Ride Less, Get Fast: Cody's First BEE Block
This winter, Brockmiller Elite Endurance opened up a new class time and a new instructor. A long-time racer and rider, Cody Sovis first joined the Hive almost six years ago for two blocks throughout the offseason. Since then, he’s grown into fitter, more competitive athlete that has relied on the flexibility to put in big miles. Just over a month after leading classes, we asked him to see what structure has done for his fitness.
Just this weekend, I went over 13,000 miles for the year. To be fair, that’s everything. That’s every 2.5-mile commute to Brew, over 3,000 trainer miles, a huge ten-day trip to Georgia with 3T Q+M, everything. For the past two years especially, my training has been built around volume, and that’s a lot of volume, typically fifteen hours a week. This year was the first time that amount of time added up on me; after putting in such a huge amount of time and energy, I was limping into September.
Now, it’s really easy to see why. Without a plan, and without a structure to my week aside from hammering TNR and Speed of Light, all of my fitness depended on more. More miles, more time, more climbing, but that often meant I had less to give. Efforts were weak, power went down, and I found myself committing to doing “just ten more minutes” over and over. Physically, I’d reached a point where I couldn’t put in the time or the effort.
Mentally, it was even tougher. I was constantly stressed about fitting in those big two, three, even four hour rides multiple times per week. Luckily, I have a flexible work schedule that allows me to start as early as a I want. But in September, I found myself up at 3:30 am, at the computer by 4:15, and hurrying to get things done before 3 pm so I could ride before dark. By October, I was fried. I wasn’t enjoying any of my riding, and to be honest, the thought of racing was nauseating. I raced half as much as I normally do, skipping some of my favorite events along the way, and racing Iceman with as much enthusiasm as I normally reserve for a visit to the dentist (no offense, Dr. Z).
And to be clear, I didn’t have a bad Iceman. I ended up 33rd overall, spending most of the race in the second chase group with a dozen other really strong Michigan riders. I was a little disappointed because I’d beaten them all throughout the year, but on that day, I was struggling late and lacked the normal reserve of power I rely on to finish things off. Something wasn’t right; I was fried, maybe mentally more than physically. I needed a big change.
After nearly two months at the Hive, I’ve reduced my weekly volume by roughly 30%, from 15 hours to around 10. About half of that ride-time is in class or completing the weekend rides, with the other half coming at home on the trainer, or commuting to work every morning. Instead of putting in a massive amount of endurance miles, I’m putting in hard tempo rides three days a week, with the other three to four days riding shorter, more recovery-styled workouts.
So, is it working? Well, numbers aren’t the whole story, but it’s hard to ignore the facts. My fitness is vastly improved from Iceman, a 95 according to Strava, compared to 109 at BEE. I’ve lost six pounds, most that due to not having such a ravenous metabolism from riding so much, and I’ve even found that I’m sleeping much better. A big part of that is being less stressed by trying to balance work and bikes and family time, a balance that we’re all trying to find and one that’s especially tough during the holiday season.
Maybe the most interesting part of this first Tempo Block, however, has been the sense of camaraderie that’s really made what can be a depressing time of year so much more fun. Walking in and feeling a part of, and accountable to, my class has really kept November and December fun. Ask anyone, and they’ll tell you I’ve always been the very definition of Seasonal Affective Disorder, but having the opportunity to pedal with pals have made this awkward season between fall and winter a lot more enjoyable. Seeing everyone get stronger, learn about their bodies, and take what they’ve learned into the next workout is such a cool process to be a part of. Cycling is a lot more of a team sport than people think, and sometimes we don’t realize how much we can learn and adapt from others.
Finally, this block at BEE has me motivated to totally rethink my goals. I used to always measure my season based on total miles, a few big races, and being in top form from January 1 to December 31. With a lot of changes coming up, I know that this is almost certainly my last year being able to ride 13,000 miles. But what if I can ride 8,000 miles and have more fun? Seeing Dan Madion run a marathon and still shred a Tuesday Night Ride, and hearing about all the BEEs signed up for the Ironman next summer, has me motivated to try something new. I’m going to use BEE to help me get fit for a full winter of skiing, a great way to mix things up, enjoy the outdoors, but stick with the structured plan that’s really reinvigorated my enjoyment of cycling...even if I’m not racing until spring.
We’ve got a really great thing happening at Brockmiller, and it’s something athletes of all kinds can really benefit from. We only get so much time; you might as well get the most out of what you spend in the saddle and on your fitness.