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Pacing for Longer Rides

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Pacing for Longer Rides

Old 06-22-20, 02:53 PM
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Metallifan33
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Pacing for Longer Rides

Hi All,
I'm just getting into doing some longer rides (between 2 and 3 hrs for me) and have just gotten into reading about FTP, pacing, etc (which is a good thing, because until recently, I just went as hard as I could for as long as I could).
Now that I've learned about FTP/FTHR, I've started experimenting with zone 2 rides. They just seem so slow (mostly because I'm, in fact, slow).
My question is, when you legends plan a 3 or 4 hour ride, how do you decide what pace you're going to go with? Do you just do zone 2 for all longer rides, or do you adjust... e.g. 75% for a 2 hr ride, 60% for a 3 hr ride, 55% for a 4 hr ride? (or some system that's similar)?
Or do you just ride by feel (so slowing down around hr 3 if you misjudged it etc.)
Thanks!
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Old 06-22-20, 03:05 PM
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I just ride whatever feels effortless and easy. It won't be after a few hours, and your pace will drop off. The more you do it the less it droops over time and the further you can go. Your HR will also creep up over time, until you reach your limit where ANY effort makes it go ballistic.
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Old 06-22-20, 03:11 PM
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For a long ride, avoid "burning matches"- take it easy up the hills, don't get out of breath.

Riding slow just means more hours in the saddle (for given distance).

Remember to drink, eat, & get off the saddle regularly.

Ramp up distance, intensity, or both over time i.e. 2 hr ride, then increase to 2 1/2 hr s after two weeks,

or 2 hr ride, then two weeks later 2 hr ride at slightly harder pace or with more hills.
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Old 06-22-20, 03:26 PM
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Originally Posted by Metallifan33 View Post
Hi All,
I'm just getting into doing some longer rides (between 2 and 3 hrs for me) and have just gotten into reading about FTP, pacing, etc (which is a good thing, because until recently, I just went as hard as I could for as long as I could).
Now that I've learned about FTP/FTHR, I've started experimenting with zone 2 rides. They just seem so slow (mostly because I'm, in fact, slow).
My question is, when you legends plan a 3 or 4 hour ride, how do you decide what pace you're going to go with? Do you just do zone 2 for all longer rides, or do you adjust... e.g. 75% for a 2 hr ride, 60% for a 3 hr ride, 55% for a 4 hr ride? (or some system that's similar)?
Or do you just ride by feel (so slowing down around hr 3 if you misjudged it etc.)
Thanks!
If you want to do it with data, go for it. I believe a data driven approach to training will, if followed, yield the best result. I can't help at all. There are books on the topic

I've followed a holistic approach of riding hard when I want, keeping it fun, and being sure to have rest days. I've been doing this for 40 years, have not won any races, but I'm still doing it after 40 years, which is something.
​​​
400 miles in 24 hours was my best, which isn't bad but about a hundred miles off the winning pace.

IOW, ride lots, but keep it fun.
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Old 06-22-20, 03:28 PM
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Originally Posted by Metallifan33 View Post
Hi All,
I'm just getting into doing some longer rides (between 2 and 3 hrs for me) and have just gotten into reading about FTP, pacing, etc (which is a good thing, because until recently, I just went as hard as I could for as long as I could).
Now that I've learned about FTP/FTHR, I've started experimenting with zone 2 rides. They just seem so slow (mostly because I'm, in fact, slow).
My question is, when you legends plan a 3 or 4 hour ride, how do you decide what pace you're going to go with? Do you just do zone 2 for all longer rides, or do you adjust... e.g. 75% for a 2 hr ride, 60% for a 3 hr ride, 55% for a 4 hr ride? (or some system that's similar)?
Or do you just ride by feel (so slowing down around hr 3 if you misjudged it etc.)
Thanks!
It all depends what your goal is. A long ride for me is either an opportunity to enjoy being out on the bike, usually with other people, in which case I don't even look at the computer, or endurance training. In the second case, Z2 is my baseline and I try hard to stay there. What you don't want to do, from the training standpoint, is to spend time at the pace of most casual riders, somewhere in Z3-low 4 territory, i.e., what I do when I'm not looking at the computer. Rather, current doctrine is to polarize your training between aerobic (Z2) and high intensities (high Z4 and above), in the form of intervals.

The key to monitoring a Z2 ride is to control the power and watch the heart rate creep upward, which it inevitably will. That's how you know you're developing training stress and getting stronger. Heat and dehydration also bump HR, but they may also contribute to the training effect, for aught I know. Z2 can feel very easy on the road because you are constantly catching what I call micro-rests and varying your output. To really find out what it's about, try ≥ two hours at Z2 on a smart trainer in erg mode.

Remember, though, this is a recipe for getting fast, not necessarily enjoying yourself on the bike. I will say, however, that Z2 gets a lot faster and more enjoyable after a bunch of training.
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Old 06-22-20, 04:00 PM
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If I'm going to go out for a long ride like that, I usually just point my bike in one direction, ride for 90-120 min and then turn around and ride home. I try not to overthink it. If I feel like I'm likely to blow myself up, I might set a power alarm on my Garmin, but I mostly go by feel.
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Old 06-22-20, 04:06 PM
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You started riding relatively recently, right? I wouldn't get too in to the weeds and ride by numbers just yet - ride your bike, build your base, and (most importantly) keep it fun.
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Old 06-22-20, 04:16 PM
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Originally Posted by WhyFi View Post
You started riding relatively recently, right? I wouldn't get too in to the weeds and ride by numbers just yet - ride your bike, build your base, and (most importantly) keep it fun.
This and ignore what I wrote above. It's too easy to get obsessed with the numbers.
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Old 06-22-20, 04:32 PM
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I recently posed a similar question in the addicts thread before I did my first century. I got a ton of good advice, but because I dont have all the gadgets yet, whyfi advice worked the best. Instead of trying to control my speed, I just focused on my heart beat. I tried to keep it low throughout the ride and it worked. It also didnt have that big affect on my speed. Remember why you are on the bike, its to have fun.
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Old 06-22-20, 05:32 PM
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I go blast as many segments or efforts as I can and then limp home.

Or I just ride steady and as fast as possible overall.
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Old 06-22-20, 05:33 PM
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A HR monitor is very helpful, but you can also use your breathing as a check - if you start feeling winded, couldn't easily talk, or go a little too hard to breathe through your nose, back off a bit. If you're new you may find this impossible on some prolonged climbs... and that's just a reality. Just do your best and don't sweat it.
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Old 06-22-20, 07:42 PM
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Originally Posted by WhyFi View Post
You started riding relatively recently, right? I wouldn't get too in to the weeds and ride by numbers just yet - ride your bike, build your base, and (most importantly) keep it fun.
Originally Posted by MoAlpha View Post
This and ignore what I wrote above. It's too easy to get obsessed with the numbers.
I did this to begin, but started getting hurt. Turned out I was going too hard/too long every time I went out. I started doing some reading and learned about FTP and how to pace myself. Apparently my rate of perceived exertion was way off. Anyway, I started taking it easy 3 out of 4 times and have been able to go a couple of months without hurting something or another.
And I'm one of those weirdos that think the numbers are fun (so this is part of keeping it fun
But yes; I agree, building the base is what I need. I was just curious about how hard people that ride 3 or more hours are pushing (relatively speaking). The same way I read wikipedia articles on things that have no bearing to my life.
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Old 06-22-20, 08:27 PM
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I go mostly by perceived exertion. If I plan to ride longer than 2 hours, I start easier than usual and wait 30-60 minutes to decide whether to increase my effort.

On good days heart rate is a reliable indicator for me. But occasionally I take a small dose beta blocker for migraine, which can throw my heart rate way off for 2-3 days. Usually I set my bike computer to sound an audible alarm when I exceed 160 bpm. But after taking a beta blocker it's impossible for me to even reach 160 bpm. So if I can usually hold 130 bpm almost indefinitely, and 140-150 bpm for at least 2 hours, I need to mentally recalculate 20 bpm slower for the beta blocker. A maximum effort would be around 140 bpm.

And while a normal zone 2 effort for me might be under 130 bpm, after a beta blocker a 130 bpm effort feels like tempo effort or harder.

I had to take a low dose beta blocker twice last week, so it'll be another day or two before my heart rate is reliable for training again.

Meanwhile I'm just taking an easy week, judging my perceived effort based on whether I can carry on a conversation (harder to do since I've skipped group rides for months due to the pandemic) or singing to myself to guesstimate my effort.

And as the summer heat increases I need to compensate by easing the perceived effort even more. So even if I could risk a group ride, I wouldn't try to match their pace if they wanted to do a tempo ride based on the age range of 30-50something. At age 62 I can't match the tempo effort of younger folks for more than a couple of hours, especially in the heat. So even before the pandemic when I did group rides I'd often bail out after an hour or two and go my own pace.

I know when I've guesstimated my effort correctly for a metric or full century when I finish with my butt being the main concern. If I'm totally exhausted to the point that I don't even care how much my a$$ hurts, I've pushed too hard. Unless I'm aiming for a personal record time, there's no point in pushing that hard over distance in summer.

I know a fellow in his 50s who rides several centuries a year. A couple of years ago he did about two centuries a week for a full year. I've ridden with him and he maintains a steady effort, no sprints, doesn't hammer up climbs, and takes lots of short rest breaks -- long enough to snap a few photos -- and a longer break for lunch midway. And even that fairly leisurely approach for him still feels like work to me. That's how much difference a few years in age makes.
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Old 06-22-20, 08:37 PM
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Z2 definitely feels too easy at the beginning, and there's always the temptation to push harder especially if other people are passing you, or you're on some familiar road going 30km/h and think "hey, I can usually go around 33-34km/h here". But keep at it and your legs will thank you for it at the end of the day (or the next day, for multi-day rides).

But... I consider 4 hours too short for Z2. Z2 is called your "all day riding pace", but 4 hours isn't riding all day (unless you're specifically doing base or endurance training) and I typically go Z3 for these.

Besides the overall zone, you also need to pay attention to specific riding efforts at various parts of the ride. When people say ride a Z2 (or Z3), it doesn't mean you're consistently at that pace like a robot all the way. There'll be short climbs where you push a bit more, downhills, some long straits where you occasionally want to push a bit (or recover). For longer rides, as someone mentioned above you want to avoid burning matches and going Z4-Z5 (or more), even if it's just a little 30-second power-up-that-little-bump-of-road, for example. Those things add up. Even standing starts from traffic lights, you want to ease in instead of rushing back up to your comfortable speed.

But regardless of the actual riding pace, you need to listen to your body and throw in some blocks of active recovery (i.e. Z1) if you're starting to feel it.

Last edited by atwl77; 06-22-20 at 08:45 PM.
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Old 06-22-20, 08:54 PM
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Originally Posted by atwl77 View Post
Z2 definitely feels too easy at the beginning, and there's always the temptation to push harder especially if other people are passing you, or you're on some familiar road going 30km/h and think "hey, I can usually go around 33-34km/h here". But keep at it and your legs will thank you for it at the end of the day (or the next day, for multi-day rides).

But... I consider 4 hours too short for Z2. Z2 is called your "all day riding pace", but 4 hours isn't riding all day (unless you're specifically doing base or endurance training) and I typically go Z3 for these.

Besides the overall zone, you also need to pay attention to specific riding efforts at various parts of the ride. When people say ride a Z2 (or Z3), it doesn't mean you're consistently at that pace like a robot all the way. There'll be short climbs where you push a bit more, downhills, some long straits where you occasionally want to push a bit (or recover). For longer rides, as someone mentioned above you want to avoid burning matches and going Z4-Z5 (or more), even if it's just a little 30-second power-up-that-little-bump-of-road, for example. Those things add up. Even standing starts from traffic lights, you want to ease in instead of rushing back up to your comfortable speed.

But regardless of the actual riding pace, you need to listen to your body and throw in some blocks of active recovery (i.e. Z1) if you're starting to feel it.
This is what I was curious about. Thanks!
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Old 06-22-20, 08:54 PM
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Originally Posted by Metallifan33 View Post
I was just curious about how hard people that ride 3 or more hours are pushing (relatively speaking). The same way I read wikipedia articles on things that have no bearing to my life.
If it's just a curiosity thing, check the rides of those that you follow on Strava. If they have power and have indicated an FTP, you'll see the Intensity. Looking at my last last 3+ hour ride, I landed at 79.
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Old 06-22-20, 09:42 PM
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Originally Posted by WhyFi View Post
If it's just a curiosity thing, check the rides of those that you follow on Strava. If they have power and have indicated an FTP, you'll see the Intensity. Looking at my last last 3+ hour ride, I landed at 79.
Note that only shows on paid users though (or at least on the mobile app, not sure if the website shows differently).
And often I also look at the power zones to see which zone they spend most of their time in.
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Old 06-22-20, 10:12 PM
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I usually start off real easy, shooting for low zone 3, HR~145, to be honest, I don't think I could complete a Z2 ride, I just get too excited. Then I look down and see I'm at 165, then I slow back down for a minute, forget that I still have 30, 50, 80 miles to go, and see I'm up at 160 again.

Then I slow down again... and there's a short hill so maybe I push 170 to get to the top, and then I see that and slow down again, and then I end up turning into the wind... You get the idea.

In short, my pacing is pretty bad, so don't do that, however, if you keep getting out and working on pacing, you will get better. Power should give more immediate feedback, if given the option, though not something I have.

I did a century the other day and I was ~10% Z4, 60% Z3, and 30% Z2, It probably would have been more comfortable if I avoided the Z4 for sure.
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Old 06-22-20, 10:31 PM
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I lstay off of the big chainring for the first third of a long ride...
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Old 06-22-20, 11:25 PM
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I'm in the camp of 3-4 hours is too short of a ride to care too much about zones when starting out. Provided you properly eat and hydrate, you can always fall back to Z2/Z1 when you burn all your matches. Then each subsequent outing you'll go farther before hitting that point, until you don't.
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Old 06-22-20, 11:28 PM
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One of the problems with riding as hard as you can all the time is that it usually isn’t that hard. It takes a fair amount of stress to get big gains in the ability to perform above z5. Riding hard also becomes too hard for developing good endurance. Zone 2 helps the body to improve your bodies ability to burn fat and also the longer distances that help your body develop the ability to perform after 3+ hours.
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Old 06-23-20, 06:58 AM
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A 3-4 hour ride is usually zone 3 and a bit into zone 4/5 depending on terrain for me. If I'm in zone 2, it's normally a 100+ mile ride for me (and even on this weekend's 109 mile ride, 25% was zone 3, but it was hilly and there was a bit of headwind). The double century I did last summer was nearly all zone 2 as it was something I needed to keep up all day (just shy of 14 hours of riding in the end) if I was going to finish and finish before my goal of sunset. I couldn't risk blowing up too early. Socialble rides with friends helps with pacing.
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Old 06-23-20, 10:43 AM
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I'm not one of the "legends" the OP refers to and I don't have a scientific approach based on heart rates or zones, but basically my pacing rule of thumb for longer rides is "slower than shorter rides". Most of my rides, especially anything over about an hour, are over roads I ride frequently. So I'm familiar with the pace I typically ride in different sections (and conditions). If I'm going for a ride that is substantially longer (say 20% longer) than I have been riding, I consciously trying to keep the pace slower than normal over the first half of the ride or so. How much slower? Maybe back off 1 gear or the equivalent perceived effort. This approach seems to leave enough in the tank for not fading too badly on the later parts of the ride.
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Old 06-23-20, 11:53 AM
  #24  
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Originally Posted by surak View Post
I'm in the camp of 3-4 hours is too short of a ride to care too much about zones when starting out. Provided you properly eat and hydrate, you can always fall back to Z2/Z1 when you burn all your matches. Then each subsequent outing you'll go farther before hitting that point, until you don't.
^^ This, really. Just ride and you'll get a sense of what kind of efforts you can maintain over 3-4 hours. Then slowly try to go faster.

Incidentally, holding high Z2 for a long time is not that trivial. My stupid tri plan has me doing 2:40 at upper Z2 and it isnt easy. Just constantly holding the power and cadence for that duration is an absolute mindf'k. So dont underestimate the value of solid Z2 (never dropping into Z1) for extended periods of time.

But as WhyFi said - structured training comes later. Ride your bike for atleast a year or so by feel. Go hard if you feel like it; slow down if you are tired; limp home if you blow up (as long as you have enough to eat, you will almost always be able to ride home at an easy, recovery pace). Do some shorter, faster rides and do some longer, slower (conversational pace) rides. That will not only build some basic fitness for structured training, but also give you a more stable baseline from which to start structured training.

Last edited by guadzilla; 06-23-20 at 11:57 AM.
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Old 06-23-20, 03:29 PM
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Originally Posted by guadzilla View Post
^^ This, really. Just ride and you'll get a sense of what kind of efforts you can maintain over 3-4 hours. Then slowly try to go faster.

Incidentally, holding high Z2 for a long time is not that trivial. My stupid tri plan has me doing 2:40 at upper Z2 and it isnt easy. Just constantly holding the power and cadence for that duration is an absolute mindf'k. So dont underestimate the value of solid Z2 (never dropping into Z1) for extended periods of time.

But as WhyFi said - structured training comes later. Ride your bike for atleast a year or so by feel. Go hard if you feel like it; slow down if you are tired; limp home if you blow up (as long as you have enough to eat, you will almost always be able to ride home at an easy, recovery pace). Do some shorter, faster rides and do some longer, slower (conversational pace) rides. That will not only build some basic fitness for structured training, but also give you a more stable baseline from which to start structured training.
I do a ride protocol that a coach prescribed to me years ago: ride for an hour without any structure, then an hour at a steady z2. First time I did it, I thought he was joking. It was way too easy. For the first 20 minutes. It gets worse and worse. Last five minutes are ridiculous. He calls it The Hour of Increasing Difficulty.
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