Question: I’m training for an annual century called Blood, Sweat & Gears near Asheville, N.C. It has over 9,000 feet (2,700m) of climbing. As I write this, the event is only three weeks away.
I’ve been commuting regularly (10 miles each way, with some tough little hills) and have ridden a long climb to Skyline Drive, hitting about 3,500 feet at the top, the last two weekends. I’ll ride Massanutten Mountain for an 82-mile sufferfest this weekend.
Is this enough, or should I try to get in more mileage on weekdays? When should I do my last long climbing ride before the event? Should I try to lose a few pounds? — Patrick M.
Coach Fred Matheny Replies: For a ride that’s just three weeks away, there’s little you can do to improve fitness. It takes at least a month to get real benefit from a workout or series of similar workouts, according to the exercise physiologists I’ve heard address this issue. In fact, most people who try to improve their condition rapidly right before an event usually end up not stronger but more fatigued, and they ride worse.
You’re doing an 82-miler three weeks out, so you can safely do another long, hard ride with climbing next weekend, two weeks before the event. But I’d be extremely careful about doing a third long ride the weekend before. You may not fully recover.
I’d also be careful about increasing your midweek mileage. You want to feel sharp for your long weekend rides and for the event itself. You could ride home on a longer route next week to add some miles, but don’t overdo it.
It may be helpful to add a bit of intensity in the form of hills during two mid-week rides. But again, the danger of frying yourself is always present when you boost energy demands.
As for dieting to try to lose a few pounds, don’t do it!
Your body needs calories to provide energy for training and help you enjoy your rides. In three weeks, any weight reduction is more likely to be due to water loss rather than fat loss. Dehydration is not what you want before a long, hard event.