It is a lot of fun to read the training programs, tips and advice given by hot shots in their 30’s for challenging cycling events. I’ve read such pieces about numerous grueling cycling events in the South. I have done most of them and for sure – the ULTRA is indeed the most difficult. I chuckle and shake my head as I peruse their blogs – not at all out of jealousy – but out of disbelief. Wasn’t it just a few years ago that I was in top form, getting weekly QOMs, calling out “on your left” as I whizzed by others on a climb? Oh, how wonderful that felt. Today I am reminded of a song from the early 1970’s: “Those days are gone, my friend, I thought they’d never end.“ (Mary Harkin, 1969)
What on earth has happened to my body? A sick joke is played on (some) women as they approach the half century age. Why God allows this form of torture to weigh upon us is beyond me. Just because we don’t want to bear any more children doesn’t mean we don’t want to still keep a decent athletic shape. Gee whiz.
As I enter a new phase of womanhood, I am faced with the reality of aging. It seems I used to be able to defy it. But now….
Who wants to read a rant by a disillusioned 53-year old?! I had better get to the point of how to train for the Cheaha Challenge ULTRA if you are over 50. Ahem, let’s get down to business.
As this is my third ULTRA in as many years, I have a little experience on my side: I know the course, except for the new climb that my malicious friend, Brooke, decided to throw in. I am aware of how much Bain’s Gap is going to hurt. I realize what to expect coming off the top of Cheaha and I have memorized too keenly the sinister laughter that comes from Evil, the Elevation Monster, as my front wheel skips off the pavement on the climb at mile 121. I know exactly how I’m going to feel as I look up towards the sky at the last stretch of Chimney Peak as it mocks us from above. Oh yes. I know exactly what I am in for. Do you?
Looking on the bright side, I also know the joy of climbing the spine of Cheaha Mountain. The exhilaration of flying down Oh Shift! and the fun we have at Rest Stops (remember, I’m not racing, I’m riding these days). During climbs my motto has always been “If I can’t talk, I’m working too hard.” Why, making new cycling friends during the slow crawls up big hills is half the fun. For almost a year now I have anticipated a return to Jacksonville, AL for this fantastic event.
However, living in central Florida presents an entirely different training plan from those who live in or near mountains. How does a flatlander prepare for such a grueling event? Let me count the ways.
- Long Training Rides
I kicked off my official training for the ULTRA with the Sea Ya Next Year Century in central Florida where we had a great group of about 200 strong riding to the beach and back. From there I was a ride leader for the CAAM Events 200K in January. Most every week I was able to put in 120-200 miles to build good base miles. Of course, Cross Florida (a 167-mile 1-day ride from coast to coast) was helpful training in early April. In the last few months
- Trainer Time
For just over a year I have been training with power on a Wahoo KickR, using Zwift and Training Peaks for data. It has been a lot of fun, hard work. The Alpe d’ Zwift climb (7+ miles with 3500’ elev.) has become a favorite go-to for training. The FTP building program has been an excellent tool to get my power to weight ratio up. Now if I could just drop those extra stupid estrogen-dominance related pounds the ratio would go up any more. Did I tell you how mad I am about that? I digress…
- Strength Training
Twice a week I incorporated an “Hour of Power” strength training program that is an overall body work out with light dumbbells. Three sets of 15 reps for every major muscle group, some push-ups, lots of core work and stretching round out a solid hour of working out. Being a personal trainer, I also work out with my clients multiple hours a week but I don’t count those for my own routine. My work out time came in the evening as my husband settled in for TV time after a long day’s work.
- Hill Training
Believe it or not, there are a few hills in central Florida. I am fortunate to live about 20 miles from them. There is a 10 mile out and back route where one can garner a thousand feet of elevation each lap. The only trouble is that it’s pretty boring. The maximum grade is a mere 14% for a very short period but it is what we have to work with so we make the best of it. This Saturday, weather permitting, I will net 10K’ in about 100 miles. Wish me luck.
- Social Ride Time
Each week I treat myself to a strictly social ride where we keep the pace capped at 20mph on flats. Our little cycling group in Mount Dora gathers each Friday morning for Fun Friday 40, a disciplined jaunt of 40 various miles that changes from week to week. At the end of the ride many gather at the local pub for a little carb re-loading post-ride. Some have even been known to have a beer / wine at 10am because it’s 5:00pm in St. Petersburg, Russia, so it’s good enough for them. It’s the highlight of the ride because that is where friendships are formed as we discuss safety issues, and other topics that range from training to whose shorts are too thin and who is going to be the one to tell them.
- Rest Time
As I coach more and more cycling clients, I notice a typical thread of thought among many of them: “More is better.” The “more” they tend to focus on is more time in the saddle, more miles, more power, more hills, more pain. As I hit the Big 50 a couple of years ago, I have discovered another “more” that is critical: more sleep. It’s like milk – it does a body good. Being more conscious of the repair time that comes with solid sleep has helped my training by giving me a better recovery. Rather than feeling like I have to put in X miles a week on the bike, I instead focus on putting X hours of head on the pillow each night. Try it. You may like it.
I will leave you with the same things I tell myself:
- You have put in the time
- You are readyfor this
- You will not be first place, norwill you be last
- Climb yourown pace
- Enjoythe ride
- Feel goodabout your training and your accomplishment
- EARN IT SO BROOKE CAN’T BURN IT
Looking forward to the painful, fun weekend. I hope to meet you out there!