(Lifted pretty much verbatim from a lengthy post on SocialCyclists.org.)
My 2011 season was a wash.
My main problem was not having a goal early on (intentionally), which meant no real training over the winter, which meant a very low fitness level going into March. It was so low that my normal "use races for training" didn't work because I couldn't hang in the races long enough to get good training. As a 3 I was doing the 3-4 race (1+ hour) at Bethel, then the P123 race (1.5+ hours). As a 2 I couldn't finish the P123 by itself.
The Missus even commented on my lack of fitness relating to lack of goals relating to lack of training. One of my friends calls his wife "The Coach"; I used to laugh inside at this, but now it's sort of turned that way for me. Since my training most affects the Missus (through time spent away from her), if she says I ought to train more then I ought to train more.
I suppose that if I was single I'd be training/racing more; I'm not so I don't. It's not a bad thing, it's just the way things work. I'm not single because there is significant time I'd rather be with the person with whom I'm not single (the Missus) rather than on my own. That the Missus enjoys the racing scene helps; that she understands my need to race helps too; and that she understands my disappointment when I don't race up to my expectations, well, that really helps.
For 2012 I have a very simple short term goal: to arrive in March in race trim.
It's all or nothing. I don't want to aim at June or July or some abstract warm sunny time in the far future. I want to focus on the grey, dingy, flahuten March in Connecticut weather. I want to be flying by then, lean, relatively fit, and hungry to race.
Once that happens, all bets are off; the rest of the season hinges on what happens in March. In 2011 I had a poor March, which meant I had a poor April. That led to a poor May, albeit with a few flashes of form. With no solid base the flashes flashed, my body went back to its unconditioned self, and I had a poor June. And July. And August.
I don't want to do that again.
I want to start with a good base and let things go from there; if things go well I can always find a goal for May or June or July or whatever, it's getting to March in race trim that counts. "Race trim" means losing weight, maintaining my bike equipment, and doing some training.
Curiously enough, once I had this goal (it only really solidified a few nights ago while on the trainer), the things I had to do to accomplish said goal suddenly sharpened in focus. It became very clear what I should work on and what I can let go. It comes down to a few things.
In 2010 I was 155 lbs at the first race at Bethel; right now I'm working to stay under 180. I gain weight quickly. I used to lose it quickly too, but that went away when I got "older". In my early-mid 30s I lost without dieting 20+ lbs in one very active February. Now weight I gain sticks around. I need to focus on diet for the next 2-3 months. Once I start losing weight it becomes very exciting for me - it's easier and easier for me to watch what I eat because I can see the results of my prior efforts.
I neglected my equipment in 2011. I'm not talking just handlebar tape or cable ends; I'm talking replacing two SRM wiring harnesses, a set of SRM batteries, two sets of BB30 bearings, shortening the stays on the orange Tsunami, gluing up new race tires, sorting my gear bag (kit, accessories). All this needs to be done by March 2012. Other than new kit I have no necessary purchases - I have all my race wheels, training wheels, race and training tires, chains, cassettes, etc. I even have spare derailleurs for groups I don't use (SRAM).
(This is kind of like extra credit - not really required, but ends up a huge time suck.)
Each year I have a pet project. For two years it's been whatever new bike equipment (2010 = Tsunami/HEDS, 2011=TsunamiTwo). 2012's pet project will be adapting a Cycleops trainer stand (I have 3 stands, 2 resistance units) into a Rock N Roll type pivoting unit. A friend who welds will help me with this. I want to use that to turn my trainer stuff up one notch. I haven't ever been able to do all out sprints on the trainer; I hope this allows me to do something like that.
My first step will be to create some patterns for the steel plate. The second step will involve giving my friend Mark a big steel plate and the patterns. He'll cut, weld, and return a franken-trainer. This ought to be good.
A secondary project will be experimenting with FSA Compact bars. I'll use them to build up the Orange bike when I get it back. If that works then I have a lot of options as far as bars go. Right now I have a very precious stash of crit-bend bars but I'm starting to run low.
The third one will be the stay-shortening on the orange Tsunami, but to me that's more like a build project, not anything unusual.
The Missus has been reminding me to train. This is a good thing as a lot of time I feel guilty training, not because of anything she says but because of how I feel about what I should be doing. The big change for 2012 will be no California trip in late January. This means no 10-12 completely dedicated, pro-style training camp days. I normally did 3 hour rides consistently, with some 6 hour rides thrown in there (and some corresponding 0-1 hour rest days). I'll try and replicate something like that here, depending on how things go. I hope to turn four travel days (2 actual traveling; 2 packing/unpacking) into training days - that's the only way I can turn this into a "better" training camp.
Depending on the weather I will train outside a bit more. It burns more fuel, gives me a more natural pedaling action (i.e. I can stand), and on the mountain bike it's both slow (warm) and never ending (I have to pedal everywhere as it doesn't coast well). I relearned all this when I went for a mtb on the road in Maine.
There's a promoting aspect to my season too. I hope to bring off another successful Bethel Spring Series, more of which I'll post about later; suffice it to say that it's my only "must accomplish" goal of the year. I'd like to do a bit more on this side of cycling, but for now that's just dreams and wishes. I put it this way in a forum thread somewhere - I don't want to announce things when I'm planting seeds; I'd rather wait until I'm harvesting.
We'll see how it goes.