Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Q & A with Rob Morlock

A late April check-in with Rob to see how his training is going for the 2010 Race Across America, which begins June 9 in California.


Q: So, we're about six weeks out from the race. How's training going? How are you feeling?
Rob: Training has been going great! The early spring weather sure has helped with motivation. Those 100 mile rides back in January and February, when the temperatures were in the teens, were tough but important to building the right base. Those miles are paying big dividends now as I feel strong and very fit. I actually "crave" getting on my bike which is a good sign this close to the race. Some guys feel "burnt out" by now.

Q: What kind of mileage are you putting in per week?
Rob: My miles are up into the 500+ per week right now. The "long" ride, usually done on Saturday, is the cornerstone for any ultra-marathon cycling program. This long ride is up to 250+ miles right now and climbing. The rest of the week is augmented by tempo, intensity, intervals, and recovery rides.

Q: What will your long rides be between now and when you start to taper?
Rob: I am again working with a long time friend and ultra-distance coach John Hughes, and believe it or not, I won't start tapering until June 1st, or about 8 days before the race. You don't want to go into the race "flat". Before the taper period, I will do two key rides in May:

- a 24-hour continuous effort, during which I will cover approximately 400 miles;

- a 2 x 300-mile ride, where I ride 300 miles, sleep for 2-3 hours, and ride for another 300 miles. The idea with this one is to simulate the type of miles and rest template that I will use during the actual race.

Q: Any night training planned? How do you do that and stay safe?
Rob: The 24 hour training ride referenced in the last answer will be a night ride. Usually I start riding on a Friday night, at dark, (say 8:00 pm) with bike lights, and a pace vehicle that will follow me for safety. It will have food, clothes, and supplies on hand. The crew will accompany me until the daylight hours on Saturday, then I will ride (like I always do on Saturday) until 8pm. It is nice to have company during the overnight portion of the ride. The day, or Saturday miles, can be lonely (and I will be tired), but these rides are important for RAAM prep.

Q: Are you just doing distance at this point, or do you incorporate speed/heart rate workouts into your training regimen?
Rob: My program will still incorporate speed and distance. In fact, the VO2 max (very very high HR intervals), will start about mid-May. These put serious load on your system, and at least in theory, all the training up to this point will help my body adapt to the heavy load that the high volume (distance) and high intensity (VO2 max) will put on my body.

Q: You did your first Ultra-Distance race in 1994 (Furnace Creek 508) when you were 30. Now you are 46. Can you describe any difference in how you feel during and after training? i.e. Does it take longer to recover? Do you climb hills like you always have?
Rob: Believe it or not, I feel about the same. In some respects I feel better. I think as we age we begin to appreciate that we will not be young forever, and we "savor" these races and training sessions. I feel very strong and mentally sharp on the bike, and because I realize that I will not be doing this forever (at this level), I tend to enjoy each moment on the bike, and especially look forward to the challenge of my 5th RAAM.

My century (100 mile rides) times are about the same as they were 20 years ago, and recovery seems to be the same, but I don't feel that I climb quite as well as I used to.

Some folks politely ask "Aren't you too old to be still doing this?" I kind of chuckle, and think how good I still feel, and remind people that 46 (if you take care of yourself) is not too old to do anything.

Q: What about diet - on and off the bike: How do you stay fueled?
Rob: I have been eating the same sensible diet for about 40 years now, and this topics always seems to fascinate people. Many folks think that I eat tofu and spouts everyday, but in reality I just try to eat healthy. My mom used to cook good, wholesome meals and she always made our lunch which consisted of the basics: turkey sandwich, fruit, yogurt, veggies, etc. To this day, I still bring my own lunch to work. Dinners and breakfast are healthy as well. I LOVE Naked Nuggets! Great tasting lean protein. Perfect food for people looking to eat healthy.

I do have the ability to eat the same type of foods day in and day out and not get bored.

On the bike I have been using the same product for about 20 years called Spiz (www.spiz.net).

I eat very little solid food on the bike, but when I do it is usually something juicy like fruits, or small sandwiches (with mayo to keep them moist)

Q: Do you lose weight during RAAM training?
Rob: I guess that I have been blessed with a good metabolism because with my diet and training, my weight has stayed about the same since high school. I do notice however, that during intense RAAM training I do lean-up a bit and lose a few pounds. My clothes are a little looser this time of year.

Q: How many bikes do you own?
Rob: Not nearly enough.

Q: How many bikes does a RAAM racer need? I mean, Columbus only needed three ships to discover North America?
Rob: Yeah, well, he thought he was in India, so what did he know.

Thanks, Rob. We'll check in again as we get closer to the race. Maybe we'll give you a call about three hours after that 24-ride, just to simulate what it's like to be awakened from a sound sleep during RAAM.