How to Slay a Monster Ride

You can train your body, but what about your mind?

Editor's Note:  We'd like to introduce guest blogger Dave Anolik.  Dave's an ultra-endurance masters athlete that has been using VeloPro to train .  He's been absolutely absolutely killing big rides like the Oregon Gran Fondo, the Colorado Triple Bypass, and the Swift Summit NW 200.


Full disclosure: when I signed up in December of 2017 for a 200+ mile ultra cycling event that was going to take place in early August of 2018, I never really imagined that I’d actually ride that whole distance when the day arrived. I’ll admit that just the number alone intimidated me. How the heck am I going to keep my sanity on a saddle for 200 miles in one day? Besides losing my mind, will my body hold up? Can I sustain a pace that’ll get me home in a reasonable amount of time? I needed a strategy - some mind-hack that will trick me into believing I could do this.

The challenge, an event called the Swift Summit 200 in central Oregon, measured out to a total of 207 miles and 8500 feet of climbing. I wanted to complete the route in 13 hours which would take me through the last gate before dark. There were seven control-points/aids stations including the finish line, and rather than break it out by total miles ridden (I’m at mile 150! No way can I pedal another 60!) I chose to look at the distances between the checkpoints and think about them as individual rides throughout the day.

Here’s how I broke the ride down into manageable chunks:

5am Start, August 11, 2018 Swift Summit 200

Checkpoint #1, Mile 47, Warmup, don’t burn too many matches up, only got one book

Checkpoint #2, 35 miles from Checkpoint #1, Hit it hard, burn a few matches 

Checkpoint #3, 28 miles from Checkpoint #2, Rest (High cadence, no mashing, lower heart rate with breath work) 

Checkpoint #4, 46 miles from Checkpoint #3, Hit it (this is the longest segment in the ride, full of gravel, get it done as fast as possible) 

Checkpoint #5, 19 miles from Checkpoint #4, Rest (see checkpoint #3 above) 

Checkpoint #6, 12 miles from Checkpoint #5, Hit it! You’re almost home! 

Checkpoint #7, 20 miles to finish! Hit it!! Big Finish!

With this plan, I successfully broke this monster ride down into a bunch of little rides that I knew I could do because I’d done a lot of those smaller rides all summer. A 47-mile ride? I’ve done that before breakfast. A 19-mile ride? Please. I’ve ridden that far by accident after a wrong turn on a gravel road.

Whether you call it self-delusion or a ride strategy, having a plan of attack for your big ride will greatly improve your odds of finishing by continuously reminding you that there’s another rest stop just down the road. Of course, a solid ride strategy is just one component of prepping for an ultra-distance ride. If you’re looking to really up your distance game on the saddle, stay tuned for more on the subject.  I'll cover that in another upcoming blog.

Epilogue:  How did my plan work?

Not too bad! I finished 23rd, which was pretty much mid-pack. I came in a full two hours later than I had tried for - 15 hours grand total, rather than 13. 14 hours on the bike, 1 hour of cafe time. Though there were some things out of my control that slowed me down - an early-morning high-speed front tire blow-out (yikes!), a bee sting and a spill on one of the gravel segments. Next year I’ll improve my time by upping my average speed overall, from 14.7mph to at least 16mph. How will I train for a year to up my average speed on a 200 miler?, I’m clipping in.