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Training for Your First Double

by Franz Kelsch

Two Riding

So you have been cycling for awhile now and have been increasing your weekly mileage. You keep hearing about the double century (200 miles) and wonder if you might be able to finish one. This section will get you started with a plan.

Start with a Century Ride

A double century should not be your first organized bicycle event. It is best to first get ready and then ride a century ride (100 miles) so you get experience riding in groups with other riders you are not familiar with. However do not get discouraged at the end of the century ride thinking that you would have to repeat all that again to finish a double. That is what training is about. When you are ready you will feel a lot more fresh at the end of the first hundred miles of a double century than you do at the end of that century ride.

Pick the Right Event

Last year I did the Devil Mountain Double, one of the most difficult double centuries there is with nearly 20,000 feet of climbing. There was one club member who picked this as his first ever double. That is NOT what I would recommend. Looking back at that double compared with the Solvang Spring Double, there is a hugh difference in terms of what training will be needed. For your first double century, pick one that does not have as much climbing. See the list of Ultra Distance Events to see the climbing for each.

Build Base Miles

Having a good training program for doing a double century will greatly increase your prospects for having a safe and enjoyable ride. Part of that training program is to increase the number of miles you cycle. It is best to built up gradually, preferably no more than 15% more miles each week. Don't try to jump from 100 miles a week to 200 miles a week in one or two weeks. Your body needs time to adapt. You need to get your total miles up to at least 250 miles a week for a few weeks before riding the double century. Mileage in the range of 300 to 350 is even better.

This training program is from Bicycling Magazine. "Easy" means a leisurely ride in the Recovery zone (see Zone Training). "Pace" means the pace you plan to ride the entire double century, in the Aerobic zone. "Brisk" means riding faster than your double-century pace, including some effort that takes you into your Anaerobic zone.

Week
Mon
Easy
Tues
Pace
Wed
Brisk
Thurs
Fri
Pace
Sat
Pace
Sun
Pace
Weekly
Mileage
1
10
12
14
Off
12
40
15
103
2
10
13
15
Off
13
44
17
112
3
10
15
17
Off
15
48
18
123
4
11
16
19
Off
16
53
20
135
5
12
18
20
Off
18
59
22
149
6
13
19
23
Off
19
64
24
162
7
14
20
25
Off
20
71
2
177
8
16
20
27
Off
20
75
29
187
9
17
20
30
Off
20
75
32
194
10
20
24
30
Off
24
83
32
213
11
23
26
33
Off
26
91
25
234
12
25
28
35
Off
28
103
28
257
13
28
31
38
Off
31
113
42
383
14
31
34
41
Off
34
124
47
311
15
34
38
45
Off
38
136
51
342
16
37
42
49
Off
42
150
56
376
Event Week
38
35
39
Off
10 easy
200
13 easy
335

 

Pace Line Practice

One important aspect of doing a double century is to learn to ride safely in a pace line. Most double centuries develop some long pace lines, upwards of 20 or more riders. Drafting behind another rider can reduce your effort by as much as 30%. That will have a large impact over 200 miles. Study about the proper techniques on riding in a pace line and then practice it on club group rides.

Add Speed Workouts

As you add more miles, it is important to do some of your rides in a way that requires some speed workout. You may question the need for speed workouts if you are not racing. But by doing them, you will be able to ride with greater ease. Also you can get the speed bursts you need to hang on pace line as they leave a rest stop, or accelerate up a small incline.

See the article on adding speed workouts to your training.

Long Training Rides

You will want to do some long group training rides several weeks before the double century. These should be over 100 miles, but much less than 200 miles. Rides in the range of 120-135 miles can work well. Not only do these rides help with your training, but help provide the confidence needed as well as a chance to test out eating and drinking. At least one long training ride should be completed, but not too close to the double century. Completing two or three such rides is preferable.

Watch Nutrition

Just as important as training on the bike is what you eat. You will need the proper nutrition during the weeks before the double century to make sure you have endurance on the ride. Also important is what you eat and drink while on the ride. You should eat early and often because it takes time for your body to turn your food into energy. You should not be experimenting on the double century. Try out food and drink combinations on your long rides first.

Taper

Long distance training too close to the event will not help you and will actually be detrimental. Read the article on tapering.

Ride Smart

Now the event has arrived. You may find it difficult to sleep the night before due to anticipation but don't get too worried about that. If you had good sleep on the prior nights you will do okay. Be careful to not go out too fast. You will find pace lines that go out very fast. If they are going at a pace you don't feel you can handle for hours on end, then drop off the back and let another pace line catch you and try to stay with it. You should ride the entire event at a consistent pace or maybe with a negative split, which means you ride the second half faster than the first.

Try to have a friend to ride with, someone who will encourage you and keep you going, and will make sure you are eating and drinking enough.

Also see the tips from ACTC Double Century Veterans.

 


This page was last updated on March 13, 2008
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