Project Sub-4: Big watts in Big Sky Country

In the quest for a world record, we bought an old trailer and set up shop in Montana.

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Editor’s note: This is part two of an ongoing column detailing Ashton Lambie’s journey to set a world record in the 4km individual pursuit. Spoiler alert: He just did. Enjoy this account of how he got there, and stay tuned for the next installment of Project Sub-4. 

To get ready for this world-record attempt, I needed a great training environment: heat, altitude (but not too much), space for a gym, and mentally refreshing. I’d be on the grind for a good bit, and having some other projects outside of training and recovery is something that helps keep me fresh and excited for training.

This led Christina Birch and I to a trailer on her family’s ranch in central Montana. It was right around 4,200 feet (1,280m), the summer climate was similar to where I would make my record attempt in Aguascalientes, Mexico, and it is in a beautiful, remote area of Montana.

One of the benefits of living far away from everything is the lack of distraction. The trailer is always there as the post-training project, but otherwise the routine, peace, and quiet makes daily training fairly simple.

We built our gym in a nice, steel-sided barn open to the outdoors. A rusty swamp cooler in the corner keeps the heat of the day down to “just hot” instead of “scorching” during the summer.

The squat rack and the trainer were my two key pieces of training equipment for the world-record attempt.

Even the elevation of the high plains combined with a high-velocity fan isn’t enough to stay cool during the turbo sessions. The biggest keys to the training — the squat rack and the Tacx trainer — sit front and center. We’ve got a small plastic kiddie pool to cool off after a session, and lots of animals pass in and out of the barn as welcome company in between sets.

While Christina’s family was eager to welcome us into their house, with the rest of the family there we prepped for a BYOB (bring your own bed) situation.

So, Christina and I bought a 1992 Starcraft Leisure Star trailer. After a few days and a few trips to the lumber store, we were headed to Montana. The camper was in a bit of disrepair when we bought it, leading us to name it the RSV Resolute, after the HMS Resolute, a British exploration ship that was abandoned in the Arctic ice, found by American whalers, restored and returned to Great Britain, and made into the desk in the Oval Office.

We are both enjoying the learning curve of this ongoing project.

Christina and I outside the RSV Resolute.

In between trailer projects, the MDR (Middle Distance Running) training program from Athletic Strength Institute was in full swing.

It might seem odd to actually want to do a majority of the training out here, but that was actually part of the proof of concept I’d tested. The intervals from Athletic SI were very specific; I’d need as much control over wattages, rest intervals, and position as I could get. All of the time on the turbo was at or over the goal wattage (calculated by the great Dan Bingham) I’d need to do 3:59 in Aguascalientes.

I was using a Tacx Neo 2T (basically always on erg mode), the Velobike NZ track adapter, and my Argon track frame. I was arguably getting more specific training by honing time in zones in my TT position, without the extra “fluff” time out of IP pace that I exerted doing a wind up on the track. The heat, altitude, training plan, and recovery options, all made Montana a pretty ideal setup in my book.

I had amazing support in Montana, and the flights to Mexico and the track time were all booked. Soon I would head to Aguascalientes. But first, there was a little trip to wild country of Iceland on my schedule…

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