Tuesday, July 16, 2013

How to Prepare for your First Century

Husband and I have a century coming up next month. I'm excited to be training on my bike again, and I started to think back to when I first got into cycling a few years ago. I had decided I wanted to get a road bike, even though I hadn't ridden a bicycle in many many years. I bought a road bike in the spring, and in August we completed our first century. We had no idea what we were doing. But it was fun! I still am no cycling expert, but have done enough races and tours to know what I'm getting into.

What is a century?
It's not uncommon, when I mention that Husband and I have an upcoming century ride, that people need clarification for what exactly it is. If you talk about a marathon or triathlon, people know what's up. But for some reason, cycling events don't get the same attention. A century is a 100+ mile bike race or organized ride. Just like running events, they often support a charity or cause, and are a fun goal to set and a good way to have fun doing something hard.

How long does it take? How do you carry enough food and water?
rest stop during the Civil War Century
100 miles is a long way. The total time depends on a lot of things (fitness level, difficulty of course, how long you take at rest stops), but you should plan on anywhere from 5 to 8 hours. There are a lot of  serious cyclists out there that go for a sub 5 hour century, but I've never been one of those people. :) Because of the amount of time a century takes, most events will be fully supported. There will be several rest stops, stocked with an assortment of snacks and water. Most will have a lunch stop as well, with anything from PB&Js to Subway or pizza. Many also have a finish line celebration with more food and supplies. In one, there was even ice cream! Read the website thoroughly or check with the organizer to get an idea of what kind of food they will have.

What do you need to have with you on the day of the event?
Your bike, obviously, and basic stuff to take care of a flat along the way. There are usually SAG support vehicles for major incidents, but you should be able to take care of a simple flat on your own. You'll want to bring a couple favorite bars or energy gels, in case you need something in between stops or they don't have something you're used to eating. You might want some sort of electrolyte powder (I like Heed and Gu Brew) to add to your water.

As for clothing, think about the changes in the weather throughout the entire day. Will it be chilly for the first 20 miles? Sleeves are a wonderful thing and can be easily stored in a back pocket. Some events that expect temperature changers offer gear bags at the rest stops, and they'll bring it back to the finish for you.

How do you train for riding 100 miles?
Just like with a marathon, you probably won't ride a full 100 miles until the day of the race. There is no magic number that will get you "close enough", but personally I make sure I'm comfortable on a 60 mile ride and ideally, have done a 70+ beforehand. In the months preceding the event, go on a long bike ride every weekend, and supplement with one or two shorter rides mid week. Start out with 20-30 miles on flat terrain, then gradually add 10 miles as you feel comfortable. Make sure you are riding hills that will be similar to those in your event. Plan as many 60+ rides as you can to get used to time in the saddle and how your body reacts to pedaling for several hours. You'll get really hungry, so make sure you pack enough snacks! If you're unsure of how much time your ride will take or how hungry you'll be, plan to pass grocery stores or gas stations on your route.

While time in the saddle is crucial, cross traning the other days of the week will really help your fitness level. I'm only on my bike once or twice a week, but running, weights, and spin class keep my cardio and strength at a great level.

Train your Brain
One of the biggest challenges to tackling your first 100 miler is the mental aspect of being exhausted at mile 75, but knowing you still have 25 more to do. Having a riding buddy with a similar pace to yours will help with the mental monotony. I also favor cheesy pep talks in my head and picturing a really awesome reward afterwards that involves a lot of ice cream.

The atmosphere in a century is unique. Unlike in foot races, people are a little more social and relaxed. We've met some fun people during races and can't wait for out next one in just a few weeks!

No comments:

Post a Comment