I enjoy building a good base. It's fun and rewarding, since improvement comes steadily. It's also fun to be able to go fast for a long ass time. This week was the highest volume of the year to date at about 10.5 hours. Going much above threshold isn't such a happy time at present, but in theory I'll play it right after the next (final) base phase and that will come. Last year I pretty much did six base phases and nothing else. That had its pluses and minuses.
During base periods, I very rarely ride with too many other people. My favorite rides during base are when my wife and I go out and just put our heads down and rip around for several hours. Since her car accident, she's been stuck on the trainer. Good focus on her part to put up with that situation - I know I couldn't. But I've missed the company and having a ride companion who I can count on to do none of the shit that pisses me off on base rides.
Base rides with a group are actually probably the hardest rides for most people to do with a group. People start to sprint rises and half wheel and do all sorts of shit. People want to do their turns at the front, especially at the beginning, not figuring that they're in for maybe 2 more hours of going no slower than we're going now and hanging on the back now and finishing strong is going to beat the hell out of heroing now and limping home later. And people aren't trying to be dopes or whatever about any of this stuff - counterproductive base ride behavior is VERY natural, so easy to fall into. You have to be pretty vigilant about it.
The group we had out Sunday was good like that. We started off at an excellent pace, then started to get a little wacky on Turkey Foot with the rollers. I don't like it when people go real hard up rollers and then rest at the top on base rides - the whole point is never let off. So there was one barked "ease off on the hills and twist the throttle at the tops" and we were in base ride nirvana for the next few hours. To his credit, the guy who was ratcheting the hills doesn't feel pain and is in decidedly no danger of limping home on any ride that I've ever done.
A good base group ride needs a clear mandate. Without the clear mandate, it turns into a piece of shit. It's not that any particular mandate is THE mandate, but people need to be signed up for something and committed to accomplishing it. Without that, I've got no use for group training. The 10am is the 10am and you know what you're getting. It sounds somewhat dick even to write about how there needs to be discipline to a ride but this is maybe the only real dogmatic belief that I have. When you have 10 or fewer hours a week in which to get your base built, you can't afford wasted rides. If a random "hammer for 90 minutes and then limp home for 90 more minutes at sub recovery power because it's fun" is on the docket, fine, but it seems like You Got Dropped feeds on a steady diet of dudes who do those kind of rides too often.
So my thoughts on the matter boil down to two and a half very simple ones, and these define how I do longish base rides:
1 - You should never go so hard that you cook yourself to the point where you can't immediately grab gears and stay on the shit when you crest a hill. Sprint points are an exception to this - I'm a recent devotee to the "it's never the wrong ride to have a sprint" mindset.
2 - The fitness that you need now doesn't come from how fast the fastest you go is, it comes from how fast the slowest you go is. It's not the presence of peaks, it's the absence of valleys.
2.5 - Your average power and normalized power should be darn close. On Saturday's two plus hour solo ride, my average power was .1 w/kg off of the normalized power, and less than .5 w/kg off of last-measured LT. Yesterday, the gap was a little wider, but the average suffered from a piss break and a snack/piss break. Moving average and normalized were actually remarkably close for a bunch ride (we had 6 of us), and we weren't letting any moss grow below our feet.
At one point yesterday, after a long pull on the front, I was asked what kind of drugs I'm on. There is a sick pleasure to be derived in that. A steady diet of LT intervals makes a donkey into a fast donkey, alas it does not turn a donkey into a thoroughbred. But positive reinforcement is nice.
I'm much more comfortable talking about base because I think I'm good at it. With one more block of base ahead following this week's rest and test, I plan to be able to roll two hours at 4 w/kg without going over the red line. For some people they can do that with a cigarette in their mouth and a tumbler of scotch in one hand, while others would never be able to do close to it. Whatever your level is, it is. You try to get it as high as you can but everyone's got their obstacles. My deal just happens to be that 4 is the magic number for terminal pain (but sub red line) train rides. Maybe I should just do long as hell boring races like Leadville? But I am WAY less comfortable talking about the sharp fitness ranges. Getting my 5' power reliably over 5 w/kg actually produces a visceral nervous response. It hurts like hell, and I shy away from it. There were a few things I did last year that worked out really well in that regard, but I remember at Clarendon Cup trying to get across a gap that given the time frame of that race in the calendar, if I was going to be able to jump a gap like that, I should have been able to do it then. I failed badly. That bummed me out.
Being able to go 23 for hours on end is great and all, and I think it's a necessary stopping point along the way to effective race fitness, but if THE FAST(tm) doesn't fake a full fledged visit to your house, being able to go 23 for a long time is nothing more than a ticket to a bunch of pack finishes.
My wife's pissed at me for stealing more than my share of the cookies, but I ruled at making BBQ ribs and mashed potatoes. I should probably go head out for another 3 hours. There are a couple of extra pounds hanging around right now.
Rest week this week. Not really so much looking forward to next Saturday's test. That's going to be not the most fun few minutes.
New bed is taking a few nights to get used to. It's a little strange.