RBR reader Dan Austad asked on September 12,
“I am planning to do the National Senior Game’s 5K time trial on June 15 and the 10K time trial on June 16, 2018. (If I get an invitation maybe the road races on June 18 and 19) and then do Paris-Brest-Paris (PBP), which starts on August 17, 2018. I also plan to compete in tennis at the Senior Games from June 14 through June 25, 2018. Can you give me some ideas on how to coordinate training to maximize my performance at both events?
“I am 72 now; I have raced since I was in my early 60’s. I race about 10 races per year usually with mid pack results, but did get a third place in the 2017 Birmingham National Senior Games in the 10K along with a seventh place in the 5K and sixth place in the road race. The year before I got a third place in the time trial at the USA Nationals and a seventh in the road Race.
“Before I raced I did randonneuring and finished PBP in 2003. (PBP is a 1200K / 750 mile event, which must be completed in less than 90 hours including all time off the bike. PBP is held every four years and is the oldest and most important 1200K. In 2015 5,870 riders started and 4,610 finished officially, a DNF rate of 21.5%) I rode PBP in 2003 in 88-1/2 hours. I slept about 18 hours on six different occasions. I started it again in 2015 but got saddle sores the first night and eventually had to quit. That is the only time in the last 20 years I have gotten saddle sores and attribute it to not doing enough long distance riding.
“I am going to have a knee operation for a torn meniscus shortly. I am scheduled for an appointment with my surgeon for October 22, 2018. I hope surgery will be shortly thereafter. I can ride the spin bike one legged, starting the day after surgery and I intend to ride it 10 hours per week, mainly in spin classes. It will be four to eight weeks until I can use the other leg.
“I have enjoyed your articles over the years. Your insights would be appreciated.”
Coach Hughes, “PBP is a great event! I’ve ridden it five times. I have four clients in their 60s and 70s who are training for it. To start I’d like to assess your athletic maturity. The more mature a roadie is the less training the rider needs and the faster the rider recovers.”
I asked Dan, “How many 100 mile and longer rides have you done in 2017 and 2018?”
Dan, “None. From May 29th through June 16th, 2018 I rode with my wife on a bike Friday tandem in Europe about 40-50 miles per day depending on terrain. Most of my other rides are about 20-25 miles long. I have not done more distance in the last couple of years because I was racing, which I required me do a lot of short intense intervals. Doing a long ride took too much energy and I did not have time for recovery. Two weeks ago I did a 100K (62 mile) populaire with the Seattle Randonneurs. My time was 4 hours 53 minutes (20 km/h, 12.4 mph).”
Coach Hughes, “How many miles a year do you ride?”
Dan, “I ride indoors and out about 450 hours per year, but I have not kept track of my mileage and most of my riding outside is intervals of different lengths from 10 seconds to 16 minutes and at least half my riding is indoors in spin classes.”
Coach Hughes, “Based on your 100K speed of 12.4 mph, 450 hours per year is equivalent to about 5,500 miles per year. However, on most of your rides you rode much faster and logged more equivalent miles.”
Coach Hughes, I assess athletic maturity on three factors rating each on a 1 – 3 point scale. Here’s how Dan scored:
- Years of riding: six or more years = 3 points. Dan has ridden for over 15 years, 3 points
- Longest annual ride: 50 to 100 miles = 2 points. Dan rode a 100K, 2 points
- Annual riding: over 5,000 miles / year = 3 points. Dan rides over 5,500 miles per year, 3 points
With a total of eight points out of nine Dan is a very mature rider. You can learn more about athletic maturity and how to use it in my 47-page two-article bundle Cycling Past 60.
I’m concerned about his lack of 100 mile and longer rides. To qualify for PBP he will have to complete a series of timed brevets next spring: 200K / 125 miles in not more than 13:30, 300K / 187 miles in not more than 20:00, 400K / 250 miles in not more than 27 hours and 600K / 375 miles in not more than 40 hours. The times include all the off-the-bike time.
I’m also concerned that because of his surgery he won’t be able to do any long rides until some time in December. I suggested that Dan do longer rides until his surgery so that he’d have a bit of an endurance base before the surgery. I wrote him, “If you were very tired after the 100K then do one or two three-hour rides a week. If you feel recovered enough after the first ride then to do the second ride – otherwise only one ride each week. If you felt like you could have gone longer after the 100K, then try a five to six hour ride and a three hour ride each week. If you feel recovered enough after the five to six hour ride then also do the shorter ride – otherwise only the long ride each week.”
Dan wrote me on September 19, “Just to update you on my riding: I did a spin class Friday, a 5:15, 66-mile ride on Saturday, a 1/2 hour recovery ride Sunday, spin class Monday and a three hour ride on Tuesday, including 45 minutes at my tempo pace. I will do another spin class on Friday and a six hour ride on Saturday. I do not seem to be any more tired than before as I am adding an hour or two to my riding time, but cutting back on intensity.”
Coach Hughes, “You’re smart to cut back on intensity as you increase weekly volume and the duration of your rides.”
Dan, “I will have to update my nutrition, I did the long ride on just two bottles of sports drink and a bottle of water and the ride would be faster and more enjoyable with four bottles of sports drink and a snack or two.”
Coach Hughes, “You should eat about 300 calories of carbs every hour. A sports drink and a bar are fine but there’s no performance advantage. For my 2:30 ride today I brewed a bottle of tea and sweetened it with white sugar. I also took a bottle of water and a half dozen fig newtons.”
What Should Dan Do?
Coach Hughes, “Dan which is more important?”
Dan, “As far as which event is more important, the real question for me is which can I do better at. If I can win or medal at the Senior Games that would be first priority. If I could do PBP under 80 hours and my times were too slow to medal at the Senior Games then PBP would be first priority. I am hoping that I could peak for one and then the other, but I wrote you because any strategy to do both presents problems.”
Coach Hughes, “First, decide to only train for the 5K and 10K time trials and stop playing tennis and road racing. Use your time for focused training for the TTs and PBP. Also you’ll get more recovery — seniors need more recovery.
“In 2015 14 riders in their 70s started PBP. Three finished officially. Finishing PBP would be a challenge for you given his your lack of long rides. However, you don’t have to decide in September 2018 whether to peak for the Senior Games or attempt PBP. I suggest a four-part strategy:
“1. Now until surgery:
Build up long rides to at least 100 miles and if possible a 200K (125 miles). You just rode 66 miles at 12.6 mph. A century will be slower in the eight to ten hour range. As I write this on September 20th you have six weekends until the end of October. Alternating harder and easier weeks works well for older riders.
Here’s what I suggest for your weekly longest rides:
- September 22 – 30 miles
- September 29 – 75 miles
- October 6 – 35 miles
- October 13 – 85 miles
- October 20 – 40 miles
- October 29 – 100 to 125 miles
In addition keep doing your three-hour midweek ride. The goal from now until your surgery is to build your endurance so don’t spend energy doing intervals — use that time for recovery.”
“2. Surgery until you can ride with both legs.
Spin as you suggested; however, not more than five sessions totaling five hours a week. Two should be intensity sessions including the two types of intensity that will benefit you the most:
- VO2 max intervals riding very hard for one to three minutes with recovery of two to six minutes between intervals.
- Race pace intervals at your target pace for the 5K time trial.
The other three days should be very easy recovery rides. Classes are too hard for recovery – just spin easily on the trainer.“
“3. Endurance riding.
In January you’ll have about eight hours of daylight. When you can ride with both legs start again with a 100K ride and build up to an all day ride. In February start doing the qualifying brevets, which are on this calendar. They run through May 10. The brevets are four to six weeks apart. Do one VO2 max or time trial race pace workout the weeks that aren’t immediately before or after a brevet.
“After each brevet ask yourself:
- Was I comfortably able to finish within about 80% of the time limit?
- Was I having fun?
- Were there any problems like your saddle sores in 2015 that could be potential showstoppers.
Based on your answers then decide whether to continue training for the next brevet or switch to training for the 5K and 10K time trials.
“During the brevet series race time trials when you can but no road races.”
Depending on your answers to the above you’ll know whether to peak for the Senior Games or PBP — you can’t peak for both.
These eArticles will help you:
Your Best Season Ever my 71-page two article bundle describes in detail how to train for and peak for a time trial as well as a hill climb, a fast club ride and a 100K or century.
Endurance Training and Riding my 49-page three article bundle includes training plans for rides from 100 miles to 600K, what to eat before, during and after rides of 100K and longer and how to master all of the details necessary for success.
“You could post progress reports on the RBR Facebook page so readers follow you.
“Good luck and have fun!”
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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 nearly 30 eBooks and eArticles on cycling training and nutrition, available in RBR’s eBookstore at Coach John Hughes. Click to read John's full bio.