How Not to Train for a 500 Mile Bike Ride

05/19/2015 03:58 pm ET | Updated May 19, 2016

And learning from my mistakes

So you jumped in with complete abandon and registered for a 500-mile bike ride. My ride of choice raises hundreds of thousands each year for the TREE Fund (registration closes May 31).

No matter what ride you chose, now the initial adrenalin-filled response is subsiding, reality is sinking in and a hard painful landing approaches. Dut dut's time to think about TRAINING.

The conversation with self commences, "Am I ready for this? 100 miles in a day, really? I don't know if I can do it." At least that's how I felt after deciding to participate in my first STIHL Tour des Trees in Oregon.

Prior to your first bike ride of any great distance, if you're like me, you will read the tour organizer's suggestions on the matter. Then you'll search the web for endless material on increasing LV levels, interval training, strength training, and core exercises for cycling, stretching, etc., etc., etc. Then you'll come up with a training plan and then you'll be so tired from researching all this training that you'll be tempted to just sit on the beach with a book instead.

For my first STIHL Tour des Trees I was forced to train mostly on stationary bikes. I've always been dedicated to strength training but knew I needed to prepare for the climbing that was waiting for me in Oregon. I did training rides but waited until day 2 of the tour to ride my first century. I made it to government camp on Mt. Hood but I think my Achilles' tendons would have appreciated a bit more mechanical help and muscular development. What I learned from this ride was two things: The best training is saddle time, and equipment in this sport makes a huge difference.

I applied half of this knowledge to my second STIHL Tour des Trees. I rode a lot beforehand. However, I held onto the mistaken belief that I did not need a new bike, and ended more than one day on my second Tour on a single speed. Not fun.

Last year's Tour I applied both truths and it was the best riding of my life. I was able to keep up with the 'hammer heads' and I even got on the 'polar express,' cycling behind the Tour legend Phil Graham for a good 80 miles.

To help give my training discipline and motivation I set personal goals. Year 1: Finish every day. Year 2: Ride with the hammer heads some. Year 3: BE a hammer head. Each goal gave me a place to start and things to do to make my tour the best for me.

And this is the key. A 500-mile bike ride is always more enjoyable when I am prepared to ride. Whatever that means to you, whether it's merely finishing, holding a certain cadence, or riding fast, it takes some preparation.

With this experience I will offer you the following training advice: read your tour organizer's suggestions, ride your bike a lot, and if you can, get a whip that fits you well. Your bum and body will thank you every day of your tour.

To register to ride in the STIHL Tour des Trees, cycling through Florida from Oct. 25-31, visit and sign up by May 31.