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Getting ready for those 180 kilometers

In a full distance triathlon, cycling split is 18o kilometers. That scares me. That scares me almost more than the marathon, which should be run after the cycling split. I have run 7 marathons and know how long those 42 kilometers can feel. They will feel for sure much longer in a full triathlon. However, 180 kilometers is a distance I’m not cycling on a single ride every week, not even every month. And especially not with fast speed. I don’t if it will hurt in my bag, my legs, or somewhere else. Those 180 kilometers need thus special preparation. However, there are many questions open. Which kind of preparation is needed: how much long flat intervals and how many very long rides to make 180 km feel short? What about hill repetitions? How much I can rely on the fact on a race day I am very probably capable to do things better and faster than in a normal training? How much easier things actually feel on a race? And what if this time my body doesn’t feel 100% on the race day and I still have to be able cycle 180 km?

One important fact is also that in a long distance triathlon one is not allowed to draft. So, those 180 kilometers will be lonely kilometers. It means no chatting with others, no help from others if I start to feel tired or bored at times. What I am going to think during those 5+ hours on the bike? Is it only concentration that I do – should I be concentrating on the ride each second? When I ran my first marathon 11 years ago, I was worried about how can handle those 3.30-4 hours and make them feel fast. I came up with topics to think about in case I get bored. Later I’ve realized that those extra topics are never needed. The faster I’ve become, all extra hassle is actually unnecessary and pointless. In a race, my mind is so stuck in the competition, in the “just get this done” feeling or sometimes also in enjoyment (in last year’s Berlin marathon I enjoyed every moment of the race and audience) so that is far than enough. However, an ironman race is not a marathon. In terms of time, it is more than two times it. So, I see it also important to practice my mind to handle a possible boredom, tiredness and flying mind. My mind shouldn’t be flying here and there, but concentrating on each kilometer; making sure I ride with the correct effort and remember the eat and drink according to the plan. Thus, I’ve tried to recognize weak mental points during my solo long rides and work my mind out of them. On last Thursday’s 6h ride, I noticed that 90-105 kms felt mentally difficult, since I had decided to have a short break around 110 km. My speed wasn’t even, it was going up and down, just like my mind. It was worth realizing it and pushing mentally harder some kilometers. On the other hand, I don’t see a point of being 100% concentrated on every second of every ride. Triathlon is only a hobby for me by far. It should at least be fun!

I think it is always worth looking at the course before racing – or of course before signing up for a race. I didn’t select Mallorca randomly. I had explored the course before I clicked the register button in April. There are some interesting facts in the course, which can be considered in the training. For example these things:

  1. Big up-hill around 110-125 km.
  2. Big down-hill around 125-140 km.
  3. Smaller hill around 30 km.
  4. Flat road after the big hill.
  5. Same road cycled two times (65-90 km, 158-180 km)

I consider myself as a rather good climber, and I like hills. During this year, I have started to like hills more and more, thanks to living in Norway. Earlier I was afraid of hills for two reasons: (1) Hills make rides slow (That kind of stupid thinking that only average speed matters, despite the hilliness of the course), and (2) I am bad at cycling downhills. This spring I have worked on both topics. Hills of course make the ride slower but so what! I am usually much faster on flat parts after I have learned to cycle hills again a little faster. For the second point, I’ve learned that experience helps. I see a huge difference if I cycle same downhill for the first time and for the 10th time. From this reason we travel to Mallorca a week before the race so that I have time to learn to cycle the downhill fast and without fear. From this reason I also try to cycle each downhill properly on my every-day rides. If I get too used to use breaks and not to pedal on downhills, I will very probably do that on races too, since I don’t have many years of cycling experience.

To conquer the big hill fast, I have included some proper hills on my normal rides and thus become a still better climber on September 24th. In addition, I’ve planned Mallorca-specific rides that start with flat (tempo) parts and end up will hill training. By far I’ve cycled two long rides that end up with climbing a few times to Tryvann (around 20-22 min 7% hill climbing), and my plan is to do similar ones still a few times in August and September. Since I’ve had difficulties to find company for my trainings, I’ve doing these rides alone. I makes the trainings mentally harder, company would be often a nice plus. And of course traditional uphill repetitions are proven to be a good practice for hilly races.

And what about the distance? 180 km requires of course long rides, longer than for training for a half ironman. However, I think I don’t need to spend tens of hours on bike each weekend. The overall strain may become too heavy if I fill my weekends with 10 hour rides and 3 hour runs. If my plan is to finish the bike split a bit more than 5 hours in the race, 6-7 hour rides should be enough. By far my longest training ride is 170 km / 6h, which went easily. I hope I feel a bit more confident if I cycle still a few times around 7 hours before the race.

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