Base Miles: getting ready for the Isle of Bones Tour

Back in March I had mentioned commemorating my 50th spin around the sun by cycling down to Key West. Logistical delays and unexpected events postponed my ride on numerous occasions. Now with a new and improved version of my Isle of Bones Tour just a few short weeks away, base miles are going to play a huge role. But what exactly are base miles anyways?

Long-distance cycling requires endurance training and conditioning of the muscles and tendons. Base miles are the foundation that must be established before more intense training can begin. The purpose of base miles is to increase aerobic capacity and strengthen leg muscles used for cycling. In short, it gives your muscles memory and gets both your body and brain used to the bike.

With nearly 300 miles of cycling to do, 120 of which will be on day one, and most likely against the wind, base mileage is going to play a huge role. My longest mileage to date has been the recent Tour of Sebring which was 230 miles in length. I completed that ride with relatively fresh legs but I have to admit some parts of me were rather sore. Sure, we won’t be riding as hard as I did in the Tour of Sebring as this is a true touring type ride, and more importantly, there will not be any wicked rolling terrain to put the hurt on tired muscles, but the overall distance is still substantial, so every mile under our belt is going to help.

There are two basic energy systems you use when training; anaerobic and aerobic. Unfortunately, you can not build both systems at the same time. The idea behind base miles is to specifically build your aerobic energy system. The more work you perform aerobically, or in the presence of oxygen, the more efficient you are. Prolonged aerobic training produces muscular adaptations that improves oxygen transport to the muscles, reduces the rate of lactate formation, improves the rate of lactate removal, and increases energy production and utilization. These adaptations occur slowly over time…something we have little left before the start of our tour.

Although everyone registered for the tour should be an experienced rider with at least a few completed centuries under their belts, a few have either just recently broken the 100 mile threshold or are closing in on it. For this reason we assembled many of the riders who will be participating in this tour and did as the Italians say “Pedalare! Pedalare!” on an 86 mile ride down through Naples.

Tim, Gus, Manuel, and Tina joined me early morning Sunday for a planned 70 mile ride down to the Fit & Fuel and back. This was going to be a new distance PR for Tina so we clandestinely extended the ride just a wee bit to 86 miles. In our defense, we were just following the words of the great Eddy Merx…”ride lots”.

Unlike Saturday’s ride where I spent most of the time in cruise control wheel sucking off everyone, I went right up to the front and pulled the first 33 miles of the ride, all the way to the Fit & Fuel break. Since this was a base miles exercise, I kept the pace under 20 MPH and as constant as possible. Everyone arrived very fresh, albeit rather dirty from the wet pavement, and eager to dig into some freshly baked mid ride snacks. While there, Tina put us in a “dirty bumhole” line up and christened us with the names Sandy, Gritty, Muddy and Funky…Tim claimed the name Sandy while I quickly claimed Gritty, we’ll let Gus and Manuel fight it out for the the last two names.

Once refueled, we headed back out for an unexpected extended 18 mile loop down the Naples coastline. This was all relaxed tour style riding as we slipped into sightseeing mode enjoy all the spectacular homes and vistas of the Gulf coast. We even took a “frolic break” for Tina, as she eagerly jumped over a fence to get to some lush lakeside trees, as well as a beach side photo op…during which my iPhone kept flopping over as we tried to get a group shot.

We looped back towards Vanderbilt to top off our bottles and take a badly needed besoin naturel before heading back up the coast to Coconut Point. Gus, as always was in rare form as his melodious acoustic cacophony reverberated off the beach side high rises, waking all that thought they could sleep in…now we know why Tina always rides behind him! It was already near mid day as we approached Coconut Point, and with 70 miles showing on are odometers and another 20 miles remaining, we decided to stop for a lunch break.

Coconut Point was bustling as the Taste of Coconut Point was in full swing, but creatures of habit that we are, we headed straight to Panera for some signature sandwiches and cold drinks. Manuel’s family met us out there and even brought their dog JJ in tow. After perhaps too long a break dominated by conversations of food (we cyclists must be starving as our conversations always seem to center around food) we mounted back up for the final 20 or so miles remaining.

By now we were well beyond Tina’s maximum distance, and frankly she was doing spectacularly well, but I think the heat and repetitiveness of following someone’s wheel for so long caught up with her resulting in an unplanned stop for a coke and shade break. Although she does not drink soft drinks, that Coke completely revived her…I’ve always said that there is something special about an ice cold Coke deep into a long ride, it’s a dirty secrets of most professional cyclists.

Recharged, we headed back out, letting Tina take the lead and pull us home. Overall Tina, as well as everyone else did a great job. It was a longer ride than expected chocked full of base mile goodness, and although it required a couple of unplanned stops, everyone managed the distance and heat very well. Ideally we should all put in a string of back, to back, to back long rides before our Key West Tour kicks off. After all, it’s just three short weeks away!

Route: Base Miles
Ride Time: 5:21:42
Stopped Time: 3:46:37
Distance: 86.49 miles
Average: 16.13 mph
Fastest Speed: 25.11 mph
Ascent: 4493 feet
Descent: 4480 feet
Calories: 4625


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