Training Advice & Tips

  • Get Comfortable

What’s annoying  you on a training ride could become a showstopper during the 555km! For ultra distance the bike fit is different from racing—comfort becomes more important than aerodynamics. Although you may decide to change bikes for different sections of the race, the first 80km is on flat(ish) road and would be suitable for a TT bike, then an ordinary road bike with TT bars would be ideal for the more lumpy sections…that decision lies with you and your crew. The average race time for a solo racer last year was 28 hours so be prepared.

roadbike fit.jpgPay particular attention to the points of contact: saddle, hands and feet. Discomfort at any of these points will result in pain by the second half of the race.

If a saddle fits correctly your weight should rest on your sitz bones and there should be no pressure on the soft tissues. On the 555km course you will regularly be in and out of the saddle so that should relieve pressure on the sitz bones. To prevent friction use vaseline, which is as effective as more expensive products.

Pressure on the nerves in the palms of your hand will cause pain and numbness. Your core should be strong enough that your hands rest lightly on the bars like you are typing. Move your hands every few minutes to different positions on the bars.

On long rides you may develop hot feet, which result from pressure on the nerves. Loosen your shoes and ankle a bit more at the bottom of the stroke. At rest stops, such as the Wild Atlantic Camp checkpoint, take your shoes off and walk around in your socks while flexing your toes.

  • Training

First of all, everyone is different and no one plan fits, however there are certain types of rides that will get you in shape to cover the distance.

Training is a very simple process that gradually increases an individual’s ability to perform a repeated task. By training regularly and pushing a little harder each time – with time to rest and recover – your challenge to accomplish cycling 555km in 40 hours can be achieved. Most racers will complete their long rides on a Saturday and Sunday, with a steady progression in duration from week-to-week. Those of you who ran marathons will be familiar with the 10% rule in order to avoid overloading, fatigue and injury. Develop a solid foundation by building up your mileage gradually, try to not go above 10% increase per week.


  • The Sunday group spin is a great way to get 4/5 hours on the bike and build your base endurance, but remember you will be riding on your own with no protection from the elements so get yourself prepared both physically and mentally.
  • Practice in training what you will do in the race. This includes your nutrition, what works for you on a 4 hour ride might not work after 18 hours! Get used to operating at a lower heart rate and burning fat as fuel.
  • Test your clothing and kit,  don’t be a fair weather cyclist as on the day you will have no control of the conditions. The weather on the Donegal coastline can be unpredictable so make sure you have all eventualities covered.
  • Fit your training schedule around your life, not the other way around or you will soon find you won’t be able to maintain it.
  • Don’t forget to mentally prepare yourself for the challenge at hand. Physical fitness will only get you so far, you need to have your heart and mind set on finishing, to complete an Ultra and to overcome the trial it presents.
  • Train using different types of exercise to build up muscle mass without impacting your joints, such as swimming or cross training. Core and upper body conditioning is important as your whole body will become fatigued, so don’t forget to work on the lower back, shoulders and neck muscles.
  • Think about and plan your race in advance. Make sure your crew know their role and understand what you need and when you need it. Have a plan A, B and C in place. Riders, be conscious of your attitude towards your crew, they are probably your family or best friends, Yes you are tired and sore, but they could have gone to the pub for the weekend instead of following you around!
Your crew will keep you right when fatigue sets in.


  • Rest. Cyclist have an awful habit of training while sick; apply the “above the neck” diagnosis. But remember it’s better to miss one day in order to prevent a loss of seven due to that sore throat or sniffle you can’t shake. Get regular massage and foam roll those nasty spots.
  • The event is a race, but to finish first, first you must finish! Concentrate on finding a pace that you can sustain for the duration of the course. Cycle your own race and enjoy the thrill of the challenge, you will be cycling on some of the most beautiful roads to be found anywhere in the world so don’t forget to look up every now and then. You’re team will be challenged from start to finish and the feeling of accomplishment will be worth it at the finish.
TirChonaill Gap.jpg
A very happy Tir Chonaill Gap Team!
  • Make a checklist of everything you need a couple weeks in advance.  A wise man once told me “It’s better to be looking at it than looking for it!”.

The link below has some really useful information on training and nutrition:

  • Night-time cycling

For some, the night-time is the most challenging part of the race. Not only because of fatigue and the urge to fall asleep but due to little practice at night riding. It is inevitable that you will have to ride some hours in darkness in order to reach the cut offs and finishing time. It is therefore essential that you, your teammates and crew have experienced night riding and know the capabilities of your lighting systems and battery duration.

The leaders last year were through the Wild Atlantic Camp checkpoint (305km) before sunset and this meant they enjoyed a spectacular sunset over the cliffs at Hornhead. Regardless of where you are on the course, you and your crew must be organised and prepared to clip on lights, pull on high-viz vests and make yourself as visible as possible to other road users. Please see below regarding car lighting.

Hornhead Sunset

The night will bring many emotions on an ultra cycling race. The quietness and isolation of the west Donegal roads will test your mental strength and sanity at times, but when the sun rises you will experience no better feeling knowing that a new day has broken and that you are closer to achieving your goal of riding 555km.

Many new comers, especially those in the solo category, ask about sleep and what they should do. It is possible to get some sleep on the Friday night, however you must be conscious that you have to make the cut off in Creeslough by Saturday 10:00. Some competitors last year made Wild Atlantic Camp as their first target, reaching here late Friday night/early hours Saturday and decided to sleep for 2-4 hours, setting off again as the sun rose.

Some tips and important stuff!

  • We recommend that you have two light sources, one on your bike and one on your helmet. This will mean that you will have light on the road at all times and in the direction that you are looking.
  • A high-viz vest or a highly reflective cycling top is required. Additional reflective items can be added to your clothes, strips of reflective tape can be added to your bike.
  • Take extra care on descents, your perspective of terrain is greatly altered at night due to the lack of natural shadows, so objects and road features are much harder to see and comprehend.
  • At night the crew car must follow directly behind the cyclist at all times, this will provide safety for the rider and help illuminate the road in front somewhat.
  • One orange flashing lights must be installed on the back of the roof of the crew car. The lights should only be visible to the rear, so you may have to tape over or otherwise cover the forward-facing half of the lights. Whenever a crew car is following directly behind a cyclist, the orange flashing lights must be switched on. Otherwise, the orange flashing lights must be switched off.
  • Additional spotlights are allowed on crew vehicles as long as they conform to the law.
  • Race Management suggests that you switch on your vehicle’s hazard lights whenever you are following directly behind the cyclist, in order to warn other vehicles of the fact that you are travelling at a low-speed.


Ultra Cycling 555km of Donegals Wild Atlantic Way

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