Last week a longtime friend of mine, Gerry Eddlemon, wrote to me asking my advice on training and tapering for several record attempts. My advice about the right combination of endurance and intensity training and then tapering properly applies to any event, even if it isn’t a race or record attempt.
I hope to beat my existing World UltraCycling Association (formerly UltraMarathon Cycling Association) road time and distance trial records in the 70 and forever age class. (I call it the Methuselah Class since it’s the last one and I’ll turn 73 this summer.) I’ll attempt the records for the 100K, 100-Mile, 6-Hour, 200K, 200-Mile, 12-Hour, and 24-Hour. Body, soul, and God willing (and enough volunteer crew and officials), I may also go for the 500-Mile and 1000K. The record attempts will probably be May 5 in Lumberton, NC.
Any help you can offer would be greatly appreciated as beating those records is going to be a very close call.
The non-drafting record attempts are run concurrently, i.e., Eddlemon goes for the 100K record, continues his ride for the 100-mile record, continues for the 6-hour, etc. The 100K record is a smoking 3:35:21 / 17.31 mph and even the 200-mile record is a tough 13:41:07 / 14.61 mph. The record attempts are multiple laps of a 32.193 miles (51.810 km) course.
I’m racing against the serious declines in performance I’m experiencing with each year that passes. This year I’m dealing with several challenges including ailing parents well into their 90s, 18 extra pounds, and quite a few other matters that have put quite a crimp in my training and other preparations.
My training this year has been more or less catch-as-catch-can and now with 16 days to go, I’m not sure how to taper from here until race day. I definitely need more training rides, but don’t want to overtrain or otherwise mess up because even if I have good conditions if I ride at my best I’ll barely beat the existing 70+ age class records.
With just 16 days to go you can’t do anything to improve either your endurance or speed. Both endurance and speed are built slowly through progressively tougher workouts and recovery. The worst thing that you can do is to continue trying to improve by training hard — you won’t be fully recovered on May 5.
Athletic Maturity and Endurance
Fortunately you have great athletic maturity. You’ve been racing ultra events for 12 years. The last few years you’ve averaged about 9,500 miles per year. You already hold over 100 endurance cycling records, including records from 100K to 200 miles, 6- and 12-hour, state and country border-to-border crossings. Last year you won the age 70+ 12-Hour World Time Trial Championship tallying 163.2 miles (13.9 mph average) win the 12-hour men’s age 70+, 18 miles farther than second place. (Eddlemon’s palmarès are at the end of this column.)
Endurance is built slowly and with all those years and miles of riding you’ve built great endurance. Even though this year you’ve averaged two to three rides per week totaling 2,374 miles you’ve only lost a little endurance.
How does one prepare for 24-hour or multi-day record attempts without doing several long rides in a row during training and doing them fairly frequently?
My rule of thumb is that you want to train up to a ride that is 2/3 to 3/4 the duration of your key event. To train for a 24-hour ride you should train up to a 16- to 18-hour ride. Your longest training ride doesn’t have to be at race pace but you should be able to finish it (relatively) comfortably. This rule of thumb doesn’t apply to rides of more 48 hours.
This close to your record attempts, doing an ultra-long ride like these would leave you too fatigued to recover fully for the record attempts.
I always assumed that when one does high-intensity interval training, one should not do much more than a warm-up and warm-down before and after that day, and not ride or do an easy and short ride both the day before and the day after, especially at my age. What do you think?
The older we get the more recovery we need so you’re smart to not ride much the day before and day after an intensity workout.
The last few weeks have I incorporated interval training and tempo training into my workouts. I’m never sure how fast and how long each interval should be. I’m also unsure how many intervals to do and how long the rest intervals should be. I may have overdone the intervals and associated riding. Once or twice a week I do around 10 – 17 intervals of 90 – 150 seconds each at 17 – 23 mph (flat course with quite a bit of wind) with a like period of slow cycling (11 – 13 mph) in between.
Unlike endurance, you lose power and speed more rapidly as you age. You’re smart to include intensity workouts. Very short intervals like you do should increase your VO2 max. VO2 max, also called aerobic capacity, is the maximum amount of oxygen that your working muscles can utilize. Physiologists agree that declining VO2 max as you age is the chief cause of declining high-end performance.
VO2 max intervals are so hard that a typical main set of VO2 max intervals would be two or three repeats of one to three minutes each plus warm-up and cool-down. Between each interval is recovery for 100-200% the duration of the interval. Because you were doing so many repeats with not much recovery you weren’t going hard enough to actually do VO2 max intervals. You weren’t increasing your VO2 max but for you that doesn’t matter.
The current age 70-74 world hour record is 43.216 km (26.85 mi.) set by Scott Hennessy of the US. If you were training for the hour record then the higher your VO2 max the better your performance. However, for your ultra record attempts a high VO2 max is irrelevant. You’re not training for high-end speed but for speed you can sustain for hours.
Sweet Spot intervals are designed to increase sustained power and speed and are more appropriate for endurance riders. The more intense the intervals, the more your body will adapt to the training load. However, the harder the intervals, the fewer repeats you can do and the more recovery you need between workouts. Sweet Spot intervals balance intensity and volume to produce the maximum total overload to your body. The Sweet Spot is at a Rate of Perceived Exertion of 4-5 (on a 10-point scale), 93-97% of Anaerobic Threshold or 88-94% of Functional Threshold Power. When you are riding in the Sweet Spot you should be able to talk in short phrases (“damn Coach Hughes”) but not complete sentences. If you’re breathing too hard to talk you’re riding too hard.
I’ll include Sweet Spot intervals in your taper.
After my intervals set I usually do a fast tempo ride of 20 – 30 miles at 17 -18 mph, often struggling to maintain average of 17 or 17.5 mph. My intervals/tempo rides usually total 50 – 70 miles.
Although your intervals were too short to increase your VO2 max they did fatigue you sufficiently that continuing to ride at 17 to 17.5 mph is great training at race pace for your record attempts.
Next week I’ll describe how Eddlemon should taper to achieve maximum freshness before his record attempts.
My new eBook Anti-Aging: 12 Ways You Can Slow the Aging Process is your comprehensive guide to aging well. It explains in detail the benefits of different kinds of intensity training and how to do them correctly. The 106-page eBook is available for $14.99.
If you’d like to volunteer to help Eddlemon on May 5-6 put your name and contact information in a comment below and I’ll pass the information to him.
Gerry Eddlemon’s Palmarès
Overall champion (regardless of age or category): Six-Hour World UltraCycling Challenge
Champion age 70+: UltraCycling Cup (based on best 100-Mile, 6-Hour, and 12-Hour races)
Champion 70+: World 12-Hour Time Trials (Borrego Springs, CA)
Winner 70+: National 100-Mile Championship, 6-Hour National Championship (Washington, NC)
Winner 70+: National 6-Hour Championship (Mahomet, IL.)
2nd place 70+: World UltraCycling 24-Hour Championship
2nd place 70+: World UltraCycling 12-Hour Challenge
Set 10 World UltraCycling Association 70+ age records class, Four were overall world records for just one week:
- Track: 100K, 200K, 300K, 300-Mile, 500K, 6-Hour (Oak Ridge, TN High School Track)
- Road: 100K, 200K, 300K, 6-Hour (Lumberton, NC)
12-year career total World UltraCycling records: 114
12-year career total overall (regardless of category) World UltraCycling Championships: 4
12-year career total age-class World UltraCycling Championships: ~15
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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.