Tuesday, May 14, 2013

How to become an ultra endurance bike nut: things I've learned about riding too many miles

It is pretty simple to become an ultra endurance bike nut: Figure out the longest ride you've ever done, then go ride it again twice, in one day.

Since this stupid itch got under my skin to attempt 200 miles of Kansas dirt road, I have tried to go about preparing for it with some sense. Fortunately I do know a few successful ultra endurance cyclists. I'm happy that Matt Roy has been my mentor, John Jurczynski my counsel, & David Wilcox my guru. All of them encouraged me to do a one of the New England brevet series. Both the Boston Brevet's & the VT Brevet series have some great rides. But neither series worked well for my needs this spring. So I decided to create my own brevet/ dirt road ronde training series. I planned out six progressively longer mixed paved/dirt road routes, one every other week from mid March to mid May.

Then I broke my foot. A week & day before I planned to do my first 6 hour, 95 mile ride of the year, I trip down my office stairs cracking two bones in my right foot. Best laid plans of mice & men.....
Photo: So you know when you're planning to do a big bike race early in the season, and are about to train really hard for a couple of months. That's when I trip down the stairs and break my foot.
yep, it's broken!
Thankfully the good orthopedist advised that I could still ride my bike if I didn't go too hard (he did not say how long I could ride). So I reworked the plan, clipped out one of the long rides, and now would need to ride long two of three weeks from the end of March to mid May. No room for error.

So far I've been able to do all the rides. Each has had its own challenges. From an every type of weather lumpy 7 hour ride.

To the wrong tires, bad brakes, and worse soft trail conditions for the middle quarter of a 9 hour day.

To the solitude of spending all day on the bike by myself.

Three of the things I've learned about doing stupid long bike rides:

1) Eat before I'm hungry. Thirst is a pretty good indicator of when you should drink. Unless it is super hot,  you can drink when you think it's time. But by the time you're hungry, its too late to eat, particularly if you're burning up 700 calories an hour all day. Every 30-40 minutes I must eat something. Otherwise my body will go into conservation/survival mode, figuring that we are starving, and riding a bike is a superfluous activity compared to staying alive. When I eat every half hour I can ride much longer than I thought possible.

2) Change your shorts! Chamois cream does wonders, but only for so long. Saddles sores & general hiney irritation will curtail anyone's ability to ride a bicycle, much less race one. Just ask Ivan Basso about his Giro this year. I've found that I can ride in the same shorts for about 6-7 hours at the upper limit. Anything longer requires a fresh pair of pants for my backside to remain compliant. Getting into a crisp clean set of drawers mid ride is also rather invigorating. Ready for the next 90 miles!

3) Just keep spinning. After I've already been riding a bike for 6 hours, sometimes getting off is not a good choice. While I may not be able to go hard, I can still spin. Spinning along easy, sitting up, taking some extra drink and food will do more to restore my drive than stopping. Especially when I am trying to make time, stopping & getting going again can be more difficult than riding at an easy pace for 5-10 miles. I do need to stop once in a while, but not as often I once thought. When I do get off the bike, I must be focused on taking care of business so I can get back to it with out wasting time. I can recover as much on the bike as off.

I'm certain I have many more lessons to learn. I'm still new to ultra endurance riding. But so far, so good.

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