Long distance riding

I’ve just come back to TrainerRoad after a good while away, lots has changed! I was until recently focused on TTs, but a series of constant niggling injuries due to riding in such an aggressive position has forced a complete rethink on my cycling and therefore training.

I’m currently riding and really enjoying long distance routes,Audaxs in the UK and as such was wondering how people would best utilise TR for such an endeavour. They are a challenge event rather than a race and often incorporate a lot of hills, so no need for a competitive edge rather a good dose of all day fitness, my thinking is a low volume plan supplemented with a couple of longer rides each week, the events themselves so far have been in the 200km and 9-10hours category with an aim to complete a 300km ride by the end of this summer.

Any advice very much appreciated.

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My best guess is to increase your fitness by lots of base training. Look at Traditional Base mid or high volume or maybe the experimental polarized plan. I’ve done rides of 200+km on CTL of about 80 but more is probably desired. If you manage a 6h ride you can probably do far longer if needed. Longer rides (3+h) are primarily about eating and drinking enough.

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My thinking is that this longer rides are mainly about two things.
General aerobic fitness, the higher your ftp the higher your x2 where you will spend most of your day.
And general strength to not get aches from long time on the bike.

Your approach is what I would do, LV plan during the week and long rides on the weekends.
If you don’t need it for the change then you could probably skip specialty but there’s a grand Fondo speciality so why not go through the whole cycle?

Anekdote: My first outside ride of this season on the road bike was a surprise 220km my friends forgot to tell me was going to be that long. I had assumed 140-150 isch… Even though I ran a bit low on energy I was fine, after a winter on TR LV base - build.

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for inspiration: Coach Hughes: Cycling Training Resources

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Funnily enough, this is my current goal (over the years I’ve come to the conclusion I’m never going to be a massively strong boulder, ever have enough to get near the front of a crit or anything else - I am the middle of the bell curve) with an aim to ride 220km in August (from my house to the other coast for fish and chips then home).

I’m starting plan builder on Monday with an LV plan for lots of base then getting used to long slow days on the weekend. I also plan to add 60min Z2 rides in the week if I feel like adding more, plus some bodyweight stuff since I bet I’ll need some muscle for support over long days.

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In my mid 30s I would train for the distance by doing the distance but (Flanders and LBL being my longest and the Marmotte being the hardest). But I went with a coach for the Mallorca 312 and that was mostly interval rides on the turbo/rollers with 100km and the occasional flat 200km in preparation in the build up and it seemed to be fine. I’ve not done an organised longer ride since I started with TR (now in my mid 40s) but I went out for a relatively hilly (for here) 215km ride on Sunday and it seemed OK. I’ve been doing a MId Volume plan although now things are opening up again group rides tend to replace my Sat & Sun TR sessions and as the season has started plan builder has naturally substituted workouts for TTs. I suspect a LV plan with added outdoor rides will be similar and work just as well.

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This is what I do:

  1. MV Sustained Power Build to raise FTP and feel confident I can ride long at way lower power
  2. Swap out Sunday rides for long endurance rides.
  3. After build, reverse periodization (less intensity, more volume in endurance rides).
  4. Train my gut so that I can eat 40-60g of carbs every 45 minutes.
  5. Training my core so that there is less strain on my lower back and shoulders (typical pain points for me after hours of riding).

I have a typical progression (though I have not yet gone beyoned 220km, I am training for that now) and I have particular goals during there ride:

  1. 120 km, be fresh as 100km (so really force myself going slow, being reserved. Not exceding zone 2, slow acceleration to not waste energy).
  2. 160km, be fresh at 100km.
  3. 200km, be fresh at 160km.
  4. 250km, be fresh at 200km.
  5. 300km, be freh at 250km.
  6. 360km, be fresh at 300km (my target distance for July).

By “fresh” I mean it feels like you have basically done nothing yet. Still feeling like the first 20km for as far as that is possible. So I try to ride in zone 1-2 mostly, and I try to do not do maneuvers. If there is an obstacle, don’t overtake but just brake or let the bike roll out. I also don’t let myself be persuaded by other riders who overtake me. And I don’t accelerate quickly, I do everything gradually to not waste any energy. And I am very mindful of my form and position on the bike (e.g., stand up regularly to stretch, avoid tension, etc.).

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200km is at the short end of the events/challenges I do so here’s my take on it. (N=1 and all that)

Generally nothing beats time in the saddle, doesn’t have to be intense (in fact it shouldn’t be) or structured but how you feel, foods you crave, etc. all change after ten to twelve hours on the go. Stick at a pace that you can hold a conversation at.

Countering that is that once you know you can ride 300km or whatever in one go you don’t need to do so on a regular basis since recovering from such rides takes a long time.

The above will deal with the endurance side of things but you also need a little top end to be able to handle short steep gradients so I’d do one short VO2max workout a week, an hour maybe 90mins max but really hammer the intervals. Something like Cayambe would be ideal. So in terms of time on the bike you’d be 95% endurance, 5% effort.

Some basic strength training - there’s blog posts and videos from TR on this - to help with core strength.

A lot of longer rides are as much about mental attitude rather than fitness, usually when I’ve “failed” it’s because my head isn’t in to it.

Bike fit - very important on longer rides. I’d be fine on my mountain bike on rides up to ten hours but once I got beyond 12hrs I’d get numbness in little and ring fingers that would take 4-6 weeks to subside. It took me 18 months of adjustments to sort it out.

In terms of TR plans I’d look at the experimental Polarised plans, they are pretty much what I’ve described, you can also push them to be outdoors workouts so you can take advantage of the summer (deliberate joke considering the weather in the UK at the moment). They are one VO2max session, one threshold session and the rest is Z1/Z2 work.

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I did the SPBMV & HMHV II (HIT Maintenance) plans followed by the Century plan in 2019 for a few Audaxs I’d entered earlier that year.

April 200km (10,000ft ascent)
May 400km (18,700ft ascent)
July 200km (12,000ft ascent)

The plans I did put me in good condition for the events, especially as I’d never cycled more than 70 miles in one ride before.

Knowing you have the fitness goes a long way when doing these events. I find its more of a mental challenge to completed distances and keep eating!

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massive doses of SS work(45+ minute intervals) gave me massive muscular endurance/fatigue resistance for a 550km event. Plus 8+hr endurance rides.

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Plenty to think about so far. I’m doing quite a bit of core work already, mostly prescribed by my physio. I’ll most likely go with the LV route and add in the long endurance rides outdoors as I find Z2 work super dull inside. As I’m coming off preparing for a full TT season I’ve got a decent base done already, and I’ve already ridden a couple of 200+km rides this last few weeks, so I’ll look at a build then maybe the Gran Fondo specialty. Some interesting posts though, thanks.

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Try and do as long a ride as possible each week. Then incorporate as long a ride as you can reasonably fit each day of week. Couple of days of hard hill repeats (or loop of hills if close enough together) or vo2 max work on turbo a week. Once your main audax event of year is out of the way. Cut the hard high intensity hill work to once a week.

My week (April till July) looks like

Mon - hill repeats - 1 hour
Tue - 1-2 hour ride
Wed 2-3 hour ride
Thu - hill repeats 1 hour
Fri - A walk
Sat - 4-6 hour ride
Sun - A walk.

Every third week I cut all the long rides back by an hour. In effect a recovery week.

For the 300km audax there will be some night riding. So get some rides in when it’s dark to sort out your lighting and equipment. In the UK, during 300km audaxes, it will get close to zero overnight. So you need to be able to carry clothing for a wide range of temperatures between daytime and night time.

I’m running a 300km audax from Hertfordshire in mid August this year. If you are already riding 200’s that’ll be well within your grasp by then. The event should appear in audax uk public calendar this week.

It does get addictive and we may see you at Paris Brest Paris in 2023 :smiley:

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I think if you’re already doing 200k rides and have a decent TT base I reckon you could probably finish a 300k right now… they have a 20h time limit so it’s mostly just a matter of pacing and being efficient with your stops at controls. I did the century specialty plan when I did TR. I felt like the longer weekend rides are what helped the most, at least that’s been my experience over 7 seasons of audax riding. I don’t really do much in the way of sprinting or even VO2 max type stuff. My local brevets are in rolling hills that are sometimes steep and I have low gearing so I can stay below ftp if I want to which I find helpful in the latter parts of the longer rides.

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As others mention regards pacing audax. I’ll train hills at VO2 max, peaking heart rate up to 95-96% of max. But during audaxes I generally throttle my efforts not going much above 75% even on hills. If you’ve paced it well, you will get to the last hour feeling pretty good, and can open up the tank then if you want for a sprint finish :wink:

This approach to pacing means my average moving speed over 2,000km audaxes is pretty much the same as 200km ones. Very little drop off as distance increases.

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It’s as much about pacing and psychology as anything else for long events of any type.

I’ve always just done SSB into general build or sustained power build, and Century, I always do LV and top up. 3-4hr ride at the weekend or a longer one when time permits.

As above if you can do 200km you can do 300km already IMO. It’s the same energy systems. Just make sure you don’t go too hard, especially early on, and eat a lot… I find it’s more about mental fortitude in any long event really, especially solo - I usually have a difficult period at some point. It’s about how you manage yourself and get through that.

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