2021 Targets: Training for a 5,000 km ride!
Pascal here. The thought of riding 5,000 km across a continent feels quite daunting! When you then add in the fact that we both have to complete 10,000 km in our training over the next 7 months before we even arrive in the USA, it then becomes even more daunting! Between now and mid August, we both need to ride our bikes a total 15,000 km (London to Sydney, in case you were wondering!).
With figures as big as these, and to avoid being overwhelmed, we are going to have to apply a detailed and targeted training structure for the coming months - and actually follow it in a disciplined manner. Thankfully, we in the military love words such as detailed, targeted (possibly in a slightly different sense, on occasion!) and disciplined. Applying the approach we take in our day jobs as military officers, we have devised a range of SMART objectives that allow us to break down this mammoth undertaking into more manageable goals that we will hit along the way. Now, when I say we, I basically mean that expedition Physical Trainer (Tim) did, and then handed them to us - but we were at least present in the room when he came up with them all, so it was basically us really...!
The theory is that if we hit the weekly/monthly goals, we will arrive in San Diego next July ready in all respects to ride across a continent, both physically and mentally. There's plenty of psychological research that has gone into why taking such an approach is best when preparing for such an epic challenge. Tim explained many of these principles to us, but we have since forgotten them; we instead solemnly promised to follow his training structure to the letter.
To give an insight into how our training looks, I've picked out a few key aspects below:
Weekly Cycling Targets
Our weekly goals will vary, from 300 km to 500 km to be completed in each 7-day period, this equates to an average of 20 hours a week in the saddle. When prepping for an endurance ride, there is simply no substitute for time spent riding, this will clearly form the bulk of our training. Given that we both have jobs and family to squeeze into the same week, it's going to result in some late nights cycling around to get the miles done.
The big 500 km weeks will be in May and June, after which we will start to taper ready for our July start date, so that we arrive in the USA with the miles in the legs but also feeling fresh and ready to go.
'Guest Appearance' Cycling Targets
Tim had a more technical name for these, somewhat unsurprisingly we have forgotten what they are called, so we've named them 'guest appearance' targets. These are one off objectives that crop up every now and then in the training plan, before (hopefully) disappearing never to be seen again. To give you some examples:
- 1500 km to be completed in one month
- A solid week full of 100 km rides, to be completed on consecutive days
- Complete a 150 km ride at some point in every month, at a time of our choosing (lucky us!)
- 20,000 ft of elevation to be climbed in one week
- Complete a 300 km ride
- A weekend consisting of back-to-back 150 km rides (friends and family are going to love that one...)
These can be thought of, Tim assures us, as hurdles to focus on every few weeks. Successfully completing them will build our confidence, and test things like our fuelling strategy, equipment and mental resilience. These mini targets also stop potential boredom creeping into training, or else it starts to feel like 213 days (yes, we counted wouldn't you...?) of riding our bikes every day.
'Power Hour' Rides
Contrary to popular belief, it is not endurance training alone that is required in preparing for such a long event. Each week, we will complete one shorter (more condensed pain!) session, at high intensity - these will complement the long stuff, and likely be done on a Watt Bike.
Aside from 'Watt Bike time', the rest of our training will be in the good ol' outdoors, this is where you learn valuable lessons about dealing with the cold/punctures/equipment failure/nutter motorists etc. You don't learn those on a turbo trainer.....
Strength and Conditioning (S&C)
Two sessions a week, both an hour in duration and focusing on the legs, core and shoulders. Strength in these areas will be crucial as we spend 8 hours a day in the same position on the bike, 40 days in a row. In failing to be strong, we would open ourselves up to injury. S&C is often overlooked by endurance athletes, do so at your peril!
The workouts themselves are calisthenics based, essentially body weight based. Calisthenics is a heavily used S&C approach in the Royal Marines, so we are applying it to our exped preps.
As above, often overlooked by endurance athletes, but a great way to avoid injury (and simultaneously build strength). With that in mind, Tim has prescribed one hour-long yoga session a week for us.
For us, this means Strava. Post every cycle, we can instantaneously download our ride data to this fitness tracking app. The ability to interrogate training information is basically endless, it will tell us in black and white whether we are hitting our targets, or not.
Finally, we created a Strava group between the two of us, allowing us to compare efforts. We then made the mistake (I'm not sure what led to this terrible error in judgement...) of granting Tim access to this group, thus enabling him to track our performance from afar. The days of us making vague excuses over the phone to Tim are officially over, for example:
'Yep, we've pretty much done all the necessary miles this week, your phone signal is breaking up...we're losing you...yep, catch you next week Tim...yep 100% we will complete all the miles next week...ok, thanks...yep, bye.....!'
As is our trump card of simply refusing to pick up the phone when he calls, if we have clearly skipped a key session - it's over, we have been well and truly busted!
Joking aside, the combination of having the support of a hugely professional expedition Physical Trainer, setting regular and realistic training targets, and using tech to track our progress, will get us through our 15,000 km workload.
Look out for regular updates on how we are getting on, in our weekly blog coming out every Sunday evening. In our next instalment, Dan is going to outline how he intends to tackle the training workload.