RAGBRAI LI Day Passes are still available!

RAGBRAI Training: Slow and Steady Wins the (non)Race

  • 25 March, 2022
  • Andrea Parrott

Spring arrived this week, at least according to the calendar. I’ve been following along on a couple of Facebook RAGBRAI groups and I am seeing that many of you are starting to get outside and do some real riding (as compared to indoor training which is real training but not real riding, if you know what I mean). I am also seeing that some of you are only able to do a few miles right now and are wondering how in the heck you will be able to ride all the miles on RAGBRAI. So I am here to offer you some hope.

Distance matters, speed not so much
I’m seeing some comments that people are concerned that they can’t ride very fast. But keep in mind, RAGBRAI is about going the distance, not how fast you cover the distance. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, RAGBRAI is not a race. Yes, it’s a long distance to cover but you can ride quite slowly (tortoise) and still get to your destination on the same day. Even if you can only ride 8 miles an hour (slow), you can cover an 80-mile day in 10 hours if you are steady. That sounds like a lot of time on the bike and it is, and that should be the focus of your training. It’s more important that you are able to withstand those hours in the saddle than focusing on how fast you ride. The faster you ride (hare), the more tired you will become. So it’s a trade-off. It’s better to ride within yourself, in other words, ride the pace you can maintain for hours, than to push it and risk not being able to complete each day’s ride. So instead of focusing on your speed, focus on doing longer rides each week, working up to several hours at a time. How do you do that? Well, read on.

Increase your mileage gradually and before you know it you will be at 100 miles!
I’ll let you in on a training secret. If you ride a little longer each week, your body will adapt and you will build endurance, which then allows you to ride a little longer the next week. The body is neat this way, and that’s why training works. The trick is to just increase a little at a time but do it steadily. If you are worried that if you do this, you’ll never build up in time for RAGBRAI, let’s go over some numbers. Let’s say you can ride 60 minutes at a time right now. A good rule of thumb that runners use is to increase your longest workout by 10% each week. Your body can handle that, especially if you are doing some other riding during the week as well. The next week its 66 minutes, then 73 minutes. Keep doing the math and by the time RAGBRAI comes around you will be up to 303 minutes (5 hours). While that’s not enough time to cover the century day (100 miles), it’s enough to get you ready to tackle the century, probably even more than you need to do in training, although if you can go ahead and do it. You will have to ride longer during RAGBRAI, but if you can pedal your bike for five hours, you can do it for 8-10 as long as you keep eating, drinking and taking breaks.

Now here’s another tip I’ve observed. With cycling, I find you can increase your longest ride more than 10% per week. Cycling is easier on the body than running is, so that 10% rule is somewhat conservative for a cyclist. If you increase your longest ride by 15% per week, by RAGBRAI you will be up to more than 10 hours for your longest ride. Now no way would anyone want or need to ride that long in preparation for RAGBRAI, but I say it to make a point. By making modest increases in your weekly rides, you will be able to go great distances by July. So be patient, this is certainly a case where slow and steady like the tortoise really works, and you will be able to go far when RAGBRAI rolls around. Who cares if you don’t win the race, as there isn’t a race.  You will be able to finish and that’s all that counts.

So get out there and start being slow and steady.

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.

Submit a Comment

Related Articles
No results found