Reno Wheelmen/Women, Sierra Foothill Training Camp

Contributed by Heidi Littenberg

The Reno Wheelmen/Women just completed two days of focused training in Auburn, California.  Thirteen riders, including several from Project Hero City of Reno, headed over the hill to spend two days learning from Silver Sage Sports and Fitness Lab Director, and O2Fitness Head Coach, Julie Young.

I have to start with the weather!  We kept counting our blessings that after the prior weekend’s rain and snow in the west, how lucky we were to hit the perfect weekend – sunny with highs in the 60s and 70s!  You can’t get better weather than that.  There’s nothing like green, rolling hills, and mostly rural roads with amazing scenery to lift the spirits after a couple months of gym workouts and riding on the trainer.  There were lots of smiles, despite all the hard work being done by all the riders.

The mild temperatures made it possible to have plenty of Julie’s patented chalk talks, so everyone could get the most out of each session.  She went over the key purpose of each workout and answered questions, so riders could focus on the task at hand with a great foundation of

1 Packing Light

Proof there’s no such thing as packing light!

We rented a team house in the Loomis area, which made it possible to ride to most of the training venues.  The location gave us the perfect place to settle in and have a great base of operations (possibly complete with poltergeist).

Day One – Sprints

Day one started with a sprint workout in the English Colony area.  Julie’s intimate knowledge of the roads meant we had a nice circuit for training with some gentle rollers for a bit of extra challenge – not just your flat loop around Air Center!  Each loop included two sprints, which challenged our ability to recover from hard efforts in bigger gears.

2 Sprint Chat

A group chalk talk about sprinting and apexing turns.

The two-and-a-half hour session included solo sprints, as well as double and three-person team lead outs.  Several riders hadn’t raced before, so they were able to pick up new skills, like drafting and how helpful it can be under any circumstances.  Riders also learned about apexing turns and the benefit of riding intervals at higher intensity levels.  We finished up with some rolling climbs up toward Auburn and back to the group house.

In the afternoon, we did a one hour active recovery ride as the sun was setting.  Despite already being tired from the morning workout, everyone enjoyed the spin and its positive effect on our tired legs.  We all felt sluggish at the start, but quickly realized how that quick spin helps the body recover.

Post-ride, we enjoyed the ability to eat an awesome potluck dinner for complete refueling.  Cyclists are often great cooks (or we can shop well!) and this group was no exception.

Day Two – Hill Repeats

We needed Saturday night’s dinner and Sunday morning’s breakfast as fuel for Sunday’s hill repeats.  Baxter Grade, just north of Auburn, is a local classic.  It works well for approximately 10-minute intervals with a variety of power outputs easy/hard, easy/hard).  The legs and lungs have to adapt to the changes in pitch in the road.  Five times up and down made for jelly legs, but having people around to offer encouragement was the kicker that got us all to the top of that fifth repeat.

3 Climbing Up Baxter

The first hill repeat on Baxter Grade, when we were full of energy!

Several of us skipped some major Sunday sporting event for an hour of active recovery later in the day, including a tour of Itchy Acres (my new favorite name for a rural/suburban housing tract!).  Another great sunset was on tap, along with more incredible, green scenery.  It’s amazing how beautiful that color feels when you live in a desert.

Key Takeaways

It’s amazing what a weekend camp can do for your riding.  Personally, I needed a reminder about why I love cycling so much.  I got that reminder from riding with great people in an amazing location that has world class terrain for cycling.  I also got that lift from feeling my body riding and recovering better than I thought it would.  There have been days over the winter that I couldn’t train as much or as hard as I wanted to, so feeling reasonably good after two days of pummeling myself was a nice surprise.

Riders also learned about more than just the physical benefits of doing intervals.  We definitely discussed their cardio and strength aspects.  But, Julie’s coaching includes so much more, like focusing on pedal stroke efficiency.  She makes it clear that you can’t just mash the pedals or “phone in” the workout and expect to gain much benefit.

4 Top of Baxter

 Lots of smiles after the LAST hill repeat on Baxter Grade!

Another rider mentioned how much she learned about the importance of a great bike fit and position on the bike for optimal use of large muscle groups (hear that, glutes?).  It’s easy to talk about it, especially if you’re a devotee like I am.  However, it’s an awesome thing to witness when someone else really feels that “I got it!” feeling for the first time.

In addition to details like these, a training camp really helps with the mental aspect of the sport, like applying what you’re doing to real-life situations (racing, riding centuries, etc.).  This helps us remember why we’re training in the first place.  That “aha!” moment gives each workout so much more oomph!

5 Riding Back to Railhead

Finishing up strong with a nice group ride.

Finally, a camp can help you push yourself through those last couple of painful pedal strokes at the top of the last hill repeat when you’re beyond tired.  Hearing others cheer you on and hearing Julie’s voice from behind you when you’re just about to fall off your bike… those things can help you finish that last 100 meters strong and with purpose.  That’s when training really pays big dividends.

Obviously, I’ll close by saying that if you have the opportunity to take part in a couple of days of intensive training with Julie, DO IT.  We all have those moments where we might be intimidated to dive into that pool, but it’s so worth it.  Like she said, “No one wins hill repeats!”  Camps like these aren’t about that.  They’re about pushing your own personal limits and finding out what you’re capable of.  That, to me, is time well spent.