Preparing for STP
Training for one- or two-day riders
By Craig Undem, Dean of Cycle University
Your Group Health STP Presented by Alaska Airlines training plan - got one?
Since riding a bike is something most of us learned as kids and as adults, it seems reasonable that we can just jump on our bike a few times and be ready to tackle the STP, right? Wrong! Becoming a competent cyclist, like learning to windsurf or playing golf, takes practice, good skills and instruction. Because we have received so many questions from riders wanting more guidance preparing for the STP we’ve created a free Basic plan for both the one-day and two-day riders (see below).
For more on STP 101 informational classes held at REI click here
How to prepare for the Group Health STP Presented by Alaska Airlines
If you read no further in this article, these are the simplest ways to insure a great time on the STP:
- Ride with others, take a cycling skills class, join a club like Cascade Bicycle Club on it's Free Group Rides or join the Cascade Training Series (CTS) to learn the language of group cycling.
- Don’t ride as hard as you can on every training ride. This is the most common rookie mistake! Ride steady and aim to add more miles each week to go longer and longer. Start with rides you can finish feeling like you could have done a little bit more and gradually build your endurance until you can complete 75% of the mileage of your longest day at this years STP.
- Use Chamois Crème or Bodyglide to reduce friction in groin area, and don’t wear underwear.
4. Your bicycle also needs to be in shape! If you are not well-versed in bike mechanics bring your bicycle to your local shop to be sure it is also in the right condition to go 200+ miles! Don't spend months getting your body in shape only to have your bike stop you from finishing.
The most important part of any cycling training plan is the number of hours or miles you will ride on a daily and weekly basis in the months leading up to a big ride like the STP. These training rides are the building blocks that will prepare your body and mind to ride long and hard on the day of the event. There are many other factors that will influence your enjoyment on the big day, such as how your bike fits you, nutrition, hydration, clothing, equipment, mental preparation, skill level and general comfort with riding long distances with lots of other people.
Below is a rough training plan giving you a very basic sketch of an average person’s riding mileage leading up to a successful STP. It has 3 rides per week. If you haven’t ridden a bike in 10 years, start with a 5-mile ride to get the hang of it. Your goal may be simply to have fun and stop when you are tired. If you had a good summer of riding last year and haven’t ridden since October, go out for a nice flat 20-miler and get back into it. From here build up your mileage gradually and challenge yourself a bit more every few weeks.
Every person is different and no single training program will work for everyone, the important thing to remember is that “this is fun!” Take your time and work at a level your body will allow. Depending on your conditioning and riding experience, you may need more or less miles than this program presents. Feel free to consult Cycle University to outline a program to fit your level of riding and athletic background, and be sure and get an OK from your doctor if you are over the age of 30 and new to cycling.
Special note for one-day riders
Lights: All one day riders should have a front and rear light for starting in the dawn and possibly finishing in the dusk.
Most people think that they can just ride tons of miles and get fast enough to do the STP in one day, but what many find is that even though they get strong and increase their average speed they still can’t meet their goal. Why not? They need the shelter of other people to help them achieve their finishing goal. The wind often blows from the South, which means that much of the ride from Seattle to Portland is into a head wind, and if you ride BEHIND a group or even a single rider, you can save 30% or more of your energy…and still go the same speed. It is like free money; you do less work and go faster! This skill is called DRAFTING, and it is something that takes practice and good coaching to do it SAFELY.
The best place to learn this is from other experienced riders or in one of the Cycle University Classes. If you are not in Seattle, check out www.bikeride.com and look under “regional links” to find a club near you and see if they offer paceline instruction.
Pace: One day riders should be prepared to hold a 15-20 mph pace in order to make it before the course closes at 9 pm. All one day riders should be in the starting chute for the 4:45 a.m. start.
Training for one and two-day riders
Start your training with easy miles and add an occasional hard day once every week or two where you push the hills. For your normal days, when you start breathing hard and can't say a 10-word sentence at a normal tone, slow down. After the first half of the training, start looking at your average speeds during your midweek and Saturday rides. Increase the midweek rides to move toward your target average miles per hour pace. (i.e. to complete the 200+-mile STP in one day under 12 hours you will need to average 17.5mph and only take one 30-minute break. Two-day riders will need to average 10 mph to finish each 103-mile day under 11 hours, with 55 minutes of breaks each day.) Aim to get your average speed near your target ride level as the event approaches. Learn to ride in a paceline to further stretch your endurance and speed and maintain a high average mph.
June will be the hardest month. Plan to take good care of yourself between rides. Eat right, stay hydrated and get consistent sleep. Use Flying Wheels as your final rehearsal. Test out the energy foods, equipment and clothing you will use on the STP. After your last big ride two weeks before the event, focus on recovery. During these final two weeks you will rest more because the mileage is much less, but keep your cadence high and effort at or above event speeds to increase your speed.
STP Training miles in PDF form:STP Training Miles 2015.pdf
STP Suggested Training Miles
Feb 29-Mar 6
|March 28 - April 3||120||20||50||50|
|April 25 May 1||140||20||60||60|
|May 30 June 5||170||40||**65 or 100||65 or 30|
|June 27-July 3||120||30||50||40|
* Chilly Hilly
** Flying Wheels Century
|Feb.29 Mar. 6||80||20||40||20|
|March 28- April 3||110||30||50||30|
|April 25- May 1||190||50||80||60|
|May 30- June 5||210||40||20||**100||50|
|June 27-July 3||160||40||70||50|
* Chilly Hilly
** Flying Wheels Summer Century