Randonneur Toolbox

BC Randonneurs Cycling Club

Back to Back Ultras

Wim Kok is no stranger to ultra distance (1000 km+) brevets, but was musing on the BC Randonneur discussion list about the prospect of riding two of them over a relatively short period. The responses from Ken and Ron, two ultra experienced ultra boys, offer some helpful insights. The discussion is from February 2004.

The original Inquiry from Wim Kok:


Since a number of BC Randonneurs have completed more than one 1200 km brevet in a season -- in some cases with less than a month between them - I am curious to find out how one prepares for this. (As opposed to doing a 200, 300, 400, and 600 series followed by only one 1200 km Brevet like RM1200 or PBP). This year for instance BMB follows RM 1200 within a month. Also a few years ago GRR 1200 preceded LEL1400 by no more than three weeks. There seems to be little time for recovery.

E.W. (Wim) Kok
Fort St. John, B.C.

Harold Bridge started us off by pointing to the some of the accomplishments of the amazing Jack Eason, who had joined us for the Rocky Mt. 1200 in 2000, and a quote from Coppi:

... He [Jack] has never owned a car, he invariably cycles over night to events, rides the events & then rides home... I think that, just as Fausto Coppi said on the stage of the Royal Albert Hall in 1951 when asked what advice he would give to new riders: "Ride ze bicycle, ride ze bicycle, ride ze bicycle". That's all it takes.


Comments from Ken Bonner:

Wim --

As Harold quoted Coppi --- "Ride ze bicycle, ride ze bicycle, ride ze bicycle".

Just as you can ride a 300 two weeks after a 200, etc. etc., you can ride a 1000, then 2 weeks later you can ride a 1200, & 2 weeks later another, etc., etc... Obviously, one should not try riding "full-out". After all, a 1200 in 90 hours allows plenty of time for sleep, and if you are still tired, then get lots of sleep the week following the last big ride. By the end of the next week you are ready to go again.

As with most rando rides, if you can ride 100k, you can ride any long distance if you ride progressively longer & longer .... just a matter of planning the logistics and putting "mind over matter"! By the way, Harold did not mention the young Brit who flew to Vancouver, rode to Kamloops for the last RM1200, then rode across the country to complete the BMB ... all on a fixed wheel!! His write-up noted that he ended up with a sore knee during BMB (absolutely amazing).

I completed 3 1200's a couple of years ago ... 13 hour drive to Sacramento for the Gold Rush 1200; finished the Gold Rush & immediately drove back to Seattle in 13 hours and then immediately flew to Amsterdam to attend a week long conference, flew out of Amsterdam at the end of the week to Heathrow; bus & train to Harlow; completed putting my bike together at 2:00 in the morning and arrived at the start of the1400 k London-Edinburgh-London with about 3 hours sleep; finished LEL slept a few hours and caught a plane to Boston, where I spent a couple of weeks touring Vermont before riding BMB. Anything is possible if you are on a bike!!

Oh, yes, one final thing (see Barry Bogart's recent note) ingest lots of calcium, or your bones will fade away!! Actually, ingest lots of everything, you will need all the nourishment you can get ... even road-kill can be savory (lots of calcium too), although the "furry" bits take a little getting used to!

..... Ken

Comments from Ron Himschoot:

I rode the 2000K in Y2K, followed by the Rocky Mountain 1200, and finished the season with a 1000K. The way I prepared was to open a bottle of red wine and drink until it seemed like a good idea. The alcohol kills the brain cells that give you the common sense not to do such a thing.

My theory (unsupported by any research that I know of) is that you cannot train your body for a 1200 km ride. The classic advice is that your weekly training should be twice the distance you want to race. If you want to run a marathon, you should train at least 50 miles a week. If you want to ride a 1200 k, you should train 2400 k per week. So much for that advice. You cannot train your body to ride that far. You can, however, train your body to recover faster.

Ride brevets like you would lift weights: do them in sets. Ride 200 k's on back to back weekends, them move up to 300 k's on back to back weekends, then 400 k's and 600 k's. In between, work on your recovery. Rest a day, then go out for an easy recovery ride. Then add a ride with a little more intensity. Then taper with another easy ride just before the next brevet. Go for a walk on your rest days. Pump a lot of water through your system to flush out the by-products of heavy exercise. Consume carbohydrates, especially within an hour of finishing your rides.

It helps to have more than one bike. Riding that much is going to wear out tires, rims, chains, chainrings, cog sets, wheel bearings, bottom brackets, pedals, cables, brake pads, handlebar tape and your wife's patience. It's nice to have a back-up bike you can ride while your favorite bike is being repaired.


-Ron Himschoot

From Gord Cook:

Are you suggesting a backup wife as well as the bike? : )

Cheers, Gord.

From Ron:

If you've got time for a wife AND a mistress, you're not riding enough.

-Ron Himschoot


© Ken Bonner, Ron Himschoot - February 2004