RBR Reader 61-year-old Kevin asked several questions, “Wednesday May 17 was the Bone ride from Madison to Milwaukee WI and back (158 miles). My tandem pilot couldn’t do it. That didn’t stop me. I rode indoors on my single bike with a Saris H3 trainer.”
“My goal was to hold 220-230 watts. I felt good through the 5th hour. Then I started to fade. By the 7th hour my watts were down to 190-200. I finished in about 8:30 hours. Was I starting to bonk?”
Coach Hughes: I responded to Kevin’s first question in this column: Ask the Coach: Did I Bonk on an Endurance Ride?
Big Picture Look at Kevin’s Training
Kevin described his training and then said, “I may have pushed it too hard in my training.” “Now, I’m planning for the Ride Across Wisconsin (RAW) which is 235 miles. There is about 6000 feet of climbing and it is on back country roads. My team for RAW plans to hold 20-21 MPH. Thinking of what I did for 8.5 hours (BONE) and my age of 61, I think my training plan needs to be adjusted.”
I’m responding to his training questions in these two-part columns. Last week I discussed these factors:
1. The phases he divided his training into:
- 8 weeks of endurance: progressively longer rides plus intensity workouts. Also core, upper body and light leg strength workouts.
- 8 weeks of build: continuing to increase longer rides plus continuing intensity and the leg strength workouts.
- 2 weeks of peaking: two longer rides.
Kevin was smart to divide his training into successive phases. However, his training would have been more effective if he’d differentiated the stages to:
- Base: Progressively longer rides to increase his endurance. No intensity training. Moderate relatively short tempo rides to increase his cruising speed.
- Build: Increase his power with intensity training instead of tempo training. By the end of the base phase he should have the endurance to complete his target ride. To provide the exercise capacity for his intensity training, cut back the long rides to just maintain his endurance. Continue the core and upper body strength exercises but stop the leg exercises.
- Peaking: Specific rides similar to his target ride but shorter. Just enough intensity to maintain fitness. Continue strength program.
- Taper: Recover fully for the big event.
2. His cycle of weeks
Kevin, “Throughout the endurance and build phases I did an easy, moderate or hard week. The type of week played a factor in length and watts put out.”
Cycling through weeks with different volumes and intensities is the optimal way to train. Kevin’s three week cycle was a good approach. I use a similar four week cycle with my older clients:
3. How he ramped his long rides
Kevin described his ramping from
- Week #1 January 21 (3:00 hours and 53.1 miles).
- Week 17 April 29 (6:00 hours and 116.2 miles)
I suggested a better approach would have been to ramp up to his six hour ride during his base phase and then to increase power and maintain endurance during his build phase. I laid out a plan to ramp up in a nine-week base phase.
You can read more about the first three elements #1 to #3 in last week’s column: Ask the Coach: Did I Overtrain? Part 1
Details of Kevin’s Training
The first column was a big picture look at his training. Let’s drill down and look at his training details:
4. Content of his weeks
Kevin told me, “Base phase:
- Sunday: 1-hour easy spin – 150+- watts.
- Monday: Virtual Dare2TRI class 45 minutes of short intense intervals; I would do a 30-minute warm-up prior to the class.
- Tuesday: Lift weights focused on upper body and core; the only leg worked was squats or lunges or step-ups with 15 lbs dumb bells my hands.
- Wednesday: 90 minute ride with a 10 minute warm-up and cool- down and a 70 minute set of intervals.
- Thursday: Same as Tuesday
- Friday: Off
- Saturday: This ride would vary in length depending on type of week; anywhere from 2:00 to 8:15 hours.”
This was a great pattern alternating your hard days (Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday) with four easier days. Kudos for doing core and upper body strength training. During the base phase you should have done tempo rides on Monday and Wednesday instead of intensity. Doing light weights with your legs didn’t allow full recovery for your legs. During the base phase you should have done your leg weights the same days as your tempo rides.
Build phase: was the same pattern as the base phase with more volume and intensity. Your Virtual Dare2TRI class ended in March, at which point you switched to sweet spot workouts. The class with very short high intensity intervals wasn’t what you needed. You would have been better off just doing sweet spot workouts. You also should have shortened your endurance rides from what you did in the base phase. Just long ride of about five hours every few weeks and rides of two to three hours the other weeks would have been sufficient to maintain your endurance.
You can learn more in this column Anti-Aging: Optimal Riding Weeks.
These columns explain sweet spot training:
5. Endurance rides
Kevin wrote, “There was a 10 minute warm-up and cool-down. Then I would do intervals holding watts around 250; then a recovery holding 175 watts in an easier gear. The interval at 250 watts started at 8 minutes with a 3 minutes recovery in January; as I moved through the weeks I would increase the length of the 250 watts. The length of the intervals increased over time. During 250 watts I would do a high cadence sprint or a hill climb for 30 seconds.
“During the days doing the longer rides I could talk to myself without much of a problem. How exciting to talk to myself! I couldn’t whistle.”
Different kinds of physical adaptation occur at different levels of intensity. A better way to increase your endurance would have been always riding at a conversational pace rather than mixing in intensity. You can read more in this column: Anti-Aging: How to Train for Endurance
Kevin’s goal was to hold 220-230 watts for 8:30 hours; however, he faded from the 6th hour on.
As a rule of thumb, as a rule of thumb every time you double the duration of your ride, your sustainable power drops by about 5%. Were you able to sustain more than 220 – 230 watts on your six hour ride 2-1/2 weeks before the Bone ride? If so, the 220 – 230 watts was a good target for your 8:30 ride. Or toward the end of your build phase, you could have done a 4:15 hour ride trying to sustain 230 to 240 watts as a benchmark for your planned 8:30 hour ride.
You did a great job of ramping up your long rides with shorter recovery rides. However, you didn’t include any full recovery weeks to leave you rested for the next phase. And your recovery days during the week weren’t really recovery days because you did strength training. You can learn more in this column: Cycling Recovery Tips for Older Riders
Kevin, you asked a good set of complicated, related questions so there’s no simple answer. Each of the above seven factors contributed to your disappointing ride when you couldn’t sustain your power (speed) for 8:30 hours. If only one of the factors wasn’t optimal, you probably would have met your goals for your ride. As I discussed last week, hydration and electrolytes were also factors.
Were you overtrained? Yes, but you were also under-recovered.
Good luck and have fun in August on the epic Ride Across Wisconsin of 235 miles with about 6000 feet of climbing. With effective training, nutrition and hydration you’ll be a strong member of your team averaging 20-21 MPH.
- 12 Tips to Prevent Overtraining
- Anti-Aging: Training Rules for Older Cyclists
- Anti-Aging: 8 Mistakes Older Riders Make, pt. 1
- Anti-Aging: 8 Mistakes Older Riders Make, pt. 2
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Coach John Hughes earned coaching certifications from USA Cycling and the National Strength and Conditioning Association. John’s cycling career includes course records in the Boston-Montreal-Boston 1200-km randonnée and the Furnace Creek 508, a Race Across AMerica (RAAM) qualifier. He has ridden solo RAAM twice and is a 5-time finisher of the 1200-km Paris-Brest-Paris. He has written over 40 eBooks and eArticles on cycling training and nutrition, available in RBR’s eBookstore at Coach John Hughes. Click to read John’s full bio.