2011 was my last year including classes at Seattle Central Community College, and I actually did a fair job following a relatively high volume plan to be a faster cyclist while I was there. I did an entire series of short XC races that were at venues that tended to be pretty technical without a lot of vertical - sort of the opposite of what I see myself as good at - and some longer races with a bit more success. Last year, I also started taking classes at UW.
I started this year planning to follow a more structured training plan and really make the most of the time I had. Somewhat unrealistic expectations and a really hard class during the Winter quarter pretty much torpedoed that, and I didn't really replan when I could have.
This summer, I had my first regular schedule in a long time. I went to the same place every day and finished at more-or-less the same time. I planned my training around that, and I actually managed to follow my plan for more than a week - I followed it pretty well through the summer.
I think that a couple things were different about this summer. First, I had a realistic plan for myself. Second, I was specific about my plan. I think both of those contributed to me actually doing what I set out to do with my fitness. I've also figured out how to be a bit better about bills and my disaster of a room, along similar lines. (And it's only taken me until I was 31!)
Part of the early part of this year's lack of realism was that I was on one bike or another for close to 450 hours in 2011. I thought I could do that again. Turns out engineering graduate school and my current frequency of travel are really more time consuming than that.
I've already sort-of started my 2013 plan, which is to say that while I haven't "officially" started or switched Excel files yet, I'm trying to take what I figured out this summer and apply it with more specific goals. I'm trying to hit 7 hours/week, including my rides to and from school, and all my non-commute workouts are specifically endurance workouts. I recently acquired a heart rate monitor, and have been starting to incorporate that in my training. It's interesting. So far, all the cliches about rec. cyclists seem to apply to me - I have a sense of what my effort levels are that's fairly realistic but am pretty variable about what I actually do and my endurance rides are too hard. I'm not sure if my supposedly hard rides are too easy, and honestly I haven't been doing enough of those anyway.
For next year, the idea is to follow a training plan I built up using Joe Friel's The Mountain Biker's Training Bible, and put the workouts on my Google Calendar with some attention to realism. That seems to help hugely in following the plan. As in this year, I'm not starting Base until January, so the holidays will have been and gone, and won't be able to torpedo my plan in its first weeks, something that happened in 2010, and which I allowed to color my attitude about the whole thing. I'll still use Excel to record what I've done; that seems to work well for me.
I'm going to try to do some specific workouts during the week. If I can make it work with school, I'll try to fit in a longer mountain bike ride on Wednesday afternoons, but homework and my impending wedding may not mesh well with that.
All that leaves a really big question: What races am I doing? Dunno. But I'm going to be in shape for them, this time!