Q. What key metrics do you track?
A. As you can tell, I'm into hours and vertical feet. I do look at some mileage on the road where I have mile markers for reference, but not so much. I look at my heart rate once I'm into my serious preparation in June and July.
Q. When training for Leadville, what are two to three of your key workouts that are your fitness gauges? (i.e., how do you know you are on track for a solid Leadville performance? What gives you the confidence that you're ready?)
A. My confidence comes from knowing I have put in the time, the effort and the vertical. How I feel is irrelevant because I've been doing this long enough to know that I can feel great and have a terrible race. I also know that I can feel like crap and go out and kill it.
Tour de Wien'r the week before Leadville is a huge confidence boost for me. Those four days in a row of hard/fast work gets me ready. It includes lots of vert, lots of power riding, and 12 to 14 hours on the bike in those four days. I also include a tempo workout on the flats on my road bike that I call AMU (All Mixed Up).
Q. A big chunk of racing at an elite level is mental skills. Do you have a couple of tips to give to the age-group bunch?
A. Just be confident on the start line regardless of how you feel or haven't been feeling. Don't make the race out to be a big deal. Take it down in your mind to just another training or group ride with a bunch of friends. RELAX!
Also, pacing is critical. Most age groupers go out too hard. Efficiency (most return for the least cost) has to be the common thread in everything you do out on the race course.
Q. I think I read you are racing TransAlp this year? How many hours of riding/hiking/physical work do you think you'll get during that event?
A. TransAlp looks to be about 80,000 feet of total accumulated vertical. There are no 100-mile stages; but tons of climbing back-to-back for eight days. I haven't mapped out how I'll train for TransAlp yet; but this race will define my Leadville training and make my preparation in '09 completely different from the last two years.
The prep for TransAlp, the race itself, and the three weeks between TransAlp and Leadville all have me concerned. However, that concern is positive and it's the nature of the challenge and the newness of it that has me motivated.
Q. In non-Alps years, what was your biggest cycling week?
A. For me, a 20-hour week was really big, or over the top. Big, quality weeks for me are usually 16 to 18 hours on the bike.
Q. Do you combine big workouts back-to-back? If so, when and why?
A. My big combination days are mainly just the Tour de Wien'r, and it's always the week before a target race, which lately has been Leadville. (See previous paragraphs for more details.)
Q. I read your website about the public and private work you're doing. Why are you so passionate about trail advocacy?
A. Trails have so much value to me personally; but I think the same holds true for lots of people. In many areas, there seems to be very little planning going into trails on public lands and certainly very little proactive management toward creating quality systems of trails.
I like trail-based fitness and recreation much more than competing. Quality trails for self-powered use (walking, running and mountain biking) adds so much to the lives of so many. Trails are central to the lives of many people. We need to always work to maintain, and improve, our trail opportunities.
Q. Why are you so passionate about trail design?
A. I like to create and I enjoy the possibilities that a natural landscape presents for trails. Also, I love being outside in great natural places and you can't design great trails without being out there exploring the areas.
Q. Finally, when you look forward to 20 years from now, what do you want people to be writing or saying about you?
A. For me, it won't matter if people aren't writing or saying anything about me. My goal is not to leave some sort of legacy or anything like that. I'm just living my life in the manner that appeals to me as a person. Most important to me is being able to have the respect of my family, friends and to always be able to look into the mirror and respect that person looking back at me.
A big thanks to Dave for taking the time to be so thorough with his answers. You can see from this column that winning six Leadville 100 Mountain Bike Races comes from consistent fitness, a good deal of "vert" and the balance of family. He is obviously passionate about trail advocacy and the trails couldn't ask for a better spokesperson.
I don't think anyone can duplicate his training plan; but I do know a lot of people are hoping their plan is better. I also know a lot of people will be cheering for him to win his seventh, consecutive Leadville 100 on August 15.
Ride fast, Dave.
Gale Bernhardt was the 2003 USA Triathlon Pan American Games and 2004 USA Triathlon Olympic coach for both the men's and women's teams. Her first Olympic experience was as a personal cycling coach at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. Thousands of athletes have had successful training and racing experiences using Gale's pre-built, easy-to-follow training plans. For more information, click here. Let Gale and Active Trainer help you succeed.