Absolute Beginners: Late-season Training

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Believe it or not, there are only nine more weekends to train for the AIDS/LifeCycle. And while you’ve noticed the rides getting longer, the start-time getting earlier, and your body getting more sore, you may also have noticed that the whole process hasn’t really gotten easier. (You may also have noticed that your thighs aren’t as big as Robert Förstemann’s.) The issue isn’t you, but a matter of training: a once-a-week cycling plan is not enough to ride every one of the 545 miles over seven days. So, here are some ideas to help your training as we enter the height of the season.

robert forstemann3
Robert Förstemann: click for image credit and more photos.
  1. Eat, Drink.  If you dread training, you have low energy, you feel irritable or out of sorts during rides, then you are very likely not eating enough or properly hydrating during rides. If these suggestions do not help, consider a consultation with your doctor or a nutritional consultant. (Click the link to read my articles about nutrition.)
  2. Get your bike fit, new kit, or shoes now. Changing up your kit at the last minute is a recipe for unexpected pains. But it’s not too late to dial in a fit if you’re having numbness, joint or back pain, or other discomforts which affect your ride. (Click the link for references on how bike fits integrate with your ride.)
  3. A century is not required, but you should feel comfortable with 60 miles. In order to be comfortable doing all 545 miles, you don’t necessarily have to complete a century ride before the event. If you can do a 60 mile ride and feel comfortable with your fitness level, then you will probably be able to do all 545 miles. That’s not to say you shouldn’t try a century if the opportunity presents itself. There are lots of organized century rides throughout California. (Click the link for articles on training.)
  4. Back-to-Back rides of at least 30 miles each are essential. Since the ride is 7 consecutive days, you will be much more comfortable if you can regularly do two back-to-back rides. I recommend that every week until the weekend before the ride you try to get in back to back rides. (Click the link for articles on fitness.)
  5. Dawdling at the rest stops is a no-no. Socializing before or during the ride is a vital part of why the AIDS/LifeCycle is such a special event. But keep it to a minimum. Rest for no more than 20 minutes at rest stops. Hanging out for too long will tire you, will make you sweat more, and will make your muscles cramp. Oh, and avoid stopping between rest stops unless it is necessary. (Click link for an article on how to keep up if you’re a slower rider.)
  6. Ride at least 3 days per week. You’ll be riding 7 days in a row. Prepare by riding at least 3 — preferably 4 or 5 minimum — per week. (Click link for articles on creating a training plan.)
  7. Hill climbing is essential. If your goal is to complete all the miles on the ALC, you’ll need to prepare by climbing those hills. Don’t be afraid! We’re right behind you the whole way! And for many of us, climbing it the reason we ride. (Click link for articles on climbing (there’s only one as of the time I’m posting this; I clearly need to write more on the topic.)
  8. Become more comfortable on descents. Steep descents can be scary. Remember to control your speed by applying both brakes evenly, only when you’re not turning, and do not “feather” or “ride” your brakes (which causes overheating). (Click link for article on cornering.)
  9. Set a target return time for all rides. I’ve not written about this, but when you go out, a huge psychological barrier is the sheer swaths of time cycling takes up. If you’re new and somewhat slow, a 60 mile ride (which typically takes me 3.5 to 4 hours) may take you 6 to 8 hours. You have to be prepared for that (and you may want to try to minimize that time with training and preparation). (Click the link for articles on psychology.)
  10. Sleep. Rest. All the training in the world is useless if you don’t rest enough. Be gentle with yourself and take the time you need to sleep. There are tons of studies that tell us: sleep deprivation negatively affects all aspects of our lives. Don’t give in to stress. (Click link for articles about sleep.)

That’s a lot of material for one article! Just remember the basic points: eat, rest, train, and enjoy the process. Some corollaries (and topics for past and future articles): See your doctor if you’re new to cycling or are having unusual chest pains, wheezing, or fatigue. Make sure your bike is in good working condition. Be kind to your Training Ride Leaders; they are novices and volunteers there to help you. And remember: AIDS/LifeCycle is fully supported, so don’t necessarily have to ride every mile, only those miles that you can.

Your Bear


2 thoughts on “Absolute Beginners: Late-season Training

    Gary Akenhead said:
    March 26, 2014 at 3:49 pm

    excellent piece. thanks.

    Zev said:
    April 3, 2014 at 2:39 pm

    Hi, great article. Just one point: riding and feathering the brakes are two different things. You’re correct to discourage riding the brakes as that can indeed overheat the rims, etc. However, if you are to brake on descents, then feathering – applying the brakes lightly and then letting go, and then applying them lightly, and letting go – is the way to do it.

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