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Old 04-12-13, 07:12 AM   #1
GaryPitts
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How to prep for a Century?

Let me ask you old geezers (of which I am one ) something. I've only been riding for a little over 2 years now and I think I'm ready to try my first Century at an event in June. I would like to hear how to best prep one's body to do this. The reason I ask is that sometimes, rarely, but sometimes, when I go out for a longer ride, I'll get really beat after 40 or 50 miles. This even though I may have eaten a Clif bar and a gel or two along the way. I reckon this is what they call bonking, but I really don't understand why it happened as normally I can ride 50 without much concern for what I've eaten along the way as long as I start with something on my stomach. So, what's the best strategy for making sure this doesn't happen? Eat a high-carb dinner the night before, a good breakfast, and then what and how often along the way???

Since this will be an organized ride, there will be stops along the way to refuel and reload. Do I stop at all of them and get something to eat quickly and carry on or is it OK to skip the first one or two? I'm kinda thinking I could ride 40 before stopping and then every 15 after that which would give me 4 stops total. Is that a good plan? I'm not a fast rider, averaging 13 - 15 mph in the moderate hills of Tennessee, so I'm thinking I may be the last one in and have set a goal of 8 hours for the ride. As long as I can keep from getting that worn out feeling prematurely, I'm pretty sure I can do it, although the big hill they have 60 miles in does worry me just a little

I appreciate your thoughts and wisdom.
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Old 04-12-13, 07:21 AM   #2
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Two things important to completely a century in good shape and feeling well are preparation and eating/hydrating. My advice is build up to at least 65 mile rides in advance; ideally 75 milers. Do a long ride and the weekend and keep increasing the distance until 65 feels okay. The other is keep your hydration and energy/fuel level in good shape and eating and drinking throughout. Your plan looks good except I would stop at 20 miles instead of 40 and not skip any. After you get one or two under your belt, your experience will tell you what works for you and what doesn't.
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Old 04-12-13, 07:30 AM   #3
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Bike New York has a nice page for training for a century in 8 weeks. Basically base miles and a weekly long ride. I modified the plan successfully for a metric century last year.



The other piece of advice I have is make sure you train on terrain that is as difficult or harder than the actual course. You'd be in for an unpleasant experience if you train in a flat area and ride a hilly century.

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Old 04-12-13, 07:40 AM   #4
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Oh, and I'll add that I've probably done 5 or 6 metrics over the past two years and my longest has been 75 which was once. I feel decent after a metric, although I do normally wonder if I am capable of doing half again as much when I finish
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Old 04-12-13, 07:53 AM   #5
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Which century? The Harpeth River Ride? I did the metric there last year and that hill isn't too bad. It's short, though briefly steep. Otherwise, it's a very well organized event. Just wish the start was less congested.
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Old 04-12-13, 07:54 AM   #6
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Joe Friel's book Cycling Past 50, in Chap. 5, has good discussion of training for a century, with suggested training schedules and miles. Do some trial-and-error on your longer training rides to dial in your nutrition and hydration during the ride. If a big hill at 60 miles scares you, train for it. Do some work on hills, the longer ones especially, and when you're comfortable on hills, start doing them after you've ridden 30-50 miles, to simulate the conditions on the century. Good luck.

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Old 04-12-13, 07:58 AM   #7
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When I do organized rides I never skip stops. I relax at the stops and have a snack, that's what I'm paying for. It's not a race, just go at a comfortable pace and enjoy it.
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Old 04-12-13, 09:55 AM   #8
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Below is the plan that I'm using, and it's going well.

I know what you mean about those off days, when you get really tired on a route which is normally OK for you. But I've found that with this training plan, after a few weeks, I've been feeling better consistently on rides. I've felt really good on the last three 61 mile rides I've done.

I include some short rides with high intensity intervals (e.g. 16 miles), and long rides with an easy pace.

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Old 04-12-13, 10:03 AM   #9
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Nutrition probably varies with all of us. What I've seen and experienced is your body will adjust to what you train it for. For example, in the off season I do a 100 miler and need several stops and fuel. Later in the year I can do a 100 miler with no stops and just a single banana and a pack of crackers along the way. I'd simply suggest continuing to take in some form of food---gels, cliff bars, bananas, PB&J etc (make sure everything agrees with your digestion ahead of the ride---not a time to experiment) every 60-90 mins. By the way the last 20 miles will get uncomfortable---your body will not like the experience. You'll just need to learn how that feels and push through it-as much of a mental thing as anything. If you've done metrics and 75 milers you won't have an issue doing 100. How long and steep is the climb at 60 miles?
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Old 04-12-13, 10:14 AM   #10
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What June ride is it?
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Old 04-12-13, 10:37 AM   #11
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It depends. I know there is a century in Crossville that has the reputation of being flat and fast. If you're doing that one, just get up to about 60 miles on training and the adrenalin will carry you.

OTOH, be careful about the adrenalin. There is a tendancy to go out too fast and bottom out at mile 70-80. Go slower than you think you should, or stay with a nice cozy paceline, and have fun. We really won't care what your average moving speed will be.
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Old 04-12-13, 02:31 PM   #12
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When I do organized rides I never skip stops. I relax at the stops and have a snack, that's what I'm paying for. It's not a race, just go at a comfortable pace and enjoy it.
That's a plan. I'd fill those half empty water bottles whether you think you'll need it or not too. I also carry raisins for potassium and something to eat. Personally I like something with sugar (doughnut) for the last 10 miles or so but that's just me trying to look alive at the finish.

I like to do an 80 before, myself, just to get a feel of being in the saddle that long. Not absolutely necessary though.

Oh Yeah.....dittos on not starting too fast ! If your group is faster than comfortable drop on out and wait for another or just solo.

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Old 04-12-13, 03:37 PM   #13
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Good nutrition before the event starts. Couple of days at least before I Carbo Load and the day before I water load. Good breakfast on the morning of the ride and plenty to eat on the ride. Eat and drink from the start and my snacks are Fruit cake- dried fruit- cereal bars and for a change some Cheese. Other than filling water bottles I do not stop till 65 miles or so and then it is something more substantial to eat- a bottle of energy drink and some stretching. No more than 5 minutes rest otherwise I seize up. All this is taking it that you can do a metric with ease- the step up to 100 just takes longer.

Then on the ride watch out for being dragged along by riders that are too fast for you and also for groups where you will be dragging others along. Keep your own pace and as it is your first one- take it within a high comfort zone and don't go full out on the hills, You can gain speed on the flat or downhill. Find a gel that you like and does not affect you and keep them as emergency when you start flagging but if you need a gel then drink at the same time and take other food aswell.
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Old 04-12-13, 04:49 PM   #14
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How long and hard you can go before bonking is an individual thing, but why find out? It isn't a bonking contest. Instead, eat something every 25 miles or so - a banana and an energy bar, something like that - and drink a bottle of two between those stops. Carry a couple bars with you, they don't take up much room.

I can go about 50 miles at a decent clip before I bonk. But if I wait until then to eat, it doesn't work well. Much better to eat before you bonk.
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Old 04-12-13, 05:28 PM   #15
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The old rule: eat before you are hungry; drink before you are thirsty and don't race your shadow!
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Old 04-12-13, 05:37 PM   #16
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Which century? The Harpeth River Ride? I did the metric there last year and that hill isn't too bad. It's short, though briefly steep. Otherwise, it's a very well organized event. Just wish the start was less congested.
Yeah, that one Glad to hear it's not too bad. I keep thinking of the one on the Nashville greenway
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Old 04-13-13, 06:50 AM   #17
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Its all about training your body to do long rides. If you're still working, a long ride in the middle of the week works well too. That will tell you how your body is adjusting to the demands.

Mentally, as you train for it, tell yourself that you want to go beyond the distance.

The nutrition, energy gels, fluids, and even rest stops are all part of the deal.
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Old 04-13-13, 08:04 AM   #18
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Drink before your thirsty, eat before your hungry and rest before your tired.
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Old 04-13-13, 09:12 AM   #19
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You can do 50 solo, non-stop, and in most cases do it comfortably?

You can do a supported century. Break it down into five 20 mile rides, with a 5-10 minute break in between segments. Find a group of riders at your pace. Get off the bike at the rest stops, but don't stay off too long. Long enough to stretch, refill your bottles, use the porta-potty, grab a snack. But no more than 5-10 minutes.

And don't listen to the internet heroes who'll tell you that unless you do 100 non-stop, it isn't a "real" century.
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Old 04-13-13, 09:26 AM   #20
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It depends. I know there is a century in Crossville that has the reputation of being flat and fast. If you're doing that one, just get up to about 60 miles on training and the adrenalin will carry you.

OTOH, be careful about the adrenalin. There is a tendancy to go out too fast and bottom out at mile 70-80. Go slower than you think you should, or stay with a nice cozy paceline, and have fun. We really won't care what your average moving speed will be.
+1. My problem with long rides (solo) has always been going out fast and hitting that wall in the last half. Think about keeping the heart rate low and controlled, if you have a lot of fuel in the tank doing the last 30 you can lay down a great finish. The other problem I've experienced is eating way too much beforehand, though this is a personal thing..obviously. Day of, I've learned to eat only when body needs something, not before...and that means no big carbo breakfast.
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Old 04-13-13, 09:36 AM   #21
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I'm 58 and did the STP (200 miles, 2 days) last year. I rode about 1400 miles 6 months before including 120 miles a week 6 weeks before. Did a lot of 50 milers (at least once a week) starting 8 weeks before. That training was the bare minimum in my book but I did fine. I traveled with two 32 oz water bottles but got dehydrated because I did not stick to drinking a quart an hour. I need 30-40 calories per mile but I can't handle constant cliff bars..solid food sits better with me (PB & ham my fav). The real key is doing enough training to sort out your hydration and eating pattern and pick an easy pace which is saying...ride your ride and ignore somebody else's pace. Also...butt butter. Good cycling shorts & shoes. Teach yourself to eat while riding. Bike sorted out. Stop 5 minutes per hour. Longer mid day. I got severe hot foot 2nd day (thin mid soles in carbon shoes) and had to stop 30 minutes for every 10 miles last 3 hours of 2nd day...I still finished fine. Then discovered I was dehydrated.

My post ride analysis. Tire pressure to high (130 psi) as road was rougher than I expected..75-80 better, wrong bike seat (worn out ancient Hoskar), thin midsoles, no butt butter first day, too many cliff bars, upset stomach (a fellow bikers antacid tablets saved me), didn't drink enough water, and...there is no substitute for putting in the miles before.
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Old 04-14-13, 12:06 AM   #22
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I generally do a riding plan similar to the ones mentioned so far plus I add in weight training.
Specifically squats and dead lifts to increase overall strength.
In addition, I do pull ups and planks to work my core.
I believe the weight training has made me a faster and stronger rider
I usually ride the STP every other year. The first day we ride 127 miles to Toledo, WA. I am 66.
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Old 04-14-13, 08:25 AM   #23
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Having just finished a century yesterday, I'll pass on what worked. Most of it you heard above.
Do longer and tougher rides to build up. I was doing 50-70 miles before I did my first century.
i start taking sips of my water bottle 15 minutes into the ride, and keep sipping. I carry two bottles - one with electrolyte, one with water, I'll finish the electrolyte bottle and then drink the water bottle. I usually finish one bottle between stops, and then fill up at the rest stop. Eat light throughout the ride. I aim for 150-200 calories per hour, and try to snack instead of gobbling down at once. At the rest stops I try and stay away from the junk food, and go more for the fruit, potato if they have them, and some nuts. Some rides let you fill up a baggy with trail mix or nuts, and that is nice to munch on as you ride.
Last but not least - don't experiment with food or drink on the ride itself. Know what works for you before hand. Different electrolyte drinks act differently - making you bloated, or too salty, etc. Different food (try eating more than one cliff bar) can cause cramps. Figure out what food your body can easily digest during your training rides, and stick to that.
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Old 04-14-13, 11:12 AM   #24
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The old rule: eat before you are hungry; drink before you are thirsty and don't race your shadow!
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Drink before your thirsty, eat before your hungry and rest before your tired.
Yes, those. Before my first organized century an experienced rider suggested her favorite technique for dealing with speed and fatigue. For me, at least, it works beautifully for happy rides.
  • First 25: It's a recovery ride, Loaf along. Really. Be a tourist. Do not ride at anywhere near your max even if a preschooler passes you.
  • Second 25: Okay, bring it up to your usual cruising speed but not a bit more.
  • Third 25: Play around, vary speeds. Attack a hill or two if you feel like it, but don't play racer boy or girl even when you find yourself passing many riders.
  • Last 25: Let your body decide but try your best to hit the last few miles hard.
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Old 04-15-13, 06:00 AM   #25
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After my metric this weekend, I'm starting to wonder if I should get another year's experience (remember I'm only 2+ years in) vs. getting another year older (58). This metric had a series of hills about 30-35 miles in that had me wondering why I'm doing this Ha!

Part of it, too, is that I have no friends that ride longer distances that can ride with me, so I'm riding solo. If I ride 45 or 50 with my daughter, it seems like nothing. Of course, those rides don't have the hills either. At least the few we've done together.

This ride I averaged about 13 mph, not including the stops, so I'm pretty slow. That being said, I don't think I've really improved a whole lot from a year ago to now, so maybe another year won't gain me much. Oh, and also, I put in about 4500 miles a year, but I don't train. I just ride. This year my goal is 5000.

So I don't know... I've got a month and a half to decide., It may be a last minute decision
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