Sunday, March 24, 2013

Ride Prep Numerology

Numerology
With snow still on the ground and brevet season upon us, New England riders are frantically counting weeks, playing with numbers, and putting together training plans. While I am not interested in long brevets, I would like to try the local Populaire, which is coming up in 4 weeks. A Populaire is a self-supported ride of around 100K (65 miles). Normally I would not be doing anything special to prepare for that kind of distance, but we've had a tough winter, and I am out of shape compared to this time last year. The situation is made more interesting by the treacherous pseudo-proximity of the start. The start of the local brevets is close enough to make it embarrassing to drive or hitch rides to it, yet far enough to add significant milage to the brevet distance. For me, riding to the ride will turn the 100K into 100 miles when all is said is done. So here I am, back on my roadbike and praying it won't snow again, as I engage in some ride prep numerology.

How does one prepare for a 100 mile ride? The topic is pretty well covered by riders with far more experience than me, and when readers ask me this question I normally refer them to other sources. For example, this guide by the Blayleys is a good place to start.

Generally, the guides and training plans stress the importance of building up the milage gradually - recommending anywhere between 4 and 10 weeks to work up to the ride, depending on your fitness level. As far as distance, a common theme is that you should be able to do the milage of the ride you're training for in the course of a week. In other words, if you are aiming for a 100 mile ride, you should be able to ride 100 miles a week.

This advice works for a lot of people. But it helps to know yourself as a rider when applying it to your own training. For instance, from experience I know that I can do 100 mile weeks more or less effortlessly, yet still be unprepared for a 100 mile ride. To get from a place where 50 mile rides twice a week (or even three times a week) are fine to doing 100 miles in one go is difficult. Interestingly, most riders I speak to report the opposite experience: It is hard work building up to 50 miles, but once they pass that mark things get incrementally easier. For me, it gets incrementally harder.

For someone like myself, it makes more sense to focus not so much on building up the weekly milage, as on building up the milage of individual rides. And a good 4-week training plan (starting from some, but not much riding) might look something like this:

Week 1: 20-20-40-20
Week 2: 50-50
Week 3: 60-40
Week 4: 70-30

Some might feel that if a rider is capable of following this schedule, then a 100 mile ride should not present a challenge to begin with, but it just goes to show how different we all are. Getting to know my strengths, weaknesses, and the patterns I follow when getting into riding shape, has been educational - and I am just scratching the surface. I would love to ride the Spring Populaire (on the clock this time!), and I hope the numbers - and the weather - work in my favor.

46 comments:

  1. I take it you do not count commuting and errand miles as part of this training plan?

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    1. I do not, mostly because the riding is too different for me to know how to factor it in. But I am sure that continuing to ride my transport bike over the winter (with a couple of days off here and there when the snow was really bad) kept my level of general fitness up.

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    2. I get it. Your body does a 100 mile week cause that's comfortable, normal. But an entire day in the saddle is a challenge for different reasons.

      Still, every mile counts, and all those winter hours you put in give you a wellspring of fitness, discipline and strength from which to draw. You'll rock it. Have fun!

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  2. Keep us informed, with details. I've been planning for 10 years to do my first century and, just maybe, might be ready to do the Santa Fe Century this year (May 19), especially as I now have a decent, road, derailleur bike (used Riv Ram, for which I am waiting for a wheelset). Since 2/3 of my riding is fixed, and 2/3 of that with loads, perhaps I have a chance ....

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  3. This is very interesting to me right now, since I just did my first half century this weekend. I think for me, as far as training goes, it has less to do with miles per week than it does with remembering to eat and drink regularly. This is my big week point. I get so caught up in the ride that I don't realize that I'm thirsty, and since I've never been one to eat when I'm not hungry, trying to remember to stop ad snack is difficult. I'm going to have to set up regular alarms on my phone to remind me to do these two things.

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    1. That's great Amy! Did the DIY hbar bag make the journey too?

      It took me a while to figure out a food regimen that worked, and I am still tweaking it. Finding the right type and combination of foods has been equally important.

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    2. It did make the journey! It worked great. Still a bit amazed that I managed to make one and have it turn out useable on the first try. ;) I'm thinking I need to make a trunk sack, or something like it now.

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  4. I think general training plans rely too much on numerology vis-a-vis distance. Too much internet and book "learning" for folks to get a feel of what hard really is.

    I'm gonna cap this so watch out:

    TIME ON BIKE
    BIKE EFFICIENCY
    TERRAIN!!!!

    One simple number, distance, is only a very rough guidline.

    And a metric populaire anyone in their 5th year of regular riding should be able to knock out on a bling road bike with zero problems.

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    1. I don't brevet, populaire or rando but do tour.

      What you say is definitely the case for those getting ready for a big tour.

      Get on the bike. Ride as long as possible. Try to ride in conditions as close to what you will encounter on tour.

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  5. Timely post.

    My big adventure this year is D2R2 with a couple Fondos and such closer to home. I figured I would be doing 75-90 miles a week on the local gravel roads by now. Slip out of work early on Wed., get in 30 or 35 and 2 good rides on the weekend to get the rest in. However, it's been awful so far, snow or rain every weekend all month(there's 5 inches of fresh cloud dung in my driveway right now) and wind blowing fit to strip you bare.

    I actually had to pedal DOWNHILL out of my driveway one day last week because of the wind. I couldn't coast fast enough to stay up. Said 'screw it, went back inside sobbing and felt like a wuss for caving(a comfortable wuss with a deliciuos, un-earned ham sandwich and a lovely chocolate milk from the freezy corner of the fridge).

    I can usually gut it out on long rides in years when I'm not in the best of shape but you end up off by yourself in your own little sweaty Hell after your friends ride off. Sorta' misses the point. But at the end your friends are still there and next week you'll probably be more ready and certainly by the next week so it's "OKAY" I guess. But when you drive 500 miles to go do something really neat you want to be able to enjoy it, especially if you go solo and hope to hook up with some cool kids.
    All the climbing on D2R2 has me worried enough that I feel the pressure to get the miles in in a way that I haven't for years.

    Spindizzy

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    1. I'm sorry I didn't meet you on the D2R2. Did you enjoy it?

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  6. So, the point is to do these rides in under a certain time limit, or are you competing against others?

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    1. Under a certain time limit. But of course riders can still compare their times to each other, and some approach these rides more competitively than others.

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    2. Thank you....They look like a good balance between socializing and a bit of a fun challenge for those of us who ride regularly but have no urge to race.

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  7. On distance and mileage: I went as far as 50 miles on a single ride last year, and, at points during Summer and early Fall, probably close to 100 per week. Thirty on a single ride was common. I'd like to go just that bit farther and get at least a metric century this year.

    On food: I find the humble (crunchy! never smooth) peanut butter on wheat bread sandwich to be good, steady, bonk-warding fuel. I started riding again in earnest last week and didn't start the day with one of those sandwiches. Ditto today. Bonking is not fun.

    On bike type: I ride a freewheel single-speed "track" bikes, one of the mail order Windsors from BikesDirect. Love it, but I've been dithering over whether or not to turn it into an "English rando bike," i.e., an IGH road bike along the lines of a vintage Sturmey Archer equipped pre-war Raleigh Record Ace or post-war Raleigh Lenton.

    Velouria, I know you did a century on an upright while staying in Vienna. Since you began long distance riding over the last couple of years in NE, have you seen anyone using internal hubs at any of those events? I'd be interested to hear your thinking - and MDI's - on the idea of using the SA 5 speed as used on the Pashley for a rando bike.

    Rudy

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    1. "I know you did a century on an upright while staying in Vienna. Since you began long distance riding over the last couple of years in NE, have you seen anyone using internal hubs at any of those events? I'd be interested to hear your thinking - and MDI's - on the idea of using the SA 5 speed as used on the Pashley for a rando bike."

      I know several riders who do local brevets on fixed gear bikes, but as far as IGHs I have met only one. I believe he equipped a Surly XCheck with a 7-speed hub. The gear inches looked good on paper, but in practice he did not like it, and soon switched to a derailleur setup.

      As far as the SA 5-speed hubs, the one on MDI's bike is from 4+ years ago, and their hubs from that vintage seemed to be pretty reliable. At some point in 2010 a new version of the 5-speed came out, and ever since there have been customer complaints about gears slipping. IGH efficiency questions aside, I would be reluctant to rely on a current production SA 5-speed for a brevet bike for that reason.

      As I'm sure you know, the feeling of the ride will be different depending on the specific bike + hub combo. An upright city bike with a 7-speed hub will be a v different experience from a track bike with a 3-speed hub. The latter is fairly inexpensive to experiment with, and could be the most efficient option if you want to go that route.

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    2. Thank you! This is exactly the kind of info I was looking for; now to choose between a freewheel equipped S3X hub and the AW. Decisions, decisions. Given that the AW has withstood the test of time (and I had one on my deceased Schwinn), I'll probably go that route.

      Rudy

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  8. You may be happy to hear that Ride Studio Cafe is hosting another randoneurring season kickoff ride and party, similar to last year's event. The ride this year will make use of a new Permanent Populaire route, so riders can even get RUSA credit for the ride. The ride and party will happen on April 13, a week before the NER populaire. More details will be posted soon, but I thought you might want to add this date to your calendar. Since it's a week earlier, you have one less week to get ready, but the start is even closer to home, so you won't have as many extra miles!

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    1. Is there more info on the kick-off ride and party? I can't find info on the RSC site.

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    2. Patience young grasshopper!

      Details will be posted soon, as they are firmed up. The main thing I can tell you now is the date: April 13, and location: Ride Studio Cafe in Lexington, MA. I can say that there will be a 100k ish permanent populaire that will start at 10AM. We'll make the route available closer to the actual date. The party will start around 6. We hope to have a special speaker.

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    3. Exciting times we live in!

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    4. Is there going to be an option to go at your own pace for the ride? I'm not comfortable potentially holding a group back, since RSC folks are fast, and I like solo riding just fine.

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    5. antimony, I was thinking the same thing. Do we know each other? Maybe a slow (or as RSC calls it "fun") group can be arranged...

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    6. I don't think we've met. Unless you were at the Harvard General Store Hills ride last year? (If you were, I was the chubby woman on a white-and-blue Seven who was hanging out with the guy on a mountain bike.)

      A slow group would be awesome -- it's frustrating being interested in pushing myself to go faster, but only being fast enough for the sort of group ride where I'm the only one showing up with clipless pedals.

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  9. Thanks for pointing out the 100K on April 20. I'd been thinking of doing the St. Patrick's Day 100K out of Westfield, MA, last weekend, but the starting temperature in the 20s, and the forecast of strong winds from the NNE all day, deterred me. I'm planning to do a 200K on April 27, so the 100K on the 20th would be a nice prep ride. I might even have my new bike built up by then.

    Should you be interested in the Shelburne Falls 200K on April 27, let me know. It's a gorgeous ride with about 5000 feet of climbing (here's the 2010 version: http://www.mapmyride.com/routes/view/13307966). My wife and I live about 25 miles from the start. I'll probably drive down, not ride, but we could offer our guest room and a ride to the start if you're up for the ride.

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  10. You can do this! these are great and easy to make if you want to bring your own food: http://cookieandkate.com/2013/homemade-larabars-apricot-almond-bars/#more-7720

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    1. You know, that looks delicious, but at the risk of being disgusting... let's just say it will come back up if I eat it *during* a ride. Stuff has to be soft/liquid for it to stay down. Hence the mangled gross half eaten bananas in my pockets during rides :)

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  11. I'm signed up for it, it'll be 90 miles all told with riding to/from, which I've never actually done. (Though I have done 78ish, which will bring me to the actual end of the brevet, and it's almost all downhill home.) My biggest worry isn't the distance, it's the potential embarrassment if I can't do it fast enough and miss the cutoff -- but at least I'll know how much I need to improve. And have motivation not to avoid doing speed work/intervals/hill repeats -- I hate them, so I just go out and ride, but I'm not going to get much faster doing that.

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  12. Spring populaires often have a 25km or 50km option as well. It's such a hassle for me to get into the city so probably won't do the upcoming populaire. I ride fairly good distances regularly, but would be inclined to do the 25km or 50km at this point. A heavy winter has probably dampened many cyclists' training aspirations for the upcoming season, but not here in the pnw. Unfortunately for me, my plans to make use of my unusual free time since the summer and get long distance biking in did not pan out due to illness, lack of funds to put together an appropriate bike....maybe next year or by the fall....sigh.

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  13. I have done a couple hundred mile rides with temps just above freezing and once it snowed and I was solo for the 2nd half of the ride. Dead flat routes and it was harder than doing a hilly 150. A lot harder. Would never repeat it or encourage anyone to try.

    Have also done TOSRV (105 miles Saturday, 105miles Sunday) on even less training than what you've done. Just had a horrible work schedule that year. It was about 50 degrees and raining all day Sunday. It was all easy. Being around people made it easy. So I'd say if you go off on a personal tangent with the camera and try solo it could be hard, stay with the main ride it should all be fine.

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    1. I rode ~65 miles yesterday north of Chicago on Sheridan Road that follows the Lake Michigan shoreline.

      Temps were in the high 30s and the precip stayed well to the south. There was a miserable wind coming off Lake Michigan though.

      Snow and rain without wind is definitely better than riding in the wind. of course, snow, rain and wind would be a nightmare.

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  14. You'll be miles ahead of everyone with that training plan ;)

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  15. I agree with Amy that the food regimen is important before, during, and after the ride. For me also is training for the terrain. I could do training rides on flats, but if the ride is hilly, it won't do me any good unless I simulate the effort it requires to do hills also.
    Best wishes on your ride!

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    1. I couldn't agree more! I did my first 100km + ride on Sunday, and while I'd been riding 120 - 180km for the past 6 weeks or so, the giant hill about 2/3 of the way through this ride was the hardest thing I've ever done. Practice with the right terrain is essential.

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  16. Thanks for this post! I just finished my first metric century (100k or 62m) yesterday on - I admit - very little training. I just started road biking 6 months ago. I took the easy pace and enjoyed the day. I thought that's what randonneuring was all about, but most people there were so competitive! There were only 8 or so of us who came in relaxed and -- dead last. I wish more people just wanted to go out for a bike ride and take it easy. Then again, I'm not sure I want to go any longer distances (100 miles, or a 200k or more brevet) because it takes me so long to finish. it would take me 9 or more hours to finish a 200k brevet! Maybe I'm not cut out to be a randonneuse after all ...

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  17. Let me know if you want some company! :)
    And I hope you can make it to the party, too, of course!

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    1. I didn't want to horrify you with my deteriorated stamina post-hibernation, but after today's solo ride I think I'm worthy-ish. I'll hit you up over email.

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  18. I rode the 100k last Spring and had a really nice time. I got in with a group of people going about the speed I wanted to go and rode most of the distance with them. From what I could see, there were people riding at a variety of paces, so I'm sure just about anyone who would try a 100k could find a group to ride with.

    Will you also be riding the 200k a couple weeks later? I believe the Somervillian said he would be at both rides this year. Perhaps I'll see you all there.

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  19. I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one struggling a bit with a landmark ride.

    I've found distance a compelling but frustrating goal. Over the five years I've been riding, I've done a couple metrics, and one 68-miler with 4800' of climbing. I started training this January to be able to make the St. Patrick's Day Metric out here in Western Mass, and an early century after that -- and promptly caught a horrible cold.

    I still dearly hope to complete my first century before July, but what with starting a new business, adopting a child, holding down a regular job... yeah. A little pressed for time and energy!

    However, having just turned 49, I feel like I have to get on it, because it probably won't get *easier* anytime soon.

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    1. It will get easier and you will sleep less. I found that with a 2+ year old, you can do almost anything with a sympathetic partner.

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    2. Hey, thanks for the encouragement, NEB! Especially born of experience. My marvelous wife is very understanding. It's more about my energy levels than anything...

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    3. You are welcome. Your experience may differ from mine but my energy level varies with much exercise I get.

      You know that at least one other guy had a child later in life than you did and still rides his bike(s). Good luck with the adoption!

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  20. MMmm Riding season coming!
    I usually get to this column at my heavily firewalled work PC (shhh!!). So I can't comment (I have a "stupid" phone, ... it makes phone calls, not blog-able!).
    Distance - I did the 100 mile MS ride last year in NY / NJ. FOr prep I rode hills to the girlfriend's house in NJ from Brooklyn, NY with my commute pack with lock and clothes etc. Also did 60 easier miles unloaded. I would ride much farther if I didn't stop to take so many pictures!
    Anyway, I was OK on the ride day last October. I could have ridden the 12 miles to the start, relaxed for a few then did the 100-105. I rode home the 12 miles so it was like a 120 mile day. I did not come in last, but... close! hahaha
    My problem is discipline and having bigger map eyes than riding muscles. When the SAG vans are on the prowl behind you, you find some inner strength.
    I want to do a ride to Jim Thorpe, PA to visit some friends. Having a hard time mapping out a route. It's hilly and I want to use the Peugeot PX50 I built. I was looking at some pictures from a ride I did last year at this time. 60 degrees? Global cooling indeed! hahaha. Anyway time in the saddle is its own thing to consider. The ability to deal with the fatigue of the long time in the position is as important as the muscle to climb over the hills.
    I am off this week, maybe there will be some dryness coming.

    vsk

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  21. I'm just going to ride as much as I can before the 20th. And spin, too. I will be driving there since 68 miles is outside of my current comfort zone. If you are tired, I'm sure there will be a number of cars with empty bike racks to get you and others and bikes back to town.

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  22. The best thing I can say is never stop riding and gradual build up. I started cycling in 2007 with only week end rides. Soon I started commuting 10 miles a day and 50 mile weekend rides. The first two years I stopped in the winter. The past few years I have cycled 20 miles each weekday and 100 miles on the weekends. I ride and commute all year long. I only stop when the roads are to frozen to cycle. The Van Nicholas Yukon (Titanium) is great for dealing with bad weather. This requires a lot of time on the bike and you will build up a lot of strength. Once you start doing century rides every weekend you soon will not even feel tired until around 80 miles or so depending on the amount of climbing.

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  23. How to ride 100 miles in the early New England spring.....
    Take your bike out of the garage.
    Get on it.
    Pedal 11.4mph for about 9 hours.
    No big deal.
    http://app.strava.com/activities/45569189

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