As part of my Road to RAAM 22 I’ve cycled a few miles now in my relatively short ultra-distance cycling career. Along the way I’ve had some learning experiences and I want to share more of those and hopefully help people on their own journey.
I wanted to start this blog with a point I think is important to remember
Every distance is intimidating until you’ve ridden it
We all start somewhere and everyone’s epic is different. So it doesn’t matter if you are attempting your first race or your first century, like with everything in life the first time is always scary and a bit intimidating, but hopefully my three tips help you in some way.
Break it down
Whatever your distance, break it down in to something that is a physically and mentally manageable chunk for you.
Breaking the ride up in to distinct pieces makes it mentally more palatable, it keeps you focused and not scared off before you’ve even started.
For my long rides, I break them in to 100km segments with a break after. I know I can ride that in around 3.5-4hrs comfortably while fuelling on the bike and then get off for a 20-30min break depending on what I’m riding. But equally you could break your ride up by time or by landmarks, or towns you pass through or whatever works for you.
Just remember to ride the segment you are on and the road in front of you – don’t let your mind dwell on the bigger goal – you’ll end up thinking negatively about just how much more you’ve got left. Instead, focus on getting to that next checkpoint and whatever reward you’re giving yourself when you get there.
Focus on your fuel
Your body is the bike’s engine – put the wrong fuel in the tank, or not enough of it, then your journey is going to be shorter than planned or a heck of a lot less fun.
While everyone’s fuelling needs will be individual, for long rides the rule of thumb is;
- one gram of carbohydrates per kilo of bodyweight, per hour
So if you weigh 75kg then you should be looking to take on 75g of carbohydrates per hour.
It is really easy to make good, nutritious ride foods that will fuel your long rides, you don’t have to make this overly complicated. If that’s not for you, then there are loads of great options on the market too, like the Natural Superfood bars or the Chocolate Kendal Mint Cake from KMC that I use.
Just remember that not everything is made equal, there’s some real crap ‘sports’ foods out there. Just remember to avoid high sugar or highly processed foods and focus on what your body needs, not what it craves. Save gels, caffeine and high sugar for the end of your ride when you really need the lift.
It will hurt, accept it
At some point you are going to want to stop, to throw your bike in a hedge and go home. I know this from bitter experience.
Whether it’s hills, a head wind, rain or just plain tiredness – you are going to hurt and it’s going to feel a bit crap at some point in your ride. It’s better to accept this as a fact and deal with it early.
It is important to remember that this feeling won’t last – it might be a minute or an hour – but it will pass. So when it gets tough do something to help you ride through it.
I’ve got a mantra I say to myself when I’m hurting, but it is about finding a tool or technique (or more than one) that works for you – that could be a certain food as a mental boost, or playlist to listen to, or just slowing down and spinning your legs. Taking more attention of where you are in the world, taking photos or even sharing your pain with your friends or followers on social media can help. On the latter, it often amazes me how quickly people rally around you and give you a boost. Hey, worst case scenario they see you as the human you are…and that’s never a bad thing.
That’s it, that’s my three tips. Hopefully you’ve enjoyed the read. Please do share your own tips and learnings with me – I’d love to hear them. Equally if there are any subjects you want covered in future blogs let me know.
Safe riding x