Pretty much 100% of my biking in the winter is alone. I also do it at about 5:30 AM, and the temperature in the garage ranges from about 35 to 42 degrees at the start. So it's early, cold, I have no company, and the scenery doesn't change as I crank out the miles. Plenty of reasons to get bored and skip a workout. But being the sicko trithlete I am, I actually enjoy it. Other than what was mentioned in Part 1, here are some specific workouts that get me through. I use watts to guage my effort, but I guess you could use mph or heartrate (although a big lag effect) also. For a reference, I race an Oly at an average of about 265w. My average power for the Crank the Kanc TT was 276. I should also mention that I'm SURE certain coaches (in Brunswick) will say I could be doing better workouts. But in my mind, I'm just trying to get some time in on the bike, work hard, and have variety. I also find it really helps to write the workout down on paper the night before and leave it right next to my bike. As you know, it can be hard to think or remember where you are in a set when you're working hard or your mind wanders. You can also write down the total elapsed workout time next to each set, and keep a stopwatch going.
1. FTP test. This is one serious grind. The point is to go to failure. After a 32 min. warmup that includes some intervals, the set starts at 160 watts. Every 4 min, I add another 20w. This week I matched last year's effort, where I failed after 2 min @ 320w. I think I could go a bit further if I had company (competition). At the end, it's not only a real physical struggle, but mental as well. After a recovery, the workout takes 1:20. I definitely use my countdown timer for this one.
2. Long grind. Most of my rides have a bunch of intervals, but I'll occasionally throw in a 45-60 min effort at 200-230w. Every 5 min, shift to a harder gear and stand up for a minute. That loosens up your back and fanny, and is a good mental break.
3. Over / under. This is a great effort set. The idea is to split the time between easy and hard in equal amounts of time, but the easy ain't so easy. For example, do 4 min at 280w, then 4 min at 240w. The midpoint is close to race pace. Repeat 5 times.
4. Ladder the hard. Start at an easy rate, say 180w. This stays as the easy interval. The hard interval starts at 200w and adds 20w each time. To make things interesting (and to keep your mind occupied), change up the times. Try something like 1 min ez, 3 min hard or equal times for each (2/2), but take the ladder up further.
5. Ladder the easy. As opposed to #4, your base is 270w for the hard, and you keep increasing the "easy." It would look like- 160, 270, 180, 270, 200, 270...and so on. Again, play with the times. The total set should be somewhere between 30 & 45 min.
6. Combination ladder. Combine sets 3&4- Start at 160w and work the hard intervals up to 270. Then without a break, keep 270 for the hard, and start increaseing the easy. If you go 3 min hard and 1 min easy, the whole set should be something like 48 minutes.
7. Time ladder. With this one, keep the hard and easy efforts the same, but change the times. You can either keep increasing the hard while keep the easy the same (1 hard/1 easy/2/1/3/1/4/1/5/1), or keep decreasing the easy while keeping the hard the same (5/5/5/4/5/3/5/2/5/1).
8. 3 min base. Each set has 3 min of near maximum effort (I was well over 400w for the first 3 sets), and has an equal amount of time for very easy spinning. Start with 9 x 20 sec with 20 sec between each. Then proceed to 6 x :30, 4 x :45, 3 x 1 min, 2 x 1:30, and 1 x 3 min. Spin for an additional 2 min between each set. So it looks like- 9x(20 hard, 20 easy), 2 min easy, 6x(30 hard, 30 easy), 2 min easy, and so on. Very tough set, especially if you bust hump. Set the countdown timer for 8 min.
9. Beat the computer. With TrainingPeaks WKO+, you can easily see your previous max power outputs for various lengths of time. A few weeks ago, I did a 30 min effort with the goal of exceeding all four times- 1 (304w), 5 (266), 10 (240) and 30 min (211). As it was still early in the season and I hadn't put in any really hard rides, these hurdles were relatively easy. I did a straight 30 min ride with the goal of riding over 310w for the first minute, then over 270 for the next 4 (cumulative time is now 5 min), over 250 for the next 5, and over 220 for the last 20 min. By definition, if I do this, I will beat all of the benchmarks by a good bit because the big 1 min effort is also reflected in the 5 min effort, and so on. (I ended up at 354, 294, 271 and 243.)
As you can see, most of these sets involve constant changing. Long intervals are only 5 minutes. That way, you're only focused on the next few minutes, not the next hour grind. Just take one step at a time. Sure, we need to put in some longer, steady state rides, but the idea of this post is to keep your mind engaged and work hard.