Often described as one of the toughest bike races in the lower 48 states, the Arrowhead 135 challenges even the most prepared riders. This is a journal by a non-athlete's participation in an event where starting is often just as much a challenge as finishing.

Training - real training
July 8, 2010
At this point I pretty much have all the pieces now to begin real training. In addition to just riding a lot, in these past few months Eric has given me some stuff (and encouragement) to begin a structured training program.

For starters, he dropped off his old mountain bike with me couple weeks ago. This is an important piece because these endurance challenges will be on a Pugsley, a bike with similar geometry and riding position to a typical mountain bike. It will be better to train on a similar style bike than just my road bike so I can work the proper muscles as well as identify possible problems (joints, hands, butt, etc). This also gives me the ability to train on single track off-road and gravel roads, which are different conditions than paved road and ride differently. An hour of quick up/down, twisty-turney single track gives a way different type of workout than an hour of road riding.

I did a couple of minor repairs, cleaned it up, added my own pedals, and its all set. I also added a bob skewer to the rear wheel so I can pull the trailer. I've had it off-road a few times now and its a lot of fun. I really like off-road riding because you can really get away from everything on a bike. If I had once thought my old Land Rover could get me into remote places, that's nothing like where you can get on a mountain bike. Only hiking can get you deeper into the wilderness.

Eric told me to develop a training plan. In considering our goals, I broke the plan into two parts, now up to the Arrowhead 135, and from the Arrowhead beyond. I began by researching endurance cycling. Of course, there are no defined schedules for doing 135 miles on snow in the winter. I mean you can go to any one of a zillion websites that will tell you how to train for a marathon, and break it down even further. Do you want to finish under 5 hours? 4 hours? Have less than 6 months? And on and on. You can pick a routine and if you follow it reasonably closely you're pretty likely to be able to finish the run. So how to train for this kind of weird endurance event?

Like running, there are defined endurance bike races. 100 miles (a 'century') and 200 miles ('double century') are typical. Fast riders can finish a century in about 4-5 hours. Double centuries can take 9 or so. There are also 24 hour events. Now the Arrowhead is "only" 135 miles, but the winter weather and snow terrain make it take longer. The fastest riders finish in about 16 hours. The top ten will usually all come in under 20, and the bulk of the pack in at about 25-30 (this kind of depends on how long you rest at the half point). Fatigue management is critical, especially because the second half is mostly hills.

So what I am doing is taking a program designed to train a rider for a double century and using that as a baseline for training for the Arrowhead. I'm still working on the details. One of the biggest challenges might simply be finding good long rides in December and January where snow and dark won't be too great of a safety hazard. I should probably try to nail one 18 hour pug ride in the couple weeks before the race. I think I might want to start a ride like that around midnight, finishing the next evening. Though starting at 7 am (ride time start) might be a better option since my body would respond in a similar way. Jan 22 is three days past full moon, which might be a good day to try for that ride (riding all night with a mostly full moon would add an element of safety).

The next part of the training plan is getting some measurement of improvement. For that, Eric again provided some equipment in the form of a heart rate monitor. I've only just started using it to find my own range (lowest resting rate so far is 53; highest is 170, but that was a crappy test).

And finally, I ordered a book on cycling nutrition, The Cyclist's Food Guide by Nancy Clark, so I can begin planning a better diet.

So the plan for the next two weeks is to find my heart ranges, plan a weekly workout schedule, get some food ideas, and get things organized. Then it's two weeks of vacation (including some camping, hiking, biking). August starts the training plan giving me 6 months to get ready for the 135. Here goes...

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