by Craig Undem
So you’ve already completed the Group Health Seattle To Portland (STP) Bicycle Classic. You’ve endured the 200-mile trek, earned your finishers patch (no medals for completing this event), and discovered that the once daunting goal is within the realm of your abilities. While completing the ride is a feat in and of itself, perhaps you’re ready to step up your training and try a new challenge: complete STP in a single day.
Read on to learn what it takes to tackle this challenge and join the 25 percent of riders who will leave Seattle on Saturday, July 16 and roll into Portland later that same day.
Developing a Training Plan
The most important part of any cycling training plan is figuring out the number of hours or miles you will ride on a daily and weekly basis. These training rides are the building blocks that will prepare your body and mind to ride long and hard on the day of the event.
The mileage chart provided with this article is for riders who want to finish STP in one day. However, depending on your conditioning and riding experience, you may need more or less miles than this program presents. Feel free to consult Cycle University to outline a program that fits your level of riding and athletic background. Before starting any training program, consult your doctor – especially if you are over the age of 30 and new to cycling.
Keep in mind that every person is different and no single training program will work for everyone. To prevent from becoming overwhelmed, keep a light-hearted attitude – remember that you are doing this for fun!
Advice For the Long Haul
#1 Ride with others. Take a cycling skills class and join a community like the Cascade Bicycle Club or the Portland Wheelmen to learn the language of group cycling and become comfortable riding with other people.
#2 Take your time and work at a level your body will allow. Don’t ride as hard as you can on every training ride. This is the most common rookie mistake. Start your training with easy miles and add an occasional hard day once every week or two. The rule of thumb for any long ride is to gradually build your endurance until you can complete 75 percent of the mileage of your longest day of your ride. For one-day STP riders, that’s about 150 miles. It’s OK to push yourself harder some days, but most of the time, go easy. At the end of your training ride, you should feel like you could have gone a little farther.
#3 As your miles increase, also increase your speed. On normal training rides, slow down when you start breathing hard and if you can’t say a 10-word sentence at a normal tone. Halfway into your training plan, however, start recording your average speeds during your midweek and Saturday rides.
Try to increase the pace of your midweek rides, moving toward your target average miles-per-hour pace. (i.e. to complete the 204-mile STP in one day under 12 hours, you will need to average 17.5mph and take only one 30-minute break). Learn to ride in a paceline to further stretch your endurance and speed.
#4 Take a practice spin. Use the Flying Wheels Century as your final rehearsal. Test out the energy foods, equipment and clothing you will use during STP. At the end of this ride, you’ll have a good idea of what you need to change before the big day.
#5 Take care of yourself. June will be your hardest training month. Between rides, try to eat right with an emphasis on carbohydrates for recovery and endurance, stay hydrated and sleep at least eight hours a night. Two weeks before the event – after your last big ride – focus on recovery. Your mileage will decrease, but keep your cadence high and your effort at or above your target STP speeds to help ensure a one-day finish. During this last 2 weeks ride hard every 3rd day, and rest the other two. Remember: by this point, your training is already in the bank. Resting up will get you fresh for the big day.
Craig Undem has been a full time professional cycling coach since 1997. He completed the STP in one day in 1985, and went on to race at the elite level internationally for 10 years. He started Cycle University to help riders achieve better health and safer riding. He and his team of coaches offer indoor classes in the winter and outdoor classes April through October. He can be reached at (206) 523-1122 or craig@CycleU.com