With the Atlanta race season officially over, I've started to think about how I'm going to train during the offseason. There are so many factors that starting a plan can seem a bit daunting. You have to consider what's going on in your life that may take time away from training, you have to consider where your fitness is currently at, you have to review and understand what did not work last season, you have to take into consideration how long you'll need for periods of base and then periods of fitness building and periods of rest, and then finally periods of racing. It's also difficult to do before you get the exact race dates, but you can generally go by the closest weekend a race was on the previous year.
The way I start is by figuring out what my overall goals are for the next season. Mine will be catting up in the first half of the season, and podiums in the TTs for Masters 35+ races. I know how many points I need to cat up and/or how many races that would take, as well as how well I need to do. I will need to do all the hillier 30+ racer races (can cat up with 3 top 10 finishes), as well as poorly attended RRs (most chance for max upgrade points).
Last season I was able to hang in on most races, but usually would get beaten back in the sprints. Early last season I was working on TT power and thought that would translate into breakaways, but that never worked out for me. Launching late race attacks worked only once, but not for a podium. Also, I've never been very good at crits and that didn't really change this year. I took a lot of gambles during races last year, and none of them ever paid off for me. I did better the previous year racing conservatively at the front, and not doing anything until the very end.
So my best bet is having a better sprint for RRs.
I also recently had a child, so I've been rearranging my group training to early morning group rides and am incorporating specific work, like intervals, into my bike commute.
The first road races will be in early March, and I'll want to keep up form at least through mid April if possible. The next wave of races is in July and August, so there'll be a natural break in May and June.
So, working backwards:
Early May - Recover
Late April - Sustain Form
Early April - Peak
Between April/March - Rest Week
Late March - Sustain Form
Early March - Peak
Late Feb - Rest
Mid Feb - Hard Intervals (include sprint training)
Early Feb - Rest
Late Jan - Hard Intervals (include sprint training)
Mid Jan - Rest
Early Jan - Sprint Form Training
Dec - Mid/Slow Base / Weights / Diet
Nov - Tempoish Base / Cross / Weights / Diet
Oct - Slow Base / Cross / Diet
Or something generally like that. A lot of racers I know get very specific by week and by day for most of the season, and then they stick to that plan. Usually a coach helps them to map it out based on goals as well. I will get more specific when the race calendar is released, but I'm too cheap to hire a coach. The basic model above is what I gleaned from Friel's book. What is crucial is the rest weeks, and ensuring a good balance of hard work and rest. Because resting is when you actually get stronger.