To race or not to race? That is the question!
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  1. #1
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    To race or not to race? That is the question!

    Well friends, I have come to Y in the road. After my first year of cycling I am left with the big question. “Is it too late at 46 years of age to start competitive cycling?”
    I spent the last year with two goals. One, to get my cycling fitness back and two, to learn all I can. Well, after about eight months of cycling I learned a huge lesson on overtraining! Being very discouraged I finally read Joe Frills Cycling Bible. Man, I ate it up! I have also started reading How to Train and race with a power meter.
    I put together a eight week training plan to capitalize on periodization and peeking at my first cat 5 race. I trained hard and true to my plan but it didn’t work out so great as I was nowhere near a peak at this race. This brings me to the Y in the road. I have experienced over the last year some really high peeks and some really low valleys. I have learned that for me, I would really need a fine tuned program to nail the peeks at the race dates. Even if I do nail it I question my ability to compete with guys who have 20+ years of base training. So here are the two paths I see before me:

    One
    Go all in! Purchase a power meter! Go to a cycling camp! Hire a coach to help me refine my training program! Build an annual training program! Commit to 15 hrs. a week of training! Kick butt and take names "maybee".

    Two
    Swallow the fact that starting competitive cycling at age 46 is not the smartest route. Ride for general fitness, health and enjoyment. Cross over and do some mountain biking to enjoy the outdoor beauty. Maybe do a little fishing and hunting instead of all of my focus pointed towards cycling goals.

    I would very much appreciate any words of encouragement or discouragement based on expiernced knowledge of the sport. Your input is greatly valued.

    I decided to post in the coaching section knowing in advace the bias a coach would have but hope that any coachs could give it to me strait as well like a doctor would if I were terminally ill!

    Thank you in advance!

  2. #2
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    I'm not a coach.

    Those aren't your only options. You don't have to give up everything, dedicate tons of time, and spend a fortune to get in racing shape. You've been at this for a year? Paleeez. Don't be dumb.

    You did one race and failed miserably in that race? Wow, I never heard that before. Everyone I know comes in the top 5 in their first race…you’re really an anomaly. No you’re not.

    If you're in any sort of decent shape you can get race ready in a season (maybe two).

    Step 1 - Learn how to spell Joe’s last name (hint: it’s Friel)
    Step 2 – Research different training programs for the types of races (crit, RR, etc.) you want to do and choose one based on your age, level, time commitment (15 hrs is a lot of time), etc.
    Step 3 – Use the winter for heavy base training.
    Step 4 – Use the spring to continue base while incorporating aspects of race training.
    Step 5 – Train, eat right, get rest, and learn what you can about how to race.
    Step 6 – (when ready) Race your way into shape, more learning about how to race.
    Step 7 – Get dropped fewer times.
    Step 8 – Repeat.
    I ride mostly in the honorable pursuit of being kissed on both cheeks at the same time by one blond and one brunette. But not redheads, they scare me.

  3. #3
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    Perhaps a reality check rather than en/discouragment.

    Me - Raced professionally in Colorado during the period when virtually all the better riders U.S. were there. Before my first year as a Cat4, i had ridden for about 6 years with good quality clubs and believed i would do well if not dominate at the Cat4 level.

    The first 3 races i was dropped so badly that it was clear that cycling was not for me and i was a fool to think i could do this. It wasn't until the second year that i was able to ride with the main pack and 3 years until i actually had significant results.

    Those who claim to finish 4th or whatever in their first race are either lying or are racing in a very non-competitive area.

    Advice FWIW -

    While books and other guides can be motivational, creating an expectation that if you follow them that you'll be a capable racer is too similar to a diet plan you buy off an infomertial. There needs to be a "results not tyical' caveot. That you believe that you didn't race well because you weren't "at a peak" is unfortunate at best. Does peaking exist? Yes. Is that what is affecting you? No. Not a chance.

    What you should do -

    Race because you want to and for the experience of having done so. Don't do it with any expectations other than trying as hard as you can. At your age and abiltiy level, allowing cycling to consume your life is a terrible idea. You'll invest countless hours and to what end? Do it because you want to and like to. Your results will be what they will be. There will always be lots or people faster than you.

  4. #4
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    What about the question of age? If i have not leared to spell by age 46 what are the prospects of a guy starting racing at this age ? Is it too late in the game or can i see big improvment in the next few years?

    By the way I am in Breckenridge Co right now riding a cruser with my wife. Life is good!

  5. #5
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    46 is no spring chicken but not an old goat either. It depends on the fitness level you are at now.

    There are of course many 50+ people racing but they’ve either been riding for a long time or have come for another sport.

    The reality is that it’s tough, very tough so you really have to like it a lot. And if you live in CO, forget it, those dudes are animals. A cat5 in CO would be a cat3 anywhere else.

    I wouldn’t commit my whole life to it at the expense of other interests unless you love it that much.
    I ride mostly in the honorable pursuit of being kissed on both cheeks at the same time by one blond and one brunette. But not redheads, they scare me.

  6. #6
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    Yeah i here you. I dont live here, just visiting.
    I was measuring my race results by how i felt not by placing so the puzzle to put together is how to feel strong at a race or maybe as my base fitness increases the gaps between the peeks and valleys wont be so wide. All new to me , thats why im asking others.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by 2spokesloose View Post
    “Is it too late at 46 years of age to start competitive cycling?”

    Short answer: No.

    Longer answer: read this.
    Too old to race?
    * not actually a Rock Star

  8. #8
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    As someone who started racing later in life, there is no reason not to start if you've caught the racing bug and want to go for it. Work hard, train right and just go for it. You might get hooked or you might decide it's not for you, but without going for it you'll never know. Personally, I would hold off on powermeters and coaching until you've gone through at least one full racing season just utilizing your own plan based on what you've read (Friel, etc.). There are plenty of older racers in the 5's, and once you move up and gain some speed and confidence, there is also masters. Being older has it's challenges (family life, more recovery, etc.), but I'm sure you'll factor those challenges into whether racing makes sense for you.
    It's better to burn out, then to fade away....

  9. #9
    warrrrrrrgh!!!
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    Is it too late for you to be a top pro?

    Yes.

    Is it too late to start racing?

    Never.

    Racing is as an amateur is pretty much they same as joining a soccer club, and playing league tournys. It isn't some special thing that only some people can do.

    It is dangerous though. So it helps to be a little crazy.

    Of course you failed at your first race. Why wouldn't you? Would you expect to go to your first baseball game and hit 3 home runs? Don't worry so much about training and peaking. Seriously. Beginners put way to much emphasis on this when all they really should be doing is riding a lot. Ride with groups, ride alone. A training plan when you have zero foundation is just a good way to get confused and discouraged.
    I hate you all

    j/k lol kthxbye!

  10. #10
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    Keep at it and try to remember you're doing it for fun. I admit I rarely race on the road anymore, it's all mountain bike for me. I'll admit that mountain bike racing is easier for me, it's basically an individual time trial effort rather than a stay with the pack type of thing.
    Have you considered trying time trialing? Easy way to compare your fitness against others without banging into them.
    "I felt bad because I couldn't wheelie; until I met a man with no bicycle"

  11. #11
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    I think you need to relax a bit about hitting peaks for races as a beginning racer, regardless of age. First off, race shape is race shape - you can keep fit enough for an entire season of racing at most levels of competition except elite ones - you're not doing a grand tour that is going to beat the crap out of your form. You shouldn't even use the word 'peak' when you're referring to a cat 5 race. The whole point is experience - upgrading isn't even based on results. Your first goal should be to get in as many races as you can, preferably some regular training races as well. Just race. Get fit. Don't worry about results. Learn race tactics and techniques. Learn how to hold a line, move up in the pack without pissing everyone off, and how to find the right wheels to follow, how to set up for a finish. If you like it, keep doing it.

  12. #12
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    Thats great advice Steve, thank you.. I am really just trying to figure all of this out. Its quite frustrating to be so dedicated and work so hard then to roll out and feel like you cant even finish the race expecially when two weeks prior you felt like you could ride up mount everest without oxygen. The inconsistancy is what has driven me to try to understand more.

  13. #13
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    Racing is very very different from training solo or doing group rides. More likely than not your fitness was just fine, but the race called upon specific types of fitness that you just didn't have.

    What others said is true - ride lots, race often, learn as much as you can and you'll see improvements.

  14. #14
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    I've been curious about road racing again lately, although it hasn't been my main competitive discipline in the past.

    I did a bunch of track racing this summer, though. Had a blast with it. I definitely got pwned a few times. Problems with gear, placing myself in the wrong place in the pack, and I'd be lying if I didn't mention it was also sometimes just that some of the other guys were faster, and never gave me a chance to "get away with something." But, I also figured out how to position myself better, be in the group that the selection comes from (at least when my legs were ready to back me up) attack at times that I could actually accomplish something, and then really commit to it... all stuff that took me a few tries, and some failures, to sort out.

    In the little bit of road racing I've done, it took me my third criterium not to get dropped.

    Friel has a great book on being fit for racing. But there's a huge element of skill. IMO, if you want to get started racing, start by going to a ton of races. Worry about planning peaks when you've figured out how to race, what kind of race you're good at, etc. (And, get those ten finishes. Seems like kind of a non-issue before that's out of the way.)

    I'm going to spend the rest of the Fall sucking at cyclocross. I've figured out how to suck like someone who could win, which was a bit of a revelation because I'd previously been sucking like someone who was there to lose regardless. Hopefully I'll see an improvement in results, but grad school tends to torpedo my fitness when it's in session. If there's 'cross in your area, that's another way to get in a bunch of racing, although I think it's more like mountain bike racing than road racing in a lot of ways.

    As an aside, I find I'm willing to dig deeper when I'm racing than when I'm training. Especially on the track, although I'm taking that and applying it elsewhere now. I doubt I could hit a real peak without doing a bit of racing during my build cycles.

  15. #15
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    I really expected you guys to say I’m just past the point of getting into this game or I expected all kind of advice in training plans and tech talk about training. So if it’s appropriate to ask in this same thread I would really like to hear what you guys have to say about what I experienced over the last year.
    The short of it looks like this:
    I started last fall just doing long aerobic rides into spring until I was around 85 miles on the long day.
    I rode 8 tee shirt ride/” race” for me. All eight of these were back to back eight weeks in a row. I was getting weaker and weaker race by race in the end. I decide something is wrong and realized I didn’t have a clue why. I pick up Joes book, learn about overtraining, and get an eight week plan to train for a specific race. The plan looked like this:
    Week 1 build 1 (I felt the strongest at the end of this week)
    Week 2 build 2
    Week 3 build recovery
    Week 4 build 2(Ifelt the strongest at the end of this week)
    Week 5 build 2
    Week 6 build recovery (Ifelt the strongest at the end of this week)
    Week 7 peek
    Week 8 race. ( Front derailleur sticks in big ring on biggest climb early in the race, I cram up with the lead pack anyway but the day was pretty much over for me at the top so I really don’t even know how I felt.)
    I am defiantly listing to you guys but I kind of spent last year riding allot, racing allot without a plan to the point of discouragement. I can set aside trying to peak at a race but I would like to be able to make some since of how my training affects my performance. Is the structure above ( without the specific workouts detailed out) as a general format even close to what you guys would recommend or did I screw the pooch all together?

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by 2spokesloose View Post
    I really expected you guys to say I’m just past the point of getting into this game or I expected all kind of advice in training plans and tech talk about training. So if it’s appropriate to ask in this same thread I would really like to hear what you guys have to say about what I experienced over the last year.
    The short of it looks like this:
    I started last fall just doing long aerobic rides into spring until I was around 85 miles on the long day.
    I rode 8 tee shirt ride/” race” for me. All eight of these were back to back eight weeks in a row. I was getting weaker and weaker race by race in the end. I decide something is wrong and realized I didn’t have a clue why. I pick up Joes book, learn about overtraining, and get an eight week plan to train for a specific race. The plan looked like this:
    Week 1 build 1 (I felt the strongest at the end of this week)
    Week 2 build 2
    Week 3 build recovery
    Week 4 build 2(Ifelt the strongest at the end of this week)
    Week 5 build 2
    Week 6 build recovery (Ifelt the strongest at the end of this week)
    Week 7 peek
    Week 8 race. ( Front derailleur sticks in big ring on biggest climb early in the race, I cram up with the lead pack anyway but the day was pretty much over for me at the top so I really don’t even know how I felt.)
    I am defiantly listing to you guys but I kind of spent last year riding allot, racing allot without a plan to the point of discouragement. I can set aside trying to peak at a race but I would like to be able to make some since of how my training affects my performance. Is the structure above ( without the specific workouts detailed out) as a general format even close to what you guys would recommend or did I screw the pooch all together?
    You need to find a group ride. You need to ride with people who race, talk to them, and listen to what they tell you.
    I hate you all

    j/k lol kthxbye!

  17. #17
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    I recommend the book "Base Training for Cyclists" by Chapple. Your emphasis on Build doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me - if you're starting out, your biggest limiter is most likely linked to aerobic fitness.

    I'd put a lot of emphasis on building your aerobic engine this winter with longer (very focused) rides at an Endurance pace with longer (30-40min) efforts just below your threshold (Time Trial pace).

    With all of that said, listen to Foto's advice and find a group ride to learn from people who're more experienced than you.

  18. #18
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    It's hard to comment on the schedule you presented without knowing details of the training type and volume. In general, I'd repeat what I said earlier: you don't need to be targeting races this specifically at your level and you don't need to be scheduling a recovery week every 3rd week. Like someone else said, find a group ride to do every week - a local club or shop ride and use it as race training. The biggest challenge for beginning racers is dealing with changes in speed. You should have a day or two/week focused on intervals to train this ability but most people find they push themselves harder on a group ride.

    Also, I would not jump too quickly to the overtraining diagnosis. Long-term overtraining is a serious chronic condition that may take months to recover from. Over-Reaching versus Over-Training: Gaining the Benefits, but Avoiding the Pitfalls

  19. #19
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    Hi there!
    Thought that I would add my 2 cents as well. I am a rookie this year as well and am also 46 years old. I had only ever done 1 race in my life 6 years ago and at 227 lbs. I was with my group up until the 15 km mark when the road started to turn up and from then I did the other 60 km as a solo time trial. I had all the same questions as you and decided to heck with it, pin on a number and go. If winning all the time is your ultimate goal, then I would recommend dialing it down a notch and set real achievable goals that will get better over time as I did. I decided that even if I got dropped, I would make sure that I was with the groups a little longer each time and to ensure that the time gaps on my weaknesses (i.e. hills) were getting smaller. I undertook the winter training thing for the first time this year and dropped to the 195 lb mark. After doing some races this year (small time, but races none the less) I found that I am not getting dropped, but am actually heading the pack for spells and hurting a few in the process. The hills will still get me in the end I know, but with the work I have done, the gaps are more than significantly lower. I just received a notification that I qualified for the finals in a race based on my ITT time submission on the course. The real irony is that the race is a hill climb ITT.

    It can be done, but be realistic, and patient. There are a lot of really knowledgeable people out there on this site that I have heeded over the past year and they it has really helped me!

    Good luck and pin on a number regardless, that way you will never experience the what ifs.

    Cheers!

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by 2spokesloose View Post
    I started last fall just doing long aerobic rides into spring until I was around 85 miles on the long day.
    I rode 8 tee shirt ride/” race” for me. All eight of these were back to back eight weeks in a row. I was getting weaker and weaker race by race in the end. I decide something is wrong and realized I didn’t have a clue why. I pick up Joes book, learn about overtraining, and get an eight week plan to train for a specific race. The plan looked like this:
    Week 1 build 1 (I felt the strongest at the end of this week)
    Week 2 build 2
    Week 3 build recovery
    Week 4 build 2(Ifelt the strongest at the end of this week)
    Week 5 build 2
    Week 6 build recovery (Ifelt the strongest at the end of this week)
    Week 7 peek
    Week 8 race. ( Front derailleur sticks in big ring on biggest climb early in the race, I cram up with the lead pack anyway but the day was pretty much over for me at the top so I really don’t even know how I felt.)
    I shot my mouth off before noticing I've stumbled into the coaching forum. Like a few others in the thread, I'm not a coach. But I'm in it now...

    When I'm doing longish races successfully, it's all about how much training volume I've put in before the start of the season. I do think speed work has value, a lot of value, but I really need a good base.

    I have a limited training tolerance. We all do. Figuring out where that is is important. It's a moving target, especially for someone just getting into the sport. I think I can do three high-intensity workouts, including racing, in a week and do that week after week for a while, but sooner or later it'll be too much. More than that will be too much sooner rather than later. Also, I think tapering before a race is useful, but for someone who hasn't been spending the last six months on a base/build plan, I don't know if a two-week taper per Friel is really necessary. And it may not really be the right thing to do before a series of races. I think if racing is my only speed work, I get slower over the course of a series. So, if I'm being "good," I'll keep doing speed work pretty far into a series, so that I'm not slowing down too much by the end. I don't really plan my really-off weeks, usually life arranges enough of those for me anyway.

    Since what you need for your Cat. 4 upgrade and also to have some skill for all that fitness to back up is to do a bunch of racing (and finish,) I think that doing a big plan organized around one race is overkill, and maybe even counterproductive. I realize that Friel's plans don't exclude the possibility of doing quite a few races in a season, but it doesn't sound like you're using it that way.

    It's October, so you're probably done with road racing for the season. Putting in a good base is great - try to do it again before next season. Start doing speed work about a month out. Figure out how many speed workouts you can do without getting into that always-tired mode, and do that.

    During most of the season, do either a race week if you're racing that week, a build week if you're not, or a recovery week if you think you need it. For me, a race week probably has a "real" speed workout early in the week, some easy rides, and then a race. Before some stuff came up and torpedoed my weekend, I'd sometimes do a leg opener day the day before a race. Short tempo ride, short hills, something like that - a ride to hit high efforts, but not stay in that zone long, which I find draining. For me, a recovery week doesn't have any speed work and the long ride isn't long enough to be especially challenging, although it could still be longer than my event. Build weeks are pretty much as in Friel.

    You should learn a lot about racing, get a lot faster, and I think it's less stressful to do a little more static training structure just based on what I'm doing that weekend and what part of the year it is. You can always go back to Friel once you're in 4 or 3, you've got some races you want to make 'A' races, and you've hit a plateau following the "just ride a lot and now and then do speed work" plan.

    Getting your race day sorted out is important too. How early do you need to get to a race? Do you ride in circles or on a trainer? Etc.

    If you're having fun with it, shop for a team. It's nice to have people to race with, and great to have other people to ride with during the parts of the year when it's harder to ride outside on purpose.

  21. #21
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    I started three years ago at age 49 as a 50+ Cat 5. I have a power meter and train 10+ hours per week. I even had a coach for one season, and might get one again. I feel a coach can help make training more effective since I'm training on limited time.

    I had some humiliating results as a Cat 5, and some good ones (a couple of podiums, some top 10's). I might not be getting faster as I get older, but I'm doing my best to not get any slower. Realistically, however, with my ftp at under 4 W/kg I will probably never progress beyond Cat 4, and the elite 50+ guys will kick my butt.

    Still, racing has been a total blast, and I would encourage anyone to try it. Take your suffering to a whole new level, and give it some purpose!

  22. #22
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    That's great stuff for me to ponder. Thank you guys very much. I have one other question about the base training. In Friels book he calls for Endurace workouts zone 1 and 2 mainly. So what does a base week look like if my long ride is 3 hrs. I have been training 6 days a week. Would you guys give me an idea what a week looks like and how much time in each zone. One thing I did notice in the Friel build phase workouts was I did not spend much time in the tempo zone. I did allot of interval and hill interval ect and allot of zone 1 and 2. How much tempo vs zone 2 riding. One lesson I learned from this girl guy two man team that rode on 6 of those tshirt rides was the would ride out at a steady pace of around 26 mph. The would hold that pace for the race. Most uf us were dropped by mile 20. I susspect I need to be able to ride tempo for freakin ever if I have to stay with them in the future.

  23. #23
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    On last thing. I live in a small city with few cyclists. I do ride with a group but there knowledge is limited. All cat 5s. There are only a couple of serious racing guys and they are pretty high on themselves. Not the types to share and mentor others. That's why I joined this forum. I am very thankfull for all of your responses. I am walking away from this tread encouraged to
    Go give it my best shot next year. I am blessed enough to have started my own business 6 yrs ago and now have the time and resources to train however I plan. Hearing the older guys chime in has been uplifting. I still may buy the power meter and go to a camp just for the camp experience and a training tool that could help me get the most return for time spent on the bike. Time, by the way is our most valuable asset!

  24. #24
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    Assume 11h/week:

    Monday: 1h Core work
    Tuesday: 2h with some steep hill repeats that last 5min or so each. Heavy gear. Think of it as a force workout, not Vo2max.Do some high cadence drills before and after actual workout.
    Wednesday: 2h Endurance with 3x20min at high Tempo.
    Thursday: 1h Core work
    Friday: OFF
    Saturday: 3h focused Endurance ride with 10 sec hard bursts every 5-10min and 2x20 min high tempo on last hour
    Sunday: 2h easier endurance ride, do 3x10min at 110+ RPM

    This would be part of "Base 2" for me. Just a rough example. Keep things interesting and work on the foundations that you want to develop. Refer to Friel's "Regions" as in Force, Speed, Power, Anaerobic Endurance, Endurance, Speed etc.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by marquinhos View Post
    Assume 11h/week:

    Monday: 1h Core work
    Tuesday: 2h with some steep hill repeats that last 5min or so each. Heavy gear. Think of it as a force workout, not Vo2max.Do some high cadence drills before and after actual workout.
    Wednesday: 2h Endurance with 3x20min at high Tempo.
    Thursday: 1h Core work
    Friday: OFF
    Saturday: 3h focused Endurance ride with 10 sec hard bursts every 5-10min and 2x20 min high tempo on last hour
    Sunday: 2h easier endurance ride, do 3x10min at 110+ RPM

    This would be part of "Base 2" for me. Just a rough example. Keep things interesting and work on the foundations that you want to develop. Refer to Friel's "Regions" as in Force, Speed, Power, Anaerobic Endurance, Endurance, Speed etc.
    Thank You!

    I like the mix you bring to the Friel E2 workouts.

    Some clarification would help me. When I look at the tempo zone in Friels book, he calls this zone 3 with sub threshold being just below LT. I believe I read others on this site using the word tempo as sub threshold like a time trial effort. I am still confused about this. I did do time trial workouts which is zone 4 to 5 and I did allot of Zone 1 and 2 in Friels E2 workouts but I did not spend much time in zone 3.
    As a prep or base or winter base is this zone 3 a critical area to spend time training? It seems to me this is where I need to spend allot of time to build “speed endurance” (my terminology). Or the ability to ride long distance at a higher rate of speed. Any clarification would be helpful.

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