Surviving the Long Ride
Sometimes you love going for the longer rides. And then other times, halfway through said long ride you're wondering why you decided this was a brilliant idea. Here are some tips to help you through and to complete those long strenuous rides.
Save Your Strength
Starting out too fast in the beginning when you feel fresh can leave you clawing your way home at the end. When you hit it hard right out of the gate, your burning way too much energy. That is, you tap into your fast-twitch muscle fibers, which are the powerful ones that eat up your limited glycogen stores and are not built for endurance. They don’t recover very quickly and won’t be there for you at the end of the ride if you keep burning them up early on.
Long rides are about endurance. Ideally, you want to maintain a pace that corresponds with about 70 percent of your max heart rate. Wearing a heart rate monitor helps here: That way, you know your aerobic heart rate range, and you can check yourself during big days when you see it spiking or creeping up too often, too early.
Without a heart rate monitor, one good sign is that your breathing becomes too labored for you to speak in complete sentences. Over time, you’ll know how many matches you can burn over the course of a long ride before frying yourself before the end. But in general, keep your heart rate in check for the first half of your long outing no matter how awesome you feel.
Depending on how long you plan on riding, you could be looking at a whole day in the saddle. To avoid running on low fumes, or having a stomach ache from eating too much, try snacking within the first hour and continue every 30 minutes or so.
Don’t stop too long during bathroom breaks or food stops because then your blood pools and your muscles cool down. You’ll feel better over the course of the ride if you keep it moving.
Hydration is power. Once you get dehydrated, your blood thickens and everything becomes harder. Like fueling, it’s easy to let your hydration slide until you’re in a hole. Sip a few ounces every 15 minutes and aim to drain a bottle an hour under temperate conditions, more if it’s hot.
Sitting in the same position for extended periods of time is fatiguing on your supporting muscles that keep you steady in the saddle and help transfer power to your legs as you pedal down the road or trail. Consciously change your riding position a few times an hour. Move your hands around on the bars; stand occasionally to stretch your legs; and inch a bit forward or back on the saddle as the terrain changes to prevent any one area from getting overly fatigued.