How She Did It – In Her Own Words
“We had the worst winter in New England’s history, which meant no riding on the road for the month of February. The winter program you devised with a variety of cross-training activities really helped. The endurance days were great because I could choose an aerobic activity for a prescribed number of hours, either cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, walking or riding on the road or on the trainer. Some days I did two hours each of two different activities. The XC skiing helped make me so strong in ways I hadn’t been in previous winters. I skied up to four hours a day!”
To complement the XC skiing, Wicks took a spinning class on Saturdays and did power intervals one weekday. We’ve learned that two hard workouts a week make her stronger — but three tear her down. She also did one-legged pedaling to work on form as a warm-up to her strength sessions.
“I was stronger at the PAC Tour Desert Camp than ever before. I climbed Mt. Lemmon one hour faster than we thought I could.” Mt. Lemmon rises 6,600 feet in 25 miles, from saguaro cactus to the ski area. This was Wicks’ big goal, for which she’d trained all winter. “The rest of the week was so good, too.”
Wicks rode 374 miles over seven days at the PAC Tour camp and then returned to snowy New England. For the next six weeks she concentrated on intensity workouts, with only a 200K (125-mile) longride.
“At Calvin’s, the day was perfect – less wind than any of the six other times I’ve done it. I looked back at my write-ups about prior Calvin’s. Every one talked about grinding around the course with my quads screaming.
“I had already set the age group record. I was relaxed and focused on just riding my bike. I decided that I would just ride around and do whatever the wind allowed. I do better if I just stay within myself and ride strong and steady instead of chasing people.
“I rode with people a couple of times just chatting, but didn’t draft. After breaking my hip riding in a group at Calvin’s in 2007 I’m very careful riding with strangers.”
Wicks knew she was having a strong ride. It felt to her like she was averaging more than 16 mph, but she deliberately didn’t look at her average speed until the end of the first 50.66 mile lap: 16.9 mph!
Wicks used the same pacing strategy as the pros who recently have broken the one-hour record — start at a sustainable pace rather than going out too hard. Her 50-mile lap splits were: 16.9 mph, 16.3 mph and 15.7 mph. Her heart rate was always aerobic and declined by only 10 bpm over the first 152 miles!
After three laps of the big loop, racers switch to a seven-mile loop. “The wind had come up just a little and I was a little tired the last four laps.” She rode in the big ring all day and was “a little tired” after already racing 152 miles! How many of us can say that?
“I counted down the laps as usual. ‘Oh, good, only three laps left. Oh good, only two laps left. Oh, good, only one lap left.’ I wanted to ride the full 12 hours and as I came through the start/finish after my last lap people were cheering and telling me to keep going. [A final, partial lap counts.] I really pushed and got two more miles.”
Elizabeth and I have been working together for many years and have a good partnership. As we do after every race, we analyzed her different success factors, which I’ve tried to share with RBR readers in my various eArticles.
Smart, phased training. She built a great endurance base over the winter and then shifted to power training in the spring, as described in my new eArticle Your Best Season Ever, Part 1.
Good mental attitude. Rather than wasting energy worrying beforehand or chasing rabbits during the race, Wicks was relaxed. Riders who are relaxed and focused do better than riders who are tense and worrying about the competition, as described in my eArticle Gaining a Mental Edge: Using Sports Psychology to Improve Your Cycling.
Proper pacing. As described in last week’s Newsletter, each of the pros who broke the hour record paced himself so that he had gas left in the tank toward the end. Based on her prior experience, Wicks started out conservatively, raced the full 12 hours and had the energy to sprint for the final two miles!
Good nutrition. “I took enough food for 20 people, fig newtons, potato chips, clif bars, granola bars, little bagels with pb&j — and I ate part of a Subway sandwich after each big lap. I really like your home-made sports drink.” Over the course of a long day in the saddle, any food item gets boring. Wicks likes a variety of real food — her race nutrition is similar to what the pros eat, as described in Eating and Drinking Like the Pros: How to Make Your Own Sports Food & Drink.
Equipment dialed in. Wicks raced exactly the same equipment as last year and knew that everything worked. She did have an abrasion problem in the crease at the top of her right leg, which we diagnosed after the race as a leg length discrepancy. Bike fit is dynamic due to changes in fitness, flexibility and other factors. We’ve adjusted hers, which should eliminate the problem for her 24-hour race in June.
Stay in control. “Some little thing always comes up, and I just figure out how to deal with it. Last year it was saddle sores; this year my commercial sports drink was giving me GI problems.” Rather than panicking (or worse, dropping out), she figured out what to change and kept on pedaling.
“John’s guidance has been crucial to my success. The discipline, accountability and support, as well as telling me what to do each week, make all the difference.”
Her next goal is the National 24-hour Challenge in Michigan on June 21-22, where she rode her first 24-hour race last year despite problems at night. Her goal is to start slowly, ride all 24 hours and break her National 24 record of 239.1 miles.
Going the Distance
George Thomas’ new podcast series at Over The Top Radio with Coach John Hughes — called Beyond the Century – focuses on endurance cycling and covers everything you need to know about riding longer.
• The first episode is on the importance of Periodized Training, discussing Hughes’ new eArticle: Your Best Season Ever.
• The second episode discusses preparing for brevets and Paris-Brest-Paris and will be available at Over The Top this week.
• Then Thomas and Hughes will interview Elizabeth Wicks on her record-setting 12-hour ride at Calvin’s Challenge, which will be on-line next week.
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.