My new teammate, Margie Biddick, and I are in a shared quandary: We both love to ride just for fun and stress relief, etc. ("junk miles" to some coaches), but we also want to get faster for our racing efforts. But the junk miles we both enjoy doing sometimes leave us too tired to perform our intense race training at 100% of the effort required. What to do?
Well, riding always comes first, so if that means compromising a bit on the racing, so be it. But there may be ways to work them both in. I think that perhaps we can time our rides and workouts to complement each other, or at least result in a minimum of compromise.
My theory: We "just-for-fun" ride lovers can take a day or two off every week, right? When we take a day off we allow our bodies to replenish our depleted glycogen (muscle energy) stores. That should leave us fresh enough to be able to haul ass during the intense workout we then perform the following day. The day or two after the intense workout we can take a nice, easy recovery "just-for-fun" ride. Then another day off, and another intense workout, followed by one or two easy days. Etc.
That way we get two tough days, and two to four easy days per week. Most coaches think two tough workouts a week is enough to make good progress, so perhaps this type of schedule would balance the fun vs. fast tradeoffs.
The tough part is scheduling the hard/easy days to fit into our daily lives, while still trying to train together with our teammates. Sometimes that requires some sacrifices too.