Training for Your First Long-Distance Event

I had someone at the gym today ask me about training for a MS150 ride as a novice cyclist.  This is a great goal for cyclists around here because it is 160 miles over two days (and it usually includes some serious wind and sometimes rain).  It is a very popular ride and benefits a great cause. 

The advice to this cyclist is the same for many who are trying to increase their mileage.  There are some key concepts that MS150 recommends:

Keep Track of your Mileage.

A key part of training is assessing how you’ve improved. Adding an inexpensive speedometer to your bike is a good step. You will want to see how your average speed is improving along with your distance.

Start with Short Rides.

Take a week to work up to a moderate day of 15 miles. Don’t worry about time or speed on these rides. Take it easy and finish the full 15. The purpose is to gain and maintain basic cardiovascular fitness.

Sometimes Double Up Miles.

After working up to the 15 mile moderate day, attempt an endurance day of double the mileage once a week. Try to maintain the same pace established during moderate days, but slow down if it is necessary to make the full mileage. The purpose is to gain distance, confidence and grow cardiovascular fitness.

Do Hills and Intervals.

After mastering the basics, challenge yourself with more advanced training. After warming up with a moderate day ride, find a hill you can climb without totally exhausting yourself. After riding up the hill, recover on the way down, and then go up again. As your fitness improves, add more repeats. The power and stamina developed with hill work will assist you in tackling the larger hills on the route. Interval training works the same way. During a regular moderate day ride, pick a distance (for example, a city block or the space between two telephone poles) and speed up to a sprint. Start with one each ride and then add more and longer sprints each time you ride. Sprint for one lap and then slow down for a recovery lap, repeating the process as needed. Interval training and hill work will improve overall speed, endurance and ability to recover from challenging parts while still riding.

More thoughts from expand on this topic in an article on training for a century ride.

The main principle of training for a century is to increase your mileage gradually over a number of weeks. By doing it that way, you help avoid injury, burnout and over-fatigue. Plus you will also be able to detect any issues with your body or your bike that you want to discover before the big day.

To set in motion your training plan, pick a known date for your century ride and count back from there to determine your start point. This ten-week training plan below assumes you are in shape at the start to be able to ride 20 miles comfortably. That’s a two-hour ride at a very easy 10-12 mph pace. If this is more than where you are, consider a metric century (100 km/62 miles) as another potential goal.

As you prepare, aim for the targets as laid out in the table below to get you ready. It shows the distance of your longest ride each week(typically on a Saturday or Sunday) plus a cumulative mileage total for the week that you reach with your other riding.

Century Training Plan

Week   Length of Long Ride    Total Miles/Week

1                      25                             55

2                      30                             65

3                      35                             73

4                      40                             81

5                      45                             90

6                      50                             99

7                      57                            110

8                      65                            122

9                      50                             75

10             Century Ride                    Yeah!


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