Margaret and Dick   


Atlanta to Austin - Training 2003

Margaret's training schedule was developed by her coach Andrew Johnston, who spent several years as a professional cyclist in the US and Europe.  You can learn about Andrew and his coaching services at

Training goals for 2002 included finishing three races with dignity.  Having learned that speed and strategy are not her strong points, Margaret's working on distance and endurance for 2003.

Training for ultradistance would be tough without Andrew and without the guidance of people who have been-there-done-that, the randonneurs.  See Audax Atlanta for details on the world of randonneur cycling in Georgia.  Their brevet rides are qualifying events for the grandmother of all ultradistance events, the Paris-Brest-Paris, which is held every four years (including 2003). 

Training goals for 2003 leading up to the Atlanta-Austin ride:
    March 15:  200km brevet (124 miles), Audax Atlanta
    April 12:  300km brevet (186 miles), Audax Atlanta
    May 3-4:  400km brevet (248 miles), Audax Atlanta
    May 24-25:  600km brevet (372 miles), Audax Atlanta
    June 21:  Ardechoise cyclosportive race, 216km (134 miles), France (humbling)
    June 28-29:  mountain brevet, French Alps
    October 16-23:  Atlanta to Austin

Off-season:  October 15 - December 31, 2002
During a cyclist's off-season, the main goal is to rekindle enthusiasm for the bicycle after a long year of training, while maintaining a reasonable level of fitness.  This is also the opportunity to develop greater athletic versatility.  Activities during this vacation from formal training include various activities at Urban Body Fitness (strength training, aerobics, yoga, jump-rope) , trying to gain some competence in mountain biking and inline skating, and an occasional dance class.  Total workout time during this phase is 6-8 hours per week.  Another task is to (groan) finally shed the weight that built up during summer vacation.  Although off-season is the easiest time to gain weight, it can also be the easiest time to lose weight since nutritional demands are lower than in full training mode. 

I started the New Year with a groan and a grade of F- on off-season weight loss.  I begged another few days off and started training on January 6.  I certainly do better when working with a coach than when left to my own design and scheduling.   

January was strength-training phase in the gym and beginning to build volume on the bike, both inside (early-morning structured workouts on the trainer) and outside.  Strength training and cycling don't mix - legs feel like lead following heavy gym sessions - so this phase is best placed before the cycling season.  Total training time during this phase was 12+ hours per week.
In the gym the major focus was to build the quadriceps, the driving force in cycling.  My assigned task was to reach 3 x body weight on the 45-degree leg press; my personal goal is to exceed last year's peak of 500 lbs and make grown men cry.  Strength training phase involves multiple sets of low repetitions.
Structured workouts on the trainer reprogrammed muscles to improve pedaling form and efficiency.
Outside on the bike it's all about time in the saddle.
Results:  Great results from gym work, reaching 520 lbs before knees started to complain.  Rides increased gradually to five hours, and body parts readjusted to long rides.  

February began endurance training.
In the gym emphasis was on high repetitions (40-60) at weights that were around half of those in strength-training phase.   Muscles start screaming at 20 reps as lactic acid builds up.  The object of the exercise is to help the mind push through this process and help the body learn to flush out the lactic acid.
Outside rides are getting longer.  Vacation will allow for some looooong days.  
Nutrition starts to be an important consideration as daily calorie expenditure rises.  Typical daily burn during the six-day ride to Austin will reach 7,000 calories or more, and nutritional strategy needs to be finely tuned.  Carb up!  See more info on the Food! page.

March arrived and hours increased.  A typical weekly training schedule included 16+ hours of cycling and 2 hours of gym.  Fine for March vacation, but this will be an ongoing thing! 
Mood, aside from the occasional "Do I even like this sport?" when riding in rain and cold and howling gale, was generally upbeat.  I was in cycling heaven, the Corbieres mountains in the Aude departement of
France, exploring all my old favorite rides and some new ones.
ides included some structured workouts (intervals, high cadence work, sprints) but mostly increasing time in the saddle at heart rates that are sustainable for long periods.  Early March included several consecutive days at 4+ hours per day, then the first century (100-mile) ride of the year reaching diagonally across the Corbieres mountains.  
Food, glorious food, fresh and beautiful from the outdoor markets of rural France.  And lots of it.  See more info on the Food! page. 
The 200-km brevet was an, ahem, educational, character-building event.  The first two hours involved serious rain and a lot of soul-searching.  Luckily I fell into the company of veloman Mike, whose recommendation ("One word:  Fenders!") will keep shorts much drier in the future.  With 123 miles and 8,000 ft of climbing north Georgia's rolling hills, it was a tough ride.

April had me morphing into a different person. 
The 300-km brevet was a terrific ride, 197 miles of beautiful gently rolling hills in just over 15 hours, starting and ending in the dark.  After riding mostly solo for the first 97 miles, I fell into the company of chef Scott who made the rest of the miles disappear.  His navigation skills were much appreciated after my brain turned to mush at mile 170.  Treat yourself to a great meal at Food 101 - and check out the legs in the kitchen!  
Mood was very up, with more than a little assistance from endorphins.  
Appetite...don't even ask.  How can anybody burn 10,000 calories on a ride and not lose weight?

May, yikes. 
The 400-km brevet was epic.  260 miles of North Georgia mountains with 16,000 ft of climbing:  two long climbs (my favorite) and the rest rolling hills (not my favorite).  16,000 calories burned. Veloman Mike and I finished strong in 24.5 hours, well under the 27-hour limit for this brevet.  Riding nonstop through a moonless night was a mystical and magical experience, and I'm definitely a stronger and more confident cyclist for having done it.  Wanting to do it night after night takes a particular kind of person, however, and I'm not that person.  The Paris-Brest-Paris randonneur event (1200 km --750 miles -- in 90 hours) is not for me.
Ten days after the 400-km brevet, my legs were no longer leaden and I was getting pumped for the next task...
The 600-km brevet was a turning point.  398 miles over a very tough course, and most of the last 200 without Veloman Mike.   With so many reasons to quit, I made a game out of listing them:  hash for brains, mush for muscles, being chased by dogs all night, rednecks at 3am, getting back on the bike after two hours' sleep, lost again and again (hash-for-brains effect), rain rain rain, the Chatsworth flasher.  Only one reason to keep going:  to learn how to push through all those walls and become a finisher.  And so I finished, at 38.5 hours, still well within the 40-hour limit.   

June, climbing.
The col de Pailheres is our killer climb in the Aude, and it's a rite of passage for local cyclists.  I've finally climbed it, in

July, and it's hot in Georgia!
Weekdays had me pedaling in air-conditioned comfort watching the Tour de France.  Very motivating. 
In the gym we returned to strength phase to rebuild some of the muscle that atrophied during endurance phase.  This means legs will be like sludge when I head into the mountains next month.  The Tourmalet ought to offer enough resistance to qualify as strength training, I reckon.  

August...did I say Georgia was hot?
France's record temperatures made Atlanta seem balmy.  Training hours were long, with the best biking being done either before

September was all about miles.

October:  showtime! 
Here are training numbers for the year leading up to the ride to
    533 hours 
    6,758 miles
    336,000 calories burned (at 630 cal/hr average)
I am really ready to get on with this.

Food! 2003