How did you train for Cycle Greater Yellowstone?

When Bugman and I signed up for our first Cycle Greater Yellowstone, I was really freaked out about the distance and hills. I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to do it.

I asked for training advice, and I heard, “Ride as much as possible. Get in long rides. Ride on consecutive days. Just ride.”

To me, that wasn’t specific enough advice, but it seemed to work. We survived year 1. (Granted, we missed the two biggest climbs of the ride because of a bike breakdown and a forest fire, but we DID do the century ride that year.) We also managed to squeak by on year 2, but we did not have fun on that Teton Pass climb.

I’ve had someone else ask me recently, “How did you train for this?”

In the interest of providing some numerical means of comparison for others wanting to know, I went back and looked up all the tandem rides (and some running) that we did in preparation for both year 1 and year 2 of CGY. I was surprised. It *felt* like we rode more than we actually did.

I present below, the “Wyobraska Tandem 19-or-20-week ‘non-program’ of CGY training,” with some important caveats:

  • I am not a trainer. I don’t recommend that you follow this program. It’s just a record of what I did, by way of comparison.
  • I would definitely have gotten in more mileage and climbing if possible. It would have made those high/long days on CGY more bearable. But, Bugman and I are busy people. And weather happens. And illness. And excuses, excuses.
  • The totals below do not include my cycling to work, which could range from 0 to 30-40 miles per week. Only on-the-tandem bike training is included below.
  • Numbers were based on my perhaps-not-so-reliable phone app. Miles is miles traveled. Feet is the total climb.
  • Sometimes where it looks like I did no training one week and a lot of training the following week, it’s just because I was riding on weekends, and if one weekend I rode Saturday and the next weekend rode Sunday, it could throw off the weekly totals.
  • I was also training for a marathon during my year 1 CGY training. I got significant cardio work from that, so I included my running totals for that year. No running in year 2 due to my stupid ankle.
  • In each training season, I aimed for at least one century or near-century ride, and one weekend with two back-to-back long ride days before CGY.
  • I’ll probably come up with some more caveats. Just give me time.

So, for the number-needy among you, here are my CGY training totals, with breakdowns by week:

Year 1 Total training: 758 miles, 24,151 feet, plus 378 miles of running

Year 2 Total training:  831 miles, 33,246 feet

Year 1

Running in March:  47 miles

Running in April:  69 miles

Running in May:  66 miles

Running in June:  64 miles

Running in July:  77 miles

Running in August:  55 miles

Week 1:  47 miles, 1530 feet

Week 2:  30 miles, 1259 feet

Week 3:  0

Week 4:  0

Week 5:  54 miles, 1496 feet

Week 6:  0

Week 7:  0

Week 8:  39 miles, 1168 feet

Week 9:  53 miles, 1231 feet

Week 10:  30 miles, 1259 feet

Week 11:  120 miles, 3545 feet

Week 12:  0

Week 13:  69 miles, 2146 feet

Week 14:  68 miles, 3116 feet

Week 15:  30 miles, 1192 feet

Week 16:  0

Week 17:  50 miles, 1142 feet

Week 18:  94 miles, 2799 feet

Week 19:  74 miles, 2268 feet

Week 20:  0

Week 21: CGY

Year 2

Week 1: 38 miles, 1127 feet

Week 2:  0

Week 3:  41 miles, 1250 feet

Week 3:  82 miles, 2691 feet

Week 4:  55 miles, 1488 feet

Week 5:  30 miles, 1227 feet

Week 6:  0

Week 7:  0

Week 8:  39 miles, 1794 feet

Week 9:  120 miles, 5543 feet

Week 10:  0

Week 11:  73 miles, 1995 feet

Week 12:  35 miles, 2162 feet

Week 13:  0

Week 14:  0

Week 15:  0

Week 15: 100 miles, 5500 feet

Week 16:  0

Week 17:  62 miles, 3085 feet

Week 18:  156 miles, 5384 feet

Week 19:  0

Week 20:  CGY

And, for the record, Beartooth on the 2015 CGY route scares me.

Good motivation to train harder!

Copyright 2015 by Katie Bradshaw

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Two-hill day

With lots to get done around the house today, Bugman and I left the house on our tandem at 7:15 a.m. for a short ride (35 miles) , with hills.

First, we headed to Scotts Bluff National Monument. When the park is open, bikes are not allowed on Summit Road, but before opening and after closing (9 a.m. and 6 p.m., respectively, at the moment), the Bluff is the best, most scenic hill training ride in the area.

Yep - we're going to rude up THAT. I'm glad the CCC built a road to the top back in the 30s. No way something like that would be permitted today.

Yep – we’re going to ride up THAT. I’m glad the CCC built a road to the top back in the 30s. No way something like that would be permitted today.

The section of road up to the first tunnel is the steepest. By the time we got up there, I felt like my lungs were going to explode.

The section of road up to the first tunnel is the steepest. By the time we got up there, I felt like my lungs were going to explode.

You can see part of the visitors center parking lot near the middle left of the picture.

You can see part of the visitors center parking lot near the middle left of the picture. The thin ribbon of road is what we just rode on.

Here comes another tunnel.

Here comes another tunnel.

And around a bend cut into the rock.

And around a bend cut into the rock. At this point, my stomach was unhappy, and I was glad I hadn’t eaten much for breakfast.

I love the rock formation in the distance at the right side of the image. It looks to me like a woman with a book in her hands looking out over the land.

I love the rock formation in the distance at the right side of the image. It looks to me like a woman with a book in her hands looking out over the land.

A view up the North Platte River Valley.

A view up the North Platte River Valley.

Almost to the top!

Almost to the top!

I didn't get photos save this one of a prickly pear, but there is a new flush of flowers blooming. At minimum I saw: prickly poppy, showy milkweed, yucca, spiderwort, plains sunflower, and stemless hymenoxis.

I didn’t get photos save this one of a prickly pear, but there is a new flush of flowers blooming. At minimum I saw: prickly poppy, showy milkweed, yucca, spiderwort, plains sunflower, and stemless hymenoxis.

There are paved hiking trails at the top of the monument.

There are paved hiking trails at the top of the monument.

Keep an eye out for rocks on the road - especially after a hard rain. The sign indicates no pedestrians or bicycles, but you can walk and bike the road when it is closed to cars.

Keep an eye out for rocks on the road – especially after a hard rain. The sign indicates no pedestrians or bicycles, but you can walk and bike the road when it is closed to cars.

Make sure you have good brakes on your bike before attempting the descent, though. You will use them! With the curves and potential for rocks (and rattlesnakes!) on the road, it's dangerous to go too fast. More than one cyclist has flown ass over teakettle on this road. Bugman road the brakes, and we kept under the 20 mph speed limit on the way down, except for a short stretch at the end where we got up to 24 mph.

Make sure you have good brakes on your bike before attempting the descent, though. You will use them! With the curves and potential for rocks (and rattlesnakes!) on the road, it’s dangerous to go too fast. More than one cyclist has flown ass over teakettle on this road. Bugman rode the brakes, and we kept under the 20 mph speed limit on the way down, except for a short stretch at the end where we got up to 24 mph.

End of Summit Road at the Visitors Center.

End of Summit Road at the Visitors Center.

After this leg-quaking ride, we continued south on Highway 71 and climbed the Wildcat Hills. Thus, the two-hill day.

Here's our elevation profile for today's ride. The hills are about the same height, but Scotts Bluff, on the left, has steeper sides.

Here’s our elevation profile for today’s ride. The hills are about the same height (4,592 and 4,610 feet, per our GPS) , but Scotts Bluff, on the left, has steeper sides.

One final image from today’s ride: a hawk sitting on a bent-down bare branch of a small tree, likely waiting for mice to come running out of some tall grass that was being mowed nearby.

hawk in small treeCopyright 2014 by Katie Bradshaw

My legs are TIRED

For the last several weeks, Bugman and I have pushed increasingly farther south into Banner County on our tandem training rides. There are some decent hills on Highway 71, and we’re working to prepare ourselves for our upcoming Cycle Greater Yellowstone ride. We need to be able to do 76 miles with 4,293 feet of climb on day one, followed by six more days of riding.

Today, we did 67 miles with 3,074 feet of climb. (That’s 107 kilometers, 937 meters.)

My legs are TIRED!!!

The destination on today’s ride was BeeHaven Farm and Roadside Market, which is owned by a couple of lovely people – Jennifer and Rick Rutherford. Their dog, Loki, enthusiastically greeted us and would really have liked to have shared our snack of beef jerky. Sorry, buddy.

lokiOne more photo from today’s ride before I go pass out for the evening: two pronghorn antelope does in a young cornfield (the beige blobs in the center of the green).

pronghorn in cornfield

Juneathon Day 7 is done. Zzzzzzz . . . .

Copyright 2014 by Katie Bradshaw

Work-day running

It’s so hard for me to get work-day running right. It takes so much planning. It also sucks up my evening.

Need to time my eating just right so I am neither deliriously hungry (have to schedule in a snack before the run) nor full (can’t have dinner before running). Can’t run too late in the evening (I’d have trouble getting to sleep afterwards) or too early (I work).

Today, I got home from work, had a bowl of cold cereal for a snack, and went for my walk-run. Warmup before. Stretch afterwards.

So here I am, standing over my computer at the kitchen counter, eating cold baked beans with tortilla chips for dinner.

Mmmm yummy

Not real pretty, but it tastes OK.

I can have a home-cooked meal, or go for a run. I can’t manage both.

I now have just enough time to shower before it’s time to go to bed.

This running thing? Training? It’s hard. And I don’t have kids to take care of. I’m not training for Ironman or anything. I’m just trying to hack my lifestyle.

It’s hard.

Anyone who says differently is selling something.

Copyright 2014 by Katie Bradshaw

My solution to sore sitbones

My last couple of long rides had left me worried. My sitbones just ACHED with discomfort, starting only about 10 miles in. The pain generally intensified just after I would stand up, leaving me desperately wanting to get off the bike seat, but dreading it, too.

What was going on? I managed to ride nearly 400 miles in a week last year, and I didn’t remember it hurting this bad. Did my pain threshold suddenly drop?

Bugman and I biked nearly 40 miles yesterday (1,794 feet of climb), and the ache in my bum was quite minor – very tolerable.

What was the difference?

I’d been biking to work for a couple of weeks now, thanks to Bike to Work Week kicking me into gear.

I must just need to be on that bike seat more than once a week to develop a tolerance. (I wonder what physiological mechanism leads to the reduced soreness over repeated exposures to the bike seat – anyone know?)

I’ll chalk it up to “realizations of a still-newbie.”

On another note, the ride report: IT WAS FANTASTIC RIDING WITHOUT WIND!!!!

It’s amazing how much faster you can go when you’re not bucking a 15-30 mph headwind!

We hit a brief but fairly heavy shower, too – enough to make my feet squish in my bike shoes. When we paused for a break, I wrung out my socks. Good move, as the Swiftwick socks I was wearing seemed to pull a lot of the remaining moisture up out of my shoes. (Love those socks!)

Photo taken at the intersection of highways 88 and 71 in Banner County. We set the camera down on the base of a light post. The grass is all in focus because it is not moving! No wind!!

Photo taken near the intersection of highways 88 and 71 in Banner County. We set the camera down on the base of a light post. The grass is all in focus because it was not moving! No wind!!

Copyright 2014 by Katie Bradshaw

The smoke-and-bird ride

I forgot to take a picture of Bugman and me wearing our matching Cycle Greater Yellowstone jerseys on our tandem ride today.

“At least you have bird pictures,” Bugman said.

Yes. And smoke pictures.

Going in chronological order, the smoke first:

As we crested the hill south of Morrill on Highway 92, we caught sight of a plume of smoke sent up by a grass fire.

“At least it’s on the south side of the road,” I said.

smoky descent

Then the wind shifted, and the smoke obscured the road.

wind changed

Bugman did not want to ride through that, so he pulled over until the wind changed again. Even then, it was pretty choke-smoky to bike past, and we could feel the heat from the flames. Nota bene: a grass fire may not seem as scary as a forest fire, but it can kill you right quick if you get caught in it. The temperatures in a grass fire can range from 800 – 1000 degrees Celsius (1472 – 1832 degrees Fahrenheit). Because of the road serving as a fire break, there was not much danger to us, other than the traffic risk from obscured lines of sight.

grass fire

Now the birds.

We saw and heard plenty of red-winged blackbirds in roadside flocks and western meadowlarks perched on fences and power lines, but those birds are quite common and did not stir as much interest as the birds I managed to photograph in passing.

In a flooded pasture east of Holloway Road north of Lyman were several striking long-legged birds dipping their long beaks into the water. The word “avocet” floated up out of my brain. Looked them up later and – Ha! I was right! – they are American avocets.

It's not a great photo, but at least its markings are identifiable.

It’s not a great photo, but at least its markings are identifiable.

Other random notes from the ride:

We got honked at three times. Once by the driver of a westbound 64-plate car on Highway 92 that was apparently ticked off that they had to slow down behind us and wait for oncoming traffic to clear before they could pass us (le sigh). Once by the driver of a northbound pickup truck on Holloway Road towing a very wide piece of discing equipment (we pulled off the road so he could pass without discing us). And once somewhere eastbound on Highway 26 by a westbound driver of a white car who was clearly saying howdy (was it any of you?).

How interesting that on Highway 26 – where there is a 3-foot shoulder for us to ride on separated from the main lane of traffic by a rumble strip – that the vast majority of cars pulled over partially or completely into the other lane to pass us, while on Highway 92, where there is little to no shoulder and we have to ride in the lane, many of the drivers who passed us did not pull fully into the other lane.

On Highway 92, we even had a 21-plate Subaru that passed us with their driver-side tire on the center line because they couldn’t wait for oncoming traffic to clear before they passed us. We were on the road surface about a foot in from the fog line. That Subaru was very uncomfortably close, though they had at least slowed down. Bugman was a bit shaken up and asked me to warn him next time. I replied that the car had slowed down, so I thought they would stay back there.

Makes me want to hang a neon-orange flag off a 3-foot pole to the traffic side of the tandem so drivers get a sense of the minimum safe passage clearance we need.

I will acknowledge that, with few cyclists in the area, drivers may not know how to work safely around them. This article, reprinted from Law and Order magazine, has some really great information about traffic safety for bicycles and the importance of cyclists having maneuvering room (h/t i am traffic). Please read it and share it widely!

Other random notes.

It was pretty warm today. Hit 80 degrees. That’s sure warm enough to stop at the Morrill gas station for a slushee!

cool dude

By the end of our ride today, Bugman and I were pretty beat. And saddle sore. We are both a little stiff this evening. We sure have a lot of training to do before this year’s Cycle Greater Yellowstone!

Our ride today: 53 miles, 1,485 feet of climb

CGY day 1: 76 miles, 4,293 feet of climb
CGY day 2: 71 miles, 1,717 feet of climb
CGY day 3: 66 miles, 2,134 feet of climb
CGY day 4: 78 miles, 2,545 feet of climb
CGY day 5: 33 miles, 3,297 feet of climb
CGY day 6: 76 miles, 2,815 feet of climb
CGY day 7: 55 miles, 2,610 feet of climb

But I’m really excited to tackle CGY! The scenery around Yellowstone is so beautiful, and the ride is so well supported! I highly recommend checking it out, if you think you might be interested!

Copyright 2014 by Katie Bradshaw