Paceline Podcast 184

Paceline Podcast 184

This week Selene takes on a listener question regarding some of the online training challenges that cause competitors to go into zone 5 with each installment. Is that a bad thing? How does it affect developing base miles?

With so many new gravel events on the calendar, Patrick asks the question, how much is enough? Are organizers really doing themselves and their participants a service by offering an epically long course? What is your sense of accomplishment if you didn’t do the long course?



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  1. TominAlbany

    At this point, I’m hoping to be able to do something like a metric centruy on gravel by the end of the summer. I’m presuming that would take me about 6 hours, depending on steepness and roughness.

    Selene, are you riding into the prevailing winds on your first leg? My understanding is that Florida-flat is countered by headwinds. Have fun!

  2. Steve Belanger

    I’ve been looking into getting into the gravel thing but most events here in New England are century rides, and I have yet to do 100 on the road. With a full time job and a little one at home, I don’t have the time/energy to train for that distance. Love to see some more moderate mileage events especially since the road events are disappearing.

    1. Dan Murphy

      Hey Steve, I’m in your boat length-wise and there are a number of events for guys like us.
      The Raid series – Raid Rockingham, Raid Lamoille, etc.
      D2R2 has a 100k
      Rose Mt Rumble in southern NH has numerous lengths – I didn’t do the event, but rode the 40+ miler using the cue sheets online
      Jeremy Powers Grand Fundo is a wonderful event, nice size, great riding, great food and beer, great cause
      There are others if you look around
      Good Luck!

    2. Paul S.

      Steve, I hope you will look closer at a few events. My knowledge is specific to VT, since that is where I live, but consider these options:
      VOMAR: ~25 miles
      The Ranger: 18 or 38 miles
      WATA Gravel Grinder : ~25 or ~40 miles
      Raid Lamoille: 25 or 55 miles
      Rooted (Short Course): ~45 miles
      Overland: Under 50 miles
      Vermont Forest Fondo: Under 50 miles (but they are tough miles!)

      I personally have ridden all of those except for Overland, and they are all examples of what people love about gravel: Competitive, non-competitive, irreverent, great food, aid stations with unique offerings (fried twinkies!!!), and good folks.

      See you on the (gravel) road,
      Paul S.

  3. Jonathan Benn

    I’ve got about 25 gravel events under my wheels now. I like the marathon participation analogy. I am concerned about the push to be more epic coupled with more elite riders doing the events. I’ll never come close to sniffing the front of the group, but my entry fee is the same as those who will. Organizers need riders like me-pay well in advance, show up with no drama, and promote the sport to our friends. If events get to hard, too fast, too epic, us back markers will stop coming and organizers will go broke.

    1. Booker Bense

      I agree as well. I’ve been doing 1-2 gravel rides a year since 2016 and by far the most fun I’ve had was the Truckee Dirtfondo last spring. I think for most people 50-60 miles and 5-6K feet of climbing makes for a really fun day.

      Longer harder events are things that I would probably only do once, I’ll do the Truckee Dirtfondo every year because it’s an event that I can “race” vs survive. I’ve done enough 8hr MTB races and hilly road centuries to know that if the event goes much beyond 5hrs, I’m going to spend all those hours in the pain cave. That’s fun a few times, but after a point when you know you can do it, the desire to do it drops.

      I think a good analogy is that while marathons get all the press, it’s the 10K’s and half-marathons that create lifetime runners. Most people who only run a marathon don’t ever do it again. If gravel is to be healthy, it needs events that people want to do every year, not once a lifetime.

  4. shiggy

    In a recent interview Tim Johnson commented “…to be involved (in gravel) in any way is a win for USAC” shows that their attitude has not changed.
    The question should be, how would USAC’s involvement be a win for the riders and promoters?

    I was in Oregon for most of my racing career and saw the USCF/OBRA split as a racer and promoter. The difference was “you must do this” vs “what can we do?”

    Recently, when helping at a USAC sanctioned road race in Washington state I heard anti-OBRA comments exchanged among the USAC officials and saw generally self-important attitudes to the detriment of the racers.

  5. Quentin

    What’s a good gravel event length?

    For context, I’m in my 40s, have been riding for nearly 30 years, but haven’t really raced since I was a teenager because life got in the way of doing the miles needed to be fit for the road racing scene. I still love riding, but don’t really do big miles or structured training. One or two 15-20 mile rides is a good week. I hadn’t pinned on a number for 25 years until 2 years ago. We have a local gravel event (Caprock Gravel Grind in West Texas), now in its 4th year, with distances of 50K, 100K, and 100 miles. I’ve done the 50K twice now. It’s a lot of fun. It’s a bigger than average effort for me, but something I can just show up and do. I’d like to do the 100K at some point, but I think I’d need to be riding more than I do now. A 100 mile event of any kind feels like a stretch, but maybe out there on the horizon. The kids are reaching high school age, and I’m starting to see the possibility of more spare time in coming years. The short distances are good for people like me. I’m not sure I’d travel for a short race, though, so the longer distances have their place. I could see myself traveling to Kansas for the Half Pint at some point in the next 5 years or so. I’m not sure I see myself doing the necessary preparation for a 200 mile event ever. Ask me again in 5 years, though. I would travel for something that looks like a truly outstanding place to ride. Steamboat, Crusher, and Kanzaa all appear like such destinations to me. The other thing about a 50-70 mile ride in a beautiful place is that I might actually convince my wife to come along. She’s less of a cyclist but probably fitter than me. She’s never going to be interested in an extreme distance, but a half-day adventure in a beautiful place, absolutely.

  6. Matthew

    Patrick I hope that you can make it to unPAved. I did the Plenty last year. It was my first gravel ride. My Salsa Journeyman 650b did awesome for the ride. The weekend was great and the event is awesome. I highly recommend! tough climbing but beautiful views and the rest stops were awesome

  7. Dan Murphy

    Good show. Usually I listen while working on the bike, but being January in MA, I was tuning skis this time.

    Almost-66-year-old here that loves getting out for gravel rides, but definitely has *ahem* limitations. I’m at that point in life where I’m realizing there are some things I won’t be doing, like 100+ mile gravel rides. That’s OK, kinda. I’m happy to be out there.

    Most of the New England gravel rides have 100+ feet of climbing per mile, so a 50-60 mile route will have 5K to 7K+ feet of climbing. That’s a longish day for me, certainly doable, dragging my ass at the end, and always a blast. I just love NE roads.

    I believe it is in a promoter’s best interest to offer shorter rides. If you can fill up a ride with just one killer ride, that’s great, but I don’t see it happening around here. The shame factor of doing a lesser ride is real. That’s where age helps a lot, as one learns to just not GAF about some things.

    Traveling a long distance to an event is a whole other dimension. Driving to a weekend ride is one thing. I wouldn’t fly to an event unless said event was just one part of a long trip, like a two week trip to CA where I saw friends, did touristy stuff, etc. We have an RV trailer and heading to events within a few hundred miles is always fun.

    So yes, something in the 50-70 mile range with a lot of climbing is always a good option to offer.

  8. Weiwen

    I live in Minneapolis. The Tour de Tonka and Jesse James Bike Tour are two big and successful local road events, and they have a big range of distances. TDT has 16, 30, 36, 48, 57, 62, 71, and 100. Jesse James might have had slightly fewer categories. Those are good distances for a variety of riders.

    I bet those of us who have a cycling spouse probably have a disparity in ability. I did the 100 miler for Tonka. My wife didn’t come, but she’d probably only have been up for the 48 or 36. If you’re organizing a 100 mile gravel ride, then a lot of spouses aren’t going to be able to cycle it at all. That has to limit the field.

    I don’t know that we need to make all the gravel races shorter, but we do need to offer some options for a broader range of riders.

  9. Michael

    I started Trans Iowa 5 times and almost finished one of them before reaching the conclusion that 320+ miles in one shot is just a little too much. The Almanzo had it just right for a year or two where the main event was a challenging but not punishing 100 miles, accompanied by ~50-mile, 140-mile (the “Royal,” named after the Wilder brother, not the prestige) and 380-mile Alexander.

    These days the upper midwest offers a wide variety of 30-60 mile informal events (often free of charge or for a voluntary donation) aimed at a spectrum of abilities in addition to the much longer events.

    Me personally, I’m digging the Dairy Roubaix out of Wyalusing WI (56- and 100-mile options), the Bear 100 out of Laona WI (31-, 73- and 107-mile options), the Ten Thousand (125 miles) in Freeport Illinois. All free or voluntary donation. Even more I’m digging the rides we do as small groups of friends in the sparsely-populated areas of northern Wisconsin and the upper peninsula of Michigan. I come home from those covered in bramble scratches and bug bites but filled with wonder.

  10. Davo Queen

    Hey gang,
    I’ve been doing big one day events (4-11 hours) and did Oregon Trail Gravel Grinder and am a big fan of periodized training but I don’t work with a coach (nor do I want to). My question is after a big event (OTGG) what should the recovery look like? What do I do or not do the first week after? How about the next two? When should I return to harder rides? Can I take too much of a break? I’m interested in what a coaches athlete does after a DK200 kind of day….
    thanks Davo

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