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Ultra races are extremely demanding events and although you're unlikely to be riding anywhere near your 'normal' maximal capacity at any point, with the huge amount of baked in fatigue which builds up, it will certainly feel like you're working hard for quite large proportions of the event!

With this is mind, the more powerful and fatigue resistant you are, the better you will be able to perform during the event (and probably enjoy it more too!). Now obviously it goes without saying endurance (zone 2 riding) should make up a good portion of your training; but what else should you be focusing on to best utilise your training time? I am going to lay out 2 key sessions that should be staple parts of your plan and why:

Session 1 - High Torque Strength Session

High-torque cycling training sessions focus on developing strength and power in your leg muscles, particularly targeting your neuromuscular system. Torque efforts involve pushing a high resistance, by using low cadence (typically less than 60RPM) with a mix of seated and standing efforts. They are also particularly good at strengthening the knees, and core which will help prevent injury - one of the most common reasons for scratching an ultra event is knee related problems.

Warm up) 10-20minutes should be sufficient slowly increasing the intensity from a conversational pace all the way to getting a bit of a sweat on!

Main set 1) 6 x 3 minutes of low cadence (50-60RPM) at roughly 80% intensity focusing on smooth, controlled pedal strokes engaging both the upward and downward pedal stroke. Recover for 2 minutes between each of these intervals with very easy spinning and low resistance.

After your final 3 minute interval allow 5-10 minutes to recovery fully before beginning main set 2:

Main set 2) 8 x 15 second maximal seated sprints from a 'heavy' gear emphasizing an explosive effort. Allow 1-2 minutes recovery between each of these efforts depending on fitness level. A Heavy gear is a bigger gear than you would normally choose (one that is harder to turn initially).

Cool down) 10-15 minutes allowing your heart rate to drop gradually. Cooling down will aid your recovery by flushing metabolites that have built up over the course of the session from your muscles.

Session 2 - Sweetspot Session

Sweetspot training sessions are designed to target a specific intensity range that is just below your threshold power; providing a balance between aerobic development and manageable training stress. They are particularly useful for building your aerobic engine without the requirement for huge volume when, lets face it, everyone is time poor! Sweetspot will also develop your functional threshold meaning you will be able to work at a relatively lower intensity for the same power as you become stronger.

Warm up) Same as before 10-20minutes should be sufficient slowly raising the intensity from a conversational pace up to about 90% effort.

Main set ) 3 x 15 minutes at Sweetspot intensity with 5-10 minutes recovery between each block. Sweetspot is considered to be around 88-92% of Functional threshold power if you have a power meter but if you are training by feel it is around an 8 to 8.5 out of 10 perceived effort (depending on volume completed)

Cool down) After the final Sweetspot effort cool down for 10-15 minutes reducing the heart rate and maintaining a nice high fluid cadence.

As your training ramps up you can increase the Sweetspot volume in your sessions. It is also good practice, if you have the tools to make sure you periodically test to ensure you're training at the right intensity.

Need any help with this please get in touch via my Instagram or website contact form and if you like this content please leave a comment on the IG post! Thanks.

I think its safe to say riding the Pan Celtic Race series (or anything similar) is one of the most physically and mentally demanding challenges you can undertake as a cyclist.

What are the considerations? Multiple days in the saddle, typically 5-6. Suitable lighting for 24 hours a day riding and GPS to navigate/record the whole race. A plan for fuelling and managing extreme sleep deprivation and fatigue. The list goes on. However, in this short blog, I am going to focus on some advice when training for an ultra event.

Build a Solid Base:

  • Start with consistency. This is by far the most important aspect of a good training plan. Gradually increase your weekly mileage and aim to spread it out throughout the week; it is much better to do 5 x 1 hour sessions than 1 x 5 hour on the weekend.

  • Include long rides in your training to simulate the demands of the ultra event but dont worry if you cant manage long rides every week - for most people this just isnt realistic.

Progressive Training:

  • As well as increasing volume, you also need to increase intensity and to get this right you should be keeping track of your fitness with testing.

  • Incorporating interval training is a good way to improve your endurance and strength with the right sessions.

Strength Training:

  • Include strength training in your regimen to build muscular endurance and prevent injuries.

  • Focus on core strength, as a stable core is crucial for maintaining proper form during long rides.

  • Also consider your joints (knees specifically): riding with a heavily laden bike is going to slow you down - this means you're going to run out of gears quicker going uphill and potentially force you to grind more than you would like on the really steep stuff. In isolation, this would be fine; but when you're having to do this frequently, with no recovery over the course of a day it will quickly take its toll. Therefore to counter this, make sure you're doing strength related, high 'torque' efforts on and off the bike.

  • Protect your neck! Something I learnt the hard way on my first PCR! Strengthening your neck to deal with long hours in the saddle will be crucial and often overlooked. Some simple exercises every few days is all that is required!

Nutrition and Hydration:

  • Practice your nutrition and hydration strategy during training rides. Find what foods and drinks work best for you.

  • Just like your muscles and aerobic system, your digestive system is trainable too. The last thing you want is stomach issues/acid reflux during your race.

Recovery and Stretching:

  • Ultra-cycling often leads to repetitive strain on certain muscle groups and joints. Stretching helps to address muscle imbalances, reducing the risk of overuse injuries. It also promotes better muscle function and joint stability, decreasing the likelihood of strains and sprains.

  • Prioritize recovery with rest days, proper sleep and doing as little as possbile. To improve you need to recover properly!

  • Listen to your body and adjust your training if you experience persistent fatigue or pain.

Mental Toughness:

  • Develop mental resilience to push through challenging moments during the event (there will be many)

  • You have to race in all weather, so force yourself to train in it! Yes Zwift is great (or any other indoor training aid) but sometimes it's important to just get out. It also helps refines skills on the bike including handling.

  • Practice visualizating possible challenges and how you would deal with them.

Test and Adjust:

  • Use training rides as opportunities to test your gear, nutrition, and hydration strategies.

  • Make adjustments to your plan based on what works best for you during training.

Maximise your Training:

  • Everyone knows about zone 2 training, it should form the basis of your plan, but ensure you're actually doing zone 2!

  • Develop a well-structured training plan that includes a mix of intervals. You want it to be 'fun' and engaging to maximise quality but most importantly your consistency. Accountability here also helps.

Remember, challenges like this should be fun and an adventure, and training is part of the whole experience. The better prepared you're the more you will enjoy it I guarantee! I'm planning to write some more posts including specific race stratergy (focusing on my lightweight version and the logic behind it.). If there is any topics you would like me to cover don't hesistate getting in touch!

12 months ago I had never ridden a road bike, but after a bit of persuading from Dave (and some fun on a city bike in Berlin) I thought I'd see for myself what all the fuss was about. 

So I borrowed Dave's bike (and padded shorts!) for a tootle down the lanes, and it wasn't long before I was debating the correct sock length for a cyclist and the benefits of chamois cream.

Cycling Llandyrnog to Lake Vyrnwy
At the top of Llandyrnog - what a view!

After a few rookie errors - including forgetting to unclip at a junction (ouch!) I was finding my feet - and legs, and tackling climbs that I thought might kill me. Horseshoe Pass, I'm thinking of you...

Dave introduced some structured efforts into our rides, improving my fitness and meaning that I was able to maintain a steady pace as we increased the miles. It turns out I'm easily bribed with food, so I was quite happy to add on some extra miles if it meant another cafe stop featuring coffee and cake. 

As well as having a goal to work towards, it also helped to have consistency with my training. Which is easier said than done when you work full-time, study part-time and also like to watch a lot of Netflix. Thankfully, vegans tend to have quite limited social lives (!!) so I found 3-4 rides per week was manageable. In a few short months I'd gone from making excuse after excuse not to exercise, to sneaking in a quick 20 miler before work! 

After a week of cycling round the mountains of Malaga, I was ready to tackle my first 100 miler. 

Obviously the sensible thing for your first century ride would be to choose a nice *flat* route. Unfortunately for me, Dave had other ideas, so our route involved nearly 6000 ft of climbing, and was accompanied by just a little bit of complaining from me!

What I've learnt in my first year of cycling...

- Forgetting to unclip will happen. Luckily the only thing bruised was my ego, but it's still a good idea to carry a baby wipe and plasters..

- Always take an emergency banana. Or two.

- A good pair of padded shorts will literally save your ass.

- "Training camps" are the new holidays

- Some people will always take Strava too seriously (usually the same people who get annoyed at being overtaken!)

So the motto of the story is this - if I can go from 0 to 100 miles in less than 12 months, then there is hope for us all. Every cyclist was a beginner at some point, and a year ago I never thought I'd be spending my weekends in lycra and cycling up mountains FOR FUN.  Just don't ask me to fix a puncture...

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