Thursday, February 19, 2009

The UMCA Indoor Challenge

What motivates you as a cyclist? It's hard to say, right? In a perfect world, the ride itself would inspire us to pedal forward every time. While I do enjoy most of my rides and would rather be cycling than doing most other things, intrinsic motivation does not work all the time. In order to push ourselves to a higher level of performance, whether that means increasing speed or adding volume, we need to train through the tough times, too. This challenge seems particularly present in the northern latitudes, where snow and ice blanket the ground during the long winter months. These fall during the crucial base building phase where long steady miles are required and yet it’s often too cold, dark and icy to ride any meaningful distance.

This year, I decided to participate in the Ultra-Marathon Cycling Association (UMCA) Indoor Challenge as a way to stay motivated while logging important long miles on my trainer. The Indoor Challenge is open to all UMCA members and is held from November through March. Participating riders log indoor training sessions over two hours in length through a convenient on-line tool. Times are ascribed point values; the longer an individual session, the more points it yields. There are currently 32 riders from around the globe participating including several riders training for RAAM, the current world record holder in the 24-hour time trial and the former world record holder for the longest time spent on a trainer. Since November, participating cyclists have posted sessions of up to 24 hours in duration. Most rides are in the 2-6 hour range.

It's easy to lose perspective on your training needs when you ride longer than most riders in your local club and your wife and kids have long ago written you off as a lunatic. “Why can’t you just go out for an hour-long ride like a normal person?” they ask. It’s easy to lose sight of how much is enough and projects like the indoor challenge connect participants across the spectrum of ultra-marathon cycling. It isn’t the competition per se that gets me on the bike; it’s more the feeling of community with other endurance cylclists and the knowing what other riders are up to that provides me with extra motivation to log long indoor miles even when I don’t feel like it. In what can be an isolated and isolating sport, this feeling of community is important.

One thing I love about being a part of the ultra-cycling world is that as crazy as my wife and friends may think I am, there are plenty of crazier riders out there for me to take inspiration from. Knowing that there are RAAM competitors completing 24-hours indoor training sessions inspires me to get on that trainer and pound out another century myself. Hell, next to 24 hours on a trainer, 6 hours seems like a sprint!

Information about the UMCA Indoor Challenge and be found on their website. While you’re there, look at all of the other great things UMCA has to offer. There are outstanding training articles, other mileage competitions and a full ultra race calendar for the coming year.

So, most of the time it is the pure joy of the ride that gets me on the bike, but sometimes we all need an extra push. The Indoor Challenge is one of the things that helps me get on the bike when I DON’T really want to ride or when the roads are too unsafe to navigate. Hopefully, this will make me a stronger rider when the snows melt. Enough for now, I’m off to grind out another century on the Cycle-ops. Spring is just around the corner.

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