Training advice

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Kushan

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Nov 10, 2021, 10:02:22 AM11/10/21
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Hi everyone - 

I rode my first brevet (DPC) last week and enjoyed it immensely. I would love to ride more brevets in the future and was hoping to get some training advice from experienced randonneurs out there.

More specifically I am pondering:
  • How do I approach goal-setting beyond the first brevet? Should I aim for a faster time? More 200k in a year? Longer distance? A combination of the above? There is probably no silver bullet here but I'd be curious to know what others did and if one of the above is considered more natural progression in the randonneuring world. 
  • What are some training resources I can leverage? I finished DPR in 13:15 (of which time on the saddle was just under 11 hrs). I was absolutely exhausted at the end and could barely move. Although recovered well and was feeling back to 100% by Sunday noon. I am not looking to set time records but would like to at least train to the point where 200ks don't feel so taxing - especially since all other 200k brevet are higher elevation. Most books/blogs I found on the interwebs seem to be racing focused and I am not sure how to adapt them to my objectives.

Thanks in advance
Kushan

jinu...@gmail.com

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Nov 10, 2021, 11:24:11 AM11/10/21
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Hey Kushan:

I'm sure others will have lots to say.  When I first started, my goals were specifically volume-based. I knew I wasn't very fast, so I needed to ride more, whether that was commuting always on a bike, riding every possible 200k I could every month, and doing some work I was reading about like interval training (without much real knowledge about what that truly was).  As my endurance naturally built up as I continued riding 200ks, I was able to focus on other aspects, specifically speed and hill climbing.  That's when you could get more specific around tempo efforts and intervals.

What did your food situation look like throughout DPR?  Were you eating enough throughout the ride?  did you drink enough water?  For myself, I made the mistake I always make on 200ks, and Sourav said it best in his strava post - 200ks are not local rides and should not be treated as such.  Always eat and eat well enough to finish well.

JinUk

Greg Merritt

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Nov 10, 2021, 11:44:07 AM11/10/21
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Hi Kushan,

Congratulations, welcome -- and well done!

There is a range of approaches to training and to building fitness, and there is no one answer. This ranges for simple/cheap to sophisticated and expensive -- with every approach having its success stories. :)

If one wants to think of it as a progression, it would probably look something like this:
  1. Ride your bike
  2. Ride your bike more
  3. Ride your bike hard -- sometimes
  4. 5., 6., 7., ...all manner of training plans, structured riding, equipment, coaching, physiological tests, etc.
There are absolutely many successful Randonneurs who ride their bikes a lot (usually between 5,000 - 10,000 miles a year), and who spend at least some time (not too much!) riding very, very hard.

Kushan, you are right that racing has different goals than endurance -- but the overlap (and the identical underlying principles) are surprising. For example, a sprinter winning a pro bike race is relying not only on sheer strength: that winning sprinter's sprint power is built upon a foundation of endurance, which the sprinter has trained.

Below is a post I wrote a while back that talks a bit about that "riding hard -- sometimes" notion.

I might also add that trying additional 200km rides (perhaps with multiple 100km-150km rides in between?) might be good next steps before tackling 300+km rides -- but there is no one single answer for anyone. :)

---------- Forwarded message ---------
From: Greg Merritt <greg.m...@gmail.com>
Date: Mon, May 28, 2018 at 6:16 PM
Subject: On Training: why "ride hard -- sometimes"
To: PBP_prep <pbp_...@googlegroups.com>


Bonjour à toutes et à tous,

I recently came across a little table by Andrew Coggan that lists different aspects of cycling fitness -- things like how much blood your heart can pump per stroke, and how big your endurance muscle fibers grow -- and relates improvement in each category to riding at different exertion levels.

I think the majority of Randos desire to be able to ride a steady pace for hours & hours -- and days & days! -- on end. What if you only ever "practice" riding your bike in that steady, even mode?

That would be akin to only spending time riding at the effort level of column 2 in this chart. (The column range goes from 1, super-casual soft pedaling, to 7, which is super-duper-crazy-sprinty hard.)

IMG_9907.jpg

So, time spent in column 2, steady Rando pace, does, indeed, improve many aspects of cycling fitness -- at least a little.

However, spending some time at harder effort levels -- particularly columns 3, 4 & 5, with loads of "+++" and "++++" entries -- can REALLY pump up specific aspects of cycling fitness much better than only ever riding at steady Rando "event day" pace!

(The last couple of columns tend to benefit adaptations more important to sprinters and racers than to the rest of us.)

So, this is the general notion behind why your Rando performance can benefit by "riding hard -- sometimes" on top of your also-important, long, steady, base, Rando-pace mileage.

It is somewhat counter-intuitive to me, but there it is!

I find that a surprising number of accomplished SFR club members will tell you that they hate "training" in the form of exercise drills, but, when questioned, will reveal that they pretty regularly find some hill to climb as hard as they can in the middle of the week. BAM! Job done, time spent in those columns with all of the "++++" entries; watch them really get it done on event day, laying down a steady, measured pace for hours & hours on end when those 400k+ events come around.

Of course, if you like more structure around "riding hard -- sometimes," you can geek out on all of the zones & heart rate & power meter & training plan & coaching stuff, too, if that floats your boat!

-Greg




Juliayn Coleman

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Nov 10, 2021, 2:07:37 PM11/10/21
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Kushan, congratulations!!!
I know everyone's experience is different, but I'll share what I did when I first started out: on my second brevet, I met my friend Ely. He invited me to ride repeats of all the hills in the Presidio with him. He was just-enough faster than me that it made me really work. Since I moved to Oakland I do most of my training alone now, but it's helpful to find a friend with similar goals who can help you get out there and follow through.
The R-12 goal is a really good one for getting comfortable with the 200k distance. That is doing one 200k per month for 12 consecutive months. It is usually a mix of permanent routes and brevets. You've already completed the hardest one (the first), so the other 11 will all be super easy! ;-)
Another thing that was super helpful was figuring out the food/eating angle. As JinUk mentions, finding a way to get the nutrition you need while riding is key to feeling good at the finish. A friend of mine loaned me a copy of Sports Nutrition for Endurance Athletes, by Monique Ryan. TL:DR you need to eat wayyyyyy more than you think! Digesting while riding is hard, so it helps to find some kind of balance between real food and sports food that is palatable for you.
Happy and safe riding to you,
Juliayn

On Wednesday, November 10, 2021 at 7:02:22 AM UTC-8 kth...@gmail.com wrote:

Raphael

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Nov 10, 2021, 2:18:48 PM11/10/21
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Hi Kushan and welcome to randonneuring and ultra-cycling.

 

When I started, I exactly did what Juliayn recommends – riding a 200k every month. It helps test your fitness, equipment/position, food/liquid, stops, …

 

You can also find a lot of useful information on this webside Ride Far – Bikepacking & Ultra-Distance Cycling Advice

 

Hope it helps!

 

Cheers, Raphaël

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Sourav Das

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Nov 10, 2021, 10:09:41 PM11/10/21
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A lot of it also comes down to how you set goals for yourself in real life and what really motivates you, what else you have going on, what other hobbies you have, and how much of a priority cycling is to you. Some are in it for the endurance/ultra aspect, some for the stats, some treat it like a bike tour, some are in it for the adventure and the experience of riding at all hours of the day. It is really a combination of all these but it comes down to what you really value. You may like organization and structure -- commit to a goal and strive for it -- or you could just ride and see where that takes you. Nothing wrong with either approach.

A lot of people who were riding indoors on trainers, Zwift, etc, seem to have gained a lot of fitness during the pandemic. Many also benefited from it in their PBP training the year before. So there is that approach, but there are quite a few who will tell you that those are still hours of your life spent on a stationary bike. Zwift sounds like fun that way with the community aspect. IMO the more fun option, if you have the time, would be to ride longer and ride often. It is not the most efficient way but definitely offers a better quality of life.

The ideal way would be some combination of the two. I usually don't have motivation to push hard on flat roads or into the wind -- much prefer hills instead -- and often pay for it. Structured training will benefit me in such a scenario but I think I am doing okay. But if I were to chase time targets I'd probably hop on a trainer.

I would also recommend getting comfortable riding solo and not riding in very large groups all the time. People have their own highs and lows and they don't usually coincide. It is great to have company and encourage each other, but very large groups tend to be inefficient. The extra minutes easily add up to an hour or longer on a day ride. On longer rides it eats directly into sleeping time.

Sourav

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Kushan

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Nov 12, 2021, 12:37:01 AM11/12/21
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Thank you all for the great perspectives.

Food & Hydration: I consumed about 2200 calories on the ride - most of it in form of carbs (bread, candy, juice). Strava tells me that my calorie output during the ride was about 4000. Is that sufficient intake? Are there any guidelines on when and how much to eat for 200k and longer rides? I was basically eating small portions every hour or so. 

Goals: That's a good point Sourav. I have definitely noticed that I ride longer and more often when I am having fun. Getting very stats-focused hasn't worked well in past as my main motivation for biking is to get away from tech and data - which is what I do all day long at work. So while I take training seriously, I am likely going to stay low tech (outside rides and training by perceived exertion or HR monitor) and focus on maximizing time in the saddle and enjoying the ride.

Intensity: Thanks for the resources on training intensity Greg. Definitely makes sense to combine riding hard with riding long. Is riding hard primarily about bringing heart rate up? Is riding fast on flat the same as climbing a hill - as long as your heart goes up the same amount? I find climbing about 4-5% very challenging due to extra pounds I am carrying - so I am also going to find other, non-bike ways to get my weight down. 

Thanks again. 

Greg Merritt

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Nov 12, 2021, 7:49:54 PM11/12/21
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Hi Kushan,

Your eating strategy sounds almost exactly like mine: a couple of hundred calories per hour (roughly 200 or 250, give or take, not measured precisely), usually (but not always) eaten gradually through the hour. Some people find it difficult to eat while riding, but for those of us who don't mind, it's probably a pretty good nutritional strategy. Most cyclists who are in shape and have been eating meals regularly can jump on the bike and ride spiritedly for something like three to maybe five hours (I'm about three and a half!) before they spend their body's carbohydrate reserves and their capacity to put out their regular power suddenly plummets. So, already at the "short"(!) distance of 200k, most riders have a plan for eating through the ride.

Generally speaking, 200-250calories/hour is about the maximum rate that a body can metabolize food, so if you consume at a faster rate, you'll probably just be getting stuffed with a backlog to digest, with no performance gains.

And yes -- you could say that "riding hard sometimes" is indeed about getting the heartrate up. Long story short: flat terrain & hills can each play a distinct role in training, but you know those hills that are difficult to climb? I'm sorry to say, but they're difficult to climb because you're typically forced to work hard, which is why hills are a GREAT for getting the heartrate up! The goal is not to go fast, or to keep up with anyone or to beat anyone up the hill, but to spend time where you're working hard and breathing hard enough that it's difficult to speak full sentences between breaths! It's about what you're having your body do on the inside, rather than where you're going or how fast you're going, etc. :)

On this perceived effort scale for cycling training, this "riding hard, sometimes" is 6 or 7:

screenshot_4911.png

Many of us will be riding brevet events spending as much time as possible in 2 or 3, but, in order to be able ride in that comfortable place (2-3) on event day and still make pretty a pretty good rate of progress on the road, we do spend some time in between events (some of us call it "training!") putting our bodies through some time at 6 or 7, and most of us do that on the hills. Another way to describe 6-7 is the range of effort that you can do for about twenty to sixty minutes -- so, people can manage perhaps sixty minutes at level 6, or twenty minutes at level 7; after that, they'll be totally fried & burnt out. In training, since the goal is not to get fried but to improve fitness, maybe spend periods of five to ten minutes in this effort level several times on a short ride after warming up.

Training at the efforts labeled as 4 & 5 has value, too -- as my training ramps up, I will work up to doing a set of three efforts at twenty minutes each, with a five minute recovery in between, for a sum total of about an hour at that effort level on a training ride. It is an effort that I can feel in my legs afterwards, but I do not feel beat up. I may do that tomorrow, actually, on a hill that takes me about twenty minutes to climb! :)

If you want to have more fun and less "homework" then you can simply go out on a ride with good friends and attack some of the short hills (five- or ten-minute climbs) at a measured effort that you can just sustain for the duration of that climb. Impress your friends with your effort! :)

Also: don't take my word for it. Talk to more people, maybe do some reading, and pay attention to your body, and maybe even get professional advice -- I am not a doctor, nor a professional trainer, nor anything like that; I'm just some guy on the Internet.

See you at the Uvas 200k?

-Greg

Greg Merritt

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Nov 12, 2021, 7:55:54 PM11/12/21
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Clarification: when I wrote...

"Most cyclists who are in shape and have been eating meals regularly can jump on the bike and ride spiritedly for something like three to maybe five hours (I'm about three and a half!) before they spend their body's carbohydrate reserves and their capacity to put out their regular power suddenly plummets."

...I neglected to indicate that this imaginary scenario is the case in which the cyclist does not eat any food while riding, but simply running on energy stored in a regularly-nourished body.

In practical terms, for the vast proportion of us, ride-time nutrition is already a factor at distances of about 100km. (Exceptions and conditions, of course, but I think that this is not too far off the mark for most of us in real-world situations.)

-Greg


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