In October 2017 I was diagnosed with a herniated lumbar disc, and learned along the way that my left hip had early-stage arthritis. I shelved—yet again!—plans to run a half-marathon (perhaps, um, forever). Running in my 40s has been a story of unrequited love.
Fortunately, I didn’t have to sulk too long. Around the same time, the Etape du Tour registrations opened up. Time to return to my old faithful, the bike!
[screenshot of confirmation]
169 km, 3800m elevation gain. OMG WHAT HAVE I SIGNED UP FOR?
Living in central Paris means long rides are only realistic on weekends. It also means those rides are essentially flat.
My longest ride, ever, was 138km and going along the Loire, was dead flat. My climby-est ride, around Girona, was 123km with 1900m elevation. Both took me all day, and featured lunch as well as multiple coffee stops.
I’m 46 years old. So what (so asks those in their 20s & early 30s)? Well, although I exercise far more consistently than when I was younger, I’m now prone to overuse injuries, so my fitness progression in since turning 40 can be best summed up as two steps forward, one step back. Perhaps even more significantly, it’s made me very leery about pushing myself too much.
And yeah, on that note, my back pain was far from over.
But, lest I sound like a total Eeyore, I still had a few aces up my sleeve:
Living in Paris also means it’s only a few hours to many rideable mountainous roads via TGV.
Husband is also a cyclist, of the mountain goat variety. And he is a dab hand with bike maintenance.
I actually enjoy figuring out new routes in unknown areas, and am fine with riding on my own if need be.
How much did I train?
The short answer? A lot.
Keep in mind, your mileage may vary! There were two guys from my club, both with classic distance running bods & fitness to match who put in far fewer hours on the bike (especially in the mountains) than I did, yet finished hours ahead of me.
And another guy in my club, also young and fit but with a more muscular build, who hardly had ridden at all who did manage to finish, but took even longer than I did.
How did I do it?
Home trainer, baby.
Not on its own, of course. To keep it easy, I just followed TrainerRoad’s Base/Build/Speciality training plans - 27 weeks of training. To make it fun(ish), I subscribed to Netflix and was only allowed to watch my ‘workout shows’ if I was on the trainer.
Every single trip I did between Oct 17 and July 8 involved biking. From January onward, in fact, ever trip was FOR biking.
Oct & Nov
Get on trainer Barcelona UB
Build (12 weeks)
Dec Jan & Feb:
Mar: Strada Bianche
April: Mallorca, Languedoc, La Provencale
May: Les Marcaires
June: Gallibier/Alpe d’Huez/Croix de Fer
Gas-guzzling North American
Despite the long lunches, both rides also featured pretty big bonks around the 100k mark. In fact, out of all my years cycling, I think I could count on two hands the number of rides I’d done that were longer than 100k. Almost all had lunch stops. All of them involved bonking.
In other words, I needed to train to go a bit further, and a helluva lot higher than I was used to riding on a bike, and figure out how to feed myself so that I didn’t collapse on a mountainside and get swept up by the broom wagon.