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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
When I go on long rides, I seem to lose my strength after 3.5 hours or so. I will be going along well enough (my standards aren't too demanding) and then the floor just drops out and I go from racing/training to pedaling/coasting/walking as easy as I can just to get back to the car. I can't get my heart rate into the 150's and in the 140's I feel like I'm going full gas.

I am trying to figure out what I'm doing wrong for, among other reasons, that I've signed up for a race next weekend that should take me 6 - 7 hours to complete. It'd be nice to actually race the whole thing.

Possible problems:

1. I don't train for long rides often enough. Given my work/family commitments, my training is usually made up of riding for 60 to 90 minutes before work most days and then a three hour ride on the weekend. Longer rides, when I have this problem, are relatively infrequent: races or days when everything falls into place and I have a little extra time. If this is all the volume of training I'm getting, is it possible to develop stamina for 6 or 8 hour efforts?

2. I'm not eating enough. Yesterday during a five hour ride -- the last 90 minutes of which was sloooow going -- I had a big breakfast 3 hours before riding and then ate 1.5 sleeves of shot blocks (300 calories) and two half PBJ sandwiches (another 300 calories?).

3. I'm soft.

I'd appreciate anyone's thoughts about this. I'd like to do more longer rides, but not if they all end like yesterday. Thanks in advance.
 

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IMO, it's not you, it's your training schedule.

It's REALLY hard to go strong past 3.5 hours on the basis of 60-90 minute training rides.

Is it possible that you go really hard on those short rides to make up for longevity, and then you do the same on your longer weekend rides?

Starting at full-tilt-boogey is not the recipe to success on longer rides (at least for those of us not earning a living at this).

Early on in this game, my mentor told me he believed that in endurance events, every minute above the anaerobic threshold "costs" your body about the same as 7 - 10 minutes below that level.

After over ten years of this craziness, I have to say that I believe him. I've learned to find the edge, and hover just below it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Kosmo: Thanks for that. What do you think is the necessary amount of weekly training for an 8 hour event? I've been averaging around 6 hours a week (including a 3 hour ride most weekends) and that will go up as the spring/summer progresses but will likely never get about 10 consistently. Is that enough?

I didn't perceive myself as going out too hard. The ride started with a longish climb, but I took it at a reasonable pace.

Thanks again.
 

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I think #s 1 and 2 could be accurate. Rule of thumb I learned when training for a marathon is that you can finish an event that is twice as long as your longest training ride. Not finish strong, just finish and curl up into a little ball at the end. It actually sounds like your training/racing is a data point in support of that training factoid.

For what I remember of my endurance training (I just ride for fun now and just gradually build up hours through the spring into the summer), you need to ride at least 75% - 80% of your event distance to be able to finish with any kick. Since these are races, you'll need to build in some medium and short duration intervals into that training. Are you doing intervals or are you just riding 60 - 90 minutes without specific training objectives? If you have limited training time, every minute on the bike should be focused on some aspect of training. Just riding or just riding hard for 90 minutes isn't enough. To some extent, you can compensate for shorter training times by riding HARD intervals (above race effort) on shorter training rides. That's where that 75% - 80% comes in.

You don't say how much you eat and drink. On longer rides (3 - 3.5 hours for me), I'll actually eat sooner and pay attention to my eating schedule better than on rides under 2 hours when I might not need to eat at all. Rule of thumb for drinking is 20 oz / hour. Like food, you don't need to drink as much to finish a shorter ride.

This all assumes that your rides are about equally technical to the races. If the races are longer duration because they're so much more technical than your usual rides, then you'll need to do some cross training to prepare for the upper body & core workouts that technical riding demands.
 

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^^^ I pretty much agree with everything Greg said.

For my first 100, I "trained" by going about as hard as I could for about 3 hours, 3 times a week, then before the race, I did two 4.5 hour versions of the same ride. I finished the 10-ish hour race well, but the last several hours really hurt. And some cramping was involved....

Flash forward to 10 years later (and older, dammit!) and I've kept the same approach, except that I work up to 6-hour rides every fourth of fifth day during the month preceding a race, and that works for me.

Maybe the only place I disagree with Greg is the need for super-focussed training (though it might be necessary with limited time like you appear to have). One of the reasons I pursue endurance racing is that I love the training for it, which for me boils down mostly to "ride your mtb through the woods on trails and gravel roads pretty dang hard for six hours". Luckily, this approach ends up incorporating long, sustained climbs, as well as what I call automatic intervals on tough single-track climbs.

Nobody pays me for this, so the training has to involve fun!
 

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Greg,
Since your race is next weekend there is nothing you can do training wise to get you to 6-7hrs. I was in the same spot a few months back. My training plan was 2 or 3 hard 60 min rides on the road bike during week and then 1 3hr ride on the weekend. Over time I expanded that to 3 5-6 hr rides on a few different weekends leading up to the race.

My 50 mile 6hr ride went well and the key for me was not going 100% the entire ride. I stayed at 95% rather that pegging myself. I also ate every 2hrs a cliff bar and brought plenty of water.

Since the ride is next weekend all you can do is to back off the pace a little and make sure you eat before you feel you are going down in energy.
 

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^^^ Also all true. I missed the "next weekend" part.

The best immediate advice I can add is DO NOT try and gain anything this week by overdoing things. Much better to go into the race thinking "Hmm, maybe I could have done more" than "Shoot, I'm a bit fatigued".

Good luck!
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thanks for all of this. Very helpful.

I guess we'll see how it goes this weekend, but it sounds like the consensus is that, in general, I'm not riding enough if I want to do races this long.
 

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Thanks for all of this. Very helpful.

I guess we'll see how it goes this weekend, but it sounds like the consensus is that, in general, I'm not riding enough if I want to do races this long.

I don't think you need to do every ride as a 6 hr ride, but you probably need to get in a few. Train your mind and body to keep a level of effort in reserved for the final couple hrs rather than go 100% in the first 3hrs and then shut down. My first long 5:50 min ride I did great for the first 3 hrs and then started to fade. My last 90 min of ride time was really slow since I was just barely hanging on. This got better with each long ride I did. The advantage is now I can crank our a 2.5 hr ride and barely feel tired afterward. That is even going PR pace most of the way. Right now I don't have another long race planned anytime soon I do want to get in at least one long ride a month just to keep some endurance under my belt.
 

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I find that on my single speed I am much happier and much stronger "going long" vs. when I road a geared mountain bike. I still start out races crazy hard. The single speed is geared for climbs but the SS forces me to rest on flats and downhill. The result is that for anything other than a very short race I am certain that I am faster using the single speed vs. gears.

Even if I am not faster I am much happier because the rest/work cycle that single speed forces me to ride makes things fun and keeps me fresh.
 

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Monkey Wrangler
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Greg, try eating something (a gel, some jellies, a waffle) every 30-45 minutes during your next training ride. Nothing big, just something. Don't pay attention to mileage, but pay attention to your watch. Everyone's body type, metabolism & natural ability is different. Keep something in your tank and see how that works.

I used to have the same problems until I figured out my nutrition & hydration. You'll have to experiment with what works for you but in the end I think you'll be surprised at the result.
 

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A lot of great advice here. I definitely agree that more volume would be beneficial. To play devil's advocate, I'll present another alternative here as well.

I'd suggest looking into a good training plan. With limited time you can still do quite a lot to help your fitness for longer events. Many times we think that high intensity interval work only helps for shorter race efforts, but the residual effects from these efforts (increased muscular efficiency, increased recovery capacity, and MANY more) transcend short duration high intensity efforts.

The traditional paradigm of "quantity, quantity, quantity" (read: base miles) is not the beneficial umbrella strategy we once thought it was. When it comes to training, the quality of our workouts merit the same if not more focus than the quantity.

If you are on a training program that is purpose driven and professionally structured you will be shocked at how even shorter training sessions can dramatically improve performance for a longer event.

Good luck in your race and have fun!
 

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I honestly think your problem is nutrition related. I say this because when I don't stay on top of nutrition the bottom falls out at 3-3.5hrs for me as well. What you say you took in for fuel is 1) probably an over estimate 2) good for about 2hrs worth of riding. Everyone is different, but you need somewhere between 200-300cal/hr for endurance work. The one thing you can do in this last week leading up to your race is to get a better nutrition plan together. You want easy to digest foods that you can pull in enough calories with while not getting a gut bomb. I've had good luck with Tailwind + Gu, though I tend to get sweeted out by the end of a long race.

My longest ride this year was a 4hr ride and I've only JUST broken 400 miles of riding for the year. Other than that, I was doing ~45min of rollers 2-3 times/week during the winter. I just finished 2nd in a 6hr race last weekend. I could do better if I buckled down with a structured training plan and could resist Oreo cookie ice cream....
 
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