The Longest Day
208 miles in one Day

(Last updated: Thu. Sep 24, 2009)

The Longest Day - training

Training schedule

This is one of the most important things you need to do to be able to do a double century. I'll work on this though I recommend that you take this with a grain of salt. I have never been able to use the training schedules presented by magazines like Bicycle. My life doesn't work in such nice neat time slots. Also the weather never cooperates. One thing I will tell you, there are at least three things you need to train for: some hills, some very flat sections and heat. The last one can be difficult to train for because the weather leading up to the Longest Day may not cooperate.

Here's a 10 week program, that means you need to start training in April. It's actually better to start in January but some folks may not decide until April to actually do the ride. If you're starting in May you've got some work cut out for you (watch out for stress injuries!). It's better to stay off the bike than work through stress injuries. They won't get better until you rest.

10 Week Training Schedule (a work in progress)
 Week   Midweek   Saturday   Sunday   Total   Comments 
 1 30 40   70 1st week of April
 2 30 40 15 85 2nd week of April
 3 40 40 20 100 3rd week of April
 4 40 60 20 120 4th week of April
 5 45 80 20 145 1st week of May
 6 45 100 20 165 2nd week of May
 7 60 100 20 180 3rd week of May
 8 60 100 40 200 4th week of May
 9 60 100 60 220 at speed (1st week of June)
10 20 - 40 easy miles 208 Off 248 Ride week, take it easy (2nd week of June)
10 Week Training Schedule (arrive with something left)
 Week   Midweek   Saturday   Sunday   Total   Comments 
 1 30 40 10 80 1st week of April
 2 40 40 10 90 2nd week of April
 3 40 45 20 105 3rd week of April
 4 40 60 20 120 4th week of April
 5 45 80 20 145 1st week of May
 6 40 100 25 165 2nd week of May
 7 60 100 30 190 3rd week of May
 8 60 100 60 220 4th week of May
 9 60 120 60 240 at speed (1st week of June)
10 20 - 40 easy miles 208 Off 248 Ride week, take it easy (2nd week of June)

I kind of hate putting these tables together as they don't reflect the reality of your training schedule. I ride during the week as family, work and weather allow and I also ride on the weekends. By the time I reach the end of May I'm riding double metrics (instead of centuries), which I feel better prepare me for the Longest Day. It's been said that you shouldn't increase you miles more than 10%/week. If I did that I'd have to start training in February. Technically I do but February is a brutal month to try and rack up miles. Also quite a few of my routes are a little tough to increase by small amounts. So I use a 10 - 15% rule. The numbers above are kind of low for me. I think that an 11 week using the second table would be a little better. I'd start one week earlier (last week of March). I'd keep the same numbers up to week 10 were I'd add an 'easy' week like week 9 (220 miles). I'd drop the speed to a slightly easier pace. This week would be much more relaxed riding than the previous training weeks. One thing I've found is that as a general rule I find that anything more than a double metric is a waste. I don't enjoy the ride and I don't seem to get any additional training out of it and yes I do understand that contradictory sound of that.

A little more on training, for the last few years I've been 'pulling' muscles in my legs. I'd go out on fast, long rides and barely make it back. I could pedal but I couldn't get my speed up (a common problem in older men ;-). Well I've been doing bad things to my legs. My mileage was increasing faster than my body could keep up and I'd end up with injuries that would limit my speed. This year (2011) I'm taking it a bit easier. Hopefully this will get my strength and endurance back. I'm confident I get back to mid-17's for the Longest Day.

11 Week Training Schedule (arrive with something left)
 Week   Midweek   Saturday   Sunday   Total   Comments 
 1 30 40 10 80 4th week of March
 2 40 40 10 90 1st week of April
 3 40 45 20 105 2nd week of April
 4 40 60 20 120 3rd week of April
 5 45 80 20 145 4th week of April
 6 40 100 25 165 1st week of May
 7 60 100 30 190 2nd week of May
 8 60 100 60 220 3rd week of May
 9 60 120 60 240 4th week of May
10 60 100 60 220 at speed (1st week of June)
11 20 - 40 easy miles 208 Off 248 Ride week, take it easy (2nd week of June)

Now here's a 14 week program (start in March).

14 Week Training Schedule
 Week #   Midweek   Saturday   Sunday   Week Total   Notes: 
1 30 40 20 90 1st week of March
2 40 40 30 110 2nd week of March
3 40 50 30 120 3rd week of March
4 45 60 30 135 4th week of March
5 45 75 30 150 1st week of April
6 50 75 45 170 2nd week of April
7 55 90 45 190 3rd week of April
8 60 100 45 205 4th week of April
9 80 100 45 225 1st week of May
10 90 100 60 250 2nd week of May
13 90 120 60 270 3rd week of May
14 90 120 60 270 4th week of May
15 80 100 60 240 1st week of June
16 20 200 *rest* 220 2nd week of June

This is a little better than the previous 10 week program which trains you for the ride but it only just gets you there. The 14 week program get you there with strength.

The ride

I love this ride and, it's my favorite ride of the season. As I've said, I'm a bit of a mileage junkie. I need miles but I need to keep them to a single day. Otherwise I'd be doing brevets, like Boston-Montreal-Boston or Paris-Brest-Paris, both 1200 km. There's nothing like saying that you've completed a double century as part of your list of riding accomplishments. One important thing to note, this ride is not 200 miles it's 208 miles. Those extra 8 miles can really beat you up mentally if you're not expecting them.

Mike Kruimer (retired CJBC President) likes to say that the Longest Day is "All down hill". He's right, what that means it's more down hill than up hill. My team should average about 17 mph for the entire ride. Since a few of us are poor climbers that means we're slower on the first half than on the last half. There are no real killer climbs on the ride. There are one or two surprises such as a short nasty climb outside Newton, a short up hill roller before the Ranger Station and the bridge over the canal in Cape May. There are long climbs and as long as you keep a steady pace you should do fine. The descents are fast and it's easy to hit speeds in the 40's (mph) without too much effort. There are a few locations where traffic becomes a concern.

Training recommendations

I have found that I can build up to a century from very little riding in about a month's time (I've been riding centuries for a long time). At that point I'll actually be riding centuries. I've found that to train for a double century is an entirely different matter. It will take me an addition month and a half to get my training up to par. What I tend to do is to build up to a century at a speed greater than I intend to ride the double at. I follow that up by building up to a metric (62.4 miles) ride the day after the century. The metric must be completed at least at the intended pace of the double century. This gives me a total of 160 miles over 2 days. This year I added a double metric instead of a century so as to make sure I had enough saddle time on my butt.

While training I found I needed to figure out what I can drink, what I can eat, how long I can hold off going to the bathroom, how to mentally handle the doldrums (you can experience the mental fatigue on early centuries around mile 70), clothing to wear, ride position, equipment choices, how well you handle the heat, direct sun, wind, etc. and how well you work with others on your team.

To help alleviate the mental exhaustion we found that playing mental word games, really bad puns and joking around works well for us. Also it allows you to gauge others more accurately. When some one is unusually very quiet, they're isually very tired.

  • Don't leave training until the last minute! If you've ever tried to jump from riding low miles to doing a century you'll know how painful it is to suddenly jump from no mileage. Well on a double century, it won't work. Part of riding a double century is dealing with the long hours in the saddle. Another part is your muscle endurance. Neither of these can be built up in a few weeks.
  • Start off easy and gradually work your way up to hard. Over the last decade I've done some real damage to my muscles by pushing too hard and too fast (ie. pushed too many miles, rode too fast, too early in my training). This usually ended up with pulled muscles that had me off the bike for a few weeks.
  • It's better to be off the bike resting than it is to ride through a stress injury. It won't heal if you don't let it.
  • Make sure your bikes are in good running order! There is nothing worse than a bike in need of repair. Usually there are very few bike shops along the way so getting repairs done means stopping the ride. Once in a while this isn't a problem but every training ride, you won't make friends that way. BTW, pre-1990 rims may not handle modern high pressure tires properly. They tend to blow off the rim when pumped up to the full pressure, every time. Once might be a pinch flat, twice maybe you're not putting the tire on correctly. Three times may be a bad rim.
  • Don't make any major changes at least 2 weeks before the ride. Such as breaking in a new bike, position changes, new shoes, new shorts or diet changes. On my very first Longest Day one of our riders added a new diet supplement a few days before the big ride. It caused diarrhea which in turn caused dehydration. By mile 120 the rider was really suffering. By mile 180 we thought he should finish the ride in the SAG wagon (ending his ride), He refused. Later we found out he doesn't even remember that conversation and he had 3 months of kidney problems after the ride that required medical treatment.
  • This leads up to my next suggestion: Drink before you're thirsty, early and often. If you're not getting enough fluids then drink twice as much when you do drink. Dehydration will sap your energy and make you tired for the next few days (or worse, see above). I've found that a Camelbak makes it very easy to get enough fluids. Some folks don't like riding with all that weight on their shoulders. I ride with a 3L bladder normally but I may switch to the 2L bladder for the Longest Day. Also if it's cool out still drink often. It's amazing how cool weather fools you into thinking you don't need to drink. You're still sweating so you still need to drink.
  • This naturally leads to potty stops. If youre drinking too much then you'll need to run to the bathroom a lot. Unless you have a urinary infection. Then see a doctor right away. After a few weeks of training you should be able to figure out the proper balance. If your really drinking too much fluids you can make yourself very sick also. It's a little harder on the bike as your busy doing the ride but it is possible.
  • Water is not enough! You're going to be sweating like mad and water won't replace the electrolytes you'll sweat out (even on a cold day). Figure out what you can drink. I can handle Lemon-Lime Gatorade but not Orange and not Cytomax. Just drinking soda is a bad idea, it can cause you to feel less thirsty. That doesn't mean you can't have soda at your stops. Also see Water intoxication.
  • Eat small portions, often. Don't eat one big meal. Instead try eating more often but in smaller amounts. This way a load of food won't sit in your stomach like a ton of lead. One thing about a double century. You most likely won't be able to take enough calories to replace what you are burning up. At lunch only eat half your meal. Instead save the rest for a little later in the ride. Perhaps the next stop or one stop later.
  • Get used to eating something for breakfast if you don't already eat breakfast. A double century means you can never eat enough calories in one day to replace what you're burning (a caloric guess: perhaps as much as 7,000 calories). Don't start with a deficit.
  • Experiment with foods but in small portions. Find out what you can and can not eat while training and don't try new foods on the day of the ride. An upset stomach leads to a bad ride.
  • Slowly build up your training over, at least, a couple of months. If you haven't done a double century before you're in for a learning experience. Including just how easy it is to ride a double century (if you train properly) or how easy it is to mess up the entire ride (if you don't). Also think distance then speed and do these in small steps.
  • Pick one person as the captain, not the dictator. Chose someone with experience. Other people can be Lieutenants but only one Captain. Larger groups need more Lieutenants. I ride with several ride leaders so opinions vary and we do our best to work together.
  • Captains, listen to your team and keep a watchful eye on them but don't hen peck! The quickest way to mutiny is for the Captain to dictate. Too bad I don't take my own advice (sorry Thos).
  • It might be a good idea to have one person as a navigator. That person would be responsible for giving the turn by turn directions. It wouldn't hurt to have one additional person as a backup. This way when they get tired later on in the ride they can pick up the mistakes and no one gets lost.
  • If you haven't ridden together as a team before then keep the team small. We prefer a teams of 5 to 6 people. Two is too small to really take advantage of a pace line. More than 6 and the pace line makes it difficult to relay orders such as turn directions. Two years ago we had 4 teams join together and we had 22 people. That's too many unknown people and we split that in 3. We had 9 people and though we finished the ride OK. We had too many unwilling people with us.
  • Train properly, as a team, before the Longest Day. Ride as a team, stop as a team, only go as fast as the slowest member of the team and you'll succeed as a team. Let one rider go nuts off the front or push the pace and you'll probably be dragging the team home for the last 40 miles. Anyone who doesn't want to work as a team should not be ridden with. They'll sap the morale of the team while adding nothing to it.
  • If you can, learn to use a heart rate monitor properly. You can use your heart rate to tell you how hard you're going. Don't bother with the '220 minus your age' business. That would suggest my cruising heart rate should be around 135bpm. My normal cruising heart rate is in the high 150's. When I'm in a fast pace line my heart rate is in the 160's, climbing - in the 170's, painful hills in the high 170's/low 180's. Above that I don't want to push it past. If you train with your heart rate monitor you'll observe where your cruising range is. That's the rate at which you can keep this pace all day. That's usually around 19 mph and about 158 bpm for me (this year, 2008, it's 22 and mid 150's).
  • So what will you do if it rains? Well I can't tell you what to do but I can tell you what I've done. In 2001 we rode through a tropical storm (more than 100 miles ridden). It was warm (85F) even in the rain. When it rained, it came down hard! Philadelphia recorded 9 in. in one hour. When it was sunny we got burned (sun block washed off) and it got windy. The following year it was 53F (for 180 miles) and we rode the entire length in the rain. I was not happy but I rode anyway. Just watch out for metal utility covers which are as slick as an oiled eel when wet. Also be careful of the painted lines as they can be slick also. Make sure you can be seen when in traffic. When riding in the rain drivers don't expect to see cyclists. As you can guess 2002 wasn't my favorite ride.
  • What about wind? Well wind is it's own challenge. In the flat lands where I ride we have few real hills, but wind we have. One of the PFW ride leaders is known as 'Our Lady of the Perpetual Wind'. Yes she runs into that much wind. My rides are listed as 'Which Ever Way the Wind Blows'. The missing part is that we'll always have a head wind. There are few tail winds on our rides. ;-) One method of handling head winds is to shift down one gear and ride in that gear. This works well for me but I'm good at spinning. I suggest at least a few rides with nasty head winds as there will be a head wind on the lower half, but nothing major, and it will get stronger the closer you get to Cape May.
  • And what about heat? Well this is the middle of June, expect some heat. In the Pine Barrens expect more heat and direct sun. I suggest taking a few rides in direct sun and on hot days. On these rides drink twice as much as you normally would. You can dump water on your head every once in a while to help you cool off. Even warm water will cool you off. If you need to stop, rest in the shade to allow your body to cool. If you have to stop for a mechanical problem, no matter how short, find shade. This will help you avoid heat related illnesses. Be aware that direct sunlight and humidity can add 10F to the heat index. That means if it's 90F in the Pine Barrens on a sunny and humid day it equivalent to 100F or more (the pavement reflects the heat). Watch out for heat indexes that are that high. Remember you're riding a bicycle, generating heat and in the direct sun light. That's a lot of heat to deal with.
  • And what of snow? Ahh, I've got nothing here! ;-)
  • And how about the cold? Well if you start your ride pre-dawn then expect it to be cold. I've seen it as cold as 38F (guess what day I chose to start out in shorts and a sweater?). The night before pay attention to the overnight Port Jervis weather (Not the genera; NY, NJ or PA but Port Jervis). The nights can get cold. But also pay attention to the weather for Chatsworth (the Pine Barrens, mid-day) and Cape May (evening). The weather will be different for all three locations. BTW, the 38F day was also one of the hotest rides I've done. Chatsworth had a heat index of 105F.
  • The day of the ride, throw all the rules and schedules out the window except relax, ride as a team and ride safely. Don't try to stick to strict schedules, Do-Do happens, Ca-Ca occurs, be flexible and deal with problems calmly. Start on time and then just let the day unfold.
  • When you are done with the ride, continue to eat and drink. Especially drink often! It will help a lot with the tired feeling you get after the ride but it won't eliminate it, especially after riding 208 miles! :-)


As far as double centuries go this one is easy. That's mainly because it's mostly downhill (total climb: 3847 ft, total descent: 3315 ft.). As I've said I'm not a climber so take these descriptions from that prospective. Still there are a few hills and non-hills of interest: Double Century elevation

  • A - mile 15, you've actually been climbing since you left the hotel. :-)
  • B - mile 18, by the lake things get a little steeper
  • C - mile 24, just outside Newton, there is a 'not short enough', steep hill. This hill will make you work. Actually you've been climbing for a while and you'll only notice it when you see the steep part.
  • D - mile 26, Newton town square. Another short steep climb with a little traffic.
  • E - mile 33, just after the tunnel.
  • F - mile 38, the climb up to Rt 80 and beyond. After this climb there is one gorgeous descent (very fast).
  • G - mile 47, Climb to Chester. Notice that after Chester the route descends until near mile 60. This is a good place to do pace lines but be careful as the traffic picks up here. There will be a few minor hills between here and Allentown but none as large as what you've already done.
  • H - mile 103, a short steep, rough hill outside Allentown on Extonville Rd. Stay near the left side of the lane (center of the road).
  • I - mile 124, a surprise uphill roller. Actually there is another short, little (50 ft long), steep climb at mile 127 after the Ranger Station. Neither are difficult.
  • J - mile 160, Black Horse Pike over pass (yes that counts as a hill in South Jersey ;-) ). Nothing hard about this one.
  • K - mile 203, Cape May Canal overpass. After 200+ miles this is a bit of a surprise (my goodness who put this mountain here! ;-).
  • Really that's it!

Note that the mileage is not exact (I'm doing this from memory) and I may have missed a hill but this covers the big ones and the surprises of south Jersey where you're not expecting hills. For those of you who are real climbers some of my short steep climbs won't be a problem.

Hilly vs. flat rides

I've noticed that a lot of people who train for the Longest Day have been hill climbing as their primary method of training. While you do need to do some hill climbing and descent practice the real work is in the flat lands, the last 140 miles, that's 70% of this ride, is relatively flat. Most problems people have are heat, boredom and the mental/physical fatigue experienced on the lower leg. I think it might be better to train for both hills and really long flat, windy sections of Pine Barrens. Why? A lot of people think that a hilly ride is more difficult than a flat ride and while hilly rides are much more difficult than a flat rides there are a few things that most people don't anticipate. Flat rides are totally different from hilly rides. Because a flat ride is usually in an open field there is a lot of wind. Another fact about a flat ride is you'll pedal the whole way. With hills you can coast on the down hill but with flat ride you have to pedal the whole time.

Now let's add a ride into the Pine Barrens (that's really flat) and let's make it summer time (hot), mid-June (like on the Longest Day ;-). Now you have a couple of other interesting things. The first is usually heat. The Pine Barrens are usually warmer than other parts of NJ for a given day (as long as the sun is out). Also the roads are directly in the sun (little or no shade) which increases the heat index (how hot it feels). Often it's also a bit humid (though I don't know why, oh wait! It's a swamp.). And of course the last part that is purely psychological, the scenery in the Pine Barrens is pretty much the same. There are very few homes, very few people and one tree pretty much looks like the rest (Scrub Pine or Pin Oak). You are now dealing with heat, boredom and wind. These factors take many folks by surprise. Hill training does not prepare you for this. So remember to mix up the training. I have a number of routes I've posted on so use those as a reference.

One more word on the Pine Barrens. Many people consider the 19 mile section between the Ranger Station and the bridge over the Mullica at Green Banks to be the most difficult part of the ride. Maybe because it's a long way from the start and the finish, maybe because it's usually the heat of the day, or maybe because it's mentally tough to see the unchanging scenery. I think it's all of the above. Just some food for thought.