Mile Eighteen

Cycling Camps, Gravel Training Camps and Bespoke Adventures

9.2% Grade for Four Miles? Let’s Gravel!

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After long hours in the saddle on our first day of gravel camp searching for the backside of Beech Mountain, it was time to take the guys to my favorite area to train off-road. A 20 min descent down gravel roads located directly off of the Blue Ridge Parkway will dump you into wild and wonderful Wilson’s Creek. Knowns for its 23-mile mountain creek which begins at the top of Grandfather Mountain, this rugged area of the Pisgah National Forest is a favorite to hikers, campers, kayaks, all-terrain vehicles, mountain biking, and gravel grinds. 

STRAVA FILE FOUND HERE

We decided to access Wilson’s Creek from Pineola, NC which quickly became our group’s favorite decent of the weekend. The gravel was smooth the entire way down with a few ruts in switchbacks. I was on my hardtail so the front suspension offered plenty of support and confidence for an epic descent down the 9 miles, 2500 elevation loss… What I gained in descending speed, I would lose in the climb back up at the end of the day. 

We reached the town of Edgemont which would also become a favorite for the weekend. When Matt first mentioned we would be climbing Globe Road up to Blowing Rock, he said my face sunk like I had just seen a ghost. I’ve climbed Globe twice before, once on my full suspension mountain bike and once in the back of a pickup truck after showing up with the wrong gravel gears. This beast is legit. It’s a 4-mile, 2,000 ft gain, averaging  9.2% kinda climb. It’s one of those climbs where you turn to see another steep turn, and another, and another. While the hour climbing wasn’t pretty, I made it to the top just in time for lunch in Blowing Rock, NC. 

Maybe we spent a little too long at lunch, or maybe I ate a little too much, or maybe I’m just making excuses. Whatever it was, I found myself in my own personal hurt locker on the way back to Pineola. We descended back down Globe and slowly made our way back to Edgemont. Another steep climb back up to Gragg (pronounced Graaaaaaaag), I looked at the guys and said, “I know my house is five miles that way and I’m having a very hard time NOT taking a right turn.” Coach P said, “you probably don’t want to eat right now, but this is me encouraging you to eat right now, EB.” 

(This seems to be a theme with me and big training rides.)

I was 110% bonking and decided to eat all of my food. It was like a sugar-buffet-party-in-my-mouth. Matt told me I was not taking a right towards home and that I was going with them. I’m so glad I listened. We descended back down into Edgemont where we stopped at the Historic Coffey’s General Store to grab a coke, protein bar, and some pretty cool pictures. By then I had come back to and was ready for the final 8-mile-climb back up Pineola. 

While I get to ride this area all the time, I rarely get to do long rides like this and never have riding partners who will join in for the back-to-back volume. The stories that come with the miles and overall camaraderie with the groups are my very favorite part of training camps with Mile18Inc. The fitness gains don’t suck either. 

We finished out day two back at home base where the guys showed off their sweet grilling skills, Josh definitely won MVP with his fire skills, and I ate all the s’mores. ~ EB

Allison’s Phoenix Challenge Recap

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Phoenix Challenge (160 miles completed / 200 miles)

Going into the Phoenix Challenge, I had been struggling to maintain the same level of training motivation as I had the previous year, so I was feeling a little intimidated about the scale and intensity of the ride. While my training hadn’t been ideal, I did participate in the ENverest Challenge this year so I was able to get some good doses of volume prior to the ride. My main goal for this event was mental training—to get comfortable being uncomfortable, and to recover more confidence in myself and my judgment (pacing, nutrition, etc.).  I was aiming for the full challenge (200 miles) as I am planning to do my first full Ironman in September (IMMD). I figured this ride would be a good reality check for my fitness and mental state, as well as a unique opportunity to meet amazing athletes and ride in a beautiful location.

What an adventure it was! I found the first day to be the toughest. Heavy fog made visibility throughout Skyline very poor, and it was raining pretty heavily in some sections. I wore three layers, but I still wasn’t quite prepared for how chilled I felt throughout the ride. I am endlessly grateful for my riding buddy (Carl) who patiently stayed near me. Having someone else with me throughout the ride made a world of difference for me mentally, as it shifted my focus to keeping up and getting through the ride as a team.

We rode the last few miles of Skyline in a downpour. All I remember is rain pelting my eyes, and Carl divebombing down the hills and disappearing into the fog. 

I actually felt better the second day. A good sleep and breakfast, plus warmer, drier weather left me feeling more energized and confident. However, I started to get shaky around mile 45, so we took a longer break at the mile 51 rest stop (and hung out with EB!).  I ate a full lunch hoping it would revive me enough to finish the ride, but alas – we made it to about mile 60 before calling it. I had mixed feelings – disappointment that I didn’t finish, pride that I took on a challenge that intimidated me, gratitude for Carl and the support team, and inspiration from the other athletes. I am so grateful that I could participate in this experience, especially after all the stress of the past year. I will cherish all the miles, the conversations, the laughs. I learned some great tips from my fellow riders as well, and deeply appreciate the opportunity to learn from them. 

Allison & Carl on Day 2

Some key takeaway lessons for me:

·       For a ride of this length and elevation, proper equipment is important. I want to learn more about gearing and ensure I’ve made the proper adjustments / upgrades to my bike before I attempt this challenge again. 

·       A few more long rides (with elevation!) prior to this challenge would’ve been helpful to physically and mentally prepare for riding on my own for this length of time. After all the isolation of COVID, I was feeling anxious both being on my own and being with people – but this event reminded me I’m capable of pushing through that!

·       While I prepared for the weather as best as I could, I think taking some nutrition tips from ultra runners may be something I’d want to try in the future if I can’t shake the chills (e.g. instant soup). 


Want in on our 2022 Phoenix Challenge? Request your spot HERE.

Gravel Camp: Day One Dirt Adventures

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All the Colors at Camp!

Note: This is the first of three updates from our first annual Gravel Adventure Camp. Early Registration for 2022 is open, and camp space is limited. Learn more on the 2022 event page.

After much planning, scheming, and dreaming we finally held our first official gravel camp! Camper consensus was unanimous — the wait was 100% worth it. Every day had rides ranging from 5 to 6 hours (that’s just ride time!) and adventures galore.

We’ll be back in 2022, and if you can handle six hours on the bike and grades ranging up to 18% at times, you should consider grabbing one of our limited spots with a 100% refundable deposit.

The View of Grandfather Mountain from Gravel Camp HQ

Settling In

The first order of business after the drive out to Linville was assembling bikes and making new friends. We took care of the friends part on Wednesday night with a pit stop in Banner Elk at the Kettell Brewery. Then it was on to Gravel Camp HQ for bike assembly and unpacking.

The Overly Ambitious Route for Day One
The River Road to Valle Crucis

Off the Beaten Path

Mast Gap General Store

Mast Gap General Store Pit Stop

Ouch. No really.

When Hard Becomes Gravel 

As if sneaking up the backside of Beech Mountain wasn’t enough, we decided to add a few additional gravel sections for some fun.

One of these was Philips Branch Road (above), where a punishingly steep straight shot gives way to gravel and switchbacks. Add a random pickup truck pulling a bobcat and you’ve got the recipe for total suffering.

This was only topped by a second, equally strong segment up by Bob’s Adventure. A little shorter this time wasn’t much solace as we were all hurting from the prior climb. We did get to meet “Bob” in his John Deere mobile, and he even offered us a beer. Unfortunately, oxygen was our top priority at the time! 🤣

Friendliness Wins

Heading back to Beech after this “bonus” loop, we realized just how low on water we were. Lucky for us, we came across a small church, a very nice gentleman and a spigot with endless cold water!

Shortly thereafter, our adventure was derailed by a dead end road (and a 10 foot high fence covered with signs). Google maps, it would seem, hadn’t exactly captured the nuances associated with this particular dirt road in the middle of nowhere!

Lesser of Two Evils

Sitting on the side of Beech Mountain, we had to make the call. Push onwards or start the journey home.

After many turns and stops, the truth of about riding gravel really sunk in: it takes time to enjoy this level of awesome!

So, we made the right call and ended up having our official lunch at roughly 4pm in Banner Elk! It was amazing and just in time. The climb home wasn’t any easier, but at least we weren’t starving!

Dinner at Lost Province

We wrapped the day with Dinner in Boone, NC. First for the delicious pizzas at Lost Province Brewing. Second for a proper late-night supermarket so we could stock up on provisions for tomorrow night’s dinner.

With the help of many calories, we mapped out our adventure(s) for the second day!

The Official 2021 Phoenix Challenge Report

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The first annual Phoenix Challenge Ride is officially in the books! After months of planning and strategery, it’s hard to believe I’m sitting here on a Monday morning writing this post. Congratulations to all of the riders, whether you took the Half or the Full challenge. 

Our motto: We Ride. We Rise. The Phoenix Challenge is here to push your limits. To challenge what you think is possible. To help you unlock fitness and mental strength. Our handpicked route is a one-way ticket; with only two-wheels to get back you have your own personal mission. 

It was a total blast, the perfect combination of social time, cycling, and suffering. We certainly hope that you will join us again for another adventure soon! Follow along at www.weridewerise.com for future Phoenix Challenge updates. 

DCA Reagan International Airport

Pre-Ride in Front Royal

After weeks of training and final ride preparations, it was time to go and find elevation to make us fitter and stronger. The hotel was approximately a 90-minute drive from Reagan international airport. Totally easy to get there, and right off the highway. Lots of stores and places to get food, so we opted for Chipotle for some fresh calories. Paul from Black Bear Adventures rolled in at 9pm and was ready to go — he’s so prepared 24/7!

Riders continued to arrive on their own schedule, and checked in online. The only issues we had the morning of our folks who decided to drive in that day. If possible, staying overnight the day before makes a big difference and relieves a lot of stress. 

Day One: Dickie’s Ridge to Waynesboro

The admin team was up bright and early, on site for a check in around 7 AM. Lots of coffee was needed!

This is our first chance to meet many of the riders, and hear their stories. It was great to see new friends and old connecting as they strategized for the day. 

The official ride start time was 9 AM, but many opted to leave early according to their fitness and ride expectations. The wet weather meant extra layers were in order, as well as flashing lights on the front and back of every bike. Given the nature of Skyline Drive being on a ridge, the weather is highly variable. 

Slow is Smooth, Smooth is Fast.

Most riders headed South, aiming for a 104-mile ride. A select few decided to ride back to the park entrance, adding another 8 miles and a few hundred feet to the equation — why not!?

There are three stops along the ways with stocked stores and shelter: Elk Wallow, Big Meadows and Loft Mountain Wayside. Each approximately 30 miles apart. 

Taking those into account, we were able to stage support as needed along the road and use Big Meadows as a more extended lunch break. We needed it; if only because the wet weather meant we were burning extra calories from a healthy amount of shivering! 

Lunch at Big Meadows was the perfect pit stop; more than one person opted for some hot chocolate / coffee! The yummy handmade bars were also amaze; pretty sure I personally at about a shopping basket’s worth!

The further we went the more the weather added a degree of difficulty to the equation. Wet roads are one thing, but the fog really made for some dramatic riding! 

By the time we got to Loft Mountain, we were ready for a coke and some solid downhills. The draw of Basic City Brewery kept us laser focused, and I have to be honest a beer never tasted better.  

We Survived Day One!

We ate our fair share of salad, pizza and nachos before retiring to clean bikes and prepare for the early start on Day Two. No rest for the wicked!

The Official Data

Day Two: Waynesboro to Dickie’s Ridge

We woke slightly earlier on the second day to pack up and have all of our gear ready for pick up. Rolling out to Basic City Brewing parking lot, the group met up and began the climb out of Waynesboro to Skyline Drive. 

While a few early departing folks skipped ahead, everyone had to deal with the challenging terrain from yesterday – in reverse! 

Personally I was tired, but my legs actually felt better on Day Two. I think there is a little more variety in the early terrain that made it easier to get into a rhythm than the strong challenge of the first day.

There were no skipping stops this time, as calories were in high demand. In fact, almost all the SAG food was gone by the time we finished the day. 

The weather was once again very dynamic. There were bouts of sunshine and stunning views interspersed with fog so thick, finding the food at Big Meadows required a better sense of smell than eyesight! 

The final push was as tough as advertised. If not for a Coke and Twix at Elk Wallow, I might not have made it. Rolling up to Dickie’s Ridge and my car was pretty darn satisfying. Mission accomplished, and it was time to cheer in the other finishers as they completed the route. 

The Official Data

Half and Full Finishers

Not everyone was able to do the full two-day tour. The course is tough, and these folks earned Half Phoenix honors. For those able to go the distance, the Full Phoenix recognition is theirs. Stay tuned for our Hall of Fame page on the website at www.weridewerise.com by the end of June. 

That Sock Game

Virtual Finishers, Too!

That’s right, there we even a handful of riders in the UK who decided to take the Virtual Phoenix Challenge. They charted their own two-day adventure to earn the right to be a Phoenix finisher. They even had better weather than we did; we might have to go abroad next year!

The Final Numbers

My two-day totals were 226 miles and 21,000 feet in 12 hours ride time. Add in 20+ new friends plus countless memories and it’s clear the event was a great success. 

We can’t wait to do this ride again in 2022, so be sure to join the Mile18 newsletter list to get early bird sign up links, discounts and regular training advice. 

Happy riding!

~ Patrick, Chief Phoenix

Seven Critical Steps to Prepare for Your Epic Century Ride

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Getting ready for a century ride or epic cycling event is actually a lot of work. You’ve been following a cycling training plan for weeks now, but the logistics matter too! The closer you get to your century, the more clear it becomes that even one small misstep can really ruin your experience at the entire event. 

Here is our list of 7 key ways to guarantee the best possible ride experience at your next event. 

#1 Reservations & Rentals Check (14 Days Prior)

If your event involves traveling to a different location, this significantly amplifies the early portion of your logistics.

If you have a flight, or a hotel, or even a rental car, then you’ve got some serious planning to do. And if you have all three? Well, you had better be ready.

Make sure that you have the proper reservation information saved readily on your phone. Not just in your inbox, but actually copying and pasting the confirmation number into calendar events for the day and time that you’ll be there.

For example, take that rental car confirmation number and create an event on your calendar to trigger at the time that you are disembarking the plane. This way, future you will have the information s/he will need without extra work. 

If you are flying, then make sure you sign up for text notifications on the flight status. Add airport travel time reminders to your calendar so that you won’t be late. All that extra time to deal with your bike and checking that in safely with the airline. Have your frequent-flyer number and credit card ready to deal with all relevant Logistics and additional expenses.

Bonus Item:  Find and save the phone number and information for a local bicycle shop in case you need it.

#2 Key Contact Information Check (12 Days Prior)

 Traveling to this event means being a part of something bigger than just a regular ride. Make sure that you have saved the relevant information to your contacts so that you can easily access that information in the future even without an internet connection.

Cut the event side, you’ll want to know not only the agenda for what’s going to happen but also who the point of contact is. Be sure to save the phone number as well as an email address.

If your event involves an airport pick-up or rental car, make sure you have that separate information dialed in as well and that you’ve sent your itinerary over according to the information you captured in step one above.

Many events use a digital communication app or product for the weekend. Be sure to have that installed in your phone with your relevant information in it as well. If you haven’t done so already, make sure that it works! Send a message, read a message, like and reply to a message —  just to know that everything is operating properly. This is not something you want to be doing on the morning of your event.

Of course, you should have your emergency contact information also readily available. Especially if it’s not someone who you would normally identify. having all of this line up ahead of time is critical for safety and peace of mind.

#3 Check the Weather ( 10 Days Prior)

 you probably don’t need a reminder to do this, as it’s likely you’ve been checking it for weeks! Most extended forecasts are made approximately 10 days in advance, but the accuracy of those forecasts very wildly. 

Use the information from the forecast to plan accordingly. Working macro from micro, start first by identifying key factors like sunrise and sunset. Capture the lows and highs of those days as well, which will set some baseline expectations about pre, during, and post-ride clothing needs.

Finally, look at the weather for the time of your event. You should continue to update this once a day as the event nears. At at least right now you have a 50% chance of knowing what the day is going to look like. 

 this information is critical to make sure that you have all of the requisite equipment end gear needed to be safe and successful. Some of these items take time to cure, so having the information earlier gives you extra time to solve any problems.

Balancing the forecast against the macro numbers you have, you can begin to narrow down your clothing choices appropriately  (see #4 below). 

#4 pack your gear

 now that you know what the weather will be, and you have a good sense of the right parameters, you can begin sorting out your gear.

Before you start putting anything into a bag or suitcase, use this visual packing method first.

Take everything you think you might need and put it in a pile on your floor. Picking it up from the ground, use your bed as a display case for the clothing that you will be bringing. 

Riding for two days? Two jerseys go in the upper left-hand corner, and to bib shorts go in the top middle. Two pairs of socks go on the right! 

Anticipate cooler mornings? A vest and arm warmers go in the left-hand corner. 

Always feel safer with gloves on? Put those in the bottom center. 

Concerned about inclement weather? Bring a rain vest for a jacket in the bottom right. 

Laying things out visually allows you to make sure you have everything you need. You can easily reference your list and the items displayed on the bed in front of you. If needed, you can add and subtract items until you feel just right. Only then should you begin packing things into your bag. This is the best way to make sure that you have everything you need and you haven’t left anything behind.

Side Note: Always bring an extra set of kit and additional warm weather clothing. Once you stopped writing, even on warmer days, your body can get quite cold. You’ll want the gear just in case. Of course, if you’re going to be going to a warmer climate, be sure to pack the sunscreen as well.

#5 Your Final Workouts

Let’s not forget that you actually need to be ready to ride when you hit the ground! We don’t want to shut down your training too soon, as you’ll start experiencing the effects of losing your fitness. Depending on the level of your peak fitness and the demands of your event this may or may not be an issue. Regardless, you have a habit of training and disrupting that can simply affect you mentally if not physically.

This is why we recommend having a scripted set of training sessions for the final seven days. You will need to block out the days where you’re traveling, but setting this plan in place ahead of time ensures that you will comply with what’s written.

In general, oer the last seven days you want to stay active in a general sense. Every session you can do on your bike, the better. If not your bike, then perhaps an indoor bike or to extradite you have at home (so smart to have more than one bike!). 

 if you can’t fight, stay active with the short run or similar aerobic activity. If anything, this can help you stay sane. The only real caveat here is that we don’t want to do anything that’s risky. A new event is right around the corner and there’s plenty to be done. If you couldn’t train whatsoever in the few days leading up to the event, you would still be okay. Unhappy, but okay. 

In terms of intensity, most of the sessions should be aerobic in zone 1 or zone 2. If your event involves play intensity efforts, then two of your sessions should include short bursts of intensity at race pace effort with plenty of rest. An example for example, twice through four minutes at threshold effort with six minutes of recovery.

#6 Pack the Bike

With your last few sessions done, you can go ahead and pack your bike. You can make this process a lot easier by blocking out the time in your calendar to get this done. Perhaps you can use that day’s workout window to get this done.

Before you pack your bike, give it a once-over. Clean it up and make sure that everything on the bike is in good condition. If there’s a problem, you want to be able to solve it now instead of in a new town or city. 

Open up the case to have all of your tools ready. Have a decent-sized ziploc bag to hold any parts you remove, and another one for the tools. Each tool that you use to disassemble your bike, when finished, should go into the ziploc bag that you’re taking with you to the event. This way you know that you will have all of the tools you need at your disposal for everything that is on your bike.

Take your time to do this right, ensuring that your bike is safely secured. Regardless of the type of case that you have, improperly packing your bicycle adds significant risk to the travel equation. 

Avoid packing extraneous heavy or sharp items inside with your bicycle. An empty bottle or two, for example, is fine. Adding your nutrition powder and energy bars end a bicycle pump is not encouraged. This adds to the weight of your bag and can jeopardize the stability of the bike itself. Do your best to keep those extra items in your checked bag.

Side note: We recommend traveling with your helmet, shoes, and pedals in your carry-on bag. In the event that your bike doesn’t make it, at the very least you have the minimum required to hop on a new bike if you’re able to secure one on site. 

In addition to your bike, be sure to also pack the extraneous items that orange clothing but are related to cycling. This goes for your computer and requisite charging cables. Safety lights, sunglasses, spare tires, etc. Perhaps even the cleaning rag. Note that you cannot travel with co2 cartridges on an airplane, so have a plan in place to secure those when you arrive. 

#7 Test the Bike

Once you’ve arrived and made it safely to your lodging, it’s time to put the bike back together again.  Even if you pick your ride up on-site, it’s time to give it a once-over.

You have time now before the event to fix any problems you can find. If you wait till the morning of the event, you run the risk of having to ride with that problem or not being able to ride it all.

Do your best to put the bike together safely and get outside to give it a short ride. Go through all the gears, make sure the brakes work, and that everything feels fine. Check the tire pressure and attach all the safety lights. 

Your goal here is to go to bed the night before the ride with everything in place, 100% ready to go.  Guaranteed you’ll sleep better. 

Happy Riding!

Five Reasons You Need to Elevate Your Cycling

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Epic Cycling

Climbing is a critical part of your cycling arsenal and you overall development as a two-wheeled athlete. It’s not just about adventure; if you want to be strong and competitive, you need to ride outside and find hills. Riding hills can make you a better, stronger, and faster cyclist. 

So when people think about riding hills, most of us are struck with fear right in the heart. “Oh my god, hills, I hate them!”

No one is immune. There was a period of time in my cycling career where, after a tough race, I literally would go around hills. I added extra miles just to avoid the hills that I would discover on my route. Why? Because I had been beaten down by a bad hill experience. 

It wasn’t until I learned to embrace the hills that I started to become better as a cyclist. Here are five reasons why you need to head to those hills and start getting stronger.

The First Reason is Cadence. 

So climbing the hills actually really forces you to become one with your cadence for a variety of reasons. 

First and foremost, we have to start using all the gears on our bike. Most cyclists only really use one or two gears. The rest of the cogs in their rear cassette are super shiny. Or maybe the trainer is the default setting and the full range of the cassette isn’t needed. A consequence of this scenario is our rider is not using the full range of their body’s strength.

Riding at different cadences, whether it’s in the small ring or the big ring, forces you to recruit different muscles. It also changes the way that you think about powering your bike. 

You can change the level of torque that we’re putting into the pedals: the higher the cadence, the lower the torque, the lower power per rpm.

And so as you start climbing hills, sustained climbs, you have to get into a rhythm with your cadence. Climbing hills forces you to do that. It feels uncomfortable at first because it’s just not something that you normally do. The sooner you get better at handling different cadences and managing your choice of cadence (knowing which type of gear you want for this particular section of the hill), the better you’re going to ride. 

You are going to stop losing those precious seconds from shifting errors. As a climber, you must retain that precious momentum, otherwise you will really slow you down between gear changes or transitions of the terrain.

The Second Reason: Your Position

So when you’re climbing the bike and you are going up either a steep or a sustained climb. Typically athletes will shift to the back of their saddle. Their hands will go on top of the bars — on the hoods — not down in the drops.

You should sit tall and focus on getting air in through your diaphragm. And in that position of being pushed back, we also get to change how we torque on the pedal. Sometimes being able to push a little more forward and down (rather than just down) can be a helpful change. 

Additionally, you focus on pulling up on the pedals as well as pushing down. This will help you master the art of turning better circles at lower RPMs. This can become a comfortable space, and climbing hills will help you improve this skill. 

Adapting your position to the terrain helps you to stay comfortable. It also enables you to continue to apply pressure to those pedals. So getting comfortable in that climbing position will actually make your stronger cyclist. It gives you a new position that you can take on when you’re on the flats or another terrain.

The Third Reason: Relaxation Under Stress

When you’re grinding up a hill there comes a time when you are out of gears, you’re clicking, and it’s not going. It’s like not happening. 

The answer is clear: you are going to have to work. 

This is when cyclists get tense. For example the hands really start to grip the bars. You can see it up on the shoulders which are super high. They’re using every fiber of their muscle to help their quads and their glutes push that bike. This doesnt’ help your legs, and actually is the source of a lot of wasted energy.

Take a look at professional cyclists. They make climbing and suffering look easy. This is because their body is relaxed. In a way, this relaxation lets them do even more work.

You need to find a space inside the “work” of climbing that is still relaxed for you. This way, when you feel that tension and the pull of gravity on you can still find places to relax. 

Which part can you relax? Can you drop those shoulders? Can you change your breathing? Can you stretch out your back a little bit? Can we shift in the saddle? How are you going to find space inside that strength to be comfortable?

We’re transitioning from that flat, I’m going fast, I’m getting this big return on my work mode…over to this climbing section where the capacity for returns has shrunk dramatically. It’s almost a claustrophobic feeling. Finding a way to get comfortable inside this tighter space is really important. 

It’s an important part of your cycling progression to become better at handling extreme amounts of stress and other places when you’ll ride, which are like sprint finishes or other climbs or places during the bike ride where excessive power is actually to your advantage.

Learning how to climb in that situation is an opportunity to do that a little bit in slow motion. So you get better at recognizing the the enemy that is pain, and you can wrestle with it a bit and come to terms with it right on your own, which I think is really important. 

The Fourth Reason: Developing a Standing Rhythm

One of my biggest pet peeves is riding with triathletes (yes, I am one!) who decides to stand up. Because the minute they stand up, their bike comes backwards right into your front wheel, unless you’re super careful. And that’s because triathletes don’t have a good sense of what it means to keep tension on the pedals.

Even when they’re transitioning from seating to standing as a result, that bike starts to jerk back. And you can tell the difference between someone who can climb smoothly or someone who’s climbing quickly. And someone who’s climbing with rhythm, right? If you think about it from the dance floor, you know what rhythm is on the dance floor, calming your bike is also very similar.

If you’ve watched some of those pro cyclists ride, men and women are like, and when they climb that bike is just rocking underneath them and they’re just moving up that hill, it’s one fluid motion, and they’re going versus what I believe most of us look like. We’re just grabbing those bars as tight as you can.

And just jerking from side to side. And just praying that every ounce of energy we have is going into the pedal into the drive chain, into the wheels, into the road and getting us over the top of this really grueling hill. So climbing actually forces you to develop a rhythm outside of the saddle, which I think is really important.

We all have a cadence that we’re familiar with when sitting. But are you familiar with your standing cadence and know how that can become an asset for you? Just even down the road, again, launching into a sprint, picking up some momentum over the top of a hill, or just giving your back a break for a little bit and standing for 10, 20 minutes, the more comfortable you get a standing, the better off you can be.

Power-User Tip: When standing, you want to get your shoulders over the tops of the handlebars bars. If you’re standing, you should be able to look straight down on top of your hands. You can do a lot of work there with the core muscles that are going to fatigue super early. Stand tall on that bike and develop a new standing for them. 

The Fifth Reason: Descending

One of the reasons that people don’t like to climb is because they have to go down the other side. Becoming comfortable with descending, especially if you’re a fortunate enough to be in a group ride, is a super power user skill. If you can handle your bike going fast on a descent, then you can handle your bike on the flats at half the speed.

Descending and bike handling are critical skills whether you ride off-road, road racing, or just riding for fun. Even triathletes can benefit from better bike handling skills. Descending is a great place to learn because we don’t have to worry about braking or shifting. 

Descending is all about weight, distribution management, picking your line, things that we need to be doing when we’re on the flats, when we’re transitioning from a slight downhill to a flat or from a flat to a slight uphill picking our line, how do we want to handle it?

For most people learning how to descend downhill starts by riding downhill with someone else, following their line, and learning their body language.

So definitely pick someone who you think is a good descender or ask around and find someone who isn’t. Do your best to stick safely behind them at a safe distance. You can manage it and pick up some new descending skills. 

Moving Forward

So when you’re thinking about your training and you hesitate at a hill, don’t turn around. Go straight up that hill. 

You’re going to do what your can with the gears on your bike. You’re going to work on your cadence. You’re going to work on your positioning. You’re going to find comfort inside the stress. 

Find that rhythm that works for you on the hill. And then finally enjoy the reward of the descent. Focus on those bike handling skills. Catch your breath as you zip up that jersey again. It’s time to get back to work and be ready for that next hill. Ride on!

The Virtual Phoenix Challenge is Live

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It only took a few minutes after we pushed go on the event website that the messages started coming in.

“No way I can make it in person, how can I participate?” “Will there be a Zwift version?”

After a few weeks of deliberation, we’re pleased to announce that yes, there will be a Virtual Phoenix Challenge Double Century ride!

No Excuses

Can’t make it? Not vaccinated? Afraid to ride outside in national parks?

You can throw those concerns away thanks to the new virtual phoenix option on Zwift. You don’t even have to take the bike off of trainer. You can login and start riding your century on the weekend of June 11th to 13th. Two centuries (100 miles) on back to back days will count!

Image from the OC Register

Step One: Are You Tough Enough?

Doing a century ride indoors isn’t for the faint of heart. Or the thin of bib short.

Now do another one on the very next day? You clearly have issues.

This can only mean one thing — you are part of our tribe.

https://www.bikereg.com/the-phoenix-challenge-skyline-double-century-ride

Step Two: Register Online

Visit the event on BikeReg here. From there you can select the virtual option and register. The cost is $50 for the event and includes some of our ride swag in addition to recognition in the Phoenix Hall of Fame.

We Ride We Rise on Strava

Step Three: Join our Strava Group

We are using a Strava group to track your participation. This goes for riders joining us in the real world as well as those participating virtually. By becoming part of our Strava group we will be able to see your data for the workouts. As a reminder, Strava does have a free option so you’re not required to pay anything to be a part of this process. Join the group here.

Step Four: Plan and Execute your Indoor Rides

volume distances indoors is no joke. And someways, it’s mentally tougher than being outside. You still need to fuel properly and take care of your body. As you prepare for your virtual Phoenix Double Century adventure, be sure to take your nutritional and physical needs into account.

Here are suitable courses on Zwift:

Hope you can join us!!

Adventures Are Better Than Ordinary Century Rides. Hands Down.

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Coming off the last year that was 2020, it’s time to enter return to cycling with a bang. Seriously.

After much planning, we have put together an epic two-day adventure that combines the challenging roads with beautiful scenery — the Phoenix Double Century Challenge (www.weridewerise.com).

Ride like a professional cyclist with your daily logistics 100% sorted. From organized stops to professional SAG to luggage service meeting you at the halfway point, your only job is to ride the bike and enjoy the incredible trip on Skyline Drive.

Mary’s Rock Tunnel, Skyline Drive

Two days and 200+ miles. One way has more than 10,000 feet of climbing — it’s tough, but it’s achievable. We will be riding on Skyline Drive, a National Park. The roads are well-maintained and quiet.

No grade is steeper than 6% and all of the turns a gradual and fun to cruise. There are three convenience stores along the route or you can shop as needed in addition to our professional support vehicle. We even have training advice for you. Or nutrition advice should you need that.

Take advantage of the overnight pitstop to recharge your batteries and test yourself on the return trip home.

We Recharge at Basic City Beer Co (Yes, they have food too!)

Join Team Endurance Nation and other adventurous cyclists for this great adventure.

We have organized a low-contact 99% outdoor adventure for those of you ready to get back to the open roads in 2021.

Full details are online here: www.weridewerise.com Registration is on Bike Reg.

Long Bike Rides – How to Build a Peak Cycling Mileage Week

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Whenever you are training for a big ride day — whether that’s a grand fondo, something like the Phoenix Double Century Challenge, or just your own adventure – there’s a block dedicated to peak miles. It’s part of your Long Ride Preparation.

This is the week, two weeks, or perhaps even three weeks (depending on your fitness and the ambitions you have for the big day) where you really add additional training time. These are your biggest mile weeks. 

Sometimes it’s just a weekend or a few days. Or maybe you are going big and making the whole week a volume focus. Whatever it is, hitting peak miles in your training is both an opportunity and a challenge.

The Mental Side

From a mental perspective, those peak weeks are designed to test your resolve. Being successful at these longer events requires you to knowingly enter a space where things are going to be tough. Where you understand that you’re going to be challenged. And not just your life choices, but also: route choices, pacing choices, friend choices, course choices, etc. 

Is this really a good decision?

Part of the reason we do these peak weeks / peak miles is to recalibrate you mentally for the challenge of the big day. As an Ironman triathlete, I know I have to ride 112 miles on race day.

So my peak weeks would have me doing double that mileage in terms of total training volume. And I would also go out and do a 130-mile ride or 150-mile ride once a season. This is part of that mental reset. If I can do 150 miles and be on my bike for eight hours, I can easily ride 112 miles.

The Self Assessment

After eight hours, five hours sounds positively reasonable! That’s a key part of these peak weeks. As you proceed through this peak block, do a quick self-assessment to see where you’re at and then keep a blog or keep a log and know, Hey, how am I struggling?

These notes are the counterpart to your ride data. Log them where you can refer to them. If you’re preparing for another long ride, it’s really helpful to be able to go back and look at your notes from the last one. What worked? What didn’t? You can now implement those changes.

The Physiological Challenge

On the flip side of that, we have that physiological challenge. While mental challenges can have you up and down, physiological challenges can derail the whole peak week and really sets you back if you aren’t careful. 

Think about handling the peak miles from a physiological perspective in three critical ways. 

Number One: Make it Achievable

We want it to be a stretch goal, but not like a stretch goal with a gap that we have to jump over. On our bike and pray that we make the other side. And if we don’t, we may be broken. That’s a bridge too far and not one that we want to cross so early in the season. 

If your average weekly mileage has been 150 miles, that stretch goal might be 250 miles. It’s just another a hundred miles. That’s one long day. It’s two medium-long days.

If you can modify your week, then you can add riding on top of the regular rides that you have. This could be just as easy as saying I’m going to ride in the morning, my normal ride. And then in the evening, I’m going to do a bonus 20 miles on the trainer or around the neighborhood to add that extra a hundred miles between Monday through Friday.

And in other cases it may be, I’m going to go out to some specific location and do a, a century ride or something similar on terrain that’s applicable to my event or whatever it may be, whatever it is, understanding that, that. Delta between where you are now and where do you want to be?

It has to be a step change, but a step that you can reach. So it’s challenging enough, but not over challenging.

Number Two: Pace Properly

We have to maximize the pacing long ride pacing, especially early season. Pacing should be biased towards a negative split. 

When I look at the ride files of athletes and the early season rides, they almost always want to hit the ride hard.

Peak 20 minutes or peak 30 minutes for heart rate? It’s almost always is located to the front the data file because we’re full of energy. We’re full of ambition. That first hill? We hit it. This is not the recipe for success in a peak week.

Rather we want all of these miles to be steady. And then the last portion, the last 20% last 25% — if you’re feeling good — can show a little bit of flash, a little bit of effort. That’s where we start to separate out from the baseline training and all the riding. And the beginning of the first 80% was just to set you up for that last 20% where we make the fitness.

That’s where the fitness happens. It happens at the end. So bias yourself through pacing towards a strong finish in these peak week miles, whether it’s individual rides or just all the rides across the block of the week. Super important. And then finally, The third part of this handling peak weeks is around recovery.

Number Three: Recovery Mode

When you’re in long ride peak week mode, recovery becomes critical. Not just recovery on a macro perspective, but on a post-ride perspective. We have to get it right, because during peak weeks, there’s not a lot of time between these critical sessions. 

If you’re doing four hours today and four hours tomorrow, and you started at 8:00 AM and you’re done at noon, you can start at 8:00 AM tomorrow. You’ve only got 20 hours left. And you’re going to sleep like seven or eight of those hours.

So you’ve only got 12 hours left to do stuff to get you ready for that next day. So the recovery piece is part nutritional. It’s part hydration, making sure you’re refueled afterwards. It’s self-care in terms of stretching or recovery boots or compression tights or whatever you use. It’s also part scheduling, making sure that the rest of your day is not full of work that’s going to exhaust you doing a long ride. So skip that four-hour yard work project!

Remember, don’t go too big with the peak weeks. Be smart. If you do it just right, you will peak at the right part of your training and be ready for the big day. 

Good luck and ride on.

Drinking on the Bike

Fix Your Bike Nutrition Plan in Three Simple Steps [Video]

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Today’s topic is nutrition for long rides for athletes across the spectrum. Riders from experienced to total beginners constantly make nutrition-related mistakes early in the season. And that’s usually because we don’t have the recent experience of doing the volume. 

The long bike rides you are doing, and the experience of those long rides, help us refine our nutrition strategy. 

Skipping Mistakes

So how do we jump ahead? How do we skip that process of having a couple of really bad, long rides to make sure that we’re alright? We start with a sweat test. You can do this in your own house on your trainer. Or you can ride outside as well.

Let’s assume you are doing a two-hour ride. So warm up for about half an hour. And then we’re going to ride an hour steady at your target pace. Your long ride pace. So say your target pace is 200 Watts. You’re going to warm up, and before you start the Sweat Test, you will hop off (strip on down), and get on a scale to weigh in.

Solving Hydration with a Sweat Test

We start with the fluid first, don’t start with the food. It’s easy to shop for food. It’s sexy; it’s colorful, it’s got all sorts of branding, things on it and, low sugar, high fat — whatever it is you want. But what we really want is to start with the fluid.

Weigh yourself. Totally bare you. Great. There you go. You are looking good. Hopefully private! Bonus if you have a scale like a Tanita that can estimate the % of fluid in your body.

In my case, I am 180 pounds. Then I go get on my bike, and I ride my hour a steady-state. I capture everything that goes into my body.

So whether it’s food or fuel on the hydration side, I capture all that I get at the end of the hour. I go back, and I weigh myself again to see the delta. How much did I lose in an hour at race pace? Note it.

Then I review the fluids — how much did I consume? If the scale indicates that I lost a pound of fluid in that hour of exercise, but I also consumed 16 ounces of fluid (which is a pound), then I have actually lost two pounds of fluid (32 oz) in that hour. 

Knowing this will help me to fix my intake schedule to ensure that I’ve got the right fluids and enough of them as well. And now I have a target. I got to take two bottles an hour to pretty much offset the cost of my goal effort.

Second Step: Knowing the Calories

So nail the fluid losses that you have in an hour at your target effort – power, heart rate or RPE. Then determine the fluids you are taking. Are you drinking just water, or are you using a sports drink / drink mix? 

If yes to sports drink, then we can do some calories math. When you drink two bottles of sports drink, per hour, according to your sweat test results, you can figure out exactly how many calories you are taking in. 

For example, a bottle of Gatorade endurance — my long-ride fuel of choice — has approximately 180 calories per 24 ounces. Across two bottles, I’m taking in 360 calories per hour from my sports drink of choice. 

Step Three: Mapping Fluid Calories to Caloric Needs

In terms of my burn rate, I can look at my data…how many calories do I burn per hour while riding at my race effort? Hypothetically speaking, let’s say that I need to take in 390 calories per hour at my rate for my body and everything.

Since I am already taking in 360 calories from my fluid choice, I only need to solve for 30 more calories. That could be half a gel or part of chew. Easy! 

Step Four: Practice

There is nutrition that exists as a formula in a spreadsheet. Then there is nutrition as your body experiences it.

Executing a nutrition plan over the course of several long rides will help you synchronize those two realities. No plan is perfect until you have practiced it. This practice will give you a perspective on how, if necessary, you can adjust it when race day arrives. 

Why Fluid First?

We start with the fluid first. Even if we don’t have enough calories on the day, we’ll be much better off than if we were under-hydrated. If you are low on fluids but overfed, your body just won’t be able to function well.

If you fill your stomach with bars and blocks and gels and chews and not fluids you will be in trouble. Without enough fluid to operate, your body is basically sending a DANGER signal to your brain when you’re riding. And it says, “Hey, this is not good! Even though I have bars, I don’t want to eat them because I’m really thirsty and I need to drink.”

The Recap

So as you think ahead for your nutrition for these long rides, remember to start with your fluid first solve with a sweat test for your fluid losses. 

The fluids that you choose should include electrolytes. Use that fluid choice to determine, based on your hourly consumption rate, just how many calories you’re getting in.

And then you fill the gap on those remaining calories with foods of your choice to be successful. Don’t forget to always bring salt tabs with you just in case you need to help settle the stomach with a little too much fluid. And don’t be afraid when you stop at a convenience store and you’re in a dark place.

An Emergency Solution Example

Don’t be afraid to go outside your comfort zone and get some food from a store on your next ride. My go-to is a can of Coke and a Snickers bar. 

It has saved me on more than one long ride because I needed calories. 

I needed sugar. I needed caffeine. Problem(s) solved in a single pit stop.

Don’t be afraid to go outside the box if you have worked yourself into a corner. Convenience store snacks can save a long ride.

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