Personally, I love instructions. I discovered my love for instructions when I was a teen-ager in East Peoria. The church I was part of was collecting pledges towards a new building. We brought in a "professional" fund-raiser who held a training meeting for us. I listened intently to every word he said, figuring that he knew how this was to be done. One of the instructions he gave us was how to handle a situation where the TV was on while we were making our "pitch" to the household, and how to get them to turn it off. On one of my calls, I encountered just that problem. So I applied the solution he recommended, and voila! they turned the TV off. I became convinced that following instructions was the path to success.
Throughout my life, I've rarely owned, built or fixed anything without reading the instructions. And I've always been glad I have. Now that doesn't mean that I've always listened to the advice of others. Often, I've felt that I was as smart as they were. But printed instructions get my attention every time. Even in cycling.
I rode my first century in 1995. I used the Bicycling Magazine 8 week plan to a better century, faithfully following each training day. Then on event day I rode the 100 miles on a steel yard sale bike, a real 10 speed, with strength to spare. I didn't have cycling clothes or shoes, and couldn't even afford special cycling nutrition (I used fig newtons), but the plan worked and I was successful.
The last few years, however, I haven't been able to use a plan written by someone else, I've had to make it up as I go. All the plans I've seen are based on a 7 day week, and since 2004 my week only has 6 days in it. Added to that has been the unpredictability of my riding buddies. I have often received a telephone call or email asking if I want to go riding - today or tomorrow morning. Rather than say no (I get plenty of "alone time"), I have frequently scrapped my "plans" and adopted an ad hoc plan to get some "buddy time". This has often left me either over trained or under trained.
This year I completed the two rides which I promised myself that I would do: the 172 mile Metropolis Outing, and the 223 mile Mt. Vernon Adventure. However, after the Mt. Vernon Adventure, I was worried. The day had been perfect. I had the advantage of great riding companions for the century part of the ride. The weather had been mild. Even the wind had cooperated and was blowing from the North, helping me on the ride home. Yes, I was real worried. What if next year I have no companions? What if it's hot? What if the wind is from the South and I have to fight it all the way home? I was worn out when I got back this year. With less favorable conditions, I'm not sure I could repeat the success.
So I've decided to get back to basics; follow a written plan. I chose the Bicycling Magazine 16 week plan for riding a double century and modified it to work on a 6 day week. I'll follow it as closely as my schedule allows and see how it turns out (I'm planning on riding a 400 Kilometer/248 miles ride in May next year). Already I have had to be flexible to ride with my riding buddies. The "plan" called for 71 miles at my "double century pace", and after I had already left the house I got the call, "Hey! You wanna ride today at lunch?". So I agreed and changed my route so that I would be back in Marion by 11 and then rode with two of my buddies. This made a 71 mile day into an 82 mile day (and that's the "long day" on the plan about 3 weeks from now). So I'll have to deviate from the plan from time to time, but I'll try to keep that to a minimum.
Stay tuned, I'll let you know next year if the plan works or if I should have said, "Yeah, but" to Bicycling Magazine's 16 week double century training plan.