Sorry, this might end up kind of long and disjointed.

I am 58 years old and have been riding for two years. I started out obese and now am normal weight. I started out extremely unfit, having lived a totally sedentary life. In February of 2011 I could not bike 5 miles and had to walk my bike up slight inclines. I say this to show that I did not have any base to build on.

I biked and biked some more, getting more and more fit. By last spring I did a metric century at an average speed about 13.8 IIRC. My fastest ride ever was on a 20 mile ride, absolutely flat, no wind. I did that ride as an experiment on how fast I could go. I averaged 14.8. This was late last summer. However, my general pace on rides is well below 14mph and at the end of last summer it was generally between 13 and 13.5 on rolling hills.

I didn't ride much last fall due to weather and travel. October I did 123 miles, November 146, but got back up to 388 in December when I went down to Florida for the winter. December rides were mostly very slow rides with my spouse as we were spending some time together and he is a leisure rider. I also got the flu so I was pretty beat up and had little energy.

In January I cranked it up. I decided that I wanted to ride a multi day ride with some friends. I do not expect to maintain their pace. The ride is not until mid August of this year so I know it is early for a training plan specifically for that ride. But, I do want to improve my ability to ride longer distances day after day and improve my general speed. I did a "birthday ride" on January 7 and only managed to average about 12mph over 62 miles on the flats (though there was lots of stop and go).

I did 560 miles in January, my biggest month ever. I did mostly long slow rides. Starting the third week of January did try to at least once a week work in some kind of intervals.

I started using the heart rate monitor on my Garmin about four weeks ago. About a year and a half ago I worked briefly with a personal trainer at a gym. She calculated my max heart rate at 163. I also know that my resting heart rate at that time was 49. I figured out training zones on my Garmin from those numbers. I truly hate intervals though I am willing to do them. However, I truly love riding long distances. Most training plans I have read about seem to be for the time crunched. I have all the time in the world. In January I decided to step back and spend time mostly riding long distances at less than 80% of max, generally at about 75%. This allowed me to put on the miles. So far this month I have over 200 miles. But, I am extremely slow doing it this way, only averaging about 12mph. I do one day a week where I would do some kind of speed training. I programmed in my Garmin intervals where I do three minutes going as fast as I can in that time period, alternating with three minutes of recovery riding, for a total of six each.

I have to tweak this and get some feedback. Yesterday I rode with a group from my rv park. I used my heart rate monitor just to collect data and I experimented on the ride. The ride was 12 miles to breakfast and then 12 miles back. For the first half of the ride I spent half riding with the slower group and half pushing it with the faster riders. I did the same thing on the way back. The slower parts of the ride had me at 75% to 85% of maximum heart rate. I could easily carry on conversations at that speed and my breathing was steady. The fast part I ranged from 90 to 102% and could only speak briefly. Clearly though, my maximum is wrong and it is at least 165, not 163.

I need some help figuring out training zones. And, how to train to improve speed and to ride a multi day ride. I have all the time in the world and like long rides so to the extent they can remain a significant part of any plan that would be a good thing. I have read Selene Yeager's book and wasn't thrilled with the training plans that seemed far more focused on getting results in shorter rides than I like to do.

I have not been good about keeping up with strength training, which is something of a challenge in the motorhome. I am pretty good at keeping up with some core work, at least once a week. I know I need to do more with this.

I rest one or two days a week. Today is a rest day.

I have read some about lactate acid thresholds and that is a more accurate way to figure training zones. But, I am not clear on how to figure out all by myself what a good estimate of that threshold might be. I don't know if I should try or even how to try to figure out my true maximum heart rate. I understand that figure might not be reliable anyway.

Help? Ideas on how to set zones for me and a training plan that isn't overly complex?