Friday, April 20, 2012

Training rides

Just a little background

For those of you who aren’t regular readers of this blog, and based on the stats I’m seeing that would be most of you, you probably don’t know that I’m a fairly recent convert to the bicycling world. 

Oh sure, I rode a bike as a kid.  Back in those days, we all did.  Used to jump on the bike and ride all over Arlington County back in the 60s and 70s, prior to getting a car in 1975. Then, I learned that driving was so much more efficient and didn’t get back on a bike until a couple of years ago. That last attempt was a false start into the world of better health and didn’t last very long, despite purchasing a nice Trek hybrid.  Fast forward to last summer, just a few years later, and I’m cycling with a vengeance.

Truth is, I’m cycling for my health and cycling for charity, too.  At least, that’s the plan come June 3rd when I saddle up with a bunch of people in the annual Tour de Cure for Diabetes.  (Shameless plug and request for charitable donation, just click here:  Even a $5 donation will help me reach my goal of $1500 so don't be shy!)  And while I could just do the easy ride to fulfill my desire to raise money, I always over achieve.  So, I’m riding the century ride.  That’s 100 miles.  In one day. 

Actually, it’s107 miles and I’ve recently learned that there is about 6,000 feet of climbing during the route.  For serious riders, that’s not a big deal and it’s not a big deal overall.  But most of that climb takes place over a 30 or so mile section of the route.  That will get your attention, at least it got mine.  So, I’m in training.

What is “In Training” versus just riding?

I have no idea, but it sounds serious, doesn’t it?  Whenever I say it around the house, My Bride always looks a bit concerned as if I might not make it back from this.  (I think she’s just placating me and I’m good with that.  She really is my biggest fan.  Only fan. Whatever.  She’s even going to come to the Tour de Cure and cheer me on, bring supporting hydration and snacks.  She really is the best!)

It’s not that I have no idea, it’s just that there is way too much information out there on the internet about this.  A quick google search provided me with a dozen different opinions about how to prepare for riding a century.  Some of the advice in one location even agrees with the advice in another.  Like most topics debated by passionate people, there are differing opinions.  (Ask six people, you get 9 opinions!)

One guy put together a five page treatise on how to prepare that includes everything from bike prep to nutrition to exercise.  He advocates planning to a level that would make NASA proud.  I guess that makes sense if the ride you’re going to do is a solo with no support.  Through unsettled territory.  With savages roaming.  (Hmm….I wonder how flat that route is?) 

I’m taking some of his suggestions to heart.  I’ve gotten a professional tune up for my bike.  I’ve been paying attention to what I eat before a ride so I understand how it behaves in my stomach while on the bike.  (Here’s a tip: Spicy sausage dish not recommended without at least a 2 hour wait prior to riding.  Unless you want to practice vomiting in the saddle.  You’re welcome!)  I’m also working on understanding how my body handles hydration in different temperatures.  The learning goes on and will continue until the day of the ride.

Time in the Saddle is an Investment

The one thing that all these advisors agree on is that there is nothing more important than getting the miles ridden.  And lots of them, too.  The gentleman mentioned above even goes so far as to provide a matrix showing 8 weeks of rides, specifically calling out the days, miles to ride, pace to ride, type of workout, and total miles for the week.  That’s really what I mean by “in training.”  So now I have to figure out what “interval ride” means?  My guess is it’s a lot like the interval button on the elliptical trainer at the gym, except there’s no button on my bike. 

Up until this point, I was just out riding my bike.  Some days, I’d ride the hillier course that I’ve identified.  Other days, I’d ride the flatter course.  Still other days, I’d ride them both.  As far as intervals, I tend to think of the rolling hills around here as intervals.  I know they certainly get my chest heaving at a faster rate when I’m headed up the front side of them.

I do find myself logging my rides using an app on the iPhone and iPad called MayMyRide.  It’s a freebie and, when used on the iPhone, it actually tracks the ride as you make it, plots it on the map, and provides you with statistics via GPS.  It even shows how much elevation change you make during the course of your ride.  (It’s really amazing what these little things can do.)

That last one has me worried about the century.  So far, my rides only have me gaining about 400 – 600 feet in elevation over a 30 to 45 mile rides.  That’s a lot less than 6,000.  And a lot shorter than 100 miles, too.   Damn.  That means I’m going to be suffering.  A lot.  I guess I better hit the bike. 

I’ve got a bunch of miles to ride and six weeks to get there.  The good news is, if I lay out my rides against that matrix that the expert provided, I’m right on track to reach my goal.

Let’s get to it!


  1. I'm sitting here drinking sweet tea and shots of spiced rum and eating chocolate chip cookie brownies. I'm thinking about the last time I rode a century. It took about seven hours. I had been riding a lot of fifty and sixty mile days so it was no big deal, really. I like to stop at about 2.5-3 hours and eat and maybe drink a couple light beers.

    Nothing like the charity ride you are involved with...just me goofing off. But (pun intended) time in the saddle is what will count the most when it is all said and done.

    My longtime reader/friend Harold over at the Wayward Home Blog is a Tour de Cure Team captain. (And he drives trains!) He is a great guy of our age group and would be a down-to-earth first-hand-experience resource. Why not drop by and say hi? Tell him the TPC sent ya.


  2. Thanks TJ! I'll check him out.

    That sounds delicious; may have to go whip up a bunch of brownies. Sunshine to ya!

  3. I found ya Brian! Nice to meet another mid-life crisis blog! LOL

    I did my first Century on a Tour de Cure a couple of years ago. All that techno-training stuff is pretty much lost on me too. I'm a fan of Gatorade and Clif bars on the ride but I'm afraid the only real training I do is to push miles...many miles. I'm too old to figure out all the stuff I'm 'supposed' to be doing so I just ignore it all and go riding. Seems to work out.

    Keep going! It'll be a ball!