How do you get faster?
That's a tough one I'll try to answer in a completely narcissistic way--by telling you what has made me faster this year (notice I didn't say fast, because, hey, everyone this side of breathing still kicks my ass at Church Creek).
Paps' Recommendation 1. Ride more.
This is the simplest thing to notice about my training: I got on my bike and trained this year. The chart below is a dashboard of my weekly training averages from 9/1/2012 through this week:
One thing to note: I didn't include the hours on the bike I spend commuting, an additional 5 hours / 35 miles a week.
While these are not lady-killing, winning Strava-January-challenge numbers, 8 hours and 146 miles a week is more than I've ever ridden. In fact, it's 2 hours and 36 miles more than I averaged per week in 2011-2012.
Two reasons for the increased volume this year:
(1) No time off: last year I got married and broke a collarbone, which meant no cycling for about 8 weeks. That dropped my total volume. This year, I took one vacation--in which I rode 400 miles in 4 days.
(2) Longer average rides: I rode less frequently (i.e., only 3.7 times per week) than I did in previous years. And my typical ride wasn't longer. I did, however, add in a regular long ride--least three rides of 80 miles + a month.
That shows up in the data; particularly, in the difference between my average (129 minutes) and my median (105 minutes) ride.
I typically go out for about an hour and a half.
This gets at my second point...
Paps' Recommendation 2. Ride less.
This isn't contradictory to the first recommendation. It is, rather, the Dos Equis approach to training: I don't always train, but when I do, I train hard. Graeme Obree recommends at least 2-3 days of rest between training. He argues that training without recovery is "bad for you." I've come to agree with him.
This means that you should designate two days a week, at most, for riding hard. You can ride easy, if you must ride, the other days.
Paps' Recommendation 3. Ride deviant.
This year, my training was deviant. I mean by that that every week was different. I didn't follow the same routine every week.
Put simply, I threw in one hard and one easy week per month. That's reflected in the standard deviation of 241.4 minutes. That's the amount, on average, my training deviated from the norm, week-to-week.
This deviance is also reflected in the jagged teeth of the following chart, showing my weekly minutes on the bike.
Paps' Recommendation 4. Lose weight.
Last year I wondered whether losing weight really matters, particularly in MABRA's office-park-crit-happy races.
The answer, I discovered this year, is that it does matter, even on flatland.
Here's a chart showing my body weight this past year:
I lost 20 pounds over ten months. That probably was the key difference in races with a fair amount of climbing: Coppi, Lost River, Miller School, and Page Valley.
Good luck getting faster. If an old bugger like Paps can see a few little improvements even in decrepitude, you can too.