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Training for Hills on Flat Terrain

This is one of the most common questions I get asked. In this blog, I’ll break down the demands of climbing and the solution for training in flat terrain to meet those demands.

The demands of climbing can be broken down into three basic requirements. Good oxygen delivery to the working muscles, good pedaling efficiency and the right mindset and strategy to tackle the elevation gain. Let’s look at these a bit closer.

VO2Max

Oxygen delivery is expressed as VO2Max. This is your maximum ability to take oxygen from the atmosphere and deliver it to the working muscles. This is a very trainable system that does not require hills to accomplish. In the ESR Training plans your V02 is improved with the long Endurance Miles (EM) and the short high intensity Power Intervals (PI).

In the case of Endurance Miles it’s actually better to do this training on flattish terrain so you can keep the intensity consistently low. You may have heard this described as Zone 2 training. And here’s the kicker, the Power Intervals are best done in a very controlled environment and I often encourage my athletes to do these on an indoor trainer. You can do them outdoors as well but flat terrain is the best for these intervals as you need very high cadence to execute these well.

Pedaling Efficiency

It takes more energy to accelerate a bicycle that it does to keep it at a steady speed. So if you have big dead spots in your pedaling cycle you are essentially accelerating during every revolution of the pedal stroke. A dead spot is where pedaling power (torque) is lost when sub-optimally shifting from one movement pattern to another. Unpacking this further, if you have a dead spots in your pedal stroke you will struggle when the road goes up or when there is a significant headwind. Improving your pedaling efficiency will make the hills and headwinds a whole lot easier.

 

The good news is that this is very trainable in flat terrain. Use headwinds to improve your pedaling mechanics. Personally I like headwinds because it gives me an opportunity to work on my pedaling mechanics. And if you want to take it to the next level, go ride in a sandy trail. That will teach you how to maintain torque on the pedals.

To mimic the muscular endurance demands of climbing, ride into a headwind during your Endurance Miles with a bigger gear than you normally would choose. Don’t worry about speed, keep the intensity low and focus on maintaining effective force on the pedals from 12-7 around the crank.

Mindset and Strategy

If you dread the hills you’re missing out on one of the most enjoyable aspects of cycling. I recently moved to Florida from CO and before I chose where to live here I did a recon to find the hilliest area in the state. So first we have to change our mindset and see hills as an opportunity to practice our pedaling and learn how to ride them with skill. Every hill provides a prize at the end, the fun descent!

First rule of climbing is start easy! Biggest mistake is to start too fast, blow up halfway up and rest at the top. When I do a climbing camp with cyclists the first thing I do is to challenge them to go up a hill as slow as I do. Invariably, as we ride side by side, as soon as we hit the hill they accelerate and within a few seconds are a bike length ahead of me. The right way to approach a hill is to keep your intensity at the same level as you were on the flats and allow the hill to slow you down. Shift to a lighter gear then if at some point you think you can go a little harder do it in small increments, one gear at a time, at a pace that you can sustain over the top and for the first 10 feet of the downhill on the other side.

You can practice this on flat terrain with a headwind. Pick a 5-10min stretch of road, start slow and gradually increase your speed until you find the right pace for you. Keep your Rate of Perceived Exertion at 6-7 and practice eliminating the dead spots in your pedal stroke.

The bottom line is that if you follow one of the three ESR training plans and incorporate the pedaling efficiency training you will have trained as well as you can for hills in flat terrain.

See you all soon!

Coach Charlie

 

Alumni ESR rider advice for first-time riders

Hello first time #ESR rider, 

For a first-time rider, the Empire State Ride can seem intimidating. But, ask any of our alumni and they will remind you that this ride isn’t just a fitness challenge. They will proudly tell you that the Empire State Ride brought them a new perspective on the world, their life and each other.

If are a novice rider, or on the fence about accepting the challenge, look no further – our alumni have you covered.

 

You can do it!

“Your body can do anything… it’s your brain you need to convince.”Tracey M.

Studies have shown your body releases early signs of fatigue to keep you from overexerting yourself. With proper training you’ll find you can push through anything. 

 

“Humility. Accepting, with grace, my limitations.”Arlene K.

Sometimes enough is enough. While it is good to test your limits, you need to listen to your body. Your health and safety is our top priority. When you choose to go on the road with us, we have a team of professionals to support you every pedal of the way. 

 

Pace yourself, and get it done.

“It doesn’t matter how fast you pedal, just freaking pedal!”Sal T.

If you haven’t done a long-distance ride before, 500+ miles can seem impossible. One push at a time, one stretch at a time, and before you know it, you’ll have crossed that finish line.

“Pacing is key. I can hang on the back of a train at 23 mph for a day and then struggle to ride 10 mph for the next two days. Or I can ride 13 mph all day, every day.”Matt G.

Find your flow and stick to it. This is not a race, it’s an adventure. 

“For me, there are three: 

  1. Bring a battery powered oscillating fan for your tent! 
  2. It’s not a race, always take the time to stop for a picture or explore something cool 
  3. Make SURE to use the bathroom before going to bed every night. Nothing worse than getting up in the middle of the night when you are exhausted and can’t see anything.” – Jason M. 

“Ride your own ride…and enjoy it.”Rick J.

No matter what, this challenge is about you and the cancer patients you are riding for. Enjoy yourself and do what you need to do to prepare so you are ready for the ride of your life.

Meet Your New Close Friends.

“Who knew in those 7 days of cycling you would inherit a family. ESR family for life.”Maurice A.

“You will have yourself another family. Ride with others but ride by yourself…you’ll have to dig in and it’ll all make sense.”Nicholas R.

At the beginning of the Empire State Ride, a group of strangers begins their journey across New York. By the time the riders cross the finish line, they have made lifelong friendships. And nothing will break that bond.


“Enjoy the moment and the great sights and people around you. It doesn’t matter if you ride 12 mph or 20 you are moving forward for a great cause.”Daisy H.

Look at the bigger picture. You are completing a ride of a lifetime to advance cancer research. Cycling is a celebration of health. We must do our part to end cancer. 


“Started as a “me” thing. Ended as a “we” thing.”Chris H.


“Putting yourself out there, challenging yourself and supporting a cause will inspire others to do the same.” 

– David V.

Road warriors are courageous. Choosing to ride the Empire State Ride is choosing to lead. Your hard work contributes to the world of cancer research and the patients at Roswell Park. 

Don’t forget your butt!

“Develop your chafing prevention protocol early and stick with it.”Chris H.

Saddle sores hurt. We suggest training for a long-distance ride, as much as possible, and finding the saddle that works for you. 

“Extra strength Desitin = Liquid Gold.”Michelle B. 

The food is fantasitic.

“Snacks!”Jose V.

Everything you need to keep you going on the road will be provided with a smile from our team. 

“I learned I can gain weight over the same seven days I rode 540+ miles. The food was excellent!”Jim M.

You have been warned. Riders enjoy catered breakfast and dinner every day

ESR rider spotlight: Maria Thor

Why this year’s ride matters more than ever

For 59-year-old Maria Thor, enjoying nature, being surrounded by loved ones and taking care of her health are three of life’s greatest blessings. She cycles six days a week and adds an hour of weights whenever possible as part of her training for Empire State Ride, which she has proudly done every year since 2017. She rides to honor her parents who both lost their battles to cancer.

Through everything, Maria’s strong faith sees her through life’s ups and downs. In recent years, this faith has become more important than ever as she’s been faced with new challenges.

Early warning signs

In February 2021, Maria was diagnosed with dyslexia, a condition that affects how she processes written language. The diagnosis shed light on the struggles Maria faced throughout her life. Armed with a new perspective, she set out to learn how to navigate her condition by spending time with a specialist in New York City. It was during training that she started to notice something in her stomach didn’t feel right. 

“I know my body so well, and that’s really important,” Maria says. “I always stress that if there’s something wrong, you should go to the doctor.”

And she did. She called her doctor right away and had an appointment as soon as she returned home in November. After a sonogram and a CT scan, she received a phone call that no one ever wants to receive.

“I’ll never forget it. I was riding my bicycle when the doctor called and said I had a fatty mass. I almost fell off my bike.”

On November 22, Maria’s diagnosis came back: Leiomyosarcoma, a rare cancer that grows in the smooth muscles.

Maria Thor-020822-070

Alongside her niece, Rebecca, close friend, Terry, and the staff at Roswell Park, Maria started chemotherapy. For each round of treatment, she stays at the hospital for days at a time, hooked up to an infusion pump on an IV stand that Rebecca has fondly named Wanda. Despite any limitations, Maria completes three miles, or about 99 laps around her floor, with Wanda in tow.

Not all days are good, but she does what she can to keep herself moving. That includes participating in her sixth Empire State Ride.

“It’s in God’s hands what I’m going to be able to do this year [at ESR],” Maria says. “If it’s just a mile, I’ll do a mile. But I will be at the Empire State Ride, heck or high water, sleeping in a tent and joining everybody in celebration.”

 

 

Remembering her first ride

Maria’s journey makes raising funds to end cancer more important than ever.  She thinks back to her first Empire State Ride in 2017 and remembers not knowing what to expect. A self-declared “Holiday Inn girl,” she avoided camping for most of her life and had limited experience with distance cycling.

“I really had no idea how to ride my bicycle. I just rode,” she said. “It’s a game — getting the rest, taking the supplements you need, drinking water every 10 minutes, finding a support group to cheer you on. That first year, you really learn.”

As she prepares to embark on her sixth Empire State Ride with her team, GBY9 (“God Bless You” followed by her parents’ favorite number), she looks forward to doing what she can on her bike and cheering everybody else on. Like years past, she’ll stop when she sees a penny or quarter and pocket what she calls her “wings from heaven.” Later, she’ll add the coins to her fundraising total.

Most importantly, Maria will keep a list of people who have donated to her fundraiser and send them prayers from the road. They’re part of her team, and she can say firsthand that what they’re doing makes a difference in the lives of patients like her.

“Your whole life changes in a blink when you hear the words, ‘You have cancer,’” she said. “You don’t take anything for granted.”

That, Maria says, is reason enough to keep moving.

Join Maria at this year’s Empire State Ride. 

Words to the warriors

Hello first time #ESR rider, 

Before you tackle over 500 miles, you might need some advice from riders who have tackled this before. Our ESR road warriors know what it takes to cycle across New York State and have shared some of their expertise on how to prepare for the adventure of a lifetime.

Here is some advice past ESR road warriors think you should know before you arrive at Wagner College on Saturday, July 23, 2022.

 

Facebook community

“My best advice is ask a lot of questions. Find someone [through the Facebook group] you can use as a ‘buddy’ and go from there. I asked a million questions, got a thousand answers and learned hundreds of things I never even thought to ask.”Greg Topf

“Keep your eyes on [the Facebook] group. There is so much information and so many resourceful members who are always happy to help! Don’t be afraid to ask questions.”Ariane Brabant

Train

“The best advice is to follow the Charlie Livermore training program on the ESR website!” Steve Mars

Check it out here. 

“You will have a ton of fun. Start training now.” – Mark Elia

“Practice multi-day rides beforehand. Time in the saddle will best prepare your ‘saddle.’ Have fun. Remember your why when it’s not going perfectly and pedal on! Use this family for anything you need.”Matt Geraghty

“Make sure you have a good plan for nutrition and hydration. Experiment on your long training rides.”Frank Lettera

“It’s a good idea to start stringing multiple ride days together in the spring to prepare for the 7-day ride… and make sure you learn about cycling nutrition. No shortage of help (and opinions) in the ESR FB group!”Steve Mars

 

Have fun

“Eat the elephant one bite at a time, and make sure to save enough room to take all the feels in. It’s one of the most powerful accomplishments you can achieve.”Sean Crotty

“It’s not a race. Ride at your own pace, enjoy the sights, take lots of pictures, have fun!”Jim Stelianou

On the road

“Pack light!”Heather Hasnik Ring

“Your luggage is handled each morning by an awesome ESR crew that moves it all to the next overnight. It will make more sense when the list is published. No worries.” Shelley Asad Unocic

“At orientation and at breakfast on day 1, sit at different tables and get to know the amazing people signed up for this journey. I found it comforting to see familiar faces on the road during the first day of the ride.”Ariane Brabant

“I pack a pair of shorts/bib for each day. Happy I did. Having fresh clean dry jersey/bib each day was a great feeling.”Jim Stelianou

“Pack light! Bring one bib for each day for sure! Train now, fundraise now but most importantly, enjoy every single moment of your journey! Definitely nice clean dry shorts are key.”Judy Rosich Carrera

“Also, don’t be afraid to engage ESR alumni and new riders when you arrive at Wagner College. You should have a group to ride with either on day 1 or 2. We are all in this together!”Frank Lettera

 

Now it's your turn

Take on ERS22 and learn as much as you can so next year, you can share your advice with us. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to our team at empirestateride@roswellpark.org.

Cycling safely when alone or in a group

Empire State Ride is a cycling adventure for those who commit to advance cancer research from the seat of their bike. To have the best possible experience, whether you’re riding across New York State or in your hometown, staying safe on the road is imperative.

 

Safety tips:

Make left turns from the center of the road or the left turning lane.

  • Do not cross the yellow center line regardless of the passing zone.
  • Cross railroad tracks at right angles to avoid getting stuck between the rails and the road.
  • Stay hydrated. Drink before you are thirsty during and after your ride.
  • Wear sunscreen on all exposed skin. Follow these five tips to find the right SPF.
  • Know your limitations.
  • Listen to your body. Take advantage of rest stops and lean on our team for support when you need it.

When riding in a group, your fellow riders will expect you to ride at a consistent speed and direction until you signal and communicate your change. Practicing cycling etiquette helps to eliminate crashes and injuries.

 

Cycling Etiquette tips:

  • Obey all traffic signs, signals and police officer instruction.
  • Ride as far to the right of the road as is safely possible, except to pass.
  • Use proper hand signals when turning.
  • Be aware of your surroundings — This adventure takes place on open roads. Motor vehicle traffic will be present. Headphones, iPods and radios are prohibited.
  • Wear a properly fitted CPSC standard bike helmet and appropriate cycling gear. A helmet must be worn at all times while riding. Find out how to properly fit your helmet here.

Now you are ready to take the open road and enjoy your Empire State Ride.

Additional resources:

In the meantime, here are a few more tools to help you familiarize yourself with basic cycling safety and etiquette. Enjoy these videos provided by the League of American Cyclists:

Alumni ESR rider advice: for first-time riders

Hello first time #ESR rider, 

For a first-time rider, the Empire State Ride can seem intimidating. But, ask any of our alumni and they will remind you that this ride isn’t just a fitness challenge. They will proudly tell you that the Empire State Ride brought them a new perspective on the world, their life and each other.

If are a novice rider, or on the fence about accepting the challenge, look no further – our alumni have you covered.

 

You can do it!

“Your body can do anything… it’s your brain you need to convince.”Tracey M.

Studies have shown your body releases early signs of fatigue to keep you from overexerting yourself. With proper training you’ll find you can push through anything. 

 

“Humility. Accepting, with grace, my limitations.”Arlene K.

Sometimes enough is enough. While it is good to test your limits, you need to listen to your body. Your health and safety is our top priority. When you choose to go on the road with us, we have a team of professionals to support you every pedal of the way. 

 

Pace yourself, and get it done.

“It doesn’t matter how fast you pedal, just freaking pedal!”Sal T.

If you haven’t done a long-distance ride before, 500+ miles can seem impossible. One push at a time, one stretch at a time, and before you know it, you’ll have crossed that finish line.

“Pacing is key. I can hang on the back of a train at 23 mph for a day and then struggle to ride 10 mph for the next two days. Or I can ride 13 mph all day, every day.”Matt G.

Find your flow and stick to it. This is not a race, it’s an adventure. 

“For me, there are three: 

  1. Bring a battery powered oscillating fan for your tent! 
  2. It’s not a race, always take the time to stop for a picture or explore something cool 
  3. Make SURE to use the bathroom before going to bed every night. Nothing worse than getting up in the middle of the night when you are exhausted and can’t see anything.” – Jason M. 

“Ride your own ride…and enjoy it.”Rick J.

No matter what, this challenge is about you and the cancer patients you are riding for. Enjoy yourself and do what you need to do to prepare so you are ready for the ride of your life.

Meet Your New Close Friends.

“Who knew in those 7 days of cycling you would inherit a family. ESR family for life.”Maurice A.

“You will have yourself another family. Ride with others but ride by yourself…you’ll have to dig in and it’ll all make sense.”Nicholas R.

At the beginning of the Empire State Ride, a group of strangers begins their journey across New York. By the time the riders cross the finish line, they have made lifelong friendships. And nothing will break that bond.


“Enjoy the moment and the great sights and people around you. It doesn’t matter if you ride 12 mph or 20 you are moving forward for a great cause.”Daisy H.

Look at the bigger picture. You are completing a ride of a lifetime to advance cancer research. Cycling is a celebration of health. We must do our part to end cancer. 


“Started as a “me” thing. Ended as a “we” thing.”Chris H.


“Putting yourself out there, challenging yourself and supporting a cause will inspire others to do the same.” 

– David V.

Road warriors are courageous. Choosing to ride the Empire State Ride is choosing to lead. Your hard work contributes to the world of cancer research and the patients at Roswell Park. 

Don’t forget your butt!

“Develop your chafing prevention protocol early and stick with it.”Chris H.

Saddle sores hurt. We suggest training for a long-distance ride, as much as possible, and finding the saddle that works for you. 

“Extra strength Desitin = Liquid Gold.”Michelle B. 

The food is fantasitic.

“Snacks!”Jose V.

Everything you need to keep you going on the road will be provided with a smile from our team. 

“I learned I can gain weight over the same seven days I rode 540+ miles. The food was excellent!”Jim M.

You have been warned. Riders enjoy catered breakfast and dinner every day

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