Training for a Century Ride: Part 2

by Team Athleta 0

Kathleen Burke Jensen

Welcome back to the virtual coaching sessions with Sage Rountree advising Kathleen Burke Jensen as she prepares to attempt a personal first — a 100 mile bike ride as a member of Team Fatty (FatCyclist.com) in the LiveStrong Challenge on July 12th in San Jose, California.

In Part 1 of their email conversation Sage coached Kathleen on a training plan as well as clothing, nutrition and sunblock recommendations. Let’s catch up on Part 2 of their ongoing discussion…

SAGE: How’s the training going?

KATHLEEN: Per your advice, I’ve been adding at least a half an hour on each long ride and have been pleasantly surprised to see the mileage creep up without any major struggle. We did a 3:30 ride, a 4:15 ride, and a 5:00 ride and then stepped it back to 2:00 hours last weekend at the seven-week mark.

I’m so proud to say that we climbed Metcalf Road (aka the “LiveStrong Hill”) last weekend on our short day. That was a brilliant piece of coaching, Sage. I feel like I own that hill now. Yes, it’s steep. And long. But it’s just a hill, and I figured out a few things. Like the first half is actually steeper and if I can just push through that it gets easier. That knowledge is going to serve me well come July 12.

And your advice about putting all my energy and focus into the pedaling really works, especially as I tire. I remind myself not to grip too hard or tighten my shoulders and instead push all my energy into pedaling. It works like a charm.

SAGE: Excellent! And how about the gear and nutrition advice we discussed last time?

KATHLEEN: My bike seat has zero cushioning, so I went with a more substantial chamois in the Sugoi RS cycling shorts. And in an effort to further protect myself from the sun I opted for the knicker length. This has been a huge improvement already! Thank you so much for steering me in the right direction. I was completely overwhelmed with the number of products on the market. Chamois Butt’r is now in my bike bag, too.

You mentioned titanium dioxide-based sunblocks, which I will definitely start using. Is there a particular reason why they’re different or better than those sunscreens without?

SAGE: You’re looking for something that creates an actual physical barrier between the UV rays and your skin, and that’s where sunblock differs from sunscreen. Both zinc oxide and titanium dioxide create a block. That’s why they usually are opaque and white, as opposed to chemical sunscreens, which need to be absorbed into the skin to take effect. Another benefit of a sunblock is that its effect is instant. You can towel off and reapply at an aid station, without having to wait for the product to take effect before you begin to exercise—and sweat—again.

The knicker cycling bottoms you got will also provide you a physical barrier from the sun. Since they’re black, though, they might soak up radiant heat on a sunny day. If they grow too warm, douse your thighs with water, which will help keep you cool.

KATHLEEN: I’ve started incorporating PowerBar products into my training rides to figure out how my body responds. You mentioned that Heed, the drink I usually use, has a different formula. Can you explain those key differences in the types of fuel out there?

SAGE: Sure. Heed is one of Hammer Nutrition’s sports drinks. Hammer bases its formulas on use of complex carbohydrates, with no simple sugars. They use maltodextrin, a complex carb, which slows down the rate of sugar delivery and helps keep blood sugar from spiking, then suffering the inevitable decline. For many people, Hammer products work very well, especially if those folks have trouble digesting simple sugars like fructose during exercise. (These issues are really magnified in running, because of its stress on the system. Riding along, you’ll suffer less trauma to your gut than you would while running.)

Typical sports drinks use only simple sugars such as sucrose, fructose, and glucose. All of these -ose sugars make their way into the bloodstream faster than complex carbs.

PowerBar uses a blend of both, with the idea that you’ll get the immediate benefit of the simple sugar (in PowerBar’s formula, glucose and fructose, but none of it from high-fructose corn syrup), followed by the longer-lasting effect of the complex carb (maltodextrin).

You’ll also want to check out the sodium content in these drinks. Heed has no added sodium; Hammer offers a separate sodium supplement, Endurolytes. The PowerBar drinks and gels do contain added sodium. This becomes an issue if you are a salty sweater. You’ll know you’re a salty sweater if there’s a white line on your black bike shorts after a long ride, or if you see white rivulets of salt, not sunscreen, on your face. Keeping your blood salt levels up can be just as important as keeping up blood sugar levels, because it is key to your staying appropriately hydrated (not dehydrated or in the opposite state, hyponatremia).

You’ll want to decide which of these products works best for you, which is most appealing to you after a few hours of riding (if you’re tired of the taste, you might drink less), and whether you want to be self-sufficient during the ride or rely on getting sports drink at the aid stations.

KATHLEEN: Is there any truth to the rumor that chocolate milk is some sort of miracle recovery food?

SAGE: Yes! Its profile of plenty of carbohydrates with a little protein is ideal. Plus, it tastes great. Even when your stomach is not up for solid food, chocolate milk or a smoothie is usually appealing.

KATHLEEN: I’m feeling stronger each week but I have to say my legs are T.I.R.E.D. at the end of these rides. I make sure to eat within thirty minutes of finishing and I inevitably succumb to an afternoon nap. But the soreness is so deep later in the evening that I’m almost afraid to move. Are there some yoga stretches I can attempt when feeling this done in?

SAGE: If it’s not always better the next day, let’s talk about “soreness.” If you mean the jelly-legged feeling of having put out a long effort, that’s OK; if you mean really painful, we’d need to look at what’s going on. Presuming it’s the former, yes, there’s some good yoga to help.

After these long rides, your muscles need some time to cope with the work they just did. Doing deep stretching right away, or even later that day, would add more stress to an already-taxed system of muscles, tendons, and ligaments. So your yoga should be quite gentle. Think legs-up-the-wall pose, in which you prop your legs up while you rest flat on your back.

Legs Up the Wall

You spend a lot of time folded forward on the bike. A supported backbend is a nice way to undo some of the closing-off that happens to the front side of the body. Resting a yoga block under your pelvis in bridge pose gives a very nice release to your hip flexors.

Supported Bridge

And reclining over a bolster, rolled blanket, or bed pillow in a supported fish pose helps to expand your chest and shoulders, which have spent hours in a closed position as you hold your handlebars.

Supported Fish

A three-pronged approach—legs up the wall, supported bridge, supported fish—should help speed your recovery. If you are up for something more elaborate, try the Relax episode of my podcast, or better still, go to a restorative yoga class.

Now tell me, how confident are you in the mechanical side of riding? Can you change a flat on the fly? Fix a rubbing brake?

KATHLEEN: I’ve had to change flats on the side of the road a couple of times. It’s not fun, but it gets less scary each time I do it. However, I only carry one tube so is that going to spell the end of my ride if I flat twice? I’ve also become adept at dealing with derailed chains and dropped water bottles—though both of these happen less often, as it is so not worth stopping to clean up a mess I could have avoided if I’d been paying attention!

SAGE: You might carry two tubes, but you should have enough company that you could beg a second tube if you have the misfortune of flatting twice. The ride should also provide a SAG van to help you out.

I advise my clients to be really comfortable with changing their own flats. While it’s not hard, it takes some practice. Start by removing and replacing your front tire at home one evening, maybe with your favorite beverage on hand. It’ll take half an hour, and there’ll be a little cursing and maybe a broken nail, but you start to get the hang of it. The next step is to practice with the rear wheel; that’s harder, because it involves removing the chain from the cassette, but it’s usually the rear tire that gets the flat. Eventually, you’ll get a chance to practice out on the road.

While you sound pretty confident in your mechanical skills, readers should know that most local bike shops offer workshops in basic maintenance. Or a group of friends might enjoy hiring a bike mechanic to lead them in an hour or two of practice. For at-home work from the basic to the complicated, I really recommend Lennard Zinn’s comprehensive, illustrated guide, Zinn & the Art of Road Bike Maintenance, published by VeloPress. Another great resource from the same publisher (disclosure: they are also publisher of my books The Athlete’s Guide to Yoga and The Athlete’s Pocket Guide to Yoga) is Gale Bernhardt’s Bicycling for Women.

I’ll look forward to hearing how these next long rides go; how you adjust your nutrition for more time on the bike; and how the post-bike stretches help your legs and body recover. Next time we’ll talk about tapering off the training in preparation for the ride, and make sure you’re feeling prepared! Read Part 3 »

* * * * *

SAGE ROUNTREE is author of The Athlete’s Guide to Yoga, The Athlete’s Pocket Guide to Yoga, a contributor to Runner’s World, and a member of PowerBar Team Elite. She loves competing in triathlon and running races of all distances. Through her business, Sage Endurance, she teaches yoga to athletes and coaches clients in running, ultrarunning, triathlon, and duathlon… {more»}

KATHLEEN BURKE JENSEN loves to write, ride her beautiful horse, and train for exciting new physical challenges. She’s constantly looking for ways to do all three things; if not simultaneously, then at least back to back throughout the day. For more on her adventures, visit her blog Forging Ahead »

BERT VALENTIN JENSEN hopes that viewers of his photos feel something special for the familiar. Like sitting down with a good friend whose stories make life larger and curiously connected. And if his work resonates with them like a great big bell, well that’s good too. Maybe the bell tolls for thee at BertVJensen.com »