Endurance Cycling Ace Trains for Race Across the West

Endurance Cycling Ace Trains for Race Across the West

Greg Sherman has logged in over 11,000 cycling miles this year as he trains for the  prestigious 2011 Race Across the West, an 860-mile race from Oceanside, California to Durango, Colorado.

From a track & field and cross-country running background, including being a part of the Pennsylvania State Championship Cross-Country Team, Greg Sherman turned to cycling as the call of the road and the speed of road cycling attracted him to the sport.

Greg’s humble beginnings in the world of cycling started in college with his first bicycle, a $100 Schwinn that he managed to ride centuries (100-mile rides) and 150-mile-plus rides on. But these were not enough. With the advances of bicycle technology, Greg found himself on the latest and greatest equipment, allowing him to ride progressively harder and faster.

In recent years, Greg combined cycling with running and began to compete in triathlons and Ironman triathlon competitions, honing his skills on the bike while maintaining his running and swimming fitness.

In 2007, Greg met Kenny Souza, a Race Across America competitor, who introduced him to the idea of the Race Across the West (RAW).

RAW is a nonstop 860-mile race. Unlike other well-known road races, like the Tour de France, the Giro d’Italia or the Tour of California, all of which are stage races, RAW is not a stage race. You do not race during the day for five or six hours and rest until the next stage the following day. RAW is a single stage. Once the clock starts in Oceanside, California, it doesn’t stop until the racer reaches the finish line in Durango, Colorado.

RAW is the second-longest endurance cycling race in the United States and is essentially an 860-mile time trial– a race against the clock, sometimes referred to as “the race of truth.” Unlike the Tour de France, solo racers are not allowed to draft other racers or their support vehicles to take shelter from the wind. So, regardless of tailwind or headwind, the race is a great equalizer.

Asked how he prepares for such a race, Greg told us about the brevets (French for “long journey”) that he does as training rides. A brevet rider follows a designated but unmarked route (usually 200 km to 1,400 km), passing through checkpoint controls, and must complete the course within specified time limits. Brevets are timed rides with cutoffs. Although more relaxed than races, they are challenging, self-supported rides with times that need to be met to officially complete and to qualify for the longer legendary rides.

Brevets are organized around set distances of 200, 300, 400, 600, 1,000 and 1,200 kilometers. And these are the types of rides that Greg uses for training for RAW. Any ride beyond 300 km will take you past the daylight hours, so these rides are a huge test of endurance and self-sufficiency, as well as bicycle handling and navigating skills.

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This year, Greg has successfully completed three 600-kilometer brevets and, as a result, has qualified for the 1,000-kilometer brevet distance and the 1,200-kilometer brevet distance.

When asked what his training plan is like, Greg said, “I don’t really follow a written plan. I am more of an intuitive rider and train according to how my body feels, pushing myself while allowing for enough recovery to progress to the next level. I also like variety and do not like riding over the same terrain repetitively. This variety really makes a difference in motivation and my morale. In this respect, the Southern California train system is such a blessing. I can hop on a train with my bike and go north and get off a few hundred miles away from home, and ride home without covering the same road twice.”

Greg also told us about his experience with our nutritional products. “I recently had the opportunity to test Natural Vitality’s Energy 28 product during the last of the three 600-kilometer brevets (approximately 375 miles) that I rode this year. I normally don’t try a new product during such an intense ride, but in this case, I threw caution to the wind. I divided one liquid packet of Energy 28 between two water bottles, and ended up using a total of four packets throughout the ride. I really noticed a difference in my climbing strength and my overall performance.

“After 200 miles of cycling, when you hit a steep and long hill climb, you need all of the energy you can muster, and I recall this same climb that I had done in previous rides I had really struggled with. With Energy 28, I was able to climb steadily and comfortably and, in fact, the whole ride was my strongest of the season – so a big thumbs up for this product.

“I also use the Natural Calm Plus Calcium product, which based on everything that I have read about the importance of magnesium, I know is doing my body a lot of good and is certainly helping prevent any cramping on my long rides.”

We will be following Greg’s endurance rides and racing events in the weeks and months to come as he prepares to compete in the Race Across the West, and plan to be at the start line of this exciting and epic event. Hope to see you there!