10 Tips to Prepare for Your First Ultra Ride

After I'd ridden a few centuries I was intrigued by the challenge of a 200K...and then a double century...and then the 1,200K (750-mile) Paris-Brest-Paris...and then qualifying for the RAAM...and then finishing RAAM.

I will share with you my accumulated wisdom in a three-part article:

  1. Preparing for Your First Ultra
  2. Nutrition During Training and Your First Ultra
  3. Riding Your First Ultra

Event Selection

When deciding on your first ultra event, pick a ride that is challenging, and also exciting—that will keep you motivated as you train. When you pick your event, considering the following:

? Do you have a yen to travel, to have an adventure, ride different roads and see new scenery? If so, you'll have to deal with the logistics of getting to the ride. Or are you more comfortable doing a ride close to home, which is logistically simpler and may allow you actually to train on parts of the course?

? What is the longest ride you've done before in terms of time? You can certainly train up to ride 25-30 percent longer and even 50 percent longer if you have enough time to train; however, twice as long is probably too big a jump for your new longest ride.

? How much time to you have to prepare? During training you want to build up to a long ride 2/3 to 3/4 the duration of your ultra ride two weeks before the big event and then taper to the ultra ride. You can increase the duration of your weekly long ride by about 10 percent per week without risking overtraining.

? What is the event like and can you train in similar terrain and conditions? As you peak for your event in the final weeks, you want to train as much as possible on a similar course—if you live in a relatively flat area, then an event featuring sustained climbs probably isn't right for you.

Vary the Intensity

In a recent study experienced cyclists spent 80 percent of their time riding at a conversational endurance pace and 20 percent of their time riding hard. After a detraining break the same riders rode about half the time at an endurance pace and the other half of the time they rode a little harder, but didn't do any intensity training. They showed significantly greater improvement following the first protocol.

More: The Science Behind Mixed Training Intensities

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