Case study by Kristen Arnold MS, RDN, CSSD, Sports dietitian and Cycling Coach
Coach Kristen here! I have had the pleasure of coaching Meagan Gehrke for 4 years now. It has been a rewarding experience to be a part of her successes and progression through her athletic career in cycling. She has a strong PMA (positive mental attitude), perseverance, a fighting spirit, and the kindest heart you will ever find. Most bike racers were challenged in the midst of their race season being cancelled in 2020. Meagan rose to this challenge and saw it as an opportunity. She came up with a comparable plan to her original big goal of racing Unbound Gravel, breaking the West to East Ohio Cross-State record.
Like many athletes, Meagan has a power meter on one bike but not all of her bikes. Her CAAD12 which she rode for her record attempt did not have a power meter on it. So, during training we used a mix of power, heart rate, and relative perceived exertion (RPE) to dial in her training.
Above you can see the progression of her training load and hours over the months leading up to her record attempt. The pink line represents short term fitness progression and the blue line represents long term fitness progression. The pink line spikes indicate long hour days which prepped her both physically and mentally for her record attempt. Meagan is a supervisor at Rogue Fitness. She often works long hours and is on-call. As you can imagine, the at-home gym equipment business has been booming. We kept her at a steady ramp rate to not burn her out with too much intensity or volume but did get her in the saddle up to these limits where we could fit it in. We had her commuting by bike to work and back in addition to one longer ride on the weekend for volume. These long rides we pushed to her limits time and load-wise without dipping into the red of training overload which could compromise her training and her immune system (graph below).
We progressed in the proceeding months with roughly 3 week builds and a rest week as shown through the chart below.
The focus of the training was building her aerobic threshold, oxygenation, mitochondrial density, and muscular endurance. She completed long rides with tempo time throughout and a sweet spot interval to finish it off. These workouts were key to her success and being able to push all day without reaching exhaustion. As you can see through the graph below we successfully optimized her power at durations 1 hour and above by record attempt day.
Meagan’s ride file showcases her exceptional job holding a steady speed and effort in the flatter first 6.5 hours of her record attempt in the file below. The red line indicates her heart rate and the green line indicates her speed. This kind of steady speed and power was made possible by her dedication to quality aerobic endurance rides holding a consistent and unwavering pace for up to 5.5 hours. This is also one of Meagan’s strengths as an athlete. Central Ohio is a great place to train flat roads! As the terrain started undulating after hour 7 she still kept a steady heart rate staying in her aerobic endurance zone (not too easy, not too hard). Her file also indicates the exceptional job she did at minimizing stop time (except for her crash you can see at the end).
All Meagan’s hard work surmounted to a record breaking ride and ultimately showcases her perseverance and grit as an athlete. I am very excited to see where these record setting and breaking attempts take her! If you haven't yet, be sure to check out Meagan's guest post of all the other ways she prepared for this record attempt. I hope it will inspire your own goals!
About the author: Kristen Arnold MS, RDN, CSSD is a level 2 USA Cycling coach as well as a Registered Dietitian (RD) specializing in sports nutrition and is a board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD). With Kristen’s nutrition expertise and diverse experience in the sport of cycling as a racer and a mentor, she provides a comprehensive approach to her coaching. She works with athletes from the beginner to elite ranks in road, cyclocross, and mountain biking disciplines. Kristen is professional road racer racing with ButcherBox Pro Cycling, and seasoned mountain bike and cyclocross racer. Learn more about Kristen.