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  1. #1
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    Max elevation change for a century ride? I'm hitting my wall too early!

    I know this is an individual question and varies per rider but I'm having issues hitting a wall on my way to a goal of my century ride this summer.

    I consider myself to be a good rider, last year I managed 1500 miles from June-Sept and I've spent my entire winter on my indoor trainer working on my stamina.

    My problem is, when I get to around the 40 mile mark...I'm finished. I literally have zip in the tank and I'm having trouble finding out why. I rest, I eat well, I'm of decent build (6', 167 lbs) I pay mind to my Pre/during ride intake (16-24oz water/hr, Hammer gel one per hr). I'm managing 15-16moh average over those distances so I'm not hitting it too hard.

    No matter what...around the mid 30's, low 40's I'm bonking HARD. I am literally running out of gas. I can take abuse but I can tell you that at this point, going another 60 simply will not happen.

    The only thing I can figure out is possible elevation issues. I live in Illinois, but it's a river valley so there is some serious climbing to be found if you seek it out. To leave my home, it basically uphill in almost any direction and then pretty "up, down, up, down" rolling hills after that.

    Yesterday I set out to do 40 and while I accomplished it...I was exhausted. Figuring I was hitting 40 this time last year, I'm literally seeing no gains after all of this training and it's becoming frustrating.

    My elevation change over that 40 miles was 800 ft. Is that high? Low? Average? Should I be seeking more flat terrain if i want to stretch the miles or is this pretty normal?

    Being new to longer distance riding, I'm pretty ignorant as to how it should be done. Any advice from you more seasoned riders is most welcome!

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    Do you have a job that involves a lot of manual labor? Get enough sleep at night? 40 miles with 800 feet of ascent is nothing really. Was it your first attempt at 40 miles this year? Everyone has to gradually increase their distance over time, too much too soon hurts even the most seasoned veteran.
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    Re: Max elevation change for a century ride? I'm hitting my wall too early!

    My first thought would be to get a physical. It could be something as simple as thyroid, but definitely worth having checked out.

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    Quote Originally Posted by nOOky View Post
    Do you have a job that involves a lot of manual labor? Get enough sleep at night? 40 miles with 800 feet of ascent is nothing really. Was it your first attempt at 40 miles this year? Everyone has to gradually increase their distance over time, too much too soon hurts even the most seasoned veteran.
    Yes...I'm an electrician by trade. I try to keep my rides shorter during the week because of that. Yes, it was my first 40 this year. I did 35 a few weeks ago and before that, it was December when I last rode 30+...

    Possibly my eyes are bigger than my stomach...who knows...

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    You might want to make sure you are eating a little bit pf protein with those gels not a ton but mix between gels and clif bars for instance, just a couple gles might give you good carbs but I know for me I need a well balanced nutrition intake.

    Probably not it though but as you work up to log days in the saddle you will need the balance IMO.

    Talking to a Dr is probably best advice you get (besides from the DR)
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    So you are done in after about 2.5 hrs, 40 miles, and a pretty small climb? Do you think you eat enough? I think I read so much advice that advocates overeating for most of us LOL, but maybe you do need to consider taking in more calories. Eat something reasonably carby before you ride and try taking in maybe 200-300 cals an hour after your first hour, is a hammer gel 100 cals? One per hour is not many calories if you are aiming to stay out for much longer than the 2.5 without stopping for food. Of course there is the mental aspect to consider, I have never bonked but AFAIK it is not something vague and niggling, you know if you bonk vs need to get out of your comfort zone. Do you monitor your heart rate?
    Try putting some cals in one of your bottles and keep on pushing the distance, never underestimate the power of your brain. Define winter stamina rides? Again, do you use a HRM? How long and hard are those rides? You still have to build up your base miles if you winter rides are limited time workouts. Ride more!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Typetwelve View Post
    My elevation change over that 40 miles was 800 ft. Is that high? Low? Average? Should I be seeking more flat terrain if i want to stretch the miles or is this pretty normal?
    800ft in 40mi is very flat. I'm not sure how you could get any flatter. That's equivalent to 1" elevation over the length of a football field.
    I can't ride anywhere over 15mi without exceeding 800ft elevation gain and wouldn't consider most rides as hilly.


    Sometimes riding flat is worse than riding rolling/hilly terrain. You never really get a break from peddaling. Once nice thing about going up, is you can recover coming down.

    I consider myself to be a good rider, last year I managed 1500 miles from June-Sept and I've spent my entire winter on my indoor trainer working on my stamina.
    What does your average weekly riding schedule look like? Is it made up of a bunch of short rides or a few longer.

    For instance, 1500mi from June-Sept (assuming 4 full months riding) = ~86mi / week.
    Do those miles come from seven 12mi rides. Or from three 28mi rides?
    There's a huge difference between the two in terms of stamina. Even if your average weekly rides are 28mi, the jump to 40mi is pretty big. Making the jump to 100mi is huge.

    I try to keep my rides shorter during the week because of that. Yes, it was my first 40 this year. I did 35 a few weeks ago and before that, it was December when I last rode 30+...
    My guess is you need more (longer) sessions in the saddle.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tlg View Post
    800ft in 40mi is very flat. I'm not sure how you could get any flatter. That's equivalent to 1" elevation over the length of a football field.
    I can't ride anywhere over 15mi without exceeding 800ft elevation gain and wouldn't consider most rides as hilly.


    Sometimes riding flat is worse than riding rolling/hilly terrain. You never really get a break from peddaling. Once nice thing about going up, is you can recover coming down.

    What does your average weekly riding schedule look like? Is it made up of a bunch of short rides or a few longer.

    For instance, 1500mi from June-Sept (assuming 4 full months riding) = ~86mi / week.
    Do those miles come from seven 12mi rides. Or from three 28mi rides?
    There's a huge difference between the two in terms of stamina. Even if your average weekly rides are 28mi, the jump to 40mi is pretty big. Making the jump to 100mi is huge.

    My guess is you need more (longer) sessions in the saddle.
    Perhaps you're on to something. Like I said, I'm new to all of this. My workouts are pretty regular so I'll list them as such:

    M-F at least 3 rides a week, 10-15 miles, 400' rise over that distance. I try to keep the intensity up hitting higher MPH and doing some climbing. Once a week I'll go do climbing only doing a close local hill. These workouts are rarely an hour long but I'll do a climb that is 110' in a .1 mile length. I'll go up and down in sets until I've had enough. On the weekends I try to do a longer ride...normally 30 miles. Last year I was pretty successful with this plan, I made it to 42 miles once last season. I returned home tired, but safely and I had no lingering effects. (As was the same with the Sat ride. I was tired, but nothing was "broke" attempting it)

    This winter was pretty brutal for us so I didn't get out much at all. I did buy a Kurt Rock and Roll trainer and was managing to get on it 3-4 times a week. Each time I do a hard 25 min set with a 5 min cool down. I push it pretty hard as I really can't take an hour on that thing, it's just too boring.

    So far this season, thanks to the weather I've only had the chance to do 2 rides over 30 miles...and sat was one of them.

    Perhaps I'm just attempting too much, too fast.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Typetwelve View Post
    M-F at least 3 rides a week, 10-15 miles, 400' rise over that distance. I try to keep the intensity up hitting higher MPH and doing some climbing. Once a week I'll go do climbing only doing a close local hill. These workouts are rarely an hour long but I'll do a climb that is 110' in a .1 mile length. I'll go up and down in sets until I've had enough.
    On the weekends I try to do a longer ride...normally 30 miles.

    I did buy a Kurt Rock and Roll trainer and was managing to get on it 3-4 times a week. Each time I do a hard 25 min set with a 5 min cool down.
    Yup, pretty much what I thought. Think of it as running.... Sprinter vs Marathon runners. You wouldn't expect a sprinter to go out and run a marathon, even though they're in amazing shape.
    You're training is more geared towards short distances...which you're probably getting really good at. But to go long distances, you have to practice more long distances.

    That being said, you're probably not pacing yourself very well. You're probably trying to do your normal pace over too long of a distance (I did that on my first 100k and suffered immensely)
    You're riding often enough that a 40-50mi ride shouldn't be a problem... if you slow down a bit. You mentioned a 15-16mph pace for 40mi. Scale that back to a 13-14mph pace for the first 30-40mi. See how you feel, then step it up for the last 10mi if you're feeling strong.

    Also try to extend your weekend ride length about 5mi per week. Making big jumps of 15-20mi is asking a lot.

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    I think you are just not doing enough millage. You only get the benefits when you do the work. How old are you? Get some sufferfest for winter (Google that), 25 mins is just too short a ride to call winter mileage IMO. Really, you are starting from almost scratch and no miles count from last year, so you need to build up your base mileage. 10-15 miles on your flat roads are short rides. I don't know what your time constraints are but try getting out for more miles. Your hills are little rollers so I wouldn't even count that as hill intervals, I would think you are better off doing more miles at your best pace than doing that repeat. I ride for fitness not for glory but IMO anything less than an hour is not a real workout.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Typetwelve View Post
    I consider myself to be a good rider, last year I managed 1500 miles from June-Sept and I've spent my entire winter on my indoor trainer working on my stamina.
    1500 miles in 16 weeks? That's just over 90 miles/week. That's not very high. That's part of your problem.

    I average almost twice that during the summer and I wouldn't consider myself someone who does "high mileage".

    Quote Originally Posted by Typetwelve View Post
    My elevation change over that 40 miles was 800 ft. Is that high? Low? Average? Should I be seeking more flat terrain if i want to stretch the miles or is this pretty normal?
    That's very low IMO. An easy 30 mile ride I do 3 or 4 times a week has twice that much climbing.

    The only way to get better at doing longer distances is to do longer distances. You need to do at least one ride a week that is at least 3 hours and if you are shooting for a century you should be upping that by 15-30 minutes every couple weeks until you can do 4-5 hours. If you need to stop occasionally then do that. Sometimes a few minutes off the bike recharges your batteries. You'll be doing that in a century anyways at sag stops.
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    Quote Originally Posted by tlg View Post
    Yup, pretty much what I thought. Think of it as running.... Sprinter vs Marathon runners. You wouldn't expect a sprinter to go out and run a marathon, even though they're in amazing shape.
    You're training is more geared towards short distances...which you're probably getting really good at. But to go long distances, you have to practice more long distances.

    That being said, you're probably not pacing yourself very well. You're probably trying to do your normal pace over too long of a distance (I did that on my first 100k and suffered immensely)
    You're riding often enough that a 40-50mi ride shouldn't be a problem... if you slow down a bit. You mentioned a 15-16mph pace for 40mi. Scale that back to a 13-14mph pace for the first 30-40mi. See how you feel, then step it up for the last 10mi if you're feeling strong.

    Also try to extend your weekend ride length about 5mi per week. Making big jumps of 15-20mi is asking a lot.
    Yeah...I can definitely see that. My sprint times and climbs have drastically improved. My local rides are in the low twenties for average over 10-15 miles. I guess that's why I was considering a 15-16 mph average to be "taking it easy"...guess I was wrong.

    My personal life simply doesn't allow for longer rides during the week, I simply run out of time. Perhaps I'll lower my expectations for now and stick to my harder training over shorter distances. 30-40 weekend rides are extremely enjoyable and like I said, I return safely without overdoing it. Perhaps for now, that's whats in the cards for me.

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    Quote Originally Posted by chudak View Post
    1500 miles in 16 weeks? That's just over 90 miles/week. That's not very high. That's part of your problem.

    I average almost twice that during the summer and I wouldn't consider myself someone who does "high mileage".



    That's very low IMO. An easy 30 mile ride I do 3 or 4 times a week has twice that much climbing.

    The only way to get better at doing longer distances is to do longer distances. You need to do at least one ride a week that is at least 3 hours and if you are shooting for a century you should be upping that by 15-30 minutes every couple weeks until you can do 4-5 hours. If you need to stop occasionally then do that. Sometimes a few minutes off the bike recharges your batteries. You'll be doing that in a century anyways at sag stops.
    Yeah...that's why I used the term "good" instead of "great" when describing myself as a rider. There are many reasons why I didn't take to the saddle as much as I wanted last season...but my work schedule and the oppressive/dangerous heat of last summer were the main setbacks.

    Like I said to tig...perhaps I need to focus on the riding I can accomplish. At this point in my life, I can only muster 2+ hrs to devote to riding on the weekends.

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    Do you know this is posted in the endurance section though? Maybe it is posted in the wrong area.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Alfonsina View Post
    I think you are just not doing enough millage. You only get the benefits when you do the work. How old are you? Get some sufferfest for winter (Google that), 25 mins is just too short a ride to call winter mileage IMO. Really, you are starting from almost scratch and no miles count from last year, so you need to build up your base mileage. 10-15 miles on your flat roads are short rides. I don't know what your time constraints are but try getting out for more miles. Your hills are little rollers so I wouldn't even count that as hill intervals, I would think you are better off doing more miles at your best pace than doing that repeat. I ride for fitness not for glory but IMO anything less than an hour is not a real workout.
    Quote Originally Posted by Alfonsina View Post
    Do you know this is posted in the endurance section though? Maybe it is posted in the wrong area.
    You're coming across as insulting.

    Yes, I fully realize this is the endurance section...I consider questions about a century ride to fit well here.

    I'm also glad you're giving me your own definition of what a workout is and isn't...I've managed to drop from 265lbs to 170 in under 2 years...I'm pretty sure I'm painfully aware of what a workout is and isn't. I'm also very glad for you that you ride 30+ miles with tons of climbing many times weekly...you must be a real stud.

    If I'm delusional then fine. I'd like to think I came in this area with a humble and honest tone...you, on the other hand, haven't been so humble.

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    Re: Max elevation change for a century ride? I'm hitting my wall too early!

    I don't think your 1500 miles are bad. We all have different time constraints. I probably don't do much more than 90 miles per week. Just don't have the time. Wish I did.

    I will second the Sufferfest recommendation. In particular Blender for endurance although maybe start with something shorter like A Very Dark Place.
    Also check out Chris Carmichael's time crunched cyclist.

    I have done centuries with that as a basis for training. I try and get out two or three weekday mornings. Only have time for about 15-20 miles starting at 5 am. Then one long ride over the weekend. Recently in the 70-80 range. But build up gradually. Add 10% more each week.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Typetwelve View Post
    Yeah...that's why I used the term "good" instead of "great" when describing myself as a rider. There are many reasons why I didn't take to the saddle as much as I wanted last season...but my work schedule and the oppressive/dangerous heat of last summer were the main setbacks.

    Like I said to tig...perhaps I need to focus on the riding I can accomplish. At this point in my life, I can only muster 2+ hrs to devote to riding on the weekends.
    You do what you can. I understand that very well. If you can only do short rides during the week then fit in what you can but you really need to try and get at least one long ride in on the weekend to build up your endurance. As mentioned above, you can't train for a marathon by doing workouts designed for a sprinter.

    Maybe set your intermediate goal to a metric century and get to the point that you can do 40-50 miles without being completely exhausted. The extra miles to hit the metric then aren't that much of stretch. Once you get that licked and get comfortable with the 50-75 mile distance then you'll be in better position to tackle the full century.
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    Is this the only time you get that you get that exhausted feeling or does it happen with work or other exercise? Personally I would probably take thekarens advice and have a chat with your primary care physician.

    800' over 40 miles is relative. I wouldn't worry so much about elevation. For those that ride in the mountains a bunch that is extremely flat. For those that ride everyday in a place like Florida maybe not.

    Find a local coach or someone that is experienced to ride with. Carmichael's Time Crunch was suggested. There are training programs online.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Typetwelve View Post
    You're coming across as insulting.

    Yes, I fully realize this is the endurance section...I consider questions about a century ride to fit well here.

    I'm also glayou must be a real stud.
    Meh, I am a borderline chubby middle aged woman. I also dropped from 200 to 135 in less than 2 yrs and part of getting that off and keeping it off is not kidding myself about exercise. When you and I have been obese the implications are life long. I wasted years on being fat and making excuses about exercise. But blokes and women always have a different approach to this stuff. I now know what a hard ride is because I make sure I don't stay static, I try and challenge myself and take myself outside of my comfort zone so I don't fall into the sort of trap where I get complacent, I ask how old you are and you take that as an insult, so you must be young enough for that (I am so old that I cut myself some slack here an there and don't take myself so seriously). But humble mumble. And truly, I didn't think a century ride is an endurance event, I would be so humble as to be wrong. My assumption is that endurance is more like Lotoja or brevets etc.

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    Max elevation change for a century ride? I'm hitting my wall too early!

    According to Ed Burgess's "Endurance Cycling" book, you can generally finish a long-distance ride if you've been riding 1/3 of that distance three times a week for some time without difficulty. So, if you want to complete a century, you need to at least be riding around 33-34 miles three times a week, and doing it for several weeks at least (increasing that mileage would, of course, also be advisable). So, if you're only getting in one 30-mile ride and a few shorter ones per week, you need to build your base quite a bit more.

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    Quote Originally Posted by regnaD kciN View Post
    According to Ed Burgess's "Endurance Cycling" book, you can generally finish a long-distance ride if you've been riding 1/3 of that distance three times a week for some time without difficulty. So, if you want to complete a century, you need to at least be riding around 33-34 miles three times a week, and doing it for several weeks at least (increasing that mileage would, of course, also be advisable). So, if you're only getting in one 30-mile ride and a few shorter ones per week, you need to build your base quite a bit more.
    I think that's super conservative. Plenty of people do centuries after a winter on the couch. Also, it might be slow and painful, but it's possible to go a LONG time while bonked. In fact, I'm pretty confident that just about any person who has ridden 40 miles recently could do a double century of someone put a gun to their head.

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    Getting some interval workouts into your rotation will help both your aerobic fitness, and your ability to recover more quickly. I'd investigate some varieties of those to do a couple of times a week, especially if time is limited. You'll feel the difference pretty quickly, too.

    As far as adding distance to long rides, a good rule of thumb is to add 5-10% to last week's long ride until you reach your target distance.

    Last and not least, be sure to eat a hearty breakfast before heading out. I have found two potatoes and an egg about an hour and a half before rollout to be ideal fuel as my base for longer rides.
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    I agree with the recommendation of the Sufferfest videos. I don't have a lot of time during the week to ride outside. I have to leave for work by 7 am and I usually don't get home until about 8 at night. The only time I have to work out is around 5 in the morning, and it's only light then for a couple of weeks. So I do the indoor trainer. Sufferfest and other videos at least make it bearable, and the workouts you get really help build aerobic capacity.

    Your challenge is going to be finding the time to do longer rides on weekends. The indoor interval workouts are only part of the equation. As others have said, you need to build time in the saddle. You should aim to build up the point where you can do a metric century (62 miles) on a couple of weekends prior to the 100 mile event without knocking yourself out. Once you are at that point the stretch to a 100 miles isn't that difficult.

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    I don't think you're bonking, I think you're not used to going beyond your comfort zone, both mentally and physically. You need to learn to suffer a bit. I am reminded of a quote from the book "Rough Ride" by Kimmage, "with good legs and a weak head you can go a long way; with weak legs and a good head you go nowhere"



    Three things:

    1. You know your limits. Now push past them. You need a training plan. No one just shows up and rides a century. There is a lot of hard work involved in the weeks/months prio. Get a physical before you start a new training plan. Feeling tired and wanting to quit is one thing, but bonking is a whole other animal. Bonking is involuntary, where your body shuts down. Others will usually spot bonking before you do.You start to get incoherent and weave all over the road. It's not pretty.

    2. You need to embrace the hills. I'm training for 6 Gap century in late Sept., it's 104 miles with 11,000 feet of climbing. I climb, all the time! I ride between 100-140 miles a week after work, typically broken up into 30-40 mile rides with 1,500-2,000 feet of climbing. I rode 102 with 6,000 feet of climbing yesterday, and plan 2 more century rides prior to heading down south for 6 Gap.

    3. You need to ride more to drive the necessary metabolic, physical and mental changes needed for longer rides. If you're not gaining fitness, you're losing it. Based on your info., I'd say you need to plan out fall/winter base training to be prepared for next season. I agree with the trainer recommendation. If you can't get outside, you MUST train inside.
    Last edited by tazunemono; 08-05-2013 at 07:28 AM.

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    I thought I'd add a bit of an update to this thread. I've been following the advice of many here as well as others in my "real" life.

    I've been spending more time in the saddle, eating better and getting more rest.

    I safely accomplished my first metric century on July 4th and last Sat did a 75 mi ride(3200' climbing overall) with an average of 16.6mph. No stud by any means but I am happy with my accomplishments so far and plan to do my first century next summer.

    I have one nagging pain issue with my neck/shoulders that I need to address this off season. It is intense enough that it ends my rides early...I'm sure I could have shot for a century Sat but the pain in the neck was just too much to continue. Anyway, that's a different story for a different day.

    Either way...thanks again for the advice guys.

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