Monday, August 12, 2013

"Distance Cycling" by John Hughes and Dan Kehlenbach

I purchased "Distance Cycling" because I recently started reading "randon1", the Google group on randonneuring, and one of the authors, John Hughes, is an active contributor there. When I read one of his posts on an older cyclist he was coaching, it struck a cord in me so I looked into him and discovered this book. I purchased the Kindle version of the book, but if I had it to do over, I probably would purchase the paper version; I find it much easier to jump around in a paper version as one is wont to do with a training guide.

I confess that my first reaction to this book was disappointment; it seemed superficial, offering up the same platitudes one can find in every other book or free on so many websites. Also, certain aspects of style in which this book is written were not to my taste. The authors chose, in many places, to use a story-telling style in which they refer to a fictional cyclist and tell stories about him or her. Some examples:

"Kyle practices riding with a smooth pedal stroke of 80 to 90 revolutions per minute (RPM) in his middle gears."

"Kyle practices eating and drinking regularly while riding safely."

Does this remind anyone besides me of Goofus and Gallant from the children's magazine, Highlights?

As I continued to read, however, I warmed to this book because of its breadth. In particular, it is the only book I own that discusses training for the standard brevet series2 of 200K, 300K, 400K and 600K rides or for riding 12 brevets a year, one per month, all year long. Using the Amazon scale for rating books, I would give this book three of five stars. On the one hand, I am not at all sorry I paid for it or took the time to read it, but on the other, it is not my all time favorite training book.

The chapters of this book are as follows:

CHAPTER   1     Going the Distance
CHAPTER   2     Selecting Your Event
CHAPTER   3     Baseline Conditioning
CHAPTER   4     Fueling the Distance Cyclist
CHAPTER   5     Gearing Up for the Long Haul
CHAPTER   6     Preparing Your Body to Go the Distance
CHAPTER   7     Conquering the Century and 200K
CHAPTER   8     Ultimate Training for Ultra Events
CHAPTER   9     Mastering the Multiday
CHAPTER 10     Ultra distance Riding
CHAPTER 11     Preventing Injury

The material I found to be of the most interest were in Chapters 8 and 10. Throughout the book, the authors provide detailed, day by day, week by week training plans including cycling, resistance training ("weights"), stretching, and psychological conditioning. (I did say this book was comprehensive.) This material was of some interest to me, especially to compare to other training programs I have encountered to see what I can learn from the similarities and differences. However, it was the extension of these programs into some new territory, extensions I was having difficulty imagining on my own, that made this book worth my time.

Chapter 8 includes information on moving up from a 200K to a 300K brevet or from a century (100 mile) to a double century (200 mile) ride, information duplicated in some of my other books. However, what it has that I didn't find anywhere else is a 4 week maintenance program to execute if, in contrast to the waxing and waning of a traditional training program, one wishes to ride one 200K brevet a month, all year long, what one needs to do in order to earn the RUSA R12 award.

Chapter 10 describes a training program for a brevet series, in which one rides increasingly long rides, one month apart: 200K (124 miles), 300K (186 miles), 400K (248 miles), and 600K (372 miles). There probably are more theories of training than there are cyclists. I am personally unlikely to follow any program exactly, including this one. What makes this program interesting to me nonetheless is that it gives me a place to start thinking about what I want to do, a program which is reasonable and conventional. Along those same lines, one table in this chapter particularly caught my attention. It came right after a discussion of planning how a brevet might go, pointing out that one's average speed will drop as the brevets get longer. The table was for planning purposes, and listed assumed completion times for various length brevets:

Distance Assumed
 Completion Time
 Completion Time
200K   9:00 to 10:30 13:30
300K 14:30 to 16:30 20:00
400K 21:00 to 23:30 27:00
600K 34:00 to 37:30 40:00

I completed my first 200K brevet in 12 hours, and felt good about that because it was well under the required completion time. I completed my second 200K brevet in 11 hours, and felt good about that because it was an hour faster than my first. However, I see that these times are still slower than what was assumed in this book, suggesting to me that I might not be ready for longer brevets, a useful cautionary note.

This book is not specific to randonneuring, it includes information about all kinds of long distance cycling, including bicycle touring. Chapter 9 focuses on touring which why it was of less current interest to me. In summary, this is a good book covering a lot of material while making few assumptions about prior knowledge. For these reasons, and because it adheres to conventional practice rather than advancing novel theories, it might be particularly suitable for a beginner.



2) For background about randonneuring in general and what a brevet series is in particular, no better source can be found than the RUSA website.

MAF Test Results

For those new to this blog, each week I am posting an update of my training results; see my previous posts for explanations of my aerobic training program, MAF tests, and this graph.

The plateau in performance seen for the past few weeks continues. Recently, I got a very provocative comment on my last training post from Iron Rider. I plan to devote my next post to a consideration of this comment, some of Iron Rider's training ideas, and comments on this plateau.

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