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Races where the competitors’ goal is to cover the most distance in a set time are different that typical races in that you’re not actively competing against others. In cycling for example, when participating in a 12 or 24 hour race, you’ll be riding a looped course. And during your time on the bike, you can be passed or leave others behind. But none of that measures you’re success. Of all the races I’ve done, these are still my favorite because there a perfect example of man against himself.

Before you think about entering a 12-hour race, you should have already completed a double century (200 miles) road race or a 100 mile mountain bike race. While how many miles you ride will vary with terrain (175-250 miles), having completed this prerequisite will make sure you’re ready for the minimum. Also take into consideration that most of these races are located in the central United States so make sure you’re prepared for any temperature and elevation differences. For a list of ultracycling races near you, see the race calendar at

Prior to any training, it’s important you set some goals. The first thing you should determine is how many miles you plan on riding. When doing calculations involving time off the bike as well as wind speeds, consider that averaging 18 mph, with only 30 minutes off the bike, eguals 207 miles. If your goal is to only ride a double century, you may spend twice that time off the bike and ride more casually with only intermittent speed increases.

Next you’ll need to set up a training schedule. This will consist of a base period, peaking, and then tapering. Afterwards, it will take about a week of recovery time before you can start working out again, and about two weeks until you feel back to normal.

Base Training

This phase lasts 4 months and should be started in the fall. Its purpose is to build a solid foundation of muscle to prepare you for the upcoming intensity period. For those who live in a seasonable climate, this phase will largely take place inside. Your weekly regiment should be split in half, with half of your days spent on the stationery and the other half doing strength training and stretching. If you’re climate allows you to cycle outside year round your goal should be to reach your standard century time by the end of this phase.


These next 2 months will be spent reaching the 80% mileage point of your goal. That means if you’re racing a relatively flat course and plan on averaging 20 mph, you need to be able to ride through 184 miles in one sitting. Whatever your goal is, this run should be done at the latest 2 weeks before the race.

All your workouts will now be on the bike and at least one day should include each of the following: speed intervals, hill climbing, long ride at race pace, and another ride at half your planned distance and 10% faster pace. Combined, you should cover 300-350 miles per week. The other days should be light workouts that help maintain muscles not exercised on the bike.


This phase is only 1-2 weeks long and gives your body time to heal without losing any quickness. Your workouts can have the same intensity as the peaking period but with 40% - 60% decrease in volume. Five days before the race you need to start carbo-loading. For 3-4 days limit your food intake to mostly proteins, then the next 2 you can eat as much carbohydrates as you want.

Race Day

Unless you entered a night race, you’ll be riding from sunup to sundown. Remember the following:

• Stay on your bike as long as you can.
• Keep to your pace. Remember you based all your training around a goal set over 6 months ago. Don’t let the pace of other riders change your plan.
• Despite your mood, be polite to volunteers and any crew members.
• When you do need to stop, make sure you take care of everything. Did you refill your water bottles? Reapply sunscreen and Chap Stick? Did you eat something? When changing a flat, are there are rips or holes in the tire? Make sure you make an aid station checklist before the race and have memorized it to a tee.
• If drafting is permitted make sure to share the load with people you’re tailing.
• Follow the arrows, not the people.

No matter how much pain you’re in, if you aren’t injured, always finish the race. When times become difficult remember all the time you put into this day as well as the people who’ve taken time out of their lives to help you accomplish something amazing.

Q: What’s your best 12-hour score and where was it? I did 214 miles myself with a buddy one weekend. Leave a response below.

Kyle Beck
Blogger, Athlete
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