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Old 03-19-12, 10:38 AM   #1
lblanch60
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What Should My Expectations Be?

I started riding a rode bike last March, so it's been a year. I try to ride two times a week, one a 20-25 mile ride and the other a longer ride, usually 40-50 miles. This past weekend, I rode the longest of my short riding career, 57 miles. I would like to do a century ride, but that 57 miles was hard. I turned 60 this past December and the leg muscles aren't developing as fast as I would like. My question is, how long should it take to develop the strength and endurance to do a century? I know it's a pretty vague question, but thought I would generate a little discussion regarding strenght and endurance for us older folks. Thoughts?
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Old 03-19-12, 11:04 AM   #2
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I really don't know. One of these days I'm going to try myself. You might try these links.

http://www.ultracycling.com/sections/articles/

http://bicycling.about.com/od/traini.../a/century.htm
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Old 03-19-12, 11:34 AM   #3
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I've read that doing 80% of the distance before you give it a try is a reasonable approach. I think what would help you most, though, is to increase the frequency of your rides. If you can add couple of days of similar distances, you'll find yourself getting stronger much more quickly. 5-6 days is ideal. From a training perspective, more than one day in a row off the bike is too much, unless you have really really pushed it.
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Old 03-19-12, 11:57 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by AzTallRider View Post
I've read that doing 80% of the distance before you give it a try is a reasonable approach. I think what would help you most, though, is to increase the frequency of your rides. If you can add couple of days of similar distances, you'll find yourself getting stronger much more quickly. 5-6 days is ideal. From a training perspective, more than one day in a row off the bike is too much, unless you have really really pushed it.
+1 to all that.

You could even back off the mileage on the other days -- 15-20 miles 3-4X a week, with a 25 and a 50 miler interspersed, should see you developing endurance quickly. When you can do 60-65 miles without too much discomfort, start looking for a century. Practice eating and drinking during the ride, and you should be able complete a fall century with little drama.
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Old 03-19-12, 12:02 PM   #5
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A lot of it depends on your general physical conditioning. Before you started riding last year, if you were reasonably active, then it will not be too difficult to gain the strength and endurance you will need. However, if you were a couch potato or a desk jockey, then you base conditioning will need some fitness work.

You may want to think about purchasing one of a multitude of books from Amazon that have a training routine designed and developed for those who wish to ride centuries. You can go to your local bookstore to check them out first. On Amazon, search for "Cycling Past 50" to start, then look at the associated titles usually listed further down the page. The other month, I picked up "Cycling Past 50", "Ride Your Way to Lean: The Ultimate Plan for Burning Fat and Getting Fit on a Bike", "Distance Cycling", and "The Complete Book of Long-Distance Cycling: Build the Strength, Skills, and Confidence to Ride as Far as You Want". Haven't read them cover-to-cover yet, and there is some duplication of material in several of the books; but at the inexpensive Amazon pricing, it was worth it for me to get. (Personally, I can ride a century easy enough, but wish to be able to do so in the future a lot quicker and more efficiently so that I'm not totally wasted the day after. I know I need to work on cadence, hydration and nutrition during the ride, and not goofing off too long at the rest stops.)

As AzTallRider says, you'll need to up the frequency of your rides. Kind of tough if you are still working full-time, but with daylight savings time kicking in last week, you should be able to get a few 10-20 milers in during the week.
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Old 03-19-12, 12:21 PM   #6
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There is much free information on the web you will find helpful. This book, http://www.amazon.com/Cycling-Past-5...=1332180725&sr, has a wealth of information also and I find myself continually going back to it to clarify my understanding.
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Old 03-19-12, 12:25 PM   #7
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Before my retirement, last October, the company I was with was flexible on our hours as long as we put in eight hours for the day. I would skip lunch or come in an hour early so that I could get off at three instead of four. This allowed me to get in at least a twenty mile ride every day. On weekends, I would increase the mileage to forty miles. Maybe you could work out a similar arrangement with your employer, if you are still working. It doesn't take long to build your strength and endurance when you ride a lot.

The book "Cycling past 50" is a good source. However, I have found that almost all of the training guides in cycling magazines are geared to 20-30 year old, 135 lb cyclist.
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Old 03-19-12, 12:36 PM   #8
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I also started riding last year (April 2011, when I was 54). I've since done 3 centuries (two at over 19 mph ave.), rode RAGBRAI (530 miles in 7 days), and have decided to start randonneuring and ultra-distance cycling - with a view to doing Paris-Brest-Paris in 2015, when I'm 59.

Here's what I did:

1). Cross train! Cycling training is obviously key, but I hit the gym 3 times a week, and focused on leg and core strength - particularly squats, calf-raises and deadlifts; and heavy cardio. Also - I found that hard mountain-hiking was an excellent way to build strength and stamina. Long hikes of 20-plus miles in the mountains, at as fast a pace as possible, was a huge boost for general conditioning.

2). When riding - ride hard. Every time. Then when I got out onto the club rides, I was (eventually) pleasantly surprised to discover that the rest of the pack is riding at my speed - or often somewhat slower.

3). Get as much distance as possible. Yes, your 57 miles was hard - but if you would do it again 2 or 3 weeks later, you'd find it was a bit easier. I pushed the distances every other week, and eventually, 60 miles became a reasonably nice weekend ride.

4). I rode with others - such as club rides etc., and challenged myself to not get dropped. Then learn to draft / paceline. It's amazing how much faster and further you can go when using this time-tested technique. (And riding a good paceline is such fun!) Also - many of my club members are quite a bit oldser than me, and ride like the wind. Plenty of motivation there!

5). Register for specific (hard) events, then train for them. I found that training specifically for RAGBRAI made it easy for me to finish, riding the whole event at a fast pace, despite only having ridden 3 months at that time. Now I'm training for other events, and that focus is helping a lot with overall conditioning and motivation.

6). Eat clean! I.e. no junk, count your carbs and your macros, and let your improved nutrition and your exercising bring your body's metabolism up to optimum levels.



Make no mistake - I still have a LOT to learn, which is one of the reasons I hang out on BF daily. But the above has worked for me so far, and I'm hoping to achieve a lot more this year than last.



You probably already know about most of the stuff I've suggested but I hope some of it helps. At my age - I am probably in better condition that I've been in over 30 years!

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Old 03-19-12, 12:55 PM   #9
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I appreciate everyone's input. My problem with additional rides is that when I get off of work and drive home in Atlanta traffic, it's usually close to 7:00pm. With daylight savings time in play, I might be able to get an hour to an hour and a half in as the days get longer. I usually ride in the morning, one day a week, as I go in late that day and always do a weekend day. I've been doing the Tony Horton 10 minute workout for the past month, or so, and have been riding the hills, aggressively, in my area. Seems to have helped, as my average speed in the 30-50 mile rides use to be 15-16mph and that has increased to 17-18mph, lately. I'll get some of the books that were referred. I'm just anxious to be able to get up to the century mark, sooner than later.
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Old 03-19-12, 01:03 PM   #10
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...my average speed in the 30-50 mile rides used to be 15-16mph and that has increased to 17-18mph, lately...
That's actually pretty darn good! Better than I can do, unless the route is perfectly flat and the wind is minimal. Sounds like you just need to get in some more miles.
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Old 03-19-12, 01:22 PM   #11
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You live in Atlanta, take a weekend day and drive up into the mountains for a ride. Climbing a long sustained grade will not only increase your endurance but your strength too.
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Old 03-19-12, 01:23 PM   #12
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I haven't found any of Friel's stuff helpful. The new books assume you have access to a power meter and are willing to spend the time and the money to determine your max HR and your training zones.

I'm reading "Base training for cyclists", but I'm not sure exactly what I've learned from it.

Having said that, I'm about at your level of fitness, I think.

The key, as it seems to me, is to do one monster effort every 2-3 weeks, and then give yourself plenty of time to recover from it. As they say, you don't get stronger from training; you get stronger during the rest after training. Smaller, less ambitious rides would be the order of the day.

I did my first metric century in two years on Saturday. I felt wasted the rest of Saturday and all day Sunday, but I feel pretty well right now.

Even so, my Wednesday ride is going to be a bit more leisurely.
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Old 03-19-12, 01:33 PM   #13
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+1 to riding more often. I ride twice per week in the fall when I'm on my downslide toward hibernation. It kills my conditioning to only ride that much. With 3 or 4 rides on weekday evenings of around 25 miles, the 50+ rides on the weekend become easy.
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Old 03-19-12, 01:49 PM   #14
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A simple solution to getting more time in the saddle is riding the trainer or rollers. And do not listen to all the whining about how boring riding the trainer is. If you are time or daylight limited, riding the trainer indoors is a very efficient use of time.

And a trainer workout is a lot harder and in many ways more effective than riding on the road. For example, the trainer offers constant resistance so it is like riding uphill. There is no rest. One can select gearing and ride at constant power or focus on increasing cadence.

The first coach I used required me to show up at a cycling gym a couple of times per week to ride the trainer or in that case it was rollers with a fork stand and magnetic coupling. We had a pro that trained a lot on the rollers and rode in the Tour of California.

You do not have to do hard workouts on the trainer but instead focus on sustained multiple 10 minute efforts at an aerobic level of effort with a short rest period. However, if you are up to it, you can increase the level of effort and / or ride longer intervals. IMO, 20 minutes are better but tougher for a rookie. DVDs are nice but probably too hard for your stage of development.

Good luck.
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Old 03-19-12, 02:00 PM   #15
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Just remember, not all miles are not created equal. Some hard metrics are more difficult than some easy centuries. So be less worried about total miles and log hours instead.
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Old 03-19-12, 02:20 PM   #16
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If I can ride 30 miles, I can ride 100. I proved that again for myself, riding 100 miles a couple of weeks ago. Except for one 40 mile ride about a month ago, I cycled no more than 30 miles the previous few months. I threw in lots of steep grades to build strength.

In fact, I used to give myself two weeks to get in shape for a 100 mile ride, but that was many years ago. I don't think I could get away now, at 64, being off the bike for weeks or s few months, and expect to be able to come back in such a short time.

Of course, I'm reasonably lean, so dealing with weight has never been a critical issue.

None-the-less, we can do a lot more than we think we can, OP, and if you can ride 57 miles, you can probably ride 100 in a day, now. You'll hurt, but then, how easy to you want an epic ride to be? If we don't suffer at least a little on such rides, what's the point?
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Old 03-19-12, 03:49 PM   #17
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When trying to build up mileage- Rest days are just as important as training. I would ride 3 or 4 days a week in training. Start say on a Sunday. Do your mileage with around 40 useful miles on that day. Then Tuesday go out for a "Quick" twenty miles. Just a bit faster than the 40 miles and keep the route a bit flat. Then Thursday 20 miles but with hills. Saturday do an easy ride to suit your fitness- remembering that Sunday is your long ride.

Gradually up the Sunday mileage to around 60 and keep up the Tuesday and Thursday rides. Once 60 is comfortable then go for an organised Metric Century. In fact do a couple--One to find out what the ride is like and the next Non-Stop other than to fill water bottles and grab some food.

You are then ready for a full 100 miles with a rest stop at around the 65 to 70 mile mark to drink plenty- eat something more substantial and a stretch.

It may hurt and you may bonk at around the 80 mile mark but Get the useful miles in and it can be done in about 3 months from where you are now.

Took me 3 years before I attempted my first 100 miler. It hurt and took 14 hours but I did it. But it was not an easy ride---The South downs Way. 100 miles with 10,000ft of climbing and is the hardest offroad one day ride in the UK. Road rides are easier.
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Old 03-19-12, 04:15 PM   #18
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2). When riding - ride hard. Every time. Then when I got out onto the club rides, I was (eventually) pleasantly surprised to discover that the rest of the pack is riding at my speed - or often somewhat slower.
Congratulations on going for the gusto, Duncan, an approach I truly agree with. The only point I would argue is this one about always riding hard. Most people agree you want a solid base of riding at "endurance pace" to develop and maintain aerobic/metabolic efficiency. Some believe you can accomplish that adaptation using only High Intensity Intermittent Intervals, such as Tabata intervals, which are many repetitions of short, very hard efforts. Most of us, however, get a solid aerobic base, then layer on the harder stuff. For me, routinely doing 80-100 miles at an endurance pace (using power or heart rate as a guide) has enabled me to also pick up the pace with the guys on the group hammerfests and climbs. Of course, as you get stronger, your speed at your endurance zone goes up, and many group rides go from being struggles, to being nice base rides. Hence the need for A, B, C, Etc.
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