250 Mile Bike Ride & 4 Tips To Help You Ride Farther
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250 miles in one bike ride is something that I had never fathomed before. For me, that is reason enough to want to try it.
120 miles was far after I started riding centuries; 6 hours.
150 miles was far; 7.5 hours. The extra 1.5 hours really changes the experience of the 120 mile ride for sure.
Once, on a whim, when the endorphins were crushing and it was a beautiful day in Nashville, I rode 170 miles.
Gravel Worlds arrived, and Patrick and I rode 180 miles, ON GRAVEL.
But dude, 200 miles was going to be really far.
Enter Andy Chasteen, my DNA Racing Teammate from Oklahoma City. I get a text on one of my usual rides up north to Drummonds.
Hey, Go on this Google Sheet and enter your name;
you’re not registering for the race but it gets you into the lottery.
That seemed innocent enough, so while refilling my bottles and eating some candy, I filled out this sheet and continued on my way.
A month later, I receive an email from IOWA WIND AND ROCK GRAVEL RACE.
Thank you for taking time out of your life for registering for The Iowa Wind and Rock!
We want to congratulate you for being chosen for the race roster!
I click on the link to see what this race is all about, only to read that it’s 340 miles of gravel.
“Hey Andy, what the sh!t did I just register for!?”
In his goofy chuckle that I love so much: “Haha! Dude, will you do it with me?”
“Do we sleep?”
”Not if you want to win.”
”Fahk. Okay, I’ll do it. I’ve never ridden 200 miles!”
”You’ll be fine.”
It was those words that inspired me to map a plan to start testing my ability to ride really freaking far. Andy has completed a 420 mile ride (TWICE) that is called the BEERMUDA (yes, two E’s) and I actually am trying to get them to drum up some interest in doing this again.
The Weekend Before: 210 miles
The weekend before, I rode 210 miles, but it was with a group. While it felt like an awesome accomplishment, something was missing. Most people know I’m all about consistent pedaling and I hate coasting. I hate drafting; I hate being in a group, sitting being people, going slow. I don’t know why, it’s just how it is.
It sort of felt like cheating. I wanted more. I came home and decided that 200 was cool, but the weekend wasn’t over, so I did 100 miles the next day; honestly, kind of as a, “I’ve got more to give!”
Chris was going to be gone the next weekend, so I had plans to go crush 200 miles again with Patrick. The weather looked gloomy as hell for Saturday, so rather than chance it, I decided I’d block Thursday, March 28, 2019 off, and try to ride 250 miles, solo.
Tip # 1: Eat More Carbs
I know, you’re probably tired of us telling you to CARB UP, but it works! The biggest thing we want to stress is just how many carbs you want to eat. 9-12g of carbs per 1 kg of body weight; it’s a lot of carbs!
We’d recommend that you try this out on a normal training ride weekend, because you may feel slightly different when you’re carbing hard. It’s a lot of sugar in the system, so you want to learn how to space out the eating.
The carbing starts in the morning at breakfast, because if you wait until lunch, you’ll be bloated and uncomfortable when you go to bed.
Lastly, make sure you have a plan of what you will eat for this mega ride, and make sure that you will enjoy it! You will get tired of sugar, and even I got tired of candy by the end.
Shout out to Chase Peeler who recommended buying a frozen burrito at a gas station (I need to see if these are at Dollar General), throwing it in your back pocket, and it will be thawed by the time you want it. Sounds like a plan!! Thanks Chase!
Back to the story of 250….
The night before, I crushed cereal, sugary foods, lots of carbs, and some greens to keep things “flowy”. Without getting into too much details, you want to wake up feeling like you really have to go #2; even before the coffee hits.
No, that wasn’t Tip #2, but it’s so important that it could be.
Then, coffee, go again.
BONUS TIP: 2 poops 2 the podium is a great pre-race saying that I coined; if you get 3 solid plops, your carb game is so swaggy that everyone else may as well go home.
The Ride Begins
Temperature: 49°F at 4:45am in Memphis.
Temperature where I was riding towards before sunrise: 46°F.
Clothing (from head to toe): Lazer Helmet with aero shield, Oakley Sunglasses, Garneau Kit with arm warmers and vest, Bont Cycling Vapor S Shoes.
No gloves or leg warmers since it will be 71°F in a few hours and I don’t want to mule all that around. I’ll need the pocket space for large amounts of candy when I’m done with all of the Science in Sport (SiS) nutrition that’ll I’ll bring.
1 bottle water (Always start your first bottle as just water to establish a sweat rate for electrolytes), 2 bottles of SiS Beta Fuel, a ton of SiS Gels, and Some SiS bars.
Departure Time: 5:10am
It was dark, so I had my lights running, ambition and energy at a high. I was really psyched to travel north on my usual route, and then the game plan was to head east for 100 miles. I’d slowly head south for a bit, then back west, and home.
Hmm. It seems to be getting cold. Very cold actually.
As I made my way to Drummonds, TN, twice I had to stop on the side of the road and clamp my armpits shut onto my hands in order to create some warmth, and hope that they thaw out. They were blocks of ice.
I knew I just had to soldier on and make it to Drummonds Park.
Low of 32°F, high of 82°F later in the day. The little hump of warmth just past the 32°F mark is me, eventually in a park bathroom, hanging out with the hand dryer, trying to unthaw.
If you haven’t experienced frozen hands before, when they thaw out, it burns; badly. Slowly making fists accelerated the thawing, but it was not fun.
After 12 minutes in the bathroom, I was ready to head back out. I knew I had to keep going or there would be too many stops.
Leaving Drummonds: Mixed Bag of Emotions
No one was on the roads. I could ride roads that normally have speeding cars and tractor trailers.
As I hit some rollers, the sun was rising. I so badly wanted to take a picture but I was MARCHING.
I WAS DETERMINED.
I was riding towards the sun. The temps stayed above 40°F, but with any fast movements down a hill or into shady areas, I was quickly reminded of what the frost felt like. I hated it.
Finally, it levels out around 44°F, and it felt glorious.
Status: 45 miles outside of Memphis. LONG WAYS TO GO. It was a little intimidating to think, “Sh!t, over 200 miles left.” This leads us to Tip #2.
Tip #2: Know Thyself
This is something that I’ve started comparing between cyclists. Some people like the idea of just aimlessly riding, with no set destination and just determining where to go based on mileage.
I’m sort of like that on my normal rides; I map as I go based on my Garmin, whereas other people like to set a course, upload it to their device, and follow along.
Which one are you: a planner or meanderer? If you like to meander, go for it! But, if you aren’t, set destinations so that you avoid feeling lost. That feeling can create anxiety when you are far from home, and it might make you want to scoot back a little early.
I’m a mixed bag; I’ll meander until I have one bottle left, then I plan. Then I meander, and plan. It gives me a sense of freedom, but still some control. Being just out there and hoping to come across a store at the right time doesn’t sit well with me.
You also need to know how to stay focused on the ride; how do you enjoy the extreme duration, as opposed to letting “160 more miles to go” create anxiety, which can lead you to riding too hard.
Have a mental strategy. Maybe you will spend 30 minutes reflecting on some part of your life, another 30 singing your 5 new favorite songs and making up words for the ones you don’t know yet, 30 minutes thinking of what food you will eat when you get home, 30 minutes thinking of how amazing life is, that you can ride a bike all day long…bang, 2 hours done!
When you can see the open road, you know it’s not going to get cold, and the sun is shining, this image above meant so much. This is what the rest of the day was going to be about. Just crushing it in the sun.
Well, not crushing. With an endurance zone of 213-289W, I was thinking I would see how long could I hold 260W.
North of Covington, TN
Usually this is the far part of a ride. The turn around part for a stout 120, maybe a 150. But today, it was just part of the ride out east. I like the roads north of this little town; not really sure why, but they just resonate well.
I haven’t found a good way across the Loosahatchie River (or is it just called the Hatchie River up there), so I just headed east and stopped in Stanton, TN.
This put me at about mile 83. MMMM, Haribo.
I should have stock in Dollar General because I stop there so often on long rides; they’re much more common and accessible than good gas stations in the south. Maybe I’m making that up, but it sure feels that way.
The roads where you can pee in the middle of it and no one would notice.
Nothing but farms.
I was thinking of the 340 Mile Gravel Race coming up.
THREE HUNDRED AND FORTY MILES OF GRAVEL.
I feel like that needs some emphasis.
I was thinking of lots of different things; for a while I was honestly just basking in the warmth of 60°F. I was so thankful for that.
Maybe the intense horror of the cold was a way in which the time passed. I don’t know, I think I’m just trying to make a horrible situation into something better. I’d never choose to start a ride like that again.
I saw a sign for Eureka, TN.
Man, that word doesn’t get used enough. Interesting Google Trends info on the word but I can’t draw any meaningful conclusions from it, so, moving on.
I wanted to ride in Eurakaton, TN, but Hillville Road spoke to me, so I veered left and found a sick little loop there; at my most northeast point of the ride.
Hillville, TN was nice riding; highly recommend.
I then decided to head south, and on Sammon Road, between Brownsville and Whiteville, I almost had to tango.
Passed the animal with no harm to the bike, or the calf. Woof.
Surrounded By Gravel Roads
At this point of the ride, I realized I was surrounded mostly by gravel roads. There really weren’t many options except for the straight, wide open and exposed, 45-55mph roads.
The traffic was light so I wasn’t worried about cars, but the wind was no bueno.
It was a crisp 10-15mph, and just consistent, where the flags rippled in the air, with the unattached end of the flag never falling anywhere near the pole.
This wind was steady, and not stopping anytime soon.
The week before on my 210 mile ride, there were other people with me for 130 miles of it; so even if I was the one pulling, there was something calming about other friends and riders being with me.
Tip #3: Conquer New Distances With Friends; Choose Wisely
210 with friends was so much easier than 250 alone, for the above stated reasons. Get your gang together, and have the determination to work together to ride farther than you’ve ever gone before.
The only issue that I could see is if someone isn’t ready to ride and really get after it. This type of ride is tough enough, and you want the others around to bring you UP, not down, so choose your compadres wisely.
Back to 250:
This was getting difficult; more so than I had expected by mile 120.
I love the Bont Vaypor S shoes because they are so incredibly stiff that for racing, you can really stomp on the pedals and all of the power is transferred from your legs to the pedals. For rides like this, when you’re 9 hours in, you can easily adjust the dials to work with the changes in the feelings in your feet. Your feet may swell a little or you might want to snug them up. It’s so easy with Bont.
That video was partially a lie. I recognized some of these roads because I rode past the Cooley Family Farm on my way back west! I had ridden these before at family holidays out on the farm when we would drive there from Memphis and I’d bring my bike.
But I had also ridden out there and back on one scorching summer day. So I knew I’d be back to familiar ground in 60 miles; just over 3 hours, as I foresaw my average speed dropping once the real fatigue hit.
I didn’t even know what that was going to feel like.
Miller —> Yum Yum —> Belmont —> Mason (DG Pitstop)
—> Clopton —>
OMG IT’S DRUMMONDS!
Not so fast. I know these roads well enough that I’ll be back 45 minutes too soon, so first we must go north to Gilt Edge, then around west and back down south.
THEN, there will be 40 miles left!
Oh, did I saw 40 miles? I meant 60. ;-)
I had to do some extra loops because I knew the spot where I’m 10 miles from home.
It was a long 10 miles. But really, the last 6 hours had been long.
Tip # 4: Don’t Start Too Hard
Sounds basic enough, but treat it like a Time Trial, and remember that you need to finish strong. Start at Low Zone 2, around 60% of FTP, and you can always ramp things up later on in the ride. Be patient!
Normalized Power dropped from 270W for first 6 hours to 238W for last 6.5 hours.
The last hour or 90 minutes was really just survival; spinning the 54 tooth was hard, so I went little gear and spun it out.
I made it to my street at 249.9, so I rounded the block to MAKE SURE there were no rounding errors and hit 250.
Massive shout out to:
Elevated Legs: Code EVOQSQUEEZE For Mega Discount
All my DNA Racing Teammates that motivate me to dig deeper, TRY NEW THINGS, and continue to get better.
To think back to the first bike ride I ever mapped out and was shocked I rode 16 miles.
Life is an awesome journey. Ups, Downs, And All Over. Just keep working hard and things will work out.
Thanks for reading. Take a look below to see the stats on my past month of training.
Contact me at BRENDAN@EVOQ.BIKE If you want me to run through your power files and rides and make some FREE recommendations on how you can get faster, starting today!