Over the past couple of weeks, my back has been feeling great. I am not getting any pain at home and I am able to hit the road and trail when I have time. Life is good on the road back to the bike during my recovery.
However, I find myself in a place in my riding that I have not been in for a long while (almost since I started riding seriously back in the 90′s) – working back up my mileage endurance to handle multi hour rides on weekends.
Last weekend, we headed up to a southeast US favorite – Raccoon Mountain. This 18 mile or so loop is atop a ridge in the Tennessee canyons outside of Chattanooga and they hold some of the best single track the area has to offer. Additionally, there are built in tech sections that are great for sessioning and tuning in your technical riding ability. About 12 miles in, my legs decided they were done and I bonked. It was almost as if you could hear them go BOOM through the woods and it was the first time I have bonked in 12 miles in longer than I can remember.
Working Up To Longer Miles
New riders and riders coming back from injury run into an interesting predicament. You love riding, you want to more of it, but you do not have the endurance for several hour long hammers in on the road or trail. For riders coming back off of injury, you have memories of those days but no ability to make it happen at this time.
So what do we have to do?
We need to start conditioning our bodies to get to handle longer times in the saddle. It is an incremental change that is fueled by two key ingredients.
- Consistent Riding
- The Will To Not Get Frustrated
The only thing that will get you riding longer miles is stretching what you consider normal and doing that consistently. Whether it is hitting shorter rides harder or slowly extending your mileage when you can, you (talking to myself here as well) need to start extending your riding to push your threshold farther. While I wish there was a magic bullet or some super secret underground method for doing it quickly, the reality is that you have to work to get your body to create a new “normal”.
For most riders, this is not an easy thing to accomplish given other life obligations. Some of us have families, jobs and other outside factors that make getting in more longer rides difficult. But – as I mentioned earlier – the key is to stretch yourself. You need to hit that climb harder, bring your average speed up on the road and keep pushing your fitness to be better (within reason…don’t push to explosion). Even shorter distances with higher efforts will help your milage on the weekend.
For me, I have found that weekly rides that are on a certain day greatly help my endurance while being able to balance life’s obligations. If you have one or two rides after work that you can depend on, that will bring the consistency to your riding that is required to push the limit of your time wall.
But most importantly…
You have to remember not to get frustrated through the process…because it is a process. It is almost as if I am going through a mental battle on the trail. My mind remembers being able to push harder but my legs and body can’t get the job done. I want to be able to jump right back on an attack trails and road rides like I did at the injury point, but my endurance and strength is not even close. Somehow, I have to keep reminding myself on the trail that it is ok and it is better to be on the bike or off…this is just another stage in the process.
Some days it is easier said than done, but – for the most part – it is easy to get stoked when I get out of self loathing enough to turn my eyes up and see what is front of me. Single track ready to be ripped and fresh asphalt ready to be carved is the best therapy no matter my riding ability is at the time. When you keep that in focus, the rest comes with time.