Spring Forward: 6 things to do at this point in your Dragon Ride training

By Rebecca Charlton

The clocks have changed, the evenings are becoming increasingly lighter and if you’ve been lacking motivation over the winter months this could be the start of a newly energised phase of training, as Dragon Ride and all its challenges fast approach.

Although we’ll be taking you through how and when to taper and perform your final routines nearer the big day, now is the perfect time to start forming habits that will provide you with the perfect preparation in the lead-up to taking on the Dragon.

Check in with yourself

If you’re training a lot on your own it can be really challenging to know where you’re at. Now is a good time to be honest with yourself. Are you doing enough? Maybe you’re doing too much and need to give yourself some recovery time? You could do a self-MOT and ask yourself where you’re at with fitness vs fatigue, how do you feel in yourself day to day? Or you could test yourself tangibly with an FTP test on the indoor trainer or a group ride to see if you’re feeling strong in the group. The biggest task is to be honest with yourself as to how much you need to do to be where you want to be. With two months to go, you have time to make a difference.

Practice your nutrition

Now is the time to try new foods and any energy or nutrition products you might want to use on the day of Dragon Ride. Gels, bars or powered drinks can be highly concentrated to the point that you could run into gastrointestinal distress (the polite term for stomach issues!) if your body isn’t used to digesting them during a hard endurance effort on the bike. I would always try out your nutrition strategy in training, whether that’s a handful of Jaffa Cakes and potatoes or sports-tailored carbohydrate formulas. If you are yet to experience the delightful hot potatoes, offered at the Dragon Ride feed stations, you are in for an absolute treat.

Plan your meals

Last month we talked about meal-prepping when you’re fitting your training in around a busy schedule but now is also a good time to start getting used to finding the perfect pre-ride breakfast, and how long before your ride works well in aiding your digestion and comfort on the bike. The foods you choose are entirely individual to you, but I always like to go for some sturdy porridge a couple of hours before, then top up with easily accessible snacks on the bike. Don’t forget, if you’re waiting around for people, getting ready, experiencing the general faff, you’ll need to top up on fuel to get the most from your ride.

Be specific

I’ve chatted to people who are taking on Dragon Ride for the first time and are coming from another sport or form of exercise. Firstly, this is great news, I want to steal as many people as possible into cycling, and having fitness under your belt is a brilliant head start. However, without having put the miles in on the bike and the climbs your conditioning could be lacking on the day and I’ve definitely been guilty of this in the past. It can lead to aches and pains, and in my case horrendous hamstring cramp in the last 10 miles! Although running, for example, will provide a brilliant cardiovascular fitness base, positioning and comfort on the bike for meters upon meters of climbing, on sharp gradients will require your body to have experienced back-to-back climbs in training. This will be critical in developing muscle memory and practising how to get the best out of your pacing and strengths, when it comes to the vast elevation gains. Equally, it’s vital that you learn to descend and corner safely, especially with other riders around you on the day. If you’ve been training a lot indoors, now is the time to sharpen up those bike-handling skills. Practice makes perfect.

Increase your elevation

Depending on the part of the world you are from it can be a challenge in itself to find big enough climbs to prepare. If this is the case, you may have to plan your rides slightly further afield and if all else fails – yes, I’ll shamelessly plug my fav hack one more time – you could get some virtual climbing in on Alpe d’Zwift in the comfort of your own home. Maybe even ask a friend or family member to throw a bucket of cold water over you every so often just to prepare for the typical Welsh weather – sorry, I’m sure we’re due a sunny year!

Treat yourself to a mini training camp

As much as we’d all like to jet off for endless miles in the sun, it’s not always possible and annual leave can be precious. But I do always think your fitness can improve drastically with even a slightly more concentrated block of endurance followed by a good recovery, before getting back to consistent riding. The upcoming May bank holiday weekends could allow for a mini camp, even if it’s a staycation with lots of local miles. Back-to-back endurance efforts at this point in your training can provide massive rewards and could be worth factoring in.

The lighter evenings and longer days can bring so much more motivation to get out early, or in the evenings, and by introducing some of these ideas into your training you could really change your experience on the day, improving your enjoyment, rather than dragging yourself through. Train hard now and the day will feel lighter, physically and mentally. Good luck!