Some of you know that I did Ride Across INdiana (RAIN – One way, One day, 160 miles) in 2014, and that this has been my most significant and most challenging ride to date. While riding RAIN in 2014 I noticed some riders wearing RAINSTORM jerseys, and I could not resist asking what this was. The answer was intriguing: RAIN – Same Thing Only Ride More! This was a tour that started in Richmond on the east side of Indiana, spent five days averaging 100 miles per day riding the hills of southern Indiana towards the Ohio River and then to Terre Haute on the west side of the state, and then joined RAIN to ride back to Richmond. I filed this away in my memory as something that might be a good challenge in the future.
RAINSTORM emerged out of my memory banks in 2015 as I reached the end of a disappointing riding season. I had no real goals in 2015 and my riding reflected this; I did not ride as much as previous years and the century rides I did were slow and tiring. I decided I needed a challenging goal for 2016 and started to do some research on RAINSTORM. This would be a real challenge for me – 670 miles and over 24,000 feet of climbing in six days. I talked to Jeff about the possibility of doing this ride and while Jeff thought I was crazy for wanting to do this, he did not think it was crazy to think I could do it. However, Jeff cautioned me about the hills in southern Indiana. He used to send his race team there to train because it was more than just rolling hills, and I would need to be well prepared for this ride.
In September I decided to investigate more about RAINSTORM 2016. My biggest question was: how to prepare? This would be bigger than anything I had done on a bike and I knew I needed a plan that was more structured than just riding more. I talked to Jeff again, who recommended what you would probably expect: ride a lot, find hills to ride, and in the spring make sure I did long hilly rides on back-to-back days – perhaps in northern Michigan where the hills are bigger than around Clarkston. This was helpful but I was still concerned about my ability to prepare and be ready for RAINSTORM, so I decided to consider using a coach to prepare. I had conflicting thoughts on this. I was inclined to think that using a coach would be an indulgent extravagance. However this would be bigger than anything I had ever done on a bike – could I prepare for this on my own? If I used a coach, does online coaching really work? I did some research on online coaching services, talked to a few coaches and came across Fiona Lockhart, a Carmichael Training Systems coach who had considerable experience coaching for ultra-endurance riding and who worked with a range of cyclist abilities that could include me. I contacted Fiona, we talked about my riding, my goals and how she could help, and I decided that if I did this I would work with Fiona to prepare for RAINSTORM. I had a discussion (negotiation?) with my wife to make sure she would tolerate the training time that would be needed and by the end of September I was committed, even though RAINSTORM registration would not open until January 1st.
My training plan turned out to be more intense than I anticipated. Fiona’s diagnosis of my 2015 difficulties was that my problem was not so much that I was not riding enough, but that my training (such as it was) lacked the intensity needed to be strong enough to ride hills. To address this we started a plan that had a lot more interval work than I would have imagined doing. I rode five days a week with a typical week having three intensity workouts (ranging from short, all-out intervals to 45 minutes at a consistent high effort level) to build strength and high effort level endurance, a high rpm - low effort interval workout to develop more efficient pedaling, and an endurance ride. As we moved into spring we added longer endurance rides, back-to-back long endurance rides, harder intervals and hill repeats. As we approached the end of June I had put in about 400 hours riding time since October (about double the time of the previous 12 months), and I was seeing real benefits in my riding. I had lost 15 pounds, I was climbing more effectively, I got under 20 minutes for the first time in the club time trials, and I did Michigan Mountain Mayhem (which I would never would have imagined doing before) as one of my last training rides. I was cautiously confident that I was ready for RAINSTORM, although I was still concerned about the hills over multiple days – especially the fourth day which was the hilliest day.
More to come in Part 2…