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.