes who sign up for the 8 weeks to Iceman block is to improve their top-end fitness for the big race. Whatever summer fitness they bring me, I want to pull it up one notch from the top. I measure their 8 minute max, get some training zones based on power output from that test and then we start drilling it with a series of short high powered intervals. The closer we get to the Iceman, the shorter and more intense it gets. This block is just the frosting on the cake…the better the cake, the higher we can pile the frosting.
2. What’s the difference between that block and the next session?
The next block is called our Off-Season Training. It’s 180 degrees from the Iceman block, but certainly not any easier. Just different. This block is designed to come at your fitness from underneath. If you had to boil down performance to just one thing, cycling is all about oxygen. The workouts in this block are formulated to improve oxygen delivery to your muscles at the cellular level. My goal for athletes in this block is to vastly improve their upper-end aerobic system while making them mentally tough with long hard interval sets lasting 20-60 minutes. This tempo block creates the foundation (table) for all the threshold work we do in January and February. You don’t want a wobbly table when you start doing sustainable power workouts. Using the cake analogy, the off-season training is the block where we pick the very best ingredients and create the perfect batter. The Jan/Feb threshold block, is when we bake it to perfection. Then in March/April, we are back to frosting.
3. Do you encourage your athletes to race during the fall ahead of Iceman?
Absolutely! I think getting 2-3 races in before the Iceman is key to being properly tuned both physically and mentally. I love the Bear Claw, MMM or P2P, Iceman combo. I think it’s a great way to be ready and fit without being over-raced and undertrained.
4. How do you adjust training during the week to account for weekend races?
Those people who train at BEE M/W don’t really need an adjustment in their for weekend races. If they go light or rest and Thursday and do openers on Friday, they are ready to hammer on Saturday or Sunday for sure. If they are in the Tuesday and Thursday class, I will sometimes modify the Thursday workout. If and how much I modify is specific to the athlete as well as how important the race is and the demand of that particular race. If we had an especially taxing workout on Thursday, I might cut the volume of intervals by 25-50%. They still get a good workout, but they haven’t shredded themselves without enough time to recover.
6. Do you think tapering is necessary for races like Peak2Peak or Iceman?
Absolutely. But I am not a big believer in huge tapers. For myself, I like to cut volume and intensity 2 weeks before a race but only for 1 week. The week leading into the race, I go harder, maybe 80-90% of what I would normally do and then I am ready to crush on the weekend. My legs are rested, then opened up and maybe a tiny fatigue in them, then they are at their best. If I rest too much, I am kinda flat. I need a couple hard workouts to get ‘em going. The amount of recovery and the timing of a race is something than all athletes need to figure out for themselves. The indoor season at BEE offers a great opportunity to really study this. We do 3 weeks hard with 1 week easy all fall, winter and early spring. Tracking the numbers for HR and Power over time shows me the times in that cycle that athletes are at their physical and mental peak. I am always, always, always strongest 2 weeks after my recovery week. For some it’s the first, for some it’s the third. This is pretty important to know going into a race.
7. What is the difference, in your opinion between a Sport and Expert rider? What is the difference in their training, diet, etc?
Good question. It’s a little bit hard to generalize because the top Sport riders can be pretty similar to say a middle of the pack expert finisher. What I see, is that the upper echelon expert riders have their training, diet, fueling, rest and bikes dialed. Sport riders are more relaxed in all of those areas. To be at the top, you can’t just train hard, you can’t just have the right bike and tires for the course, you can’t just be the right body weight…you have to do it all. AND, you have to do it all on a consistent basis. The best expert riders don’t let their fitness fall off the side of a cliff in the winter. Most of them have the race weight in a sweet spot. And on and one.
8. If you could tell an athlete just one thing heading into the fall season of racing and training, what would it be?
Train harder. Rest a little more.
Lauri included the three biggest difference between athletes that follow a structured training program compared to riders who just wing it.
1. They become more consistent from workout to workout. They learn to perfect their sleep, hydration, diet, and recovery so that their training can be optimal on a more consistent basis. This translates into more consistent performance in the summer from TNR to TNR and race to race if you get what I mean. Newer athletes tend to have a good race here and there, more workouts that end in bonking. Over time, they get better at pushing themselves through the wicked hard stuff as well as pacing themselves so that overall completion of the training is better.
2. The depth of fitness increases even when overall max power output might not go up. My overall 8 minute hasn’t gone up much in the past few years but my depth of fitness has gone up quite a bit which has made me a better racer. A few years ago, I might be able to 5 sets of CR’s at 240-250 and need to take 2 rests before I could come back and do it. Now I can do 10. And I can come back and 10 the next day. And I can take 1 rest day and come back and probably do 10 more. Why I can’t do 10 at 260 ever is something I’d like to figure out!
3. So many times I’ve heard from new athletes in just a couple weeks, “I’m already stronger. I already feel it.” I always think to myself, “Just wait, the best is yet to come.” Some of the improvement that people get is just learning that they can do way more than they think they can. Everybody is in the room, everybody is pushing to the absolute max and people stretch their mind and bodies past a point than they otherwise would. Then it translates to outdoors before any real physiological adaptations can truly be made. “I just realized I could do more, I could keep going.” I love that. I love it because I remember when I started this 9 years ago…I felt the same way.
Thanks for the info, Lauri!