A reader asked if I had any ideas training for a 100 mile time trial. Next year, the National 100 mile TT will be one of my main pre-hill climb season targets. Last year I finished 5th in a time of 3.46, and I hope to go a bit better next year. I set a pb of 3.34.17 in 2014
Basic Training for a 100 mile TT
At the risk of stating the obvious, the 100 mile TT is a formidable challenge. It’s one thing to ride 100 miles, but to race 100 miles, is quite a challenge. A quickish rider will be able to do it in 4 hours.
The record for 100 mile TT is Kevin Dawson (03:22:45) in 2003. If you think that sounds fast, Ian Cammish did 3:31:53 in 1983 before tribars and discwheels.
A 100 mile TT is possibly cycling’s answer to the marathon; it’s a similar effort in terms of time.
The obvious starting point for doing a 100 mile TT is to do sufficient aerobic endurance training. If you are starting from scratch, this will take a good 6 months to build up. You can do 10 mile TT or 25 mile TT on little training, but unless you want to suffer like anything, you need that base endurance to be comfortable sitting in the saddle and able to complete the distance.
Minimum base endurance
As a minimum, I would suggest you need one long ride of 3-4 hours every fortnight. If possible, you would make it more frequent and longer. In winter and early season, I would do these training rides around level 2, so it is around 70% max heart rate. around 60-70% max threshold power. These aerobic training slowly build up aerobic fitness, fat-burning capacity and ability to cycle for long periods. There are also smaller benefits for top end performance, such as increased lactate threshold. But, this is the first priority in terms of training for 100 miles. At the least, I would do a ride of 80 miles before racing. If you’ve already done a 100, it will be good for your confidence psychologically. But, it’s not essential. I know a few good time triallistswho will only do over 80 miles in a 100 mile TT.
Optimal base endurance
To maximise my chances in the 100 mile TT, I will be concentrating on the winter months in building up a strong aerobic endurance. At the moment, in November, I’m trying to do two long rides a week of 5-6 hours (averaging about 16mph). The average speed is not important. These are the classic long slow distance rides (LSD); you can easily do it with other riders. With a couple of shorter rides, it provides quite a strong framework for later in the season. At this time of the year, I don’t see these as ‘junk miles’, but an important foundation for increasing intensity in Jan and Feb.
Throughout Dec, Jan and Feb, I will continue to work on this aspect of cycle fitness. I don’t rigidly stick to level 2, but sometimes in the year it is good to concentrate on a particular type of training, after a long seasons hill climbs, endurance training seems a nice break from top level intervals.
A very rough target is to manage 1,000 miles a month in winter. But, these days, I’m less religious about clocking up the miles. It’s important not to get carried away and maintain a good balance between rest and training. This balance is different for different athletes. In my first season, 1,000 mile a month would have left me pretty tired, after a few seasons accumulation in fitness, it is more manageable. But, in the winter, I still leave a good two days of rest or very easy riding. Also, in a month, it’s good to vary effort from week to week. Perhaps 3 weeks of 200-300 miles, and in the fourth week have much lighter week.
Sweat Spot training
A typical cyclist might be racing a 100 mile TT at around 80-90% of threshold power. e.g. if you average 300 watts for a 25 mile TT, you might do well to average 250 watts for a 100 mile TT. This effort level of 10-15 % below your threshold for an hour, is often termed sweat spot training or ‘tempo’ training.
It is called the sweat spot because you can gain big improvements in fitness, with only relatively limited muscle damage and tiredness. If you race at threshold or above, you can make more gains, but also face greater fatigue and need more rest.
Therefore, in training for a 100 mile TT, a very good training schedule will be to incorporate these ‘tempo’ rides into your training.
Early in the year, you can start off with just doing one hour at this tempo of 80-85% threshold power. You will need to concentrate to maintain the power and effort, conversation is no longer really possible; it will be difficult to do in a group, unless you have a small number of riders of similar ability.
As the year progresses, increase the duration of these tempo rides from 1 hour to 2, 3 and even four hours. This is training which closely matches your race pace, so it is targeted training to the race effort of a 100 mile TT.
The good thing about sweat spot training is that it is a lot of fun and rewarding. You can do quite a bit of it without excess fatigue. If you have limited training time, then I would concentrate on this sweat spot training. Effort at this intensity will bring substantially more gains than low intensity level 1 and 2.
Intervals and speed work
For a 100 mile TT, the bulk of your training will be endurance and tempo efforts. But, to get that extra speed, you still need to do higher intensity efforts. Once you have a sufficient base of endurance, you can incorporate much harder interval efforts. These will come later in the season, from February onwards.
One session I like to do is several 5 minute hill efforts as hard as I can. This will be at an intensity above threshold effort. After 4 or 5 intervals, it is hard to keep that intensity. From what I can gather, training at this effort level not only increases your threshold power, but also helps other aspects of aerobic capacity. Hard intervals give a big bang for you buck so to speak. If training time is limited, a 2-3 hour hard interval session will give substantial improvements in threshold power. If you can increase your threshold power, then you will be able to go faster in a 100 mile TT, so long as you can maintain the distance. I use pyramid intervals for training for 10 and 25 mile TT, and I will use this fitness for 100 mile TT.
Most people doing a 100 mile TT, will be racing shorter distances, 10, 25, and 50 mile TT. Obviously, this all helps towards doing a 100 mile TT, especially 50 mile TT. However, I did my first 100 mile TT after only doing a 25 mile TT.
Examples of top 100 mile time triallists
I know quite a few top time triallists, such as Michael Hutchinson, Matt Bottrill, and Mark Holton who have won the national 100 mile TT on fairly limited mileage. I don’t know exactly there training regimes, but, from what I can gather they are not mile munchers like the BBAR contenders of previous decades. They really focus on training for 10, 25 and 50 mile TT and use that time trial speed to good effect in a 100.
I read that the great Ian Cammish (who is probably the greatest 100 mile time trialist of modern era) used to concentrate on short hard interval sessions. A typical session for Cammish involved going all out for 30 seconds, resting for 30 seconds and repeating. These were full on intervals, but they made him fast for 100 miles. However, Cammish was brought up in the more traditional school of many miles. He said when going for the BBAR, he would often do 500 miles a week (and he would have done 600 miles if that what it took)
Training on a time trial bike
After a few experiences of doing 100 mile time trials, I would place a lot of emphasis on training on your time trial bike. It’s one thing to get fit on a road bike, but you can turn up on your TT bike, and be in agony after two hours. If you’re not comfortable racing in your TT position for 4 hours, you are likely to end up dissappointed. This winter I’m placing a lot of emphasis on improving core body strength. If nothing else, do the ‘plank’ exercise’ and slowly build up the time you can hold the plank position; this will definitely help for any time trial. If possible, keep riding your TT bike all year. I don’t actually ride it in Nov – Jan. But, in Feb I take it down and do at least 50% of my training on the TT bike.
A major part of a 100 mile TT is to get the food and hydration right. So many people train all year, then turn upto a 100 mile TT and make big mistakes in the feeding and hydration (and from bitter experience I include myself!) When training, try to replicate a four hour effort with using exactly the feeding techniques you will use in your race. Also note the temperature; a variation in temp can drastically alter the amount of hydration you need. Never get to the race and try something different you’ve never done before. So many people say their 100 mile TT gets ruined because a water bottle, they are using for the first time jumps out, leaving them without enough drink.
See more details on energy consumption during long rides
Pacing a 100 mile TT
A power meter will help give you an idea of your threshold power. e.g if you do an hour at 300 watts, this is roughly your ‘threshold’
For a 100 mile TT, you could try set off at around 85% (255watts), which will feel quite easy to start off with. After two hours you can pick up the pace, if you can. But, you may find it becomes increasingly hard to maintain that intensity as the time goes on. Of course, the more practice you can get in training and doing 50 mile TT, the better will be your knowledge of what kind of effort you can maintain. But, I would hazard a guess most beginners start off their first 100 mile TT too fast! I know I often do. Pacing in long distance TT was my main motivation for buying a power meter.
If you don’t have a power meter, you can still use a heart rate monitor or just go on feel. Bear in mind a heart rate monitor is a bit more variable and there can be a delay between power and heart rate.
Pacing in pb ride
av. power 262 watts
av. speed 28 mph
Note: This was one of those rare hundred mile TT where the pacing was relatively good.
Other experiences of riding 100 mile TT
34 thoughts on “100 mile time trial – Training and pacing”
Really interesting post Tejvan. I’m particularly interested in a 100 TT as I’m doing another Ironman next July. My previous effort wasn’t bad (11hr 40) but the bike ride wasn’t quick enough.
Is it worth concentrating on hard intervals this time of year to build up speed and strength ahead of building base miles?
Should I periodically remeasure my one hour effort and adjust my training based on the new threshold?
seems a little early for ‘really hard intervals. Perhaps intervals just below threshold – ‘sweat spot’ in addition to the base miles.
Very interesting take on 100TT training, I think sweat spot training is great for learning to sustain your power for ever longer distances. Conversely when I raced in the 80s/90s we used longer intervals early in the season working towards shorter more intense efforts later on to build speed. Today a lot of cyclists approach it from the other direction working towards longer efforts later on (say 3×20, 2×30 and 1x1hr.).
Having returned to cycling after a long layoff due initially to serious injury and latterly business commitments my plan is to ride club 10’s and open 25’s with perhaps the odd 50 thrown in. As an older rider (66 in May) longer distances are difficult on a TT bike due to the more extreme position and the older you get the harder it is to attain best condition, so I pay a lot of attention to advice given so freely by guys such as yourself. Many thanks for your blog which I look forward to with anticipation each month!
Thanks Ken, just bear in mind when it comes to training, I’m no expert. but pedal had hope for the best.
Realy good post Tejvan glad i bumped in to it, on my 3rd tt season did a few 50,s last year and booked for a few 100,s and a 12hr this year.I,ll follow this plan seems pretty sensible advice.Thanks
I think that it’s “Sweet Spot Training” not “Sweat Spot!”
Yes. But, if you’re not working up a sweat, it’s not really the sweet spot. 🙂
Done 2 of these so far Tejvan this season with 2 more to go, following your plan and getting to like them great advice
good to hear!
i cycled 461 miles over 10 days with 2 days rest,with an old mountain bike and carrying all my luggage and camping equipment on my bike.i know that i had to go at a steady pace each day of 50 to 60 miles each day,if i cycled too fast my knees would start to hurt and then you can’t cycle anymore!!!.how can these top riders cycle 100 miles in four hours with going up steep hills too without there knees hurting,where you cannot cycle anymore???.
The man from Wales who won the commonwealth games road cycling gold did this 105 miles in 4 hours 13 mins and cycling up a 20 percent hill 12 times a week after completing the tour de france.This is amazing to me how their knees don’t hurt???
painful knees may be something to do with position. Check saddle height. It’s also a lot easier on a light road bike without luggage!
Better late than never…
Another tip on knee pain and positioning: make sure your feet are positioned correctly.
Pedalling ‘toe-in’ or ‘toe-out’ will cause muscles, ligaments and tendons to pull the knee joint out of alignment over time (a fairly short one), and this can cause excruciating pain during and after a hard ride.
I was once lured by perceived benefits of aero-friendly feet (!) & adjusted my cleats to keep the outside of my shoes parallel to the bike-frame. After a few months of fairly heavy training and racing TTs, the pain became unbearable, but was quickly remedied after diagnosis, by simply changing to a more natural position.
I really can´t believe you only avg ~260 watts and went 28 mph!
I can do well over 300 watts for an hour but my avg speeds never exceeds 27 mph on a flat course 20-60 min TT. Im 184 cm and weighing 64 kg. What is going on?
I’m not sure, but I think my power meter is giving readings 20-30watt lower than last year. Aerodynamics plays a big role and also the course I did a 3.34 on is quicker than average.
Its impressive to do that good on TT:s with your body type. I always feel like a sealing when doing flat TT:s but you’re beting me by far! 190cm and 62kg is pretty deff..
any advice for the avg. joe who wants to ride his first 100 with a buddy?( just a good olboy ride not racing) also sounds as if you need to be a dietitian. to know what to eat before during and after.
Hi Bill. I’m definitely not an expert and probably more of an average joe. I’ve always cycled for fun and usually solo and switched to a road bike from mountain biking just under 3 years ago. I still like to put plenty of hills in my routes. I used to cycle to my previous place of work which really helped my cycling in the past and I can feel the difference now! I normally do about 50 miles on a Sunday (18mph) when I get the time and try to get 2-3 rides in the evenings of 15-25 miles. I’ve done a couple of century rides in the past and did my third one today which took just over 6 hours (av. 16mph).
An early start can make pre-ride eating a bit tricky and I’ve suffered a bit in the past with the last 10-20 miles being quite a struggle. This time I made sure I ate more in the previous few days – I overdid it a bit and put on about 7 pounds 🙂
I got up at 6am and had some porridge with raisins and sugar and drank about half a pint of water. I like to carry everything I need and not stop at shops, so I had 1ltr of fruit juice (plenty of glucose/sucrose) and 1ltr of ‘powerade’ (salts, etc) on the bike and the same again in a rucksack. On the ride I ate about 10 choc chip cookies and 3 cereal bars (more carb than fat type), but I had mnore with me. I didn’t need the 2nd litre of powerade as it was a fairly chilly start.
I made sure I kept the power down on the steeper inclines, but I don’t use a speedometer or clock, and so probably was still a bit enthusiastic early on. I struggled a bit in the last 5 miles which felt like general tiredness of my thigh muscles and needing to think about breathing harder rather than any real energy deficieny? My shoulders were aching more than normal as they took a bit of a hammering on some rough tarmac for about 10 miles early on as well.
When I got home I made a big whey protein shake and then had a couple of chesseburgers!
I sometimes do evening rides after not eating since breakfast to try and encourage my body to get used to not having a constant supply of carbs. I also tend to just stick to just 2-3 good sized meals a day without snacking. I only hit the sugar whilst riding.
Eat a lot of sugar during the ride. Not cola drinks or the like – too much acid. But take a couple of big water bottles with a couple few tablespoons of sugar in each. Take pure sugar to eat eg. hard sugar candies, maltodextrin tabs. Eat them constantly. You need to eat 45 grams each of sucrose and glucose per hour = 60 grams of glucose and 30 grams of fructose. That is the maximum sugar your body can absorb. Also take a couple of bananas to stop your stomach from seizing up and a no-butter jelly sandwich for when you finish.
Before the ride – a medium sized meal of quality unprocessed carbs with minimum fat, maybe a bit of protein but nothing too hard to digest. Bananas, oatmeal, apples, tomatoes, bread, pasta, toast. Probably not cereals with milk or granola, too much junk added to those. I’d avoid a big fried meal or anything from a packet. Before and after, you don’t need protein. Quality carbohydrates like fresh fruits, whole grains, legumes and vegetables are more useful for the body before and after an endurance effort. And they all contain enough protein and micronutrients as well as extra antioxidants to help recovery. Processed protein/recovery drinks are a bit of a scam. Check out Dylan Johnson on Youtube for more nutrition advice. He’s a current champion cyclist and sports scientist.
Wow, 262w to get a 3:34. Is this a particularly fast course? Excuse my ignorance but it seems quite a low average power with regards to the outstanding time. The reason i’m asking is that I posted a 3.49 on the WCA course last year with pretty much the same power 🙂
It is a fast course. But, I weigh only 61kg and possibly power meter underestimates.
This may give hope to everyone…but – I have cycled distances with no more than 40 mile rides. A strong mentality can be enough. Always worth challenging yourself as they say ‘the best cyclist in the world hasn’t yet sat on his/her bike’.
great read how about a winter ride together level 2! meet Oxford or halfway to Chelt ?
Found my way back to this blog when looking for some advice on pacing a long TT effort – there is very little out there even now, if Google is anything to go by, once you get beyond the roughly one hour threshold effort. It’s still a very useful resource to this day!
I’ve touched 80% of threshold for 4 hour efforts in the past and certainly felt the effort after that first hour odd! I’m envious of anyone who can ride a solid 90% sweet spot for that long but it gives me something to aim for…well perhaps I’d gladly aim for and settle for 85%!
Missed it if its already in but what about toilet needs. Do people pee themselves or stop?
If you time it right with hydration, you can manage 3-4 hours without stopping. If you get caught short, I dive into suitable bushes. The secret is to be hydrated but not overfull. Once it was cold and I drank a lot before the start, had to stop twice and lost loads of time. E.g. be careful of caffeine before start which acts as a diruetic.
I’m 52, female, 5’2“ tall and weigh around 58kg. I started time-trialling last year and completed a 100 mile course in just under 5h28m. I only sipped water with gel in it and ate bits of cinnamon bagel and jelly babies during the ride. Different aches came and went but started to feel unwell at 88 miles however still finished it. This year I’m trying again and hoping for a sub 5 hour time. Will try to fit in longer training rides and find more nutritious snacks that can easily be digested on the way round.
Well done on the 100 miles. There may be better snacks than what you ate!