Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Ultracycling – training for long distance riding

Ultracycling is the extreme end of the distance bicycle racing world with the RAAM (Race Across America) the ultimate challenge. 12 & 24 hour events as well as set distances of 200-500 miles are more common and manageable even for us mere mortals.

With so much information available about training, how to sort the wheat from the chaff to help you ride long distances fast? The Ultracycling world is dominated by riders 40 years of age and up. Go to an event and I guarantee you’ll see some gray hair leaving you in the dust. The speed that these animals can maintain seemingly forever is unbelievable. Just take a look at the results from the recent 24 hours of Sebring:

There is a lot more to training for this type of event than simply piling on the miles. If your goal is to simply stay on the bike for 12 or 24 hours, slap on a gel seat pad and some training wheels and try to stay awake. If you want to ride 200, 300, 400 or more, you need to have some speed along with your endurance. I’m going to share some of my own training for these events over the coming year as well as power data from specific workouts and races.

Winter Training – Averaging 8-9 hours/week does not seem like enough to be able to ride hundreds of miles in February but I managed to get in 309.9 at the Sebring 24 (17:15 in actual ride time, read the race report to hear about my nap) This averaged out to 18MPH in avg. riding speed, better than I had managed at any 12 hr race last year. I was hoping to have an average NP of 140 watts and was just above that.

Duration: 16:07:41 (18:13:02)
Work: 7199 kJ
TSS: 747.5 (intensity factor 0.684)
Norm Power: 144
VI: 1.15
Pw:HR: 6.44%
Pa:HR: -2.77%
Distance: 291.227 mi
Min Max Avg
Power: 0 637 125 watts
Heart Rate: 83 248 133 bpm
Cadence: 29 141 90 rpm
Speed: 0 29.5 18.0 mph
Pace 2:02 0:00 3:20 min/mi
Hub Torque: 0 277 46 lb-in
Crank Torque: 0 951 121 lb-in

You have to ride fast for short distances if you want to ride fast for longer periods of time. Think about that for just a second, If you find it hard to hold 20 mph for a while on a training ride, riding a century in under 5 hours is going to require one heck of a tailwind. Knowing this I spent most of the winter working on quality intervals from 20 sec max sprints to 10 min FTP range work (TT pace). Not making to time to ride lots of “base miles” as everyone would think, the last few years of steady riding were my base. 2-3 interval workouts a week with the vast majority of these teaching indoor cycling classes to my advanced disciples. This was a huge benefit in keeping my intensity higher than I would have with solo training.

In summary, I have been able to increase my FTP over the late summer high even though I am still only hovering around 220 watts. Aero positioning and pedaling efficiency cannot be overlooked at these longer distances as I am sure lots of people reading this are not averaging 18mph with 140 watts. Increasing my Spinscan #’s on the computrainer to around 80 has given me some free speed and allows me to stay fresh when I have to push on a climb.

If you are not doing any interval work, start today and you will get faster. Next post I will share a few of my favorite workouts as I get ready for Calvin’s Challenge 12 hour ride in May.

Good riding – Coach Kevin


trickyrider said...

Winter training is an essential part of any serious cyclists training regime. There are lots of good media presentations for specific training.

Luke Bream said...

I agree that in order to ride 12 or 24 hour or longer events you need to be faster over the shorted distances.

I also agree with the process of doing intervals to generate this speed.

Where I differ in my approach to this kind of training is in my interval duration.

I have adopted much longer interval periods. So I'm doing 10 intervals each of between 3-5 minutes in duration. I'm pushing a big gear with lower cadence during the interval then spinning easy gear in the rest period. Equal rest time to interval time.

So complete session is normally about 1.5-2 hours.

During each interval my HR is just above my anaerobic threshold.

Interested to see what you think ??

My website where I write about my training and also coach amateur cyclists to ride centuries is