When it comes to preparing for a 3,000+ mile journey, there are many things to consider. Proper nutrition, supplements, hydration, post-ride stretching, and cycling attire are important factors to take into account. What it all really comes down to is time in the saddle. My body needs to become accustomed to spending hours pedaling those miles day after day. I have been steadily increasing my mileage per ride. On days when the sunlight and weather are not cooperating there may be a 20-miler, but the goal at this stage has been to ride a minimum of 30-40 miles per outing. I am thankful that the ability to pedal those miles has been easy enough. Although Texas is known for mild winters, we do have cold fronts blowing through which puts the pinch on ride days. The biggest challenge at this point has been getting these rides in between cold fronts and on good days before the sun sets.
With 5 weeks left before the bike tour starts, it’s time to ramp up that ride mileage goal to better represent the daily mileage that my body will experience on the tour. San Antonio has a fantastic trail system that offers me many opportunities to ride safely. Currently, my go-to trail is the Leon Creek Greenway which offers 26 miles of riding. The plan over the next couple of weeks is to increase my single ride mileage from 40 miles to 50 miles. Then ramp that up even further to the 60 mile mark leading up to the tour start. Many folks might think the mileage increase is a big deal. Actually, it isn’t. I have ridden up to 62.5 miles before. The true challenge is riding those kinds of miles on back to back to back days.
Riding day after day makes a big difference in the performance of each ride. Legs feel heavier on day three than they did on day one. I feel every single bit of every bump in the road. I know exactly where my sit bones are and can feel them more and more on consecutive ride days. This is giving me a taste of what I will experience on the tour. This is good because more than any physical toughness needed during the tour will be the mental fortitude it will take to keep on riding day after day for two months.
What I am learning right now is that each long ride is not a sprint. It is definitely more of an ultra-marathon. Currently, the ride time for me to burn through 40 miles is over the 3 hour mark. Part of my training now includes forcing myself stop more often than I would if I were only riding once in a while.
Sounds easy enough, right? Well, it is actually more challenging than you might think. The more I ride, the easier it is for my body to deliver a faster pace. Those moments when mind and body are in sync with speed are truly magical. I feel like I am lighter than air and flying along the trail is a mental and physical rush.
This is where the battle between mind and body requires discipline. The fact is that staying at a fast pace is not something that is sustainable over time. Or at least it isn’t for me. I am working on balancing my minds desire for speed with my body’s need for a few moments of non-riding. Stopping to stretch out of the ride position is important. To offer my hips and back a chance to relax makes such a difference in the ride experience. Even standing on my pedals while riding and pushing my hips forward and straightening my back helps to ease tightness. Better still is stopping and taking the time to stretch out for a few minutes. Doing this always leaves me feeling refreshed when I jump back on the bike.
As I work to increase frequency of rides with more ride mileage, this balancing act will become even more important. The long term sustainability of training rides and ultimately the success of the tour will rely heavily on this balance. Which is why I am so grateful to have this time to train. What a difference this knowledge has made so far. I look forward to learning and sharing even more of these nuggets of practical experience as training continues.
Do you have some cycling tips that have helped you improve your ride experience? Let me hear from you. Leave a comment below to share your training gems. Cheers!