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Coming Down to the Wire for RAGBRAI Preparation

  • 1 July, 2022
  • Andrea Parrott

So RAGBRAI XLIX is now less than a month away.  I know many of you have been out putting in the miles very seriously and maybe feel ready to ride RAGBRAI already.  Some of you are feeling like you are behind where you should be.  And some of you may be feeling you are right where you need to be.  Here’s some thoughts on these three Goldilocks scenarios to help you make the most of your final month of preparation.

I’m ready already!

You may have done your homework, gotten in the miles, maybe followed my training plan to a ‘T’ and perhaps even exceeded those targets, and maybe even done a century or two already.  In any case, you feel you are ready to tackle RAGBRAI today and can’t wait for it to get here. You may also be feeling a little tired or burned out on your training and might be finding it hard to stay motivated to keep training. This is all natural and I’ve felt it myself on various occasions. So what do you do if you are in this situation?  My advice is to relax, keep riding, but don’t stress about doing a lot more mileage or hard training.  The reason I say this is because the type of fitness you need for training, i.e. endurance, takes a while to build but the good news is that it doesn’t go away very fast. Actually some of it will even carry over to next year.  So if you keep riding to maintain your fitness, you will still be fine for the start of RAGBRAI in four weeks.  My recommendation is to continue riding several times a week, moderate distance but keep it fun and enjoyable.  That’s why we do this after all, right?

I’m right where I want to be

Maybe you have been training diligently, been putting in the miles, more or less hitting your goals in terms of frequency of riding and distances.  You feel you will be ready in four weeks when RAGBRAI starts but have a little more work to do between now and then. If this describes you, I really have no advice for you other than give you kudos for what you’ve done and tell you to keep doing what you are doing.  You can keep riding, even adding to your mileage over the next 2-3 weeks, but make sure you don’t keep training right up to the start of RAGBRAI.  See comments below about rest and recovery the week prior to RAGBRAI.

Help! I am way behind and may not be ready

You may feel you are way behind where you want to be in your training preparation and freaking out that you may not be ready and able to take on RAGBRAI.  I have a number of pieces of advice if this describes you. First, relax and don’t freak out. Yes, RAGBRAI requires you to ride long distances each day.  But you have all day, you can poke along at a very comfortable pace and still complete the rides each day. If you are in reasonably good shape and have done some riding, you should be able to complete the whole ride on a less-than-desirable amount of training.  You may get more fatigued without enough training, but this shouldn’t deter you from going ahead.  Another option is to not ride every day, to catch a ride on some of the longer or harder days, or offer to drive your group’s vehicle that day.

You still have some time to get out and get miles under your belt (or should I say butt?).  You can still get in some quality training in the next three weeks. Try to get in as much riding as you can, unless you haven’t been doing much.  In that case just try to get in more than you’ve been doing but you don’t want to all of a sudden jump to big mileage if you haven’t been doing some already.  One exception: if your training has been curtailed from an injury such as a broken collarbone, you may not be able to ride but that would be based on your injury and whether you will be able to ride in 4 weeks.

There is no cramming in cycling

Now here is an important consideration for everyone.  You can’t cram in all your RAGBRAI training in the next three weeks.  It parallels cramming for a test in college. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to pull an all-nighter studying for a final exam. But if you have, you may notice that the morning of your exam, your head may be kind of fuzzy and you won’t have 100% of your mental aptitude available to use in taking the test. You may even forget more than you knew. The same is true for training for cycling.  If you do a lot of training right before your event (RAGBRAI in this case), you will be tired and you won’t be able to make use of 100% of all of the fitness you had developed up to that point. Actually the training you may do the week right before RAGBRAI won’t benefit you anyway.  So my advice is to continue training up until the next to last week before RAGBRAI (July 17th this year) but then back off that final week. It’s okay to do some easy spins to keep your legs loose but nothing long or hard. You should be busy packing and traveling that week anyway. You won’t lose any noticeable fitness that last week but the freshness will definitely help. By doing this, you will be recovered and be fresh going into RAGBRAI so you will be ready to ride come July 23 and make use of all of your hard earned fitness.

So regardless which category you fit into, know that you can still be ready to ride next month!

Coach David Ertl

David Ertl is a USA Cycling Level 1 Coach. He coaches the Des Moines Cycle Club Race Team and individual cyclists through the Peaks Coaching Group. He also provides cycling training plans and ebooks at his website: . He can be contacted

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