Final training tips for a spectacular STP

If you’re training for the Kaiser Permanente Seattle to Portland (STP) bike ride, you know there are just three weeks until the big event. By now, you’re well into your cycling regimen. Still, newcomers may wonder what else you could do to prepare your body—and mind—for the ride. Here are seven tips to consider.

1.  A long ride, then taper

By the last weekend in June, riders planning to complete the STP in two days should log their last long ride. Cascade Bicycle Club suggests a 100-miler. From that point on, you should reduce the mileage you ride so you don’t over train. Here’s a link to Cascade’s suggested training schedule.

2.  Eat, drink, and be merry

Riding two centuries on back-to-back days takes a lot of energy. So make sure you’re well fed and hydrated. “A good formula to follow for your training diet is 55 to 70 percent carbohydrate, 10 to 35 percent protein, and 30 percent healthy fats,” says Laura Fralich, MD, musculoskeletal and sports medicine specialist and chief of Sports Medicine at Columbia Medical Associates, a subsidiary of Kaiser Permanente.

“Carbs maintain blood sugar and help with muscle recovery after exercise, and athletes need more protein than sedentary individuals,” says Fralich. For endurance athletes, the recommended amount of protein is roughly .05 ounces per pound of body weight. For example, a 150-pound person would eat about 3.5 ounces of protein per day.

One long-distance cycling veteran suggests carb-loading five days before the event: pasta, bread, fresh fruit, veggies, and low-fat yogurt. During your ride, eat small amounts of food often to aid digestion. Try eating something in 15-minute intervals and adjust. See which protein or energy bars actually give you energy.

Dr. Fralich recommends pre-hydrating two hours before a long ride by drinking 14 to 20 ounces of water. A rule of thumb from Cascade is to drink 20 ounces of fluid every hour you’re riding. Experiment with energy drinks to see which one works best for you. One way to tell if you’re well hydrated is if your urine is the color of pale lemonade.

As for the “be merry” part, remember this is a ride, not a race. Enjoy the scenery and the company of other riders as you peddle to Portland.

3.  Butter up

Help prevent chafing. Cascade suggests using Blue Steel anti-chafe creme (available on course at all major rest stops) to reduce friction in the groin area, and not to wear underwear. Also, test all equipment and gear first. Wear comfortable — but not new — clothes.

4.  Know your pace

Part of enjoying the ride is to cycle at a comfortable pace. Weather conditions and your fitness level will dictate what speed will work best. Here’s a guide taken from a Cascade seminar:

  • For a comfortable two-day ride, plan on eight hours a day at 14–16 miles per hour (mph).
  • For a brisk one-day affair, look to pedal 12–16 hours at 15–18 mph.
  • For a lightning quick effort, seek to cycle for 9–12 hours at 20–22 mph.

5.  Avoid aches and pains

Staying in the saddle and bent over handlebars for hours on end is bound to cause some discomfort along the way. Here are some suggestions to combat stiffness and soreness while riding:

  • Occasionally roll your shoulders back and forth; tilt your head from side to side. Look up with your eyes instead of craning your neck.
  • Straighten one leg at a time, dropping the heel below the pedal. Hold for 30 seconds. Stretch during bathroom breaks.

6.  Recognize if you’re overtraining

Training is good; overtraining is not. If these telltale signs arise, back off your regimen for a few days.

  • You’re tired but can’t sleep or you can’t get enough sleep.
  • You’re irritable or moody, sore for days at a time, or have heavy legs.
  • You get sick frequently or can’t seem to recover.

7.  Check your checklist

No doubt you’ll know to bring your bike and gear, including bib number, pump, and tire kit. Pack for the weather. Don’t forget sunscreen and lip block even if it will be cloudy. It’d be a shame to train for the ride and be done in by sunburn. Don’t forget food, drink, and overnight necessities, especially ibuprofen or appropriate pain reliever. Bring cash for the ride. Perhaps most importantly, don’t forget to enjoy yourself!