In a blog last week, I gave you detailed data for the first three days of a bike tour. At the end of the blog I told you I’d show you data from one of my heart rate files in a rested state and let you know how the tour ended. Additionally, I want to let triathletes know that you don’t have to be riding your bike 6 days a week and endless miles to be fit enough to do a bike tour.
Day 4 of the tour I did a “no pressure on the pedals” day. I needed a recovery day. Though it was still a pretty big day riding – out 4:45 and ride time atabout 3:40, average heart rate was low at 109 and max heart rate was only 137.
Day 5 I didn’t ride at all and did an easy hike. On day 6, my intention was to hit the climb, Rabbit Ears Pass, at threshold. I had to modify my desire as I couldn’t manage threshold intensity. I find that on bike tours the more days I ride, the more warm-up I need. There wasn’t enough warm-up before the climb to push it at threshold (151-164). Secondly, the accumulated fatigue in my legs was just too much. The best I could manage was a fairly steady Zone 3 effort (144-150), dipping into high Zone 2 when I lost focus.
Day 7 was a nice way to end a tour – the last half of the ride was downhill and a good chunk of the day had tailwind. To average 21.3 miles per hour over 67 miles with anaverage heart rate of 117 is pretty darn nice. There was even a generous amount of toodling on that day. (i.e. We didn't push average speeds at all.) You’ll see that heart rate was above 140 for just a couple of pops.
In the first blog of this series, I gave you summary data. What I find over the course of a big week like this, is that the ability for me to push threshold heart rate (and above) degrades as the week progresses. Even recovery days and one day off won’t be enough recovery for most people. I’ve written about race recovery time in a past column. Though this wasn’t a race, I expect it will take me some 14 to 21 days to fully recover.
What I mean by "fully recover" is that I could drive high heart rates for extended periods like seen on this file. (Ignore the elapsed time as I forgot to turn off the Garmin. This was a race where I slit a tire at mile 18.5 and limped my way back to the start after a tire change that could have been timed with a sun dial – notice the temperature spike when I started rolling again.)
For the triathletes out there, know that I still train like a triathlete though my key races this season are mountain bike events. I was fully capable of completing the bike tour of near 460 miles and 29 hours of ride time in spite of the fact that in the 12 weeks prior to the bike tour, my weekly training hours were typically between six and 13. Those hours typically included two hours of swimming and two hours of running. Some weeks the hours included 30 to 60 minutes of strength training.
Key points: Cross training helps your fitness for a bike tour and you don’t have to give up the other sports to prepare for the tour. I do recommend cutting those crosstraining sports during the tour so you can fully focus on cycling.
In summary, if you:
Properly prepare for a bike tour
Pick key days to ride fast
Use some days as aerobic-only ride days
Recover properly after the tour
…I guarantee your fitness will see a significant boost. Obviously your cycling will improve. Not as obvious, I’ve seen improvements in swimming and running (after full recovery) for triathletes and I believe this is due to the huge increase in aerobic training.
You can find bike tour preparation plans on ActiveTrainer and in my book “Training Plans for Cyclists." One of those plans may help you prepare for, enjoy and benefit from a bike tour.
Summarizing the hours from the first three days of the bike tour, we rode 278.4 miles, climbed 17,283 ft, ride time was 19 hours and elapsed time was around 24. (Elasped time on Garmin Connect was incorrect on the first three days because of operator error.)
At the end of day 3, we saw people (I assume triathletes - and specifically Ironman athletes) putting on running shoes after riding 119+ miles. A cyclist asked me if there are significant training benefits for Ironman athletes to run after riding for three days and accumulating some 19ish hours of ride time.
My answer was, “No significant training benefits.”
The cyclist asked, “Then, why do triathletes feel compelled to run after long bike tour rides? Are they just ego maniacs looking for attention?”
Ah, an interesting question.
I think some triathletes get a warm fuzzy feeling by running after a long ride, believing that it somehow helps them be faster Ironman athletes. Know that I’ve coached endurance athletes for over 25 years and I’ve never seen any benefit from running for 10-30 minutes after a huge bike tour ride. That is never – not one time.
If you are a triathlete feeling compelled to run during a huge volume training week provided by a bike tour, then do it on your day off or after a shorter ride. I’ve coached plenty of Ironman athletes that eliminated all swimming and running during a bike tour. They focused on the bike and put all quality training time towards a strong ride. They were better triathletes for it.
Isn’t that why an Ironman athlete is doing a bike tour – to be a better triathlete?
A few years back there was a self-announced “serious” triathlete that rode one of the longest days of the tour in his speedo. He was doing this because he “needed to train the same way he was going to race.”
Ah yes, he was the talk of every aid station and the butt of many jokes about triathletes. What would have made the whole picture better was if he would have been wearing arm coolers, compression lower leg socks and a heart rate monitor strap. But, that was before the days of coolers and compression wear.
Are triathletes, specifically Ironman triathletes, just ego maniacs?