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Old 09-28-08, 03:20 PM   #1
DougG
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Tips for Century

I'm riding an annual event next weekend with several mileage choices. This year, depending on the weather, I'm thinking of going for my first century (just turned 62). My previous longest day, back in June, was 72 hilly miles, whereas this route should be fairly flat.

My biggest concern is what pace to try to maintain. When I ran my first marathon, I was really concerned about making the distance, so forced myself to a really slow pace. I then discovered that the downside of a slow pace is that you're out there so much longer!

I'll be doing this solo (no pace line), and although I can cruise along for a while at 17-18 mph, my realistic average comes in more like 15-16. So that means over 6 hours of pedaling, not counting the rest stops and lunch break. Anyone have any comments, suggestions, or tips on doing a century at this pace (or less)? Seems like it could make for a long day, especially since we have to take ferries across the U.S-Canadian border and go through U.S. Customs coming back in (a big delay last year).
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Old 09-28-08, 03:25 PM   #2
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I've done two hilly centuries this year, and my pace is about the same as yours. I think as long as you're not riding in extreme weather (too sunny, too cold), there's no problem being out on the bike for that amount of time. My last long ride I was out for 8 hours, 20 minutes (including rest stops)...it was a little longer than a century and pretty hilly, though.

The keys are:
- comfort: is your bike tweaked to your satisfaction? how did your hands, feet, butt and neck feel after your last long ride?

- hydration: drink early, drink often.

- food: see hydration.

Have fun!
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Old 09-28-08, 03:34 PM   #3
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Eat and drink while riding. Keep your stops very very short, Pottie, refill your bottles and go. Going too fast early will make the last ten miles very tuff.
I am 66 y/o completed three 100's in the passed two weeks.
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Old 09-28-08, 03:45 PM   #4
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Well, if I were doing a century, my average speed would be about 13-14 mph so I would be on the bike for 7 or 8 hours. Back in 1983 I did 140 miles in 8:25, but that was then and this is now.

I think the key is nutrition. Never let yourself get hungry. If you bonk because of lack of fuel, you will never be able to really recover during the ride. The damage will have been done.
I know a lot of people ride fueled by gels and sports drinks, but I prefer real food: peanut butter and banana sandwiches, trail mix, fruit, and real water. However, if you run marathons you know what your body needs.
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Old 09-28-08, 03:52 PM   #5
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I've never done an imperial century. I did a metric century two weeks back.

It really really helps to drnk a lot. I made it a rule that whenever I came to a slightly uphill straight section of road I would drink in transit. I also stopped at all the SAGs whether I wanted to or not.

I got tired, of course, but never became even vaguely prebonkitudinal.
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Old 09-28-08, 04:09 PM   #6
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All good advice above, and the only thing I would add it to keep your motivation level high. The % most oft quoted is that Long Distance Cycling is 80% mental.

I have no idea how "they" could arrive at such a percentage, but yes, a lot of it is wanting to accomplish your goal, and being willing (mentally) to keep going, pretty much no matter what.

That said, if you pace yourself, eat and drink as recommended above, and don't dally at the checkpoints (don't even think of them as "rest stops!") then you'll be fine, and finish feeling great.

Plus, remember, centuries are great training rides for double centuries!

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Old 09-28-08, 05:13 PM   #7
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prebonkitudinal.
I love that! I need to steal that and use it on rides.
If you are comfortable on the bike and have done a hilly 75 miles, a flat century shouldn't be a problem. All my Saturday rides are 7-9 hours.
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Old 09-28-08, 05:23 PM   #8
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I did a century last July - this was a group ride with a posted speed of 13-14mph which is slower than I like to ride but I wanted it as a training ride just go get a century in as well as cover new terrain. The ride leader kept the pace as advertised. This was a very easy ride, I did not feel pushed to stay with a pack early and I did not get tired early. There were a lot of breaks and a lot of converstaion while riding, we were not huffing and puffing. This ride sounds like it could be a fun all day event, take your time and don't worry about the time on the bike.

BTW - next weekend I will do my last century of the year, it will most likely be slow (13mph) as I will ride with a group who are slow riders, again - not worried about elapsed time, just want to enjoy this ride. Now with that said - I did my fast century in early Sept, I like to push for faster speeds but this ride is not the time for it as it is more a social event.
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Old 09-28-08, 06:15 PM   #9
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Finding some folks to ride with makes a hge difference. At faster paces you get drafting, at slower paces some good conversation helps while away the miles. So go 4-15 mph and find some good company. Keep the breaks short and you will have a great time,
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Old 09-28-08, 06:35 PM   #10
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+1 on short breaks. No matter where you have a proper "lunch" break it's going to be hard to start up again. So stop often, snack often, but move on quickly. You'll be amazed at how much you eat once the ride is finally over.

Mind you I'm amazed at how much I ate after a ride today, and that was less than 50 miles.
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Old 09-28-08, 09:13 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Rick@OCRR View Post
All good advice above, and the only thing I would add it to keep your motivation level high. The % most oft quoted is that Long Distance Cycling is 80% mental.

I have no idea how "they" could arrive at such a percentage, but yes, a lot of it is wanting to accomplish your goal, and being willing (mentally) to keep going, pretty much no matter what.

That said, if you pace yourself, eat and drink as recommended above, and don't dally at the checkpoints (don't even think of them as "rest stops!") then you'll be fine, and finish feeling great.

Plus, remember, centuries are great training rides for double centuries!

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Or to paraphrase Yogi Berra, "Cycling 90% mental -- the other half is physical."
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Old 09-28-08, 09:43 PM   #12
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Two weeks ago, I finished a 75 miler on flat roads, only problem was the heat (94 w high humidity) which you won't have to deal with. If you did 72 miles on hills, a flat ride will seem very easy. I was surprised at my average speed of 17.2 MPH after having a lousy last 15 miles. Still, you should stay hydrated and take whatever your favorite anti-cramping product is. I think the biggest problem with a long, solo ride is the boredom. The suggestion to try and find some partners is a good one.
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Old 09-29-08, 06:30 AM   #13
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Plenty of good advice so far. If you have a HRM use it to keep your pace down over the first 50 to 60 miles. Early in the ride you may feel great and think that you can push the pace or power up and over hills, that is not a good idea. I try to keep my HR in upper zone 3 or low zone 4 during long solo rides and keep telling myself "there is no need to race".
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Old 09-29-08, 08:07 AM   #14
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I wouldn't worry about speed. Just go at a pace that feels like you can sustain it all day. By 80 miles or so, you'll be struggling just to keep going (if you're like me.) I always find myself riding a bit faster during a century than during my regular rides. I guess I get pumped up by all those people, even though I try to relax and go my own pace. Take plenty of breaks but keep them short, except for two or three longer, replenishment breaks.
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Old 09-29-08, 08:19 AM   #15
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I've done three centuries this year and have another coming up on the 11th. My on-the-bike pace is usually in the 18 - 19 mph range. Here's what I think I've learned so far:
  • Hydration and nutrition are key the four or five days before the ride. I try to increase my ratio of carbs to protein the several days leading up to a century. Lots of complex carbs, low fat, lower than usual protein, and I make sure I get lots of calories. I reduce my intake of diuretics (tea and coffee in my case) and increase my water intake.
  • Hydration and nutrition are key during the ride. Eat. Drink. Eat and drink some more. I use GU gel and try to drink more than a liter of water per hour during the ride. When I stop I eat fruit (if available) and anything I can find with simple carbs. Poor hydration and hot weather will lead to cramps at about mile 75 or so, and that makes the last part of the ride a painful experience. I got to enjoy that at the HHH this year.
  • Stretch at each rest stop and keep the time spent at stops to a minimum. Getting back on the bike at mile 80 and having tight legs isn't a lot of fun. It's tempting to hang out at the rest stops and visit. You don't need to run through the stops, just take care of your personal needs, thank the volunteers, and get back on the bike.
  • Don't hesitate to get off your bike and walk up any really brutal hills. I have friends who are not good climbers who do this. They keep their legs from getting so fatigued and keep their heart rates down in zone two or three, which really helps them once they reach mile 80. A big hill that pushes you into your anaerobic zone takes a lot out of you.
  • Don't forget to enjoy the ride. Remind yourself how fortunate you are to be able to take a day and ride at your own pace along a supported route. We're all very lucky to have the health, resources, and time to do these rides, so be sure to have fun.
If you've got 72 hilly miles under you then you should have any problem doing a century if you don't go out too fast. Have fun and good luck.
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Old 09-29-08, 08:56 AM   #16
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I've done three centuries this year and have another coming up on the 11th. My on-the-bike pace is usually in the 18 - 19 mph range. Here's what I think I've learned so far:
  • Hydration and nutrition are key the four or five days before the ride. I try to increase my ratio of carbs to protein the several days leading up to a century. Lots of complex carbs, low fat, lower than usual protein, and I make sure I get lots of calories. I reduce my intake of diuretics (tea and coffee in my case) and increase my water intake.
  • Hydration and nutrition are key during the ride. Eat. Drink. Eat and drink some more. I use GU gel and try to drink more than a liter of water per hour during the ride. When I stop I eat fruit (if available) and anything I can find with simple carbs. Poor hydration and hot weather will lead to cramps at about mile 75 or so, and that makes the last part of the ride a painful experience. I got to enjoy that at the HHH this year.
  • Stretch at each rest stop and keep the time spent at stops to a minimum. Getting back on the bike at mile 80 and having tight legs isn't a lot of fun. It's tempting to hang out at the rest stops and visit. You don't need to run through the stops, just take care of your personal needs, thank the volunteers, and get back on the bike.
  • Don't hesitate to get off your bike and walk up any really brutal hills. I have friends who are not good climbers who do this. They keep their legs from getting so fatigued and keep their heart rates down in zone two or three, which really helps them once they reach mile 80. A big hill that pushes you into your anaerobic zone takes a lot out of you.
  • Don't forget to enjoy the ride. Remind yourself how fortunate you are to be able to take a day and ride at your own pace along a supported route. We're all very lucky to have the health, resources, and time to do these rides, so be sure to have fun.
If you've got 72 hilly miles under you then you should have any problem doing a century if you don't go out too fast. Have fun and good luck.
Very good advice. As noted above the hardest part is mental. When I did my first century last month, the hardest part was between mile 50 and 65. Did a long climb between mile 45 and 50 and the next 15 or so were rollers. The mental tank was just about empty. The lunch stop at mile 66 was just what I needed.

Remember eat and drink, eat and drink. Lots.
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Old 09-29-08, 09:00 AM   #17
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My low point was scarily early -- at just over 40 miles. It started to rain, and I looked at the computer and realised I had almost 100 km to go, and I started thinking of ways to cut the ride short. But the friend I was riding with pulled the "it's all mental" card, and she was right. I won't say there weren't hard bits -- the nasty hill with 10 miles to go was vicious and unfriendly -- but it was good. And well worth it in the end.
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Old 09-29-08, 09:13 AM   #18
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Doug G,

This takes you thru Windsor Ontario?

You're asking about pace. But what I don't see in your original post is that you had only one long ride in June of 72 miles. The thing I would do is to do longer rides like that June ride. Since you're doing this solo, you can get in more long rides before the weather really starts to get nasty in the Detroit area. I was from Roseville, MI.

Personally, I have even taken half days off to do 70 mile rides in the morning to get ready for the century ride.
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Old 09-29-08, 10:47 AM   #19
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Start carbo-loading now. Plenty of Pasta- rice and Buns. The buns are important. On the ride you MAY have a problem at around 70 miles in that you could run out of energy- The Carbo-loading goes by that time. I stop at around 65 miles and take as many carbs as I can and a bit of protein (Cheese or meats)- drink a full bottle of energy drink-Take a leak and stretch a bit. That will be the only stop that I make but remember that 70 miles is about the critical distance.

I also take a couple of energy gels and take one if I feel that I am getting tired. They do work but not for 20 minutes or so- but if you have not tried them before- Don't try them on the ride. They are not for everyone.
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Old 09-29-08, 11:38 AM   #20
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I find it easiest to ride with a buddy, and adjust pace to keep with them. A century is a long ride to do alone. Second the suggestions to take short breaks. I also find that I do best if I don't eat a large meal, but rather continually snack through the day. I make up a gorp which has dried fruits, nuts, m&ms and that works great - gummi bears are also good. I also carry a couple of banannas with me which I eat along the way, and a hard boiled egg or two. I usually have a big meal at the end of the day with plenty of protein (lobster works well) and, of course, pie.
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Old 09-29-08, 04:06 PM   #21
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Very good advice. As noted above the hardest part is mental. When I did my first century last month, the hardest part was between mile 50 and 65. Did a long climb between mile 45 and 50 and the next 15 or so were rollers. The mental tank was just about empty. The lunch stop at mile 66 was just what I needed.

Remember eat and drink, eat and drink. Lots.
That's exactly when it hit me....From mile 50 to 65 I was afraid that I wouldn't finish, but the lunch stop saved me....I didn't eat a lot, but a peanut butter sandwich, banana, grapes and diet coke....That saved me and I was in pretty good shape after.....I didn't eat enough before mile 50....Do as everyone here has advised...Eat and Drink before you think you should.
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Old 09-29-08, 05:48 PM   #22
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Thanks for all the great advice. I have more confidence now that I'll be able to make it. I know what you mean about taking short breaks: taking walk breaks late in a long run can be a mistake since it is painful to start running again. I've also had that with cycling, so will be sure to keep moving.

Excess sweating should not be a problem: the temps may start in the 30s and maybe rise into the 50s by afternoon.

Garfield Cat: This is along the St. Clair river below Port Huron. There are still two small car ferries operating along that stretch that the bikes can pile on to.

Rick@OCRR: A double would be tough to do in daylight by this time of year. As it is, I'll be starting when it's barely light here at about 7AM.
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Old 09-29-08, 08:31 PM   #23
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One other tip I'd add is being rested can be a bid aide as well. Be sure and get a good night's rest two night's before the ride (Thursday night if the ride is on Saturday).

Also I didn't completely understand if the ferry is during the ride or just getting to the ride start. If it interrupts the ride be sure and give yourself some miles to get warmed back up.

I enjoy doing centuries in the 30-50 degree temps so that shouldn't be an issue if you have your fingers and toes comfortable. It's refreshing.....as long as the wind isn't howling in your face.
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Old 09-30-08, 10:23 AM   #24
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Anyone have any comments, suggestions, or tips on doing a century at this pace (or less)?
Your sound like someone who understands their limitations.

Ride your own pace. Don't try anything new. But most of all, don't worry yourself into distraction, enjoy the ride - it sounds like a great route.
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Old 09-30-08, 10:55 AM   #25
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Find us

We ride about that pace also, and although we will be doing the 64 miler for that ride, if the route is mostly the same, you can find us. We'll start out at 7am. Look for a yellow-green with black Cannondale and a red/white specialized MTB. The miles go by quicker, if you have somebody to talk to.

Oxford and Leonard Riders (Stony Creek Riders).
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