Wednesday, July 4, 2012

2012: Advice for the long rides

RAIN Finishers Medal
In a few weeks I will be riding RAIN for the second time. RAIN is the Ride Across INdiana (in one day), a bicycle ride from Terra Haute, Indiana (on the Illinois-Indiana border), to Richmond (on the Ohio-Indiana border). It follows the old National Road, US-40, the precursor to today’s I-70. Roughly 1,500 riders will attempt the ride, and you must finish by 9 PM - a 14-hour time limit.

RAIN’s 160-ish miles is kind of an odd distance, falling outside the more traditional half-century, metric century, century, double century. I little bit of me wouldn’t mind if it was a full double century - 200 miles, but that is just me, and most seem satisfied with just 160 or so miles.

(On the other hand, RAIN very close to the distance of a typical full Tour de France stage. That is something for you ponder as you arrive at the finish in Richmond; repeating the ride you just finished 10 to 15 times over 3 weeks, including 3-5 days with 10,000 feet of climbing in the mountains.)

With friends from 2007 RAIN training group.  I am second
from R, with my tandem stoker, Steve Lieby
Over the years, I have done three 200 mile days and one prior RAIN, and half dozen rides over 120 miles, and well over a hundered centuries. And based on that experience and observations, I offer the following advice I hope you find helpful.

After 90 miles, it’s all in your head. Endurance rides, are very much about mental attitude. If you have the ability to ride 75 to 90 miles comfortable and pain free, at a steady pace, while managing your nutrition and hydration, riding the additional miles just requires mental confidence.

Speed work helps your endurance. While there is value in building your mileage base, a training regimen based on just piling on more miles prior to an endurance event can leave you run down and at risk for injury. Once you have the base confidence to know you can complete 100 or more miles, start to include shorter workouts, at a faster tempo. This improves your base level of fitness with a much shorter recovery time. Short, fast workouts also let you compress your work out time, especially when you are time crunched. This is especially true when other events in your life make multiple 3-4 hour workouts per week a challenge.

(I used to hang out and ride with some of Indiana’s Ultra-Marathon cycling community. When one of the riders commented that I had the makings of good ultra-event rider, I replied without thinking “I have a life”. The riders reply? “Yeah, you do.”)

Improve your speed to reduce your event saddle time. When you improve your average speed, you reduce your time on the saddle - literally. Just going from a 14 mph average pace to a 16.5 MPH - from 8 hours to 6 hours for 100 miles, will cut your saddle time by 25%. A faster riding style will also tend to have you off the saddle more frequently - another win in the endurance-comfort challenge.

Minimize your off-the-bike time. Work on keeping your off-the-bike down to a minimum. Stop to pick-up water, energy drink and snacks, but move back to the bike and get back to your pace again. You want to avoid cooling down and then warming up again multiple times. Long breaks will also start to work on you mentally, as you watch the elapsed time increase, and you try to ride a faster pace. Snacking constantly, rather than a sag stop pig-out will also do a better job of keeping you fueled. (Set your bike computer to auto start stop, and watch your on the bike average speed - not your total average speed.)
It's all about the jersey.

Ride your ride, at your pace. Big event excitement makes if very tempting to start out fast, falling in with groups or pacelines riding faster than you have trained for. The simple test for this is the talk test. If you can’t speak a complete sentence without gasping, you may be riding at a pace you can’t sustain for the full event. (Sometimes conditions may dictate otherwise; i.e. balancing the effort to hang with slightly faster group to avoid fighting a headwind alone.)

Keep it fun. That is the final word. Savor the camaraderie, the scenery, the sense of accomplishment. A positive mental outlook can keep you going no matter what you are facing. Every ride is a unique experience of terrain, weather your physical condition, and even your age. Every time you push past that 100, 125, or more, you have accomplished something few ever consider trying. Enjoy it.

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