Crushing Your First Fondo: From Training to Finish Line
Deciding to do your first fondo may seem crazy. Riding a 100+ kilometres is not an easy task. It will take commitment to the goal, dedication to training, a focus on education, support from family and lots of time on the road.
Find your ride
For many people, myself included, I need a goal to help me focus my fitness. Before I had a bike, before I really knew what was involved, I was walking along a beach in British Columbia’s Howe Sound with my two little kids. I had heard of the RBC Whister GranFondo but I had never seen it in action.There I was suddenly in the middle of all the action. With the all of the riders whizzing by I decided in one year I would be doing that too.
It turns out this was the best decision of my life. The simple acceptance that I could do that started me down the path of cycling - one that has revolutionized my health, reignited confidence, brought many many amazing women into my life and created an important role model for my little boys.
Find a goal - Research rides. Perhaps you will find the perfect medio (half fondo), a full fondo, a community building charity ride or the ultimate two-wheeled vacation. There are countless rides out there so there are no excuses that there isn’t one for you.
Commit to the goal - Sign up. Pay up. Block the date in your calendar. Don’t give yourself an inch to quit.
Share your goal - Tell someone, tell someone else, tell your co-workers, and tell your family friends. As you voice your goal it becomes real. A month from now, when someone asks you would be embarrassed to say you quit - this is a subtle way of holding yourself accountable.
Before you hop on the bike - and it doesn’t need to be fancy one, I started my first fondo training on a 10 year old, heavy, commuter bike - get it fit. Hit up your local physio or bike shop and make sure your bike won’t put stress on your body. They will check the geometry of the bike to ensure your rides are as painfree as possible. Invest in this service up front and you will save money and time on rehab later.
There are are a number of programs online that, if followed, will get you ride ready in eight, 12 or 16 weeks. Check out the ride you have committed too and see if they have a training section. Some have complete plans posted. Other rides will offer training clinics.
I did my first fondo with the help of the training clinics offered by Whistler GranFondo. It was essential to my success. I didn’t have cyclist friends yet and this was a way to get education and accountability in one place. There was a great coach and met like-minded people who were in the same place as me. Together we grew as riders, later we teamed up for long training rides and we cheered as we all crossed the finish line. Every single rider that committed to the clinic throughout the summer crossed the 122 km finish line.
Plan to ride three times a week. Aim for one ride that pushes you - intervals or hills. This ride does not have to be long. Aim for one ride that improves a skill - pacelines, cornering, hill climbing. Lastly complete an LSD ride - Long Slow Distance. This is not about speed - it is about building endurance.
Celebrate the first 25 km ride you do. Celebrate your first 50! Go big when you crush 100 km! These are important milestones that seem unreachable now but you can work towards and conquer. Brag. You deserve it.
Doing your first fondo will be easier with a little knowledge in the back of your jersey. Getting the basics on nutrition and bike maintenance will go a long way to get you across the finish line.
Fuelling your fondo
The decision to train for such a big ride will completely change your life. You will be stressing and fueling your body like you have never done before. Seek out a sports nutritionist or attend free clinics offered by bike shops, physios or nutritionists (Secret tip: check out running stores - they seem to host marathon training nutrition talks more than bike shops do.)
During you LSD rides test out various food options. You can go classic and fill your jersey with bananas or load up on gels and bars. On you big ride you don’t want to bonk out from lack of energy. Use training rides to see what works for your body. I learned I hate gels - I can never eat the cleanly instead I like power cubes.
On ride day don’t get distracted by the nutrition stations. If you never eat bananas - this isn’t the day to try. Stick with what your body is used to. Don’t grab the waffle or bacon - yes sometimes there is bacon - if you didn’t try it during training. It would be so frustrating to be crushing your first fondo to be waylaid by grumbly guts.
CLIF Blok Black Cherry With Caffeine
The other bit of education you need is to learn a about your bike. Lots of bike shops and larger outdoor retailers offer free or low-cost bike maintenance classes. Learn the parts of the bike, learn - and PRACTICE - changing tires, learn how to properly clean your bike - and do it regularly. A dirty bike causes undue wear on components and actually makes it harder to ride. You don’t need to know how to fully tune up your bike - find a shop you trust - but you will be out on the road by yourself so knowing how to deal with common issues will keep you riding and give you confidence that you can do it yourself.
It is going to take a lot of time out on the road to get first fondo ready. You will need family and friends to give you a bit of a push on the days your are tired. With two little kids at home I needed to get my spouse on board. If he couldn’t leave work early at least once a week to take over parenting duties I couldn’t hit the road.
Consider this an investment in yourself - be willing to pay for it. Joining a cycling club will provide boundless support, a sounding board to ask questions and like-minded people to help you reach your goal. In addition to all of the above, for me it means paying a babysitter to watch the kids so I can get a ride in during the week.
The first fondo you complete is a special one. It is a commitment to choose a better you - healthier, stronger, happier. Crossing the line at my first - after five and a half hours - I had some sort of a panic attack and had trouble breathing for a few minutes. I was overcome with emotion of completing this year long goal. I was so *bleeping* proud of myself - that’s the only way to express it - I was so proud. For the first time in my journey as a young mom I had chosen myself and succeed a very notable feat.
I pulled myself together by the time I reach the bike parking and saw my family. The ride was about more than just 122 kms up a mountain. I had made a life changing commitment to health and certainly been bitten by the cycling bug.
And when my four-year-old went to preschool the next week I overheard him brag to his pals his mom was bike racer.
Trying not to cry at the finish.