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RAGBRAI Training: Never Fear, RAGBRAI is Not Near (Yet)

  • 19 May, 2023
  • Andrea Parrott

So as I’ve been perusing the RAGBRAI Facebook group posts, I see some posts where some of your are concerned about being behind in your training, some to the point where you are considering not going. Horror of horrors! It’s much too early to be thinking like that. You have 2 months still to get ready which should be plenty of time regardless of your level of fitness at this point in time. Here are some thoughts on what you can do if you feel you are way behind in your training.

Several years ago I put out my first RAGBRAI training plan and that has become a very popular guide to help people do the appropriate volume of training as they build up to RAGBRAI. This year’s plan is a 23 week (5 month) plan that starts out slowly and gradually builds as your cycling fitness builds. However, as well as a motivator I’ve discovered this plan could also be a stressor, if you aren’t able for whatever reason to keep up with it. It should not be viewed this way. It is a plan, and as we all know, a plan almost never is followed to a T. It’s meant to be a guide that can and should be adapted to your personal situation. Here are some ways you can adapt it if you are behind where you want to be.

First, consider your current level of fitness. Have you done any riding or are you absolutely starting from scratch? And what is your base fitness?  Are you a veteran cyclist whose done a lot of riding in the past? Let’s assume you’ve done no or little riding so far this spring. I would recommend that you start out with the plan on week 4 (the first 3 weeks are very light riding), but then hop ahead to week 6 then week 8 to build up more quickly, if you can handle it, so that this 23 week plan becomes an 8 week plan. This plan is very gradual so it should be possible to skip ahead and be okay, but be careful not to overdo it. If you feel you are overly fatigued doing this, back off some. The bottom line is to 1) build gradually but more quickly than what the plan calls for, and 2) do as much riding as you can and try not to get stressed out by what the plan says. Keep in mind, this plan assumes you started back in February.

If you have had a setback in your training, due to an illness, injury, work, etc., but already have a fairly good base level of cycling fitness, then you may be able to jump back into the plan where it is today and resume your training. If that seems like too much, you could start a few weeks back and progress from there. If you began training this winter or early spring but then weren’t able to ride the past 4 weeks, you can probably resume your training where you left off and try advancing more quickly.

A note here – if you have done RAGBRAI’s in the past, you know what you are in for and you know the fitness level you need to complete it. In this case, use that experience as your guide for the amount of riding you need to get in during the next two months.  If you’ve ridden RAGBRAI last year, chances are you still have a pretty good level of fitness. Endurance takes a long time to build but it hangs around for a while as well. If you could ride 80 miles last year, you can build back up to that more quickly than if you’ve never ridden that far.

And a final note – this plan is very conservative meaning it builds up very gradually. It is possible to advance more quickly especially if you have a good history of cycling or a good base level of fitness, or you are young! But many people do RAGBRAI without this level of fitness or doing as many miles as the plan calls for. You can do RAGBRAI with less training than is proposed (did I really just say that?). Yes, you can be successful with less training than the plan calls for, so don’t let it stress you, but do all that you can. You will see comments from some folks who say they don’t train at all and then just jump in and ride RAGBRAI. That is possible but not recommended if you want to enjoy yourself.  And who doesn’t want that? Isn’t that why you are doing it?

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: http://www.CyclesportCoaching.com . He can be contacted cyclecoach@hotmail.com.

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