Training For Long Distance Cycling
Training for long distance cycling is not as hard as everyone thinks. First, let me reccommend the book The Complete Book of Long Distance Cycling by Ed Burke and Ed Pavelka. This book has some good insights and will give you a complete picture of what you should be concerned about. I read it before I did my first double century and it made all the difference.
Always keep in mind that these events are not races. If you are just starting out or are concerned about the distance just take your time. The events give you plenty of time to finish. There are a few key tips that I follow. First, stay off the big chain ring for at least the first hour. Next, keep your heart rate under 80% of your maximum, especially when climbing. If you are in a pace line going faster then you are comfortable with, pull out. Even more important, when in a pace line only take very short pulls, most of time people will not even expect you to pull; everyone else has been in the spot where the goal is just to finish. Unfortunately, I have violated all of these rules at one time or other and paid the price. Believe me, it is not fun getting dropped by the lead group 48 minutes into a 250 mile ride with your heart rate at 95% of maximum, only to suffer for the next 15 hours trying to finish.
For the riding, I reccommend 4-5 rides a week with at least 1 of them being a long ride. By long, it does not matter how far or even how fast you go, what is most important is time in the saddle. The long ride should be at least 5 hours in the saddle and should include some good climbs. It works best for me to set a monthly goal for the total number of workouts to 16 in the early months (January through March) working the goal up to 22 workouts a month by July. I find, with family and work commitments, this works well because if I fall behind 1 week, I can make it up the next. I tried weekly goals, but found if I missed the first few days of the week I would give up because I was so far behind. For your normal workouts, they should be between 1 and 2 hours, averaging about 90 minutes. You can play with heart rate training which will make your workouts more productive, but remember, the most important thing is to ride.
Every time you try a longer distance, i.e. one you have not done before, you most likely will find it extremely difficult. The good news is that once you have done a double century, it doesn't get any worse. For myself, I hit a low point after about 8 hours in the saddle. If I can get through to hour 9, it makes no difference if I am riding 200 miles or 375 miles. The beauty of doing Paris-Brest-Paris is that you can try things out during the qualifying rides.
I hope you find these tips helpful. In the future, I will add pages on riding at night, what to eat, and what to expect during these long rides. I should warn everyone that I am not an expert; these are just the training methods that seem to work for me.
Feel Free to send questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.