cycling utah August 2000
By J.R. Smith
Long distance training isn't just for racers anymore. With the popularity of century rides and extended bicycle tours, long distance training is beneficial to all types of cyclists.
How a cyclist performs during a long ride depends on preparation.
Make sure saddle height and distance from bottom bracket (fore/aft) is correct. A proper bike fit is critical due to the duration of the repetitive motions involved. This will assist in preventing injuries.
Make sure the handlebars are the proper width. Raising the stem slightly so that the top of the handlebars is a maximum of three inches below the top of the seat, on a level plane. If you have back, neck or shoulder problems a higher handlebar height is usually more comfortable. Even in the Tour de France you will see riders on long climbing stages using positive rise stems to minimize back and shoulder problems.
Change your hand positions during the ride/race. Moving from hoods to top of bar and to drops will help to alleviate discomfort and pain. Use the proper position at the proper time; i.e. when in a pack use the hoods, when climbing or in the front of a group use the top of the bars, and when descending or on the flats use the drops.
Do not lock your elbows. Your elbows should be bent slightly to absorb road shock. Relax your hands; do not use a death grip, move your fingers on occasion. The same holds true with your feet and toes.
Drink electro replacement glucose drinks starting at least one day prior to ride. Eat and drink often. On longer rides and races you will generally be operating at lower heart rate zones and therefore need to burn more fat for energy. You should be eating foods containing more fats and proteins and drinking liquids containing higher concentrations of protein. Small peanut butter and jelly sandwiches work well. (Note: Train with what you are going to eat or drink prior to the ride or competition).
If you are using feeds (someone handing you food and/or drink) make sure you are getting the proper amount and at the proper time. If you are about to start a hard climb you do not want heavy, fat laden foods and thick drinks. Carb drinks and light foods prior to climbs and protein/fat foods and drinks before long flats. You need to give drinks and food time to enter your energy system. This is usually a 15 to 45 minute process.
Day of event: Eat a breakfast containing 800-1000 calories. This should be done approximately 3 hours prior to the start. Remember don't do this for the first time the day of the event. This should have been a habit from prior events or training.
You need to train your body to burn fat, as you do not have enough muscle glycogen in your body to sustain a long hard effort. This means long training rides at lower heart rates to teach your body to burn fat. The best Ironman competitors train with a lot of longer rides at heart rates of 70-75% of max heart rate (usually 145-160 beats per minute). John Osguthorpe (Johnny "O") on his 120-mile solo breakaway in last years LOTOJA race rarely had his heart rate go above 170 and generally was around 160 for most of time.
Your longest ride only needs to be approximately 75% of your desired distance (i.e. LOTOJA 203 mi. x .75 = 150 miles approximately). This ride should take place approximately 7-10 days prior to event. This allows for tapering and an increased fitness level.
Spin (90 - 100 rpm's) and start your climbs spinning in an easier gear. Being fast on climbs and lasting is a matter of using easier gears at the bottom and harder gears at the top. Sitting on climbs is usually faster and definitely will let your legs survive longer. If you need to stand, shift to a higher gear prior to standing. Be smooth on climbs to save energy. Try to keep the upper body motion to a minimum except when standing then develop a rhythm.
Anticipate your shifts and go to an easier gear just prior to needing it. This is especially critical on steep climbs.
Stay focused, ride smart and this significant ride or race will be fun.
J.R. Smith is a licensed U.S.A. Cycling Elite Coach, Category 2 Official and masters racer. He has been involved in cycling for approximately 20 years and has worked with previous U.S. National Team members and National Champions as well as managing a professional women's cycling team. He also has instructed at Bicycling magazine and Olympic Training Center cycling camps. He presently operates a consulting business and performs services for coaching, bike fit, body composition analysis, and performance testing. He can be contacted at (801) 944-2456 or via e-mail at [email protected]