Background – Preparation for Elite Tour 2010
First of all, I have long thought the Elite Tour was far beyond my capabilities and interest. The incredible miles, day after day, with little chance to relax and enjoy the scenery seemed like a death march for the truly over-the-edge rider with too much time on their hands and no responsibilities in the real world.
My respect for the Elite Tour hasn’t changed, but, after becoming semi-retired in September of last year I was looking for a big challenge. The following sections give you an idea of the thought process that I went through and the steps along the way that have put me on the starting line for the Elite Tour. Everyone is different, and I’ll be interested in learning more about how the other riders in our tour decided on and prepared for this challenge.
Building and Sustaining a Network of Friends and Supporters
Before I serious considered signing up for the Elite Tour, I talked to several friends and other people that have done the Tour before or knew me and my riding experience and ability. Somewhat to my surprise, I got a lot of positive feedback and a ton of advice about what to expect and how to prepare physically and mentally. The more feedback and advice I received, the more comfortable I became that Elite Tour was something that was achievable, albeit with a lot of work and focus.
Before I committed to doing the ride, I knew I needed support and signoff from my wife Nancy. Nancy and I have ridden together for over 30 years, all over the US, Canada, Europe and New Zealand, so she understood how challenging the Elite Tour would be, and why it would appeal to me. Fortunately, she was and has been very supportive all through the training process. Along with this, we built my training plan around some of our own tandem riding adventures, including three weeks in New Zealand and a trip to Scottsdale, Arizona for some mid-winter riding.
A key aspect that has really helped me through the training process has been maintaining and growing my network of friends and supporters. This has helped me to stay on track and has opened doors as I have added new riding friends and more experiences. You can build a training program on your own and do your own rides and get in pretty good shape, but I have learned and improved much more by riding with and listening to experienced ultra marathon riders (on and off the bike) than from a ton of solo rides. This isn’t to say you still don’t own your program. You still need to put in the time on to log the miles and get in the workouts, but for me it has been so much better and is a lot more fun to have others to ride with and share experiences among. In particular, I would like to thank the following people for helping me become a much better rider and hopefully a successful Elite Tour finisher
Nancy (my better half)
Building the Training Plan – Backwards
Steven Covey says in his ‘7 Habits of Successful People’, ‘Begin with the end in mind’
After studying the training tips Susan Notorangelo and Lon Haldeman send you once you sign up for Elite Tour and reading the logs of past Elite Tour riders, I was a little numb. How can you get to where you can ride two double centuries on back to back days in less than 12 hours each? How can you ride 500 miles over a long weekend while keeping in mind that this just gets you through the first three days of Elite Tour? How can you get in the long miles you need and condition your body to riding in warm to hot climates when you live in Minnesota and it is wintertime?
I knew I would have to do some extensive training someplace other than Minnesota, but it wasn’t feasible for us to move south for six months. Working with Nancy, we put together a plan that took advantage of some trips we already had planned and added in extra time for extended training as the start date for Elite Tour neared. I also talked to my personal trainer at the Y, Kristen Reither, and restarted a core strength and balance workout program to improve my overall fitness. Our Y also offers spin classes several times a week which helped to keep the HR up and the legs loose. They had also recently upgraded their cycles to incorporate a power meter which turned out to be a fun motivator to see how many watts I could burn at different cadences and stress levels and to maintain a high average wattage throughout the spin class.
Fortunately, by starting in November, there was six months to work with and I was coming off one of my best years of randonneuring events, completing two 1200km grand randonnees, many shorter brevets and already had 8,800 miles in for the year. Winter was already arriving in Minnesota though so the miles/week of outdoor riding was already dropping steadily.
By starting at the end of the training program, in early May 2010, when I planned to start tapering, I backed into a seven phase plan that took advantage of the times I/we were able to get to a warm place to ride and kept the momentum and built other strengths when we were back in Minnesota. Here's what it looked like:
Phase Dates Location Description
Phase I - Nov-Dec Minnesota Continue 2009 base
Short rides- push HR, ride most days,
spin classes, club rides
Build core strength; flexibility
Phase II Jan 1-18 New Zealand Good base of riding nearly
every day, tandem riding, lots of hills
Phase III Jan 19-Feb Minnesota Short rides - push HR and hills,
Spin classes, club rides
Grow strength; flexibility 3x/week
Phase IV March 4-13 Arizona Good spin, riding every day
as BikeAZona outreach event
Tandem riding, + 25-30 miles on
single bike most days to average
March 14-24 Arizona PACTour Desert Camp.
Fast pace, lead group100 miles/day
Mt. Lemmon, Wichenburg-Prescott,
Red Rocks-Las Vegas
Phase V Mar 28-April 5 Minnesota
Short/medium rides -
2-3 longer rides on warmer days
Grow strength; flexibility 3x/week
Phase VI April 10-17 California Ride distance nearly every day,
Mulholland Challenge -
Hilly Double Century.
Long rides in Death Valley,
April 18-25 Arizona Yuma - back to back hot weather
riding, plus cluib rides
Finish with Casa Grande 600k
Phase VII April 26-May 15 Minnesota Taper, 2 fast brevets,
easy rides, relax
Maintain fitness 2-3x/week,
core strength; flexibility
Phase VIII May 16-June 3 Elite Tour.
The trip to New Zealand in January was a great experience for both of us. This was our first time on a ‘plush’ tour so we stayed in four star hotels and ate at great restaurants every night. The south island of New Zealand is not flat, so we had lots of big hills to climb nearly every day. Not only was it fun, it was probably some of the best training I could do and we got in over 600 miles on the tandem.
The trip to Arizona in March was another fun experience. We stopped in Albuquerque for a couple of rides then spent first eight days at our Twin Cities Bicycling Club annual outreach ride, BikeAzona, in Scottsdale. We rode the tandem and found lots of good hills and mostly warm days. The following week, Nancy returned to Minnesota and I went to a PACTour Desert Camp, starting in Tucson, rode 100 miles a day for six days straight.
The final trip in April was a combination of organized events, exploration rides and a week in Yuma for some serious back to back long distance days. A friend, Jeff Ramberg, and I drove out to California and did several rides over 9 days:
Oatman Highway – Route 66- Arizona
Mulholland Double Century – Los Angeles
Las Vegas – Red Rocks
Valley of Fire - Nevada
St. George - Kolob Reservoir Rd (7,000’)
St. George – 200k brevet
After this, Jeff flew home and I headed down to Yuma for a week with Paul Danhaus, RAAM solo finisher and a great guy to ride with. We spent a week riding the farm roads around Yuma, getting in several 100-150+ days. We finished up by riding the 600k brevet in Casa Grande, Arizona straight through.
By the time I got back to Minnesota, it had warmed up some, but was still a ways from summer weather. For my last two long rides I did the Rochester 200k and a pre-ride of the Apple Valley 300k route. I felt very strong on both of these rides and was ready to taper down for the last week before heading to San Diego.
My Ultra Marathon Cycling Experience
Prior to 2007
1979 Paris-Brest-Paris 1200k 750 miles
1980 Bicycle Across Missouri 540 miles
27 years of tours, club rides, tandems, general riding
Starting in 2007
2007 Super Randonneur Series (200,300,400,600k)
2007 Paris-Brest-Paris 540 miles (got sick)
2008 Super Randonneur Series (200,300,400,600k)
2008 Rocky Mountain 1200k 750 miles
2009 Super Randonneur Series (200,300,400,600k) – 2 series completed
2009 Granite Anvil 1200k 750 miles
2009 Endless Mountains 1240k 775 miles
Several PACTour Desert Camps
Many other brevets and solo long distance rides
Elite Tour Training Results
From November 2009 – May 15, 2010
Rode 6,500 miles
Lost 20 lbs
Completed 4 brevets (200k, 200k, 300k, 600k)
Completed 600k in 25 hours, 300k in 11 hours
Completed a very tough double century ride with 18,000’ of climbing
Averaged 400 miles/week for the last 10 weeks, up to May 6th.
Core strength and fitness routine 2-3x/week while in Minnesota
Core Strength and Balance Workouts
This program, put together by Kristen Reither, my personal trainer at our Y, really helped to build a good base level of overall fitness and flexibility. The exercises focused on some upper body work, with a lot of stretching and balancing, which was great for the lower back and leg muscle groups. After working on this program for a while, I could tell the difference, particularly on longer rides where it helped to reduce overall fatigue in the arms and shoulders and kept my legs from tightening up.