Depletion

I’m writing most of this entry before the fact because I’m not sure I’ll have the energy to do more than click ‘Publish’ once it’s over.

With the next race coming in less than a week I wanted to try and do my ‘last week’ right (we’ll forget that little beer and chips episode that started off the week, shall we..?). And the right way to go could be ‘depletion’ (aka ‘overcompensation’).

What the heck is depletion? I think it is a well-established fact that if you push progressively harder in training you will improve and if you don’t you will stagnate. This seems to be the base behind the idea. But first the program for my next few days.

The Program

1. Go out very, very hard 6 days before the race, with a one-hour ‘all out effort’, which Coach Rob says would be at, or above, my Anaerobic Threshold. The key seems to be to not let up the whole hour and to totally do myself in by the end of it – this is the depletion.

2. Three days before the race do something similar, but only 15 minutes and at an even higher level of intensity, i.e. above my AT. As Rob said in his email, ‘The last 3 to 5 minutes can’t end fast enough’.

3. Do very light recovery rides in between these rides and, I’m assuming, right up to race day.

The Idea

First, it seems important to know that when you train you are actually damaging your body. Thus, recovery after exertion is all important because this is when you gain in strength, speed, endurance, etc. Below is a graph I ‘borrowed’ from the internet. The curved line is performance, energy, strength, or however you want to label it.

Here’s my idea of the idea. The hour that you do 6 days before the race will punish your body so much (the dip on the graph) that it will, over a couple of days, rebound up to, then over your previous state of fitness (peak on the graph), elevating your capabilities beyond what they were before. This is the body ‘overcompensating’ for the destruction it has just endured.

The 15 minute, all-guns-blazing ride 3 days before has me a little stumped, but I think it is supposed to catch your recovery (from the first hammering) on the rebound and ‘springboard’ you to an even higher peak on race day. This isn’t shown on the graph, but I think the timing would be to do the 15 min ride as close to the peak of the curved line as possible (two days after the first hard ride, but this depends on all sorts of factors, I gather). The resulting dip would not bring you down past the ‘homeostasis’ line, and your 2nd peak (hopefully when the gun goes off on race day!) would be even higher than the first one shown on the graph.

Laurent Fignon, the late, great French cyclist, was one of the first pros to use this method (according to him), and stated that timing was of utmost importance when doing this type of training because it would be all too easy to peak before your event, or maybe worse, be still recovering when the race hits, thereby defeating the purpose of all the pain you’ve put yourself through. However, if race day hits on the way up to your peak, or on the way down, you are in theory still above what you were before. Anyway, basically I’ll try anything to give me an edge, so off I go!

For the record, Fignon’s overcompensation was one session of 220 km three days before Milan-San Remo, with the last 35 km absolutely at the limit. So much so that he couldn’t feel his legs when he finished. I might go a little lighter than he did…

Post Ride – Done. Pretty hard. ‘Publish’…

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7 thoughts on “Depletion

  1. This is the very thing I am looking for as I attempt to maximize my performance in a “sportive” next month. I’ll be interested to know if this works for you!

  2. I will report back dutifully. You might try Googling ‘overcompensation’ to get a better explanation than I wrote, as well. Good luck with your first ‘real’ race (is that right?)!

    • Yes, it’s my first “race,” if that is the right term for it. There will be no winner or loser and we are racing against a time standard, not one another. I would like to think this would encourage cooperation, but I suspect at the front end of the pack the competitive spirit of the riders will push them to compete for bragging rights.

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