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For many cyclists, completing a century ride is a popular bucket list goal. For new riders, the desire is to just get through the ride feeling as good as possible. That first event is often the hook for the next ride – one century was fun, but how do I get faster? And finally, there are riders who are looking to “race” a century, even if it’s not an actual race.

Let’s name the three groups previously mentioned beginner, intermediate and advanced. Now let’s classify riders by speed. These ranges aren’t precise, rather they give us a common reference. Riders planning to average roughly 12 mph to 14 mph are in the beginner group. Riders going 15 mph to 17 mph range are intermediate, and finally those planning to average 18+ mph for 100 miles are in the advanced group.

Looking at the table below, we can see the estimated finish times for a 100-mile ride based on average speed.

Average Speed and Century Ride Completion Time:

Average miles per hour
Century Ride Completion Time

12
8:20

13
7:42

14
7:09

15
6:40

16
6:15

17
5:53

18
5:33

19
5:16

20
5:00

With all three groups, consistency trumps all. What that means is steady, consistent training gets you more than periods of no training, followed by binge-training. As you might expect, key workouts for each group are different. Let’s start with beginners.

Key workouts for beginners

In the six to eight weeks prior to the century ride, you are aiming to build the duration of your long rides so that the last one is in the four-hour range. This ride needs to be completed between two and three weeks prior to the event. This is the absolute minimum I recommend, even for beginners, and it is important that you complete it no longer than three weeks before your event.

This long ride is best accompanied by at least two other rides during the week. This pattern will get you through the century.

Why four hours for the longest ride? Because I’ve found that if athletes can accomplish a long workout that is between 50 and 80-percent of the estimated time of their goal finishing time, enduring 100 miles is possible.

If you want to be more comfortable during the event, I suggest adding a second ride day next to that long ride. Build the total ride time of the two days to some 80-percent of your overall predicted event time.

For example, if you think your century ride will take around eight hours, then build toward two back-to-back days of riding that total about six and a half hours. You can still do that four-hour ride I mentioned earlier, followed by a two-and-a-half-hour ride the next day.

I’ve found that by combining two training rides in this fashion, average speed stays higher and you can still accomplish endurance goals to have a successful century. If your fitness is low going into this two-day training weekend, keep both rides aerobic (Zone 1 to 2.) If you have what you would consider high fitness, I suggest flipping the days. Do the two-and-a-half-hour ride first, at Zone 1 to Zone 3 intensity. The next day do the four-hour ride at Zone 1 to 2 intensity, which will give you practice riding on tired legs.

See Joe Friel’s quick guide to setting training zones to help you decipher what zones you should be riding in.

As much as practical, make your key rides on courses similar to the century ride profile. For example, if it is hilly, ride hills in training. If you cannot find similar terrain, try some simulation rides.

Key workouts for intermediate riders

With intermediate riders aiming for a finish time in the six to seven hour range, there are three key workouts. For this group, you are already comfortably riding at least three or four days per week and your long ride pace averages at least 15 miles per hour. That long ride is at least three hours long.

Similar to the beginner group, I recommend back-to-back riding days on the weekend. Because of your speed, your weekend total ride time two to three weeks out from the century can be up to 100-percent of your expected finish time. For example, a Saturday ride of two to three hours and a Sunday ride of three to four hours.

The Saturday workout is the shorter one—two to three hours. Ride a hilly course, and after your warm-up, aim to ride all climbs at Zone 3 intensity. You’re looking to build strength and low-end threshold speed/power with this workout. Your second weekend workout is the long, aerobic workout. Keep the intensity mostly in Zones 1 to 2. If you have deep fitness and feel good, aim to make one-half to three-quarters of this ride maximizing time in Zone 2. Think “most speed, least cost.”

Your third key workout is a mid-week workout that includes Zone 3 intervals. I like shorter interval times, with short recovery rather than doing 20-minute long intervals. For example, after your warm-up, do five to eight by three minutes at Zone 3 heart rate or power. Take only one minute of recovery after each work interval.

Work backward from the century ride date to now, planning to build the long rides and the mid-week intensity at a rate that reasonably builds fitness and avoids injury.

Key workouts for advanced riders

For this column, let’s assume that the advanced rider is looking to work pacelines during the century event. Your century success depends on your ability to work with other riders. For you, weekend combined ride time will be greater than 100 percent of your expected century finish time.

The Saturday ride remains shorter, in that two to three hour range. After warm-up, this ride is in all zones. Your goal is to work with other riders, while keeping close tabs on your energy output. That means I don’t want you to try to be a hero and do all of the work. If you happened to be the slowest rider in your group, discuss how to minimize your time at the front of the group so everyone can stay together.

If you don’t happen to have a group to ride with, just do a hilly (if possible) ride that includes time in all intensity zones. You’re looking to build on-the-bike strength in addition to training the metabolic system to handle higher intensities.

Like the other groups, the Sunday ride is a long aerobic ride. Similar to the intermediate group, keep the intensity mostly in Zones 1 to 2. If you have deep fitness and feel good, aim to make one-half to three-quarters of this ride maximizing time in Zone 2, aiming for “most speed, least cost.”

Now it is time for self-evaluation. If you think that longer efforts of sustained speed is one of your performance limiters, include five-to-eight sets of three-to-four minutes at Zone 4/5a heart rate or power, with one-minute recovery intervals, as one of your mid-week workouts.

If you think you lose time or get dropped from your group during shorter efforts, but not sprints, then I suggest including four-to-five sets of three minutes at Zone 5b heart rate or power, with three-minute recovery intervals, as one of your mid-week workouts.

Some advanced riders can do both of the mid-week workouts suggested, in addition to the fast Saturday ride and the longer aerobic Sunday ride. Be careful with this and don’t get greedy. Do as much high intensity work as you need to improve fitness and no more. You want to avoid stepping off the cliff of burn-out or injury.

Century ride day

All riders need to taper volume heading into the event. Two weeks out from event day should be some 50-percent less than what is normal for you. The week leading into the event, volume should be about 80-percent less than normal. Do keep some intensity in your workouts as you decrease volume.

Be sure to keep your fueling and hydration plan on track during the event. Drop me a note and let me know how it goes.

The post Key Workouts for Your Best Century Ride Preparation appeared first on TrainingPeaks.

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Trail running can cover a broad spectrum of surfaces depending on where you live. One athlete’s version of trails may be vastly different than another’s. Therefore it is important to define the surface/terrain and characteristics of the trail you are training on, as well as the surface/terrain of where you will be racing.

When you hear the term “technical” used to define your race, be prepared for some rough terrain. This is the ultimate off-road test for the endurance runner.

Technical trail running is defined by the surface and environment you are running. Does it have rocks, roots, mud, water, steep climbs and steep descents? Are hiking poles recommended? Are there sections where you need to use your upper-body to assist?

If you are interested in doing some technical trail running, racing—or just looking to improve your trail running skills for your local terrain, follow these five tips:

1. Schedule your training based on time and effort not distance and pace.

Technical trails slow you down, without the usual lessening of effort. Straining to keep a certain pace is a surefire way to make the experience fairly miserable, and if your race is an ultra, this could be a race killer.

Using time as your framework you can focus solely on the terrain under your feet and moving efficiently.

2. Incorporate balance (single-leg exercises) and plyometrics (split and squat jumps) into your training plan.

Learning to jump and land is an essential skill when foot placement becomes a selective process due to rocks, roots, and loose surfaces.

Single-leg balance and coordination exercises improve proprioception, which is a key component to moving quickly through technical terrain.

3. Foot strike cadence is key to staying upright in technical trail racing.

Fast feet move over the terrain quicker, and spend less time in contact with the ground. When the footing is poor, this is crucial. The feeling of producing fast feed could be best described as “touch and go.” Move through the terrain, avoid stop and go movements, which slow you down, waste energy and can even make the terrain harder to pass through. Take the most efficient path.

If your training grounds don’t offer up similar terrain to what you will be racing on, use an agility ladder, practice taking shorter strides during your daily runs, and learn to study the ground while running. On trail, your feet go where your eyes focus.

4. Keep your toes up.

In order to avoid catching your feet on roots, rocks, and even minor bumps in the trail, run with a toes up approach. This often entails minor heel striking. But with proper footwear, a shorter stride, and good knee lift this shouldn’t be an issue for anyone.

Having the proper footwear ensures protected feet, and upright running. Find a shoe that provides a secure heel fit. Once laced/tightened you should not be able to slide your foot out of the shoe. When you place your foot the last thing you want is your shoe rolling from side to side or your foot moving in the shoe.

The shoe tread matters, so make sure your shoes have a tread pattern that can handle the technical trail. Lugs help you climb hills, rocks and muddy slope. They also help you brake when needed on steep descents. A good tread pattern will clear mud as you run and not hold onto water after a stream or river crossing.

Shoes also provide much-needed protection. If you can feel every pebble you encounter it will make for a long day on trail. A small rock plate built into the shoe can be a superb counter for this. Plan ahead for what you need from your footwear as the miles accumulate and your legs get tired.

5. Harness the beginner’s mindset in training and racing.

Trail running is zen running. The most natural form of efficient bipedal movement. Racing on technical trail is the peak of difficulty. Therefore, you must strategize in order to get results.

Make your main goal to be a race finisher. Compete only with the trail. This will free you from the chaos, stress, and strain of overall and age group placements. Racing on this terrain is a skill you will develop over time and trail miles. Be patient.

Don’t be ashamed to hike the hills. If the race will take longer than 90 minutes and you know that climbing is not your strong suit, hike up the hills. Patience goes a long way in these races. In ultras this is even more important.

Also, consider using poles. Have you thought of using carbon trekking poles? Practice with them in training. They can help keep you upright and pick your path when downhill running, stream crossing, and even on steep climbs where the footing is loose or uneven.

Technical trail races are extremely rewarding. Often held in beautiful and remote places, the environment is very motivating and engaging. You may even forget you’re racing and take the mindset of explorer as you cover mile after mile of remote scenery. To ensure you make it to the finish line make sure to plan ahead and cover your bases in training. You can never be too prepared when the going gets tough and technical!

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The most challenging bicycle courses in triathlons can come with very unfriendly terrain conditions. From the highest mountains to the hottest deserts, these terrains will put immense pressure on the participants. There are many difficult triathlons each year, so if you’re looking for a bike course that is unique and memorable—you don’t have to look too far (although you may need to splurge on a plane ticket). Let’s have a look at the top-five  triathlons with the most challenging bicycle courses around the world:

Embrunman Triathlon

The Embrunman Triathlon is held in mid-August in Hautes-Alps in France. It is considered by many as France’s most difficult triathlon. The cycling course comes with 186 km of challenging mountain terrain. The multi-day event started in 1984 and became a long-distance triathlon a few years later.

The event is among the world’s toughest. It starts early in the morning with a 3.8km lake swim and is swiftly followed by the challenging cycling stage of 186 km through the Alps before finishing with a 42-kilometer run.

The bike course has more than 10,000 feet of climbing at a maximum elevation of 7,700 feet, meaning you will be dealing with both heavy climbing and altitude.

Celtman Extreme Triathlon

Held in the scenic scenes of Scotland`s highlands, the Celtman Extreme Triathlon is part of the Xtri family, which includes other standout extreme races like the Swissman and Norseman, which are becoming increasingly more popular.

The cycling stage takes athletes 202km through the Scottish highlands, representing one of the most demanding stages in any triathlon. With more than 6,500 feet of climbing, along with heavy winds, rain and low visibility, it is a bike course not meant for the faint of heart.

There is a 2km climbing stage, but the whole cycling leg is affected by the fast-changing weather conditions. The event is classified in the “extreme” category due to its demanding conditions and only takes a limited number of participants.

Starting in 2012 and taking place in mid-June, it should be said that among the many rules of the event, the triathlete has to be accompanied by another person who can be a friend or supporter.

IRONMAN Lanzarote

Popular due to its difficulty and exotic location on the Canary Islands, IRONMAN Lanzarote is among the toughest in the world. The triathlon celebrated its 25th anniversary this year, and takes place every year in May.

The cycling stage comes with a whopping 180km length and takes triathletes through the volcanic mountains of Montana del Fuego on the Spanish island of Lanzarote. Triathletes can expect a cycling stage with challenging weather conditions including high winds and summer heat.

The steep climbs bring athletes to the most northern point for spectacular views of the ocean and surrounding islands. The top 40 participants will qualify for the IRONMAN World Championship, giving an extra incentive to give it your all on this challenging course.

Isklar Norseman Xtreme Triathlon

The Isklar Norseman Xtreme Triathlon, part of the same family as the Celtman, takes place every year in Norway. The race is popular due to its difficulty and impressive scenery in the fjords.

The demanding cycling stage has a total length of 180km. The triathletes will have to climb for the first 25 miles from sea level to an elevation of 3,000 feet. All of this happens after a challenging and cold fjord swim and before a rocky marathon up a mountain.

As the race doesn’t offer any support, all triathletes need to have an accompanying team. Needless to say, the health checks are made in detail every year and people not up to standard are prevented from finishing the race.

Triathlon X Lake District

Taking place in the iconic Lake District of the United Kingdom, the Triathlon X has been considered among the most difficult races of its type in the world. The demanding cycling stage has a total length of 181km with an elevation gain of more than 12,000 feet.

The cycling route has already become legendary due to the Fred Whitton cyclo-sportive route nickname. This cycling route takes triathletes through some of the most iconic regions of the Lake District. The amazing race has been won with a final time of just below 13 hours for men and 17 hours for women.

All of the above triathlons offer a mix of challenges for the bicycle courses. Some offer difficult terrain conditions which can be experienced in the Alps with the Embrunman. Other triathlons take participants to windy places with high temperatures, such as the IRONMAN Lanzarote.

Other challenging bicycle courses involve considerable elevation gains, such as the Triathlon X Lake District. At some point, all of the above triathlons have been named as the most difficult in their cycling stages, but they can become truly challenging when preceded by demanding swimming stages, as is the case with the Norseman Xtreme Triathlon.

The key with any of these challenging bike courses is the right plan, the right coach and the right workouts to prepare you for the hills.

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In part five of our continuing series on race-day mental skills, we discuss how to manage your desire for outside approval, a common pre-race worry that can hamper your performance and cause you much wasted stress in the lead-up to a big race.

When you race, do you worry too much about what others think about your performance or results? Do you want approval from others, such as teammates, coaches, or friends? Does it help your racing when you want to be admired, accepted, respected, or liked by other athletes, coaches, or teammates?

Part of wanting approval is just human nature, but it can become unhealthy when you become distracted or feel pressure during racing.

Worrying too much about what others think not only distracts you from performing in the moment, but it also can cause you to worry about what others think. All of this leads to a phenomenon called false “mind reading.” Mind reading is when you make unrealistic assumptions about what others might think about you.

For example, “Does my coach think I’m good enough to win a race?” “Will my friends be happy with my performance today if I lose?” The key to managing your tendency to make these assumptions is to understand how much of this is reality and how much of your mind reading is unfounded and irrational.

Do You Worry Too Much About What Others Think?

Social approval comes in many forms. Some athletes want to please others. Some athletes fear disappointing people. The effect on you is still the same when you perform well or poorly. Do you agree with any of the statements below?

Social Approval Worries

You want to be liked by others
You want to be respected
You want to make others happy
You worry about embarrassment
You fear being rejected by others
You have the need to feel popular
You want to impress others

Do you identify with any of the statements above? And if you do, do you become distracted before or during racing because of them? How might wanting social approval make you feel more expectations to perform well?

Many athletes will “mind read” into what others think about their performance, especially when others are watching or it’s an important event.

Stop the Mind Reading

To perform your best, you want to focus on performance cues that help you execute instead of worrying about (or making assumptions about) what others think. This is easier said than done.

Let’s start by examining when you begin to mind read. When are you most likely to mind read: before or during competition? For example, you might start to wonder how your family members and friends are assessing your performance when they come to watch you. Or, maybe you assume your coach is unhappy with you after you didn’t perform to his expectation.

The first step to overcome social approval is to recognize when you are mind reading and refocus on your race plan or output. If you start to think about the outcome of the race and how others might react, tell yourself that’s not important, race the current section of the course. Bring your focus back to racing one section at a time, staying in the here-and-now of the race. Be in the moment.

Do You Have Self-Respect?

Most athletes seek out approval from others because they don’t have self-respect. When you think others respect you or are impressed with your racing results, you might feel better about yourself in that moment. You want to stop searching for respect or admiration from others, such as parents, coaches or friends.

Self-respect is accepting and liking who you are as a person. When you have self-respect, you’re less likely to have the need to seek it out from others.

How do you have self-respect? The answer is not easy, but you want to start with unconditional respect for yourself as a person —no matter how successful you are as an athlete.

Unconditional respect means you have self-worth no matter how well you perform on any given day. Translated,  it means you are one at peace with yourself and you are doing the best that you can given your context.

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There’s racing hard from the gun—and then there’s a courageous assault on your limits, where you knowingly put yourself out there in every sense of the word and make a statement about yourself as a contender.The latter is the type of racing 24-year-old American Olympian Ben Kanute brought to the table on September 10 when he finished second at the 2017 IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship in Chattanooga.

Kanute—still new to long-distance racing—is no stranger to good results on tough courses. He won the 2017 Escape From Alcatraz, and placed fifth in a stacked field at this year’s IRONMAN 70.3 St. George (a race won by two-time Olympic gold medallist Alistair Brownlee in his 70.3 debut). Both races are known for their unrelenting bike and run courses, but, as Kanute told us a few days before Chattanooga, he has enjoyed his foray in long-course racing, and has embraced the changes in training post-Rio.

This year’s IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship course didn’t pull any punches. The swim was non-wetsuit (for the pros) and largely upcurrent, the bike featured an 8.5-mile-long, 8-percent grade climb in addition to 3,000 feet of elevation gain over 56 miles, and the two-loop run was full of tiny rollers throughout that knocked the sails out of the pros and age groupers alike.

To get a look at Kanute’s InfoCrank Power File, click on the image below:

09225-ben-kanute-70.3-ironman-world-championships-fig1

Overall Bike Stats

Bike split: 2:08:10
TSS®: 174
Average Power: 325 watts
Normalized Power®: 334 watts
Watts/Kilogram: 4.78 w/kg
Average Speed: 26.1 mph
Average Cadence: 99 rpm
Intensity Factor®: .90
Variability Index®: 1.03

To learn more about these metrics and how they can help you improve your performance, click here.

Kanute’s Perfect Day

Kanute led the swim, exiting the water in 24:03, five seconds in front of eventual champion and fellow Olympian Javier Gomez, before quickly establishing a lead out front on the bike as he jetted toward the climb up Lookout Mountain, which started a mere 10 kilometers into the course.

“I wanted to cap myself at 400 watts up the climb,” says Kanute. “I had done intervals up Lookout in the days before the race where I played with intensity, and I felt my legs really felt good as I started the climb, so I just held right up at the edge of my zone and told myself I would evaluate things again once I got to the top.” Indeed, looking at Kanute’s file, it indicates that along that climb he averaged 385 watts for the 8.5-mile ascent.

Jim Vance, Kanute’s long-time coach, says Kanute did indeed stay well within his limits during the climb. “I gave him the green light to make the call based on how he felt,” says Vance. “He went for it. We both believed he could win. We wanted to put everyone else on their heels from the beginning and make them question a lot of things, and the climb in the early part of this race helped this cause.”

Despite the fact that several IRONMAN and IRONMAN 70.3 world champions were attempting to hunt him down on two wheels, when Kanute made the crest of the hill he looked around and saw that he was all alone. “Knowing I was still in front gave me the incentive to just keep pushing, and so I did,” he explains.

After the initial large climb, the course still took athletes on a number of rollers before a nice long descent and a flat and fast back-half into T2. “I felt really good on that back section, but toward the end of the ride, the intensity started to take a toll,” admits Kanute. “For those last five miles into T2 I backed it off a bit and just kind of mentally prepared for the run.”

With a four-minute cushion between Kanute and IRONMAN and IRONMAN 70.3 world champion Sebastian Kienle (among others), the American would need to pull out one heck of a half-marathon split to take the title.

While Kanute admits his legs were heavy coming out of T2, he still felt he found his stride earlier than expected. However, to those watching, it was apparent that Gomez—who exited the bike just a short distance behind Kienle—was keen to run down the lead and nab his second IRONMAN 70.3 world title.

“I knew Gomez’s pass would be decisive—and it was,” says Kanute. At just before the eight-mile mark, Gomez flew past Kanute, pausing only for the briefest of moments on Kanute’s shoulder. “He’s just such an exceptional competitor and runner,” says Kanute. “Once he passed me I just became as focused as possible on running my best race.”

According to Vance, Kanute’s 1:16:23 was his third-fastest half marathon of all time, and looking at the numbers Vance feels he truly ran the best race possible. “I told him before the race if he took a risk in the swim and bike he would run between 1:14 and 1:16, and I knew not many in the world could beat him if he did that,” says Vance. “In fact, if he hit the faster part of that range, we would be congratulating him as world champion, that’s how close it really was. We had one of the greatest triathletes ever on the ropes [Gomez], and he went to the final rounds with him. Man, it was awesome.”

While Gomez would finish in 3:49:45, Kanute held on for a few minutes later in 3:51:06—a bold result for a young, promising long-course athlete. “I think I had just about as perfect of a race as I could have had,” says Kanute. “Honestly, I’m just so pumped.”

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