In 2000, a few of us training for Ironman Utah, and one guy training for the Leadville 100 Mountain Bike, race decided to do a spring century ride. Unlike this year, the spring weather in Colorado is often snowy, wet and chilly. Since misery loves company, the small group of about half dozen of us rode a torturous, windy 100 miles.
The result of the torture was we all achieved the fitness bonus we were looking for.
In the years since, that spring century ride turned into the annual tradition of the VE100 – or Vernal Equinox 100-mile ride. This spring century is both a training goal and a training boost. What does that mean?
The first goal is to have at least one 50- to 60-mile ride under our collective belts in February. In some winters, this is not an easy accomplishment. This accomplishment is best done in a single ride, though it can be split between two days.
If you’ve accomplished 50- to 100-percent of the estimated ride distance (in this case a century) or estimated ride time (best used for mountain bike events), within a single ride or two consecutive days, in the two to four weeks prior to your “event” then you will have the endurance to complete your event. Generally, the higher the percentage you’re able to complete before the event, the faster, more comfortable or both you’ll be during the event.
The previous paragraph is important. I use the 50- to 100-percent rule for much of the endurance training I design for athletes.
Aiming for the VE100 gives all of us a spring target or goal event.
Everyone finds that a few weeks after the VE100, overall endurance fitness is boosted. This boost can then be used to the athlete’s advantage.
Out of the twelve people that successfully completed the VE100, none of them have identical race schedules. But, all of them will benefit from the ride.
It doesn’t matter whether you target a sponsored event or if you design your own, training for a century ride can, and will, make a positive impact on your fitness.
To help 100-mile mountain bike racers with some training references, this blog is a good start. Many of the resources can help 100-mile mountain bike racers for any event. Some of the resources are Leadville 100 specific.
First, training plan help.
In my newest book, Training Plans for Cyclists, you will find two foundation fitness training plans. (You can see the table of contents online.) The two foundation fitness plans are designed to help cyclists maintain or improve fitness in the off-season. Often, there are two Levels of training plan presented in the book. Level I is for completion and Level II is more competitive. Level I and Level II descriptions are also relative to event distance. For example, I classify a Level I rider looking at a 100-mile mountain bike race differently than a Level I road rider looking to complete a century. Of course, the event route itself can have a major influence.
The book contains detailed, daily workouts. (Not just general instructions on how to assemble your own plan.) Here are athlete profile descriptions:
Level I Profile (Chapter 19)
The plan in this chapter is designed for a Level I rider. Before beginning the plan, you are riding two or three times per week, indoors or outdoors; but, your workouts are not consistent. It is not a problem for you to ride for an hour, though.
You are looking to build strength, endurance and increase your riding speed. You’d like to begin a weight training program, but don’t know where to begin.
One big issue you have is time. There is never enough time and you don’t have much of it to devote to staying fit. If you can see a training plan that would whip you into shape on three to six hours a week, you’d jump up and down.
The plan in this chapter is designed for a Level II cyclist that is riding three or four times per week before beginning the plan. You are currently capable of comfortably completing a two-and-a-half hour ride. Your current long ride is mostly aerobic, but may include a small amount of intensity.
You are looking to build strength, endurance and increase your riding speed for next season. You want a weight training program included in your plan that will deliver on-the-bike speed later.
Your schedule allows you to train six or seven days per week.
It really doesn’t matter what your season goals are (road vs. mountain) because the foundation fitness plans can be used for preparation for century rides, multi-day tours, short-course mountain bike racing, 24-hour races or 100-mile mountain bike races.
After you have built foundation fitness on your own or used one of the above plans, then you transfer that fitness to a more event-specific plan taking you right up to race day.
Keeping attention focused on just the mountain bike events for now, below are the plan descriptions contained in the book:
Chapter 16, Level I Rider, 100 Mile Mountain Bike Race, 16 Week Plan
Before beginning this plan, you are riding consistently and doing between five and six hours of training each week. Your long ride is around two hours long and it includes some intensity as well as hill riding. At least one other ride during the week contains some intensity. That ride can be an indoor spinning class.
If your current fitness does not meet the description above, begin your training journey in Chapter 19 to build foundation fitness. After the last week of the Chapter 19 training plan, begin with Week 1 of this chapter.
During the week, you are limited to an hour of training on three days. You need two days off for other activities. Additionally, you do not have time to commute to a mountain course, so the training needs to be on an indoor trainer, spin class or a road bike.
Your goal is to comfortably complete a 100-mile mountain bike race. While you want to ride in a time that is as fast as possible, you realize you are restricted for training time. You want the best time, given your limited training time.
(The biggest training week is 13:30. The online version of this race-specific plan is found here.)
Chapter 17, Level II Rider, 100 Mile Mountain Bike Race, 14 Week Plan
Before beginning this plan, you are training approximately nine hours per week. You are riding two long rides each week. One ride is around two hours long and the second one is roughly three hours in length.
You are riding two or three other weekday rides that are an hour each. You may or may not be strength training.
This plan is designed to follow the Level II Foundation Fitness training plan found in Chapter 20. After completing 18 weeks of that plan, you can move directly into the plan in this chapter. That combination provides you with 32 weeks of training.
If you are not using the Chapter 20 training plan, review the last few weeks of that training plan. Before beginning this training plan you should be capable of completing those workouts, or similar workouts, both in time and intensity.
Due to the volume of training necessary to complete this plan you will need to focus on recovery as much as you focus on accomplishing the training. Improved performance is accompanied by recovery techniques and high density nutrition. In summary, in addition to completing the training sessions, you need to get adequate rest and eat nutritious foods that fuel a high performance body. Be sure to read Chapter 3 that covers nutrition.
Your goal is to ride a 100-mile mountain bike race in a personal best time. This competitive goal is more than just completing the event, it is competing at the event. The competition may be for a spot on the podium or to beat a past personal record (PR). You want a new PR.
(The biggest training week is 22:00. The online version of this race plan isfound here.)
Now that the training portion is covered, below is more information within columns and blogs:
Description of key points and challenges in the Leadville 100 mountain bike race: (Note that the entry numbers are low compared to 2009 because the column was written in 2005):