Six things I learned while training for the Haute Route

The Haute Route is coming to Colorado, and one of VeloNews's editors has been training hard to prepare for the seven-day, 600-mile ride.

I’ll admit it: I was that guy in college who always did his homework. My parents must be proud. So naturally, after signing up for the Mavic Haute Route Rockies, a week of big rides in Colorado’s mountains, I figured I should be prepared. Over the years, I’ve raced a lot, trained a lot, but I never faced a seven-day, 600-mile tour with about 58,000 feet of climbing at high altitude. (This year is a media-only event, but you can sign up for Haute Route Rockies 2017.)

I used Today’s Plan to give me a framework for the training. It’s an Australian website that is akin to Pandora for the power meter set. You give it some parameters — goal races, available time for training, FTP — and it spits out a training plan.

Didn’t take notes in class? Here’s what I learned:

Be ready to go big

The thought of four days in a row of hard (usually LT or VO2) efforts was daunting at first — that’s what the plan had me doing. But it’s remarkable what you can handle, if you go into training with a proper base. It’s a pity that my winter didn’t include more powder skiing, but the extra days on the bike served me well during the month-long crunch to build fitness for the Haute Route.

Rest hard

In the past, I would rarely take two consecutive rest days. Today’s Plan had me doing this fairly often week to week, and it seemed to really help me take on the heavy load. Hard training is only successful when you are ready for it.

Low T isn’t always a bad thing

Today’s Plan uses a metric called “T-Score” which rates the overall difficulty of a workout, similar to TSS, which Training Peaks employs. Even if I couldn’t quite finish a specific workout, or I did a group ride or race instead of another dreary round of intervals, I could see how it stacked up. The cumulative metric is also a handy way to tell if an upcoming week was ominously difficult.

Analytics — love it or leave it

I’m not one of those people who can endlessly pore over analytics. If you are, you’ll love Today’s Plan. Aside from T-Score, you get an alphabet soup of different measurements for your fitness, training load, and performance. Maybe I should have tried harder to unpack those stats, but like a lot of people in the VeloNews office, I’m more of a words guy than a number cruncher.

Let distractions distract you

Remember that old chestnut from “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” about how life moves fast, and you have to take a moment to look around? It’s easy to fixate on the Garmin screen, and though I liked hitting those power numbers, it was better sometimes to relax and enjoy the ride.

You can’t do it all

The difference between Chris Froome and Andre Greipel is obvious, and you can bet they have very different training programs. Haute Route prep is more the former than the latter. That means short, fast, punchy races, like crits, got a bit harder once I got a few weeks into the plan. The body adapts quick to specific training — accept that you can’t be good at everything.

A year’s worth of analytics and training plans with Today’s Plan costs $150 per year, and there are a variety of other packages, depending on your needs. The website plays nice with Garmin Connect. Once you have things set up, your rides automatically upload, and you can also download workouts to run on your head unit with power zones and other details.

Stay tuned — I’ll be filing daily journals from the Haute Route ride starting this weekend.