I'm thinking of tackling a longer event ride (Cheaha Challenge) that has a lot of steep inclines in the mid section. I currently ride 3 to 4 times a week on hilly terrain, but I rarely ride more than 25 miles. I'm consider myself as a descent uphiller, but I'm not so sure how I will come out on a ride with more distance. This ride has several distance options including 40, 60, 88 and 100 miles. I am thinking of attempting the 60 mile mark this year and maybe train for the full century the next time. I only have a couple of months to get ready, so I would appreciate suggestions on how to best prepare for the increased distance. I do plan to drive the course just to get an idea of what I'm getting myself into. You can Google "Cheaha Challenge" and see the profile.
Incorporate one long true-endurance ride a week. That's 3-4 hours at a time. Here's what to concentrate on for endurance:
1. nutrition. Right from the start, eat 200-300calories/hr of mainly carb drink/gel/bars and 500-750ml/hr of water. You will ALWAYS burn off calories faster than you can digest and this is the major limitation to endurance. Once you start getting close of the edge of depleting all your muscle-glycogen, you're close to bonking and calling the broom-wagon and there's absolutely no way to recovery from a bonk without quitting.
2. pace yourself. It's hard to do when you've got 4-6 hours riding ahead of you. But each and every time you push hard above your average speed for that ride, you're causing unnecessary strain on your muscles leading them close to fatigue and cramping. It's especially hard with hilly terrain to restrain yourself and take it easy. But you MUST take it easy. If you're aiming for a century @ 15mph and 60% of max-exertion, you must let a 25mph group go as they fly by. And going up the hills, do not make an interval out of it, stay at 60% effort the whole way.
3. use easy gears. Again, you need to practice pacing yourself for hours at an easy pace using easy gears. The higher the peak muscle-forces exerted, the faster and easier you get to fatigue and cramping. Muscles applying higher forces also uses more glycogen than fats and you burn up your glycogen stores much faster.
The key to endurance and long-distance riding is more mental discipline than actual pure fitness. It's about practicing nutrition, selecting easy gears and pacing yourself.
Thanks for the info. I am tying to adjust my scheduel to include one long ride per week. I normally push myself hard with bigger gears on my 20-25 mile rides, so I will have to work on using easier gears and conserving energy. I'm 50 and my recovery time seems to be a little longer, so I plan on laying off the intense training serveral days before the event.
For riders who aren't used to longer distances, the general recommendation is to increase your rides by approx. 10% per week (or perhaps just slightly more than that). If you've got 8 weeks to work with, and you're at 25 miles now, you could easily be at 60 miles by then.