|My daughter and me on the STP|
Some of my fellow group riders had done long distance rides and were able to give me some input. But a lot of the advice amounted to "just get out and ride and you will be fine!" My problem was then and is now that I don't have the time to go 200-300 miles a week every week and I also hoped that it wouldn't take that kind of riding just to be able to enjoy the STP!
So I went online and found several sites that gave tips on prepping for century rides or even for the STP itself. Most of these sites fell into the category of the "quick list of things" you can do. You know, like "10 tips from an STP veteran", which gave some helpful tips to prepare and ride the STP but didn't answer many of my questions on how to train, what to eat, and most importantly, how to make sure I would still be able to sit on my bike saddle on day two of the ride! I needed more in depth coverage of what it takes to train for and ride a century ride.
I found this kind of help in the book "The Complete Book of Long-Distance Cycling" by Edmund Burke and Ed Pavelka. In the book they cover topics in more detail than on any web site. It starts with discussions of how to build a training plan targeted to the type of ride you plan to do. A good discussion of training intensity and heart rate zones leads to an understanding that you are better off with rides of varying intensities to build your base endurance, climbing power and sprinting ability. It is important that not every ride should be ridden at full intensity. Your endurance is better built by riding in heart rate zones 1 and 2. The authors go on to discuss over-training and how it can set you back in your preparations. A cursory review of gear is included that is helpful in getting to know what is out there and what it is called so you can at least converse with other cyclists about their favorite gear.
They go on from there to talk about different types of long distance rides and give specific suggestions on training plans, gear, clothing, food and mental preparations. I found this section useful to read as it helped me prepare for the rides with greater confidence and not feel that I had to take everything with me!
The remainder of the book covers details about various topics. These include a section on Danger Zones, which are the things that can end your ride. Also covered are saddle sores, general body issues and dealing with the elements. Following the suggestions included in these sections allowed me to complete the 200 miles of the STP with no saddle soreness and feeling well enough to ride the bike from the finish line over to my daughter's house. My Selle SMP Lite 209 saddle certainly helped out with that accomplishment!
I highly recommend this book to anyone wanting to take on a long distance event. Following the information in the book will make your ride much more enjoyable.
Two other books that you might consider on the topic of cycling training are:"Cycling Past 50 (Ageless Athlete)" by Joe Friel and "Fast after Fifty" also by Joe Friel.