Will I be able to manage my first sportive?

by othello   July 7, 2011  

I'm taking part in my first ever sportive in about 10 days time, and to be honest I'm having a MASSIVE crisis of confidence. Will I be able to make it around?

I'm tackling the short route on the Anthony Maynard sportive, which at 105km and plenty of climbing is perhaps not the gentlest of beginnings. But I wanted to support them and as it starts near where I live I thought it would be a good introduction to sportive events.

I have been training for it, but not as much as I would like (isn't that the same for everyone!). Having small children and running my own business has meant I've not been able to match the training programme I set myself.

The BIG concern is I haven't done that distance, or length of time riding before. My training so far has been:

* A 30-35 mile ride at the weekends, averaging about 16mph
* A turbo session during the week (using sufferfest videos)
* A 20 mile ride in the evening during the week (again averaging about 16mph). Sometimes I do hill reps other times just a nice ride to clear the head and legs

But I haven't gone anywhere near 60 odd miles on a ride, so it is going to be a big step into the unknown. Should I just go for it, or am I mad attempting it?

25 user comments

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Personally, I think I'd have pushed my distance up a bit more before hand, but as it's your first sportive, I think you'll appreciate the sense of occasion that comes with riding a distance you've never attempted before. Also, if you're doing 30-35milers often enough, the push up to 60 on the day won't kill you, especially as you've been doing hills.

I think what can really get people is when they train for the distance but avoid hills.

I can offer a couple of tips:

  1. Do a 30miler a couple of nights before the ride.
  2. Get your fueling right beforehand and during
  3. Go off steady. It's your first sportive. Set a time that you can beat in your next one.
  4. Try and get in a group with a similar paced rider. This has always just worked itself out for me. It's easy to find people on the same pace as you and then you've got someone to chat to.
  5. Make use of the feed stations but don't eat anything you wouldn't normally eat. I made the mistake of trying a cheese and onion wrap at a feed station once that repeated on me for the rest of the ride. Should have just had a banana.
  6. Enjoy it. It's not a training ride and you've paid to be there. Push yourself but only in the knowledge of the sense of achievement you'll have in the end.

posted by spicypedro [89 posts]
7th July 2011 - 11:10

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Actually, if you've got time, try and do a 50 miler in the next day or so, then a 30 in between that and the sportive.

posted by spicypedro [89 posts]
7th July 2011 - 11:11

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Thanks spicypedro. Totally agree that I should have upped the distance and it was my plan. But life pressures have made it hard to take out the time required to do 50 miles. Getting out for 2hrs has been manageable but 3+ has proved impossible. I keep getting thwarted every time I try!

Thanks for the tip about the 30miler a few days before. i was wondering what to do next week. Ease right off or try and ride a bit. I'll stick a 30miler in on Wednesday/Thursday.

I've purposely not ridden flat routes over the past 2-3 months as I know I have lots of climbing. So my 30 milers have been lumpy (or as lumpy as they get around here). A mix of 5% drags and 12%+ short sharp ones. I did a flat 20 miler this week for a change of scenery and my average speed went up by 1.5mph, so the power is there. But I'm a big guy so I have to haul my arse up the hills!

A case of nerves really at this stage combined with a feeling of being a little under-prepared Plain Face

posted by othello [279 posts]
7th July 2011 - 11:26

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Don't sweat, you'll be fine - you can *always* get round (it might not be funny or pretty but you can *always* get round).

My first sportive was the Forest of Dean Spring classic taken on with less than 2 months preparation during which time I had not one clue on how to actually get fit. I got a turbo trainer 3 weeks beforehand and thought that it would be fine.

It was painful and horrible for my riding mate (who took a bunch of abuse for being so ****** chipper) but *I got round*.

As will you.

posted by dlp [51 posts]
7th July 2011 - 11:34

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Oh yeah and good advice from Spicypedro: go with what you know food-wise, if necessary taking all your own gels etc. Get a good (c.50 mile) ride in this weekend (or before if possible) and then a shorter one 2 or 3 days beforehand and then do nothing other than VERY light spins and eat pasta until the big day Smile

Good luck, but seriously you'll be fine.

posted by dlp [51 posts]
7th July 2011 - 11:36

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dlp wrote:
My first sportive was the Forest of Dean Spring classic taken on with less than 2 months preparation during which time I had not one clue on how to actually get fit. I got a turbo trainer 3 weeks beforehand and thought that it would be fine.

It was painful and horrible for my riding mate (who took a bunch of abuse for being so ****** chipper) but *I got round*.

As will you.

FoD is a killer, no?

If you can do 35 miles at 16mph, othello, you can get round a 60-miler. bear in mind that 105km is over 65 miles though, best that it's not a shock on the day Smile

you probably won't do it at 16mph, it's a tough course. But you'll get round. Pack more food than you think you'll need. And more gears Big Grin

Go out easy, don't chase anyone from the off. Find someone who's riding a bit slower than you think you need to, hook up with them. Overtaking people at the start is a lot less satisfying than overtaking them at the end...

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posted by Dave Atkinson [7311 posts]
7th July 2011 - 12:05

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Thanks dlp. My aim for my first sportive many months ago was to get around and enjoy it. I wanted to be at a basic enough level of fitness that I would be tired at the end but have enjoyed it. Not struggling and hating it.

But I can't change my training now and I just need to MTFU and get on with it Big Grin

posted by othello [279 posts]
7th July 2011 - 12:07

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dave_atkinson wrote:

FoD is a killer, no?

Yes, yes it is. Especially if you aren't fit and it's your first ride of any real length. Particularly demoralising is the way they number the climbs - there're a lot of lumps which aren't classified but you don't realise this until a fair way in!

dave_atkinson wrote:

If you can do 35 miles at 16mph, othello, you can get round a 60-miler

Good shout #1

dave_atkinson wrote:

Pack more food than you think you'll need.

Good shout #2

dave_atkinson wrote:

Go out easy, don't chase anyone from the off. Find someone who's riding a bit slower than you think you need to, hook up with them.

Good shout #3 This is a *lot* harder than it sounds but I used it to great effect in the 2010 Dragon ride.

posted by dlp [51 posts]
7th July 2011 - 12:20

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Quote:
Will I be able to make it around?

Yep.

Eat and drink well beforehand, little & often during the ride. IIRC reviews say the Maynard has great (real) food, see http://road.cc/20612

Pace yourself. Don't go off like a scalded cat. Sit in the wheels if you find a group to ride with.

I find this quote is coming back to me regularly, I hope it helps:

"You are better than you think you are, and you can do more than you think you can."

By Ken Chlouber, founder of the Leadville 100 MTB race.

For anyone else reading, the event is on the 17th of July and entries close this Sunday (10th): http://www.readingcyclingclub.com/anthonymaynardsportive/

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posted by Simon E [1940 posts]
7th July 2011 - 13:56

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We had a couple of guys join us this year as they had Sportives coming up.
One I took out three months back hadn't done much more than 15/18 miles. Some rides later and a little input on his riding, plus correcting his awfully positioned cleats he completed a hilly 57 mile sportive (ride to the Horns)

The other one new to riding, though very fit just did the London - Paris 24 hour and rode the lot.

posted by oldgit [27 posts]
7th July 2011 - 13:59

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I took a friend out on a 110km audaux this year who'd only ever done 40km before, and he was fine: suffered a bit in the middle but was strong again by the end...

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posted by Dave Atkinson [7311 posts]
7th July 2011 - 14:07

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Talking of novice riders, one of my colleagues, a 6' rugby lad and built to suit, rode JOGLE (route) in sometimes atrocious weather with his mates after buying a bike and just a handful of training rides. They picked the wettest, windiest week in May to do it, and were going the 'wrong' way, yet they managed it in 10 days!

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posted by Simon E [1940 posts]
7th July 2011 - 14:52

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You'll be absolutely fine.

I have a rule of thumb that in a single ride anyone can do 50% more than what they do cumulatively in a week - assuming they have been doing it regularly.

So if you are riding 50 lumpy miles a week you can do a single 60 mile ride.

As said above though it will be getting around, rather than hanging with the big dogs.

Food is more individual so you have to go with what you know. Personally I like to have small but frequent snacks, so for example wrap four or five little bite size pieces of flapjack or peanut-butter-and-jam sandwich and have one each 45-60 mins.

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posted by abudhabiChris [515 posts]
7th July 2011 - 15:18

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Was going to reply to your question; but I note that Dave_Atkinson has already said what I was going to say! Good advice, follow it and you will be fine! Enjoy

posted by SideBurn [785 posts]
7th July 2011 - 20:58

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Had the same worries as you, on fathers day i competed in my first 75 miler - was basically doing the same trainning as you (2 or 3 30 milers a week)
managed it fine (with similar advice from most of the lads above)
heed all the advice posted above + two other tips i was given (if you wish) take fluids onboard every 5 miles and make sure its the right type (i was told any that end in 'ADE' eg POWERADE - they contain the right nutrients to replace lost body salts
Most of all ENJOY!!!!

posted by Adey [98 posts]
7th July 2011 - 21:02

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Thanks everyone for the tips and encouragement. I really appreciate it! Smile

posted by othello [279 posts]
7th July 2011 - 22:34

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Adey wrote:
take fluids onboard every 5 miles

I wouldnt take fluids based on distance, better to do it on time. If its hilly 5 miles could theoretically take an hour, 15 minutes will always be 15minutes.

And remember there will be food stops, so use to get a deserved breather and just take it easy, anyway going round with a group of riders will give you such an energy boost. Best of luck.

posted by viveLaPants [90 posts]
7th July 2011 - 23:21

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Well, I did it! Big Grin

It was bloody hard, but had a really good time. I did it in a bronze time too, which I was surprised about! 5hrs 3mins, which included a puncture 100yds from the finish, so I decided to run to the line(!) and I missed a turn and did an extra 4 miles.

I did far more climbing on the ride than I have done before, but it actually wasn't that bad. Totally down to hooking up with people on the climbs though. On Boxford hills and Red Shute hill I grabbed the back of a 2 man group and focused on their wheels all the way up. If I had been climbing that solo I would have struggled and perhaps given up. Shows the mental strength needed, not just physical.

Getting my first sportive out of the way has been really important. I know I can do that distance and roughly the speed, and will be tackling more in the future.

http://app.strava.com/rides/955534

posted by othello [279 posts]
18th July 2011 - 9:20

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Good work! The long one next year then Smile

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posted by Dave Atkinson [7311 posts]
18th July 2011 - 13:19

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or maybe the Exmoor Beast in Oct? its fun, honest. Big Grin

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posted by Fringe [1081 posts]
18th July 2011 - 13:36

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You doing it fringe? i might... Thinking

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posted by Dave Atkinson [7311 posts]
18th July 2011 - 14:00

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i reckon i will.. just gotta check the calendar etc etc, but thats most prob. a 'yes'.

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posted by Fringe [1081 posts]
18th July 2011 - 14:41

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dave_atkinson wrote:
You doing it fringe? i might... Thinking

money down, names on the list..better get some hills in eh!

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posted by Fringe [1081 posts]
27th July 2011 - 14:39

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No one will respond to this now I don't suppose. But I've been having a few nagging doubts. I'm 60 I ride about 100 miles a week. My long weekend rides are between 50 and 60 miles around the rolling rlandscape of Bedfordshire, Bucks, Cambs and Northants.

I've signed up to do the standard distance of The Dorking original next weekend. The 76 mile distance will be the longest I've ridden sinc my twenties though not much more than my average weekend ride. The distance isn't my concern its those Surrey lumps. Lethal Leith and White down that are giving me loose bowels. Box is tame compared to those.

Anyway. I've got a lot from this thread. Thanks. I hope I find a friendly group of old farts to ride with.

"I thought of that whilst riding my Bicycle" Einstein on the theory of relativity

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posted by ribbledibble [10 posts]
7th October 2012 - 22:05

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I reckon you will be fine ribbledibble. As you say distance won't be an issue. A ride like yours, with lumpy climbs, all comes down to recovery. Getting up the first one, then recovering enough in-between to get the next one (and repeat). Doing the miles you've been doing your body will be geared up enough to recover.

posted by othello [279 posts]
7th October 2012 - 22:45

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