Over the last two months you have reached halfway to the 50km mark in terms of distance, but you are a long-distance cyclist already. Don’t let anybody tell you any different. Your fitness, core strength and cardiovascular conditioning should be improving, thanks to the combination of strength training, walking, yoga and cycling. You should also be very comfortable on your cycle by now and would be noticing the saddle soreness less and less with every ride despite the increasing distance.
You are ready for the final stretch now. However, if you had difficulty with the 25km ride and are feeling unsure about progressing to higher workloads, take an extra day of rest after completing Week 8’s training plan. Use this day to rest both your body and mind and strengthen your mental resolve to stick to the plan.
As you start the final leg of this couch-to-50km training plan put together by Bengaluru-based cycling coach M.S. Sriram, remember not to skip easy training and rest days. Sriram, also the founder of Sprocket Science India, a start-up that provides cycle servicing and bike fit to clients at their doorstep, says: “While you might take your big ride days seriously because your goal is to ride 50km, chances are you just might dismiss the light days such as walking, strength training, stretching and rest days. Strength training helps you build and strengthen the muscles that you would need to ride efficiently and injury-free. Cross-training (like walking and yoga) and rest days help your cycling muscles recover so that you can give your best every time you head out for your rides.”
If you are worried about "hitting the wall", it is a fair concern. Kolkata-based recreational cyclist Pranjal Neog, head of human resources at Goodricke, faced something like that in his first long ride attempt back in 2013. “I had managed to up my mileage to 25-30km without any trouble within a month of getting my cycle. A few weeks later, a few friends and I decided to take off on a long ride. We knew nothing at all about long-distance cycling. We erred in the selection of our route, didn’t have enough water or nutrition, and had no clue what it takes to cycle long distances. However, we had no trouble reaching 30-35km. After that we pushed and carried on till the 40km mark. That’s when we had to stop. We needed some tea or coconut water and some energy bar or bananas to keep going. It was a Sunday and there weren’t too many stores or vendors on the route we had picked. We had almost finished all our water as well. It was at that point when I sort of hit the wall that day. To this day, it is only around the 45km mark that I feel like I am exerting myself,” says Neog, 50.
However, there is good news for you if you have stuck to this training plan. “Unlike running, where you can hit a wall even while running a 10km race, in cycling for distances such as 50km, people don’t usually hit the proverbial wall. It remains a low-impact sport, and over the last two months, we have increased the workload and intensity very scientifically. So, when you set out for your 50km ride at the end of Week 12, you shouldn’t have any trouble at all as long as you perform as per your pace and fitness levels,” says Sriram.
One way of estimating how long your 50km could take is to record the time taken for the 24km ride in Week 9. “This is your best opportunity to guesstimate how long you are likely to take to finish your 50km three weeks later. Stick to your normal pace and do not attempt anything crazy or special. Say, you took 1 hour 25 minutes for the 24km, then your 50km timing should be between 2 hours 50 minutes and 3 hours,” says Sriram.
And before you head out for the 50km ride, here’s some advice from the coach: “Keep sipping water regularly; if you drink when you feel thirsty, it is already too late. Eat something such as chiki, banana, energy gel or nutrition bar, every hour. It is okay to stop to eat and drink, but don’t stop too often or too long; you don’t want your body to cool down too much. Do not go out too fast or too slow; maintain an even pace. If at all you feel like going all out, do it in the final 3-5km. Finally, it is best to have a cycling partner. But find one who can match your pace and capabilities. It is always better to ride with company. It does wonders for your safety and performance,” says Sriram.
Let’s crank it on.