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Depth of Fitness: You Can't Cheat Time

It's almost Tour De France season and whether you are a cycling fan or not, we can all appreciate the massive fitness required to race your bike for 3 weeks up and down the mountains of France!

Tainted history of drug use in sport aside... It's undeniable that these cyclists are FIT. What's also pretty rad is that some of them are on Strava! Check out American, Sepp Kuss's ride from July 6, 2022 for instance, power data and all.

Depth of Fitness

While the numbers themselves from any one stage of the Tour de France are impressive, it's the depth of fitness these riders exhibit that is big-time impressive.

"Depth" is a concept that's hard to quantify but extremely important if you want to be good in endurance sport. In cycling, it's common for us to discuss peak power numbers.

What's your best 5 minute, 20 minute, 60 minute power? In running, it might be your 5k, half marathon, or marathon PR.

But in the Tour De France, the riders don't really care what sort of 5-minute power they can produce when they are fresh with a light warm up and some openers. They need to be able to produce good power in hour 5 on Day 12 of a 19-day race. That takes depth.

What sort of watts can you push after 4 hours of cycling?

How fast can you run a 5k after 35K of running before it?

Those are the metrics that often make or break a race.

Texas Cycling Training

TrainingPeaks doesn't have a way to quantify depth, but it's as simple (not easy!) as consistent training year after year.

How MANY 3-4 hour rides do you do each year?

How MANY 90-120 minute runs do you do?

If you're not an IRONMAN® or marathon athlete, then your metric for depth might be 50-75% of those.

That's how we build deep fitness that we can realize on race day.

It's boring, but it works.

You Can't Cheat Time

I will always remember the example I had once of coaching two athletes for IRONMAN® Texas. It was the first full-distance triathlon for both of them. They seemed to be of similar ability in their training sessions, at least in terms of speeds they swam, biked, and ran.

Athlete A had been a triathlete off-and-on for many years, had done a few 70.3 races (though not in 2 years), and barely did any of his training. His longest ride was around 80 miles and his longest run was only 13 miles.

Athlete B was new to the sport, though he had quite high fitness from his time in the military. He signed up for the IRONMAN only 5 months out and it was his first triathlon. He did ALL his training. The long bikes, the long runs, everything.

I was pretty worried about Athlete A finishing when it came to race-day but he ended up crushing it in 12.5 hours. Athlete B also finished, sneaking in just under the 17-hour mark.

That case study taught me an important lesson during my early days of coaching: You can't fake deep fitness. You can't cheat time.

Time and consistency are our biggest allies when it comes to endurance.

The coming summer months are rather boring on the race front for most of us in Texas. It's hot, and the big fall and winter races are still a ways off. Sounds like a good time to build some depth!

Catch you all on the road.

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