Ride Prep – Just As Important When Going Short

My friend Aaron West over at the Steep Climbs blog complains that he was ill-prepared for a major training ride the other day. He didn’t hydrate properly, didn’t eat right the night before the ride, and didn’t eat the morning of the ride. So he only managed to cover 100 miles with 9,300 feet of climbing in 6 hours, 39 minutes.

Well, Aaron is in a different league than I am. But I had much the same experience as he did that day. And what happened to me is a reminder that we all must attend to the necessities of prepping ourselves for our rides, no matter how tough or modest they might be.

I had ridden a brisk ride Saturday morning, and even added some bonus miles to my regular Saturday route. I felt great. Legs were strong, plenty of air in my lungs. I looked forward to a Sunday morning ride in the Hill Country with friends.

But at about 1 a.m. Sunday, a flash of lightning and a crash of thunder right over head jolted me out of my sleep. Lord knows we need rain around here. We thought we were recovering from last year’s drought, with decent rain in February and March, but April saw the dryness return. They’re already going to stringent watering restrictions in some areas around here, so we’re happy to get the rain.

Only trouble was, the lightning and thunder kept up their pyrotechnics show all night long, and I had trouble getting back to sleep again. I’m not sure if I ever did, really. Finally, at about 5 a.m., I couldn’t stand staring at the ceiling anymore, so I got up and made some coffee.

It was clear I wouldn’t be riding that morning. I emailed my friends to cancel. They were apparently up early, too, because I soon got a reply that they weren’t going out, either. I read the morning paper, watched a little TV, and finally decided to get something to eat.

Two pieces of toast with jelly took care of breakfast. I had a second cup of coffee and started surfing websites on the iPad. Eventually, the storm passed to the east, and I could think about riding again.

I hit the road at about 11 a.m. The streets were almost dry, the sun was out, and the air was so humid you could wring it out. I thought I’d do a modified version of my Friday night route, which keeps me on neighborhood streets, and can cover anywhere from 19-25 miles.

At about six miles into the ride, I do a couple of hill repeats on a residential street that’s really not much of a challenge. But this time, I knew I was in trouble. I couldn’t maintain the cadence I wanted, and found myself downshifting more than usual on this little hill. The second time around, I couldn’t even maintain a decent cadence one gear lower than the first time. I was huffing and puffing at the top, glad for the break.

I did a lap of the Veloway, which is mostly flat except for one short steep hill. But I decided I’d ridden the Veloway enough that week, and I headed out to add more mileage.

I had plenty of water. The night before, I’d put two 24-ounce water bottles in the freezer. I only brought one on the ride, but that’s fine for a two-hour neighborhood ride, and I could always fill up at the water jugs at the Veloway entrance. I was drinking regularly, even a little more often than my usual three-mile drink intervals.

Water wasn’t the problem. Nourishment was. On Sunday mornings before club rides, I tend to make myself a hearty breakfast. Today, as I said, just toast. I don’t carry energy bars or Shot Bloks or anything like that when I’m riding in the neighborhood, and I could feel the energy drain from my body. By the time I reached the 20-mile mark, I was done in. But you can’t (I can’t, anyway) ride less than 20 miles on my long mileage day of the week. I took a couple of turns that put me farther from home.

But it was no good. I checked the bike computer and calculated that I’d have 24-25 miles under my belt if I turned around and headed back at this point. It was a slog. I was in a bike lane on a decent asphalt road, but struggled to keep up a steady pace. Have you ever felt relief when you pull up to your house after a ride? I did that morning.

What’s the takeaway? Prep for your routine rides much as you would your tougher ones. I should have had the same kind of breakfast I would have had if I’d done the Hill Country ride. Adequate sleep is important, although I did go back to bed and grab a catnap before I got into my bike clothes. I’ve stopped carrying any kind of electrolyte stuff on most rides. The right kind of stuff does help, I’ve found.

I’ve got a little time off over the next two weeks, and I’ll be riding more than usual. You can bet I’ll get ready for each ride with more diligence than I employed last weekend.


  1. says

    Lol, fair point. The big difference is I carried my own food and had support at rest stops, which helped get my energy back. I have had similar experiences as you on my short group rides, so I make it a point to always carry something just in case. And I usually bring more fuel than I expect to need on any ride. A lot of it doesn’t get used right away, but better safe than sorry.

    Enjoy your time off.

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