Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Short, Medium, Long

I managed to find time for a "medium" length ride a couple of weekends ago. There is not much to report since it was some of my usual roads (up Old La Honda, down Kings Mountain). I often use the terms "short", "medium", and "long" to describe my rides, but perhaps I should elaborate on what those vague terms mean.

On the face of it, those terms actually mean nothing. What is short for me, may be long for someone else, or vice vera. I use these terms as a quick shorthand to describe the effort involved, so I need to give more precise definitions to make them useful.

Short: 1.5 to 3 hours, 20 to 30 miles

I do not do many training rides under 1 and a half hours. Anything less is not much of a workout and so not that enjoyable to me. For a ride of this length, I need to do minimal planning. I can usually just head out the door after deciding to ride.

Even if the route is hilly, it will not be long enough to deplete my energy. I will not need to eat anything in the middle, and may not need anything beforehand. One bottle of water is usually enough (unless it is a particularly hot day), so I do not have to plan water or bathroom breaks.

My home is on the valley floor, which is at 100 feet elevation. But I only need to travel 6 miles to reach the hills. On a ride this length, I probably will not reach any of the higher summits. I might reach 1000 feet at the highest point.

I usually prefer to do longer rides, so I do a "short" ride only if my time is limited. An example of a "short" ride is my usual Cupertino/Saratoga training loop.

Medium: 4 to 5 hours, 40 to 60 miles

At this level of effort, I need to do some minimal planning. I would probably eat something before starting. I may or may not need some food in the middle, so I will either carry a snack with me, or plan a route that has a food source (store, cafe, etc.) at an appropriate rest point.

I will likely need a bathroom break at some point, so my route will include at least one park with a public bathroom. Two water bottles should be enough, but it is a good idea to have a water stop (which could be the same as the food stop) on the route.

With this much distance, I can reach some of the higher summits. Mostly likely I will reach 2000 to 3000 feet elevation at the high point, but the total elevation gain (including all the up and down) is more likely to be 4000 to 5000 feet. Often I will choose a route that takes me to Skyline Boulevard, where I can look down at my home from far above.

An example of a "medium" ride is the one I did a couple of weekends ago.

Long: over 6 hours, over 70 miles

This length of ride requires most of the day, so I usually have to plan to be free well in advance. I will definitely need to eat a good amount (not just a small snack) in the middle. I will need at least two bathroom breaks. I will carry two water bottles and will need to be able to refill them.

Fortunately, I live in a place where these requirements are not hard to meet. There are numerous park in a 50 mile radius, so it is not hard to plan a route that goes through places with facilities that I need.

Covering this much distance, I would likely require multiple layers of clothing since different areas at different elevations at different times of day could be either cold or hot, and (depending on the season) dry or wet. This is enough distance to ride from home to the Pacific Ocean and back, which requires crossing a mountain range each way.

Another issue for a ride this length is pacing. Because I have a rough plan on when/where I can stop, I need to be sure that I do not exhaust myself between those points. Note that this is not a problem when doing an organized century, because those have frequent rest stops with food, water, and restroom facilities.

An example of a "long" ride would be this ride to the coast (which I have not done for a while).

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