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  1. #1
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    Do you have to be fit to do a century?

    I've been reading lots of threads about preparing and training for a century. I don't consider myself to be really fit - I'm probably 50 - 70 lbs over ideal weight - and I was able to do a century without much trouble. In fact, the longest ride prior to my century was 50 miles. I completed the century by actually starting a 200 mile ride but with no real expectations to finish it. I just thought to myself that I would just go until I got really uncomfortable. That happened at the 125 mile mark, and I threw in the towel at the 140 mile mark.

    Don't you think most people that have been reasonably active throughout their lives could do a century without a whole lot of training? If they have good equipment that fits right, I think most people with average fitness could push themselves to complete a slow century (10 hrs +?) I felt like my downfall on the 200 mile ride was my lack of knowledge concerning hydration and nutrition. I thought I had been drinking enough but it was apparent that I had not. My muscles began to cramp severely. However, the next day I felt fine. I was able to climb back on the bike and ride surprisingly well.

    This year I will do the 200 mile ride again. I'm planning on using a camelback to insure that I drink often enough. I'm probably not that much more aerobically fit than I was last year (maybe that will change in a few months) but fitness wise I feel that I can complete a double.

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    Professional Fuss-Budget Bacciagalupe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by InTheRain View Post
    Don't you think most people that have been reasonably active throughout their lives could do a century without a whole lot of training?
    Not without injuring themselves, no.

    Not that a century is super-difficult; I find they're easier than, say, doing a half-marathon. But 8+ hours of repetitive physical activity, even low-impact, puts a tremendous strain on the body. Hydration, nutrition and fit are a big part of successful longer rides but not the whole deal.

    It sounds to me like you were lucky or happen to have a rather resilient physiology. I think you are asking for trouble if you plan to do a double century and are inadequately trained.

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    This subject, and especailly the link to running a marathon, drives me crazy. Just about anyone with a little training can complete a century or do a marathon. But if you haven't trained, you will be sore, tired, and generally feel bad. My goal has always to do one well. That means a relatively fast pace and have some energy left at the end. That means training for 150-200 miles a week and at least several rides of 75 -80 miles in advance.

    Others say what's important is to just finish. It might take you 12 hours. But if that's your goal, most people can do it.

    It's like people say they "ran" a marathon. In reality, they walked most of it and finished in 8 hours.
    You're just trying to start an argument to show how smart you are.

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    Hmm, I did a blog about this not too long ago. My .02 (and then some) is that anyone that has the desire to ride 100 miles probably can if they're in any type of "reasonable" shape. Even at that, I give reasonable shape a lot of leeway meaning that just about anyone that has any level of physical fitness and can bear to do an activity for 8-10 or more hours would be capable. As others put it, it will probably suck, you'll probably hurt, and you may never want to ride a bike again afterwards if you haven't trained up to that level, but it can be done by a large number of people.

    Rick

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    Quote Originally Posted by InTheRain View Post
    I've been reading lots of threads about preparing and training for a century. I don't consider myself to be really fit - I'm probably 50 - 70 lbs over ideal weight - and I was able to do a century without much trouble.
    I've seen a lot of overweight / high BMI riders on charity centuries. It doesn't necessarily mean that they aren't fit. Similarly I've never been 10 or 20 pounds over my preferred weight, but the first time I signed up for a 75 mile ride, I struggled to even make it to 50 -- but that's largely because I rode it like I would ride a 10 or 15 mile ride, I didn't know how to manage my strength on hills, and I didn't know how often I should've been eating.

    Training for endurance rides, whether it's a century, double or 1200km, is only very partially about building physical fitness. It's about knowing how to handle yourself 1 hour, 2 hours or 10 hours into the experience. It's about learning about your body's signals and realizing that you need more electrolytes or water or calories. That sort of self-awareness might need to be developed through experience, but you don't need to be 'fit' to have it.

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    zac
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    Riding a century in 10+ hours, is not exactly "riding" a century. I would liken that to the poster above who mentioned jogging/walking a 6 hour marathon. There are riders who consider a 5 hour solo with no stops to be an okay time, and many of us have done sub 5s. A "fit" rider should be able to do a 6-6.5 hour ride time century. If you want to take a break, that is up to you. IMO, any well fit rider, with proper hydration & nutrition, can ride all day at about 75-80% of their fastest for a 40 mile ride.

    Generally what gets most people is upper body and neck and back not being used to that position for extended lengths of time. It may not hit you that day, but you will be paying for it for the next week or so, and often seriously so.

    zac
    Last edited by zac; 04-04-08 at 09:10 AM.

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    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by InTheRain View Post
    Don't you think most people that have been reasonably active throughout their lives could do a century without a whole lot of training? If they have good equipment that fits right, I think most people with average fitness could push themselves to complete a slow century (10 hrs +?) I felt like my downfall on the 200 mile ride was my lack of knowledge concerning hydration and nutrition. I thought I had been drinking enough but it was apparent that I had not. My muscles began to cramp severely. However, the next day I felt fine. I was able to climb back on the bike and ride surprisingly well.
    Yes, I definitely think that someone who is reasonably fit and active could do a century without a whole lot of training, especially if they have good equipment that fits right, and even more especially if they eat and drink regularly all the way through the ride. I have been saying this for years ... and I have seen it done.

    Now, a person who does not train for the century will likely find the century more difficult than the person who does train for the century, and might have a slower recovery after, so I also think it is a good idea to train, but it isn't absolutely necessary.

    And in response to some of the responses here ...

    -- I don't think that the person who is reasonably fit and active, with good equipment, and regular hydration and refueling will necessarily injure themselves.

    -- A 10-hour century certainly IS riding a century. A 10-hour century is just as valid as one that is shorter. Same with riding brevets ... the time limit on a 200K is 13.5 hours and a rider who rolls in with seconds to spare has successfully finished the brevet, just like the rider who rolls in in 7.5 hours. They both receive the medals. A fit rider does not necessarily do a century in 6 to 6.5 hours, that is a ridiculous statement ... a fit rider and/or an experienced rider can also be a slow rider. And what about environmental conditions, terrain, or the choice of equipment? I have done centuries anywhere from 6 hours to 15 hours ... it all depended on how I felt, on the bicycle I chose to use, on the terrain, and on the environmental conditions. Implying that a 10 hour century somehow doesn't count is a limited and elitist attitude not welcome here.

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    zac
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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka View Post
    Yes, I definitely think that someone who is reasonably fit and active could do a century without a whole lot of training, especially if they have good equipment that fits right, and even more especially if they eat and drink regularly all the way through the ride. I have been saying this for years ... and I have seen it done.

    Now, a person who does not train for the century will likely find the century more difficult than the person who does train for the century, and might have a slower recovery after, so I also think it is a good idea to train, but it isn't absolutely necessary.

    And in response to some of the responses here ...

    -- I don't think that the person who is reasonably fit and active, with good equipment, and regular hydration and refueling will necessarily injure themselves.

    -- A 10-hour century certainly IS riding a century. A 10-hour century is just as valid as one that is shorter. Same with riding brevets ... the time limit on a 200K is 13.5 hours and a rider who rolls in with seconds to spare has successfully finished the brevet, just like the rider who rolls in in 7.5 hours. They both receive the medals. A fit rider does not necessarily do a century in 6 to 6.5 hours, that is a ridiculous statement ... a fit rider and/or an experienced rider can also be a slow rider. And what about environmental conditions, terrain, or the choice of equipment? I have done centuries anywhere from 6 hours to 15 hours ... it all depended on how I felt, on the bicycle I chose to use, on the terrain, and on the environmental conditions. Implying that a 10 hour century somehow doesn't count is a limited and elitist attitude not welcome here.
    Well Machka you have your opinions and I have mine. I understand that you do brevets and are quite accomplished. But I will stand by mine. If your goal is just to finish without getting anything out of it, except a "medal" then that is equally ridiculous.

    The goal is fitness, and with that in mind as I said, any person who calls himself fit, and specifically any like rider, can and should be able to ride all day at 80% of their max for a 40 mile ride. As I said, a 6-6.5 hour RIDE time ride is something to strive for. This opinion is not elitist by any stretch of the imagination. That equates to a 15-16.5 mph average, at which point air resistance, in still air, is just starting to be a significant factor. Any speed less is soft pedal, and but for upper body discomfort, you might as well choose some other sort of exercise that doesnt consume as much time.


    EDIT: I am not talking moutain terrain here, very few citizen century rides are that challenging. I am talking reasonably average terrain given typical citizen event conditions. Yes absolutely extreme terrain and conditions will effect ride, but It doesn't appear the OP was discussing that.


    zac
    Last edited by zac; 04-04-08 at 10:43 AM.

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    +1 Machka! Hey, if a person completes a ride of 100 miles within a reasonable time (i'm fine with under 15 hours) they can tell anyone that they completed a century and be proud of it. Zac does have an elitist attitude. I guess there are those that would not consider him a cyclist though... since nobody has spotted him on the TDF pushing Lance. We aren't all "fit riders" and everyone of us struggles to improve our fitness.

    If I don't hurt a little after a training ride, then I probably didn't push myself hard enough to really improve my level of fitness. So, if you finish a century, and you hurt for a few days after, I think you're fine to go ahead and take credit for completing it, as well as saying you were "fit enough" to do it... - even if it took 15 hours. If a century has to be completed in less than 5 or 6 hours... just go ahead and call that a race. And Zac, if your goal is an elitist time, then don't come in here posting about some sub 5 or 6 hour century only being valid unless you came in first and you can post the link to the results. If it's a competition, I don't want to here about anything else but first place, nobody remembers who took second.

    There are difficult centuries that involve alot of climbing and others that are on a much less difficult course. I'm sure that people that just have the goal of completing one will do their research and avoid the climbing centuries. I have yet to hear about the "all downhill" century... that would be a fun "recovery ride."

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    Quote Originally Posted by zac View Post

    The goal is fitness, and with that in mind as I said, any person who calls himself fit...., zac
    Lance wouldn't call you fit... He would say you were weak, just the same as he would say about me. He would give just as much credence to your century as he would to mine. So, in the minds of the truly elite, he would rate us in the same category - weak - you with your sub 5 hour century and me with my 7+ hour century. But I'm sure that Lance would acknowledge that we both rode and completed a century without regard to our weak level of fitness.

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    I'm with Zac here and his attitude is not elitist. He's just saying someone that attempts a century should be reasonably fit and should view a century as a challenge that takes proper preparation and training. A Century should be a goal that someone takes pride in doing and puts effort in to be. I certainly wouldn't be proud of a 15 hour finish.
    You're just trying to start an argument to show how smart you are.

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    The reason that I brought up the subject of fitness and a century is that I have friends that are fairly active and have talked about doing a century with me. I have no doubt that they could complete one. No, they aren't "Zac fit" but they know how to ride a bicycle and I know that they are more fit than I am. However, many of them have this attitude that they must train for a century ride. They think that if they are slow (8-10 hours,) they will be embarrassed. I don't think you have to be bike fit and properly trained to complete a century. If you're goal is a fast century, then yes... you're most likely going to have to train to complete it in less than 5-6 hours. I'm not exactly sure how you would "hurt yourself" by not being properly trained... if you know how to ride and keep your bike upright, I don't see you getting hurt. I couldn't complete the double century... but I didn't get hurt. However, I do know of a rider that had completed several centuries and doubles and was properly trained, but he fell and broke his arm within the first 300 yards of the ride - his fitness had nothing to do with that... just an accident.

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    Quote Originally Posted by zac View Post
    If your goal is just to finish without getting anything out of it, except a "medal" then that is equally ridiculous.
    If just finishing within the time constraints means that I'm not getting anything out of my riding, then I may as well stay home and play X-box for 9 hours. Everyone who goes out and rides a hundred miles in one day is getting something from it; even the people going 10mph with their picnic lunches and camera gear. They're not getting the same benefit as the person who finished in half the time, but don't discredit their effort.

    Quote Originally Posted by zac View Post
    The goal is fitness... As I said, a 6-6.5 hour RIDE time ride is something to strive for... Any speed less is soft pedal, and but for upper body discomfort, you might as well choose some other sort of exercise that doesnt consume as much time.
    Your goal is fitness, and your definition of it is far more restrictive than many "fit" people I know. Suggesting people are wasting their time if they're not aspiring to live up to your standards isn't going to win a lot of people over to the sport. Unless I'm doing a century on the track, I have no plans for a 6 hour RIDE in my future. Should I just save myself the time, sell my bikes and give up now?
    "I feel like my world was classier before I found cyclocross."
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    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by StanSeven View Post
    I'm with Zac here and his attitude is not elitist. He's just saying someone that attempts a century should be reasonably fit and should view a century as a challenge that takes proper preparation and training. A Century should be a goal that someone takes pride in doing and puts effort in to be. I certainly wouldn't be proud of a 15 hour finish.
    Oh, so the Susitna riders, who finish their centuries in about 24 hours, should not be proud of what they accomplished? http://www.susitna100.com/

    My 15 hour century was done in February in Winnipeg in temps between -25C and -32C on a knobby-tired mtn bike ... you had better believe I was proud of that accomplishment. It was the toughest century I have ever done. http://www.machka.net/brevet/Coldest_Century.htm

    And what about a person who does a century on a loaded touring bicycle, over somewhat hilly terrain, and finishes in ... say about 11 hours? Should that person not be proud of his/her accomplishment?


    zac's attitude IS VERY DEFINITELY limited and elitist because he assumes very limited circumstances under which a century can be completed (relatively flat terrain, and likely a very lightly loaded road bicycle on decent roads), and because he does not take into consideration the fact that people have different levels of fitness based on health, age, and even gender. I'm reading it that in his mind, the only "real" centuries are those completed by the young and healthy in good conditions.

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    Quote Originally Posted by StanSeven View Post
    I'm with Zac here and his attitude is not elitist. He's just saying someone that attempts a century should be reasonably fit and should view a century as a challenge that takes proper preparation and training. A Century should be a goal that someone takes pride in doing and puts effort in to be. I certainly wouldn't be proud of a 15 hour finish.
    At what point do we tell people that they can't participate? There are some riders that might prepare and train a lot to complete a 15 hour century. I have a friend that had never ridden a bicycle more than 20 miles, yet he completed a century in less than 5 hours - based on your logic, his century shouldn't count either... he didn't prepare and train for it.

    I'm just wondering it there are other rules that I don't know about that disqualify me from being a cyclist. I commute daily by bicycle but it's only 15 miles round-trip. I'm sure that must be under some kind of 50 mile limit that actually qualifies you to be a bicycle commuter. I've even participated in charity rides, but since I didn't raise $10,000 I most likely am not considered a "contributer" either. I fix flats, clean my drivetrain, do brake adjustments, etc... but since I haven't built my own set of wheels I guess I don't do my own "wrenching" either.

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    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by InTheRain View Post
    They think that if they are slow (8-10 hours,) they will be embarrassed.
    Unfortunately there will likely be people like zac at the century (if it is an organized century) who will attempt to make them feel embarrassed. However, if they finish a century in 8 to 10 hours, they should feel anything but embarrassment, they should be very proud of their accomplishment.


    Quote Originally Posted by InTheRain View Post
    I don't think you have to be bike fit and properly trained to complete a century. If you're goal is a fast century, then yes... you're most likely going to have to train to complete it in less than 5-6 hours. I'm not exactly sure how you would "hurt yourself" by not being properly trained... if you know how to ride and keep your bike upright, I don't see you getting hurt.
    Where you could get hurt by doing a century without being "bike fit" is in the repetitive strain injury category. If you have put in time on the bicycle prior to the century, you will have discovered if your saddle will be all right for a long distance and you will have discovered if your bicycle fit is right or not ... and you'll have time to fix the situation. If you are active in other ways, but don't do much riding, you could find yourself 40 miles into a century with a very, very sore butt, and a knee or ankle that is in a lot of pain.

    Also riding frequently prior to a century ... building up your distances and all that ... gives you a chance to experiment with hydration and fuel, to find out what works for you.

    Here are a couple sites which might help with the century (and double century) preparation:

    http://www.machka.net/century.htm
    http://www.ultracycling.com/

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    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by zac View Post
    The goal is fitness, and with that in mind as I said, any person who calls himself fit, and specifically any like rider, can and should be able to ride all day at 80% of their max for a 40 mile ride.
    That is very definitely your goal ... and not mine. I ride for fun and for the challenge, not for fitness. If I get more fit in the process, all the better - it's like icing on the cake.

    As it happens, my Dr and others classify me as "fit" based on various fitness tests ... but my heart specialist (who also thinks I'm "fit") has warned me against doing something as foolish as riding all day at 80% of my max because I have two damaged valves in my heart. So ... any fit rider "should" be able to ride all day at 80% of their max? NO, absolutely not. A blanket statement like that is not valid. We're all different ... we all have our strengths and weaknesses.

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    A century is riding 100 miles - correct? No where does it say that there is a time limit (except perhaps 24 hours or something)

    I view it a lot like getting old. Yep, I am 49 - and it is a bit of a surprize I am this old, and I choose to consider it an accomplishment. After all, not everyone gets here.

    There is a century, and there is a fast century. For many, just doing a century is a big accomplishment and they may never choose to do a fast one. I have done a century before - but it took all day. I was in no hurry and I was riding from bakery shop to bakery shop, enjoying all the wonderful pastries along the way.

    You can consume an amazing amount of pastries while doing a century I can tell you from experience...

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    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by crtreedude View Post
    A century is riding 100 miles - correct? No where does it say that there is a time limit (except perhaps 24 hours or something)

    I view it a lot like getting old. Yep, I am 49 - and it is a bit of a surprize I am this old, and I choose to consider it an accomplishment. After all, not everyone gets here.

    There is a century, and there is a fast century. For many, just doing a century is a big accomplishment and they may never choose to do a fast one. I have done a century before - but it took all day. I was in no hurry and I was riding from bakery shop to bakery shop, enjoying all the wonderful pastries along the way.

    You can consume an amazing amount of pastries while doing a century I can tell you from experience...
    +1

    You should go do a century in France ... those patisseries were wonderful!!

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    This is the Long Distance forum, right? It's about riding your bicycle long distances. It's not about speed. If your goal is to do a long distance, and do it fast, maybe you need to be posting in the Road forum under the racing sub-forum. I think that many stages of multi-day races are near, or exceed, the century mark... and the goal there is to do it as fast as you can.

    I give credit to anyone that jumps on their bike and tries to ride a distance that is challenging to themselves. It takes alot of perseverance and mental toughness to complete long distance rides and even more so, when you haven't properly trained or don't understand how to keep nourished and hydrated. Some of the people that I respect most as cyclists, are those that many would not consider "fit." Go over to the Clydesdale/Athena forum and read some of the stories of people that have lost hundreds of pounds through riding their bicycles. They have done centuries and doubles, but not many have done them in times that average 15-25 mph. Yet, I respect their accomplishment just as much (maybe even more) than the club rider that goes out on a century as a training ride and completes it in less than 5-6 hours.

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    I recently rode my first "metric century". One issue there was that per the website "all routes close at 2:00 PM". Since the ride started at 9:00 AM, that gave me 5 hours to do it. And a big part of the challenge for me was trying to keep my speed up fast enough to fit within that time. If I could have started at, say, 7:00, it would have been a lot easier, and I could have taken 20 minute rest stops instead of 4 minute rest stops. I'm fairly confident that I could ride a hundred miles on flat ground with no wind. Whether I could do it in a set period of time on a specific course with whatever wind is blowing that day is a very different question. I'm hoping to have a go at it on the HHH this summer. I remember someone mentioning the riders that "will ride a 100 miles but take 8 hours to do it" and that's likely to be me.

    "There are difficult centuries that involve alot of climbing and others that are on a much less difficult course." I've noticed people tend to assume the whole world is like their area, and so people in mountainous areas just sort of assume that a century has a gob of climbing involved. Here in north Texas, any climbing is just hills, and different routes have more or less. But I was looking at an 80 mile ride in Kingsville, and I'm not sure if there's a hill in that whole county. That makes riding a Century a very variable achievement.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka View Post
    Where you could get hurt by doing a century without being "bike fit" is in the repetitive strain injury category. If you have put in time on the bicycle prior to the century, you will have discovered if your saddle will be all right for a long distance and you will have discovered if your bicycle fit is right or not ... and you'll have time to fix the situation. If you are active in other ways, but don't do much riding, you could find yourself 40 miles into a century with a very, very sore butt, and a knee or ankle that is in a lot of pain.
    Exactly. In addition knees, ankles, hips, etc. all work on the basis of opposing sets of muscles. Cycling taxes some of those groups but not all. So iof the buildup isn't steady and gradual, problems occur. In addition, overuse injuries happen when you subject muscles to a load they aren't use to. That's why the general rule is don't subject yourself in training to more than 10% of the prior weeks efforts
    You're just trying to start an argument to show how smart you are.

  23. #23
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by StephenH View Post
    "There are difficult centuries that involve alot of climbing and others that are on a much less difficult course." I've noticed people tend to assume the whole world is like their area, and so people in mountainous areas just sort of assume that a century has a gob of climbing involved. Here in north Texas, any climbing is just hills, and different routes have more or less. But I was looking at an 80 mile ride in Kingsville, and I'm not sure if there's a hill in that whole county. That makes riding a Century a very variable achievement.
    Very true ... in Manitoba, where I did my 6 hour centuries ... an overpass is considered quite a climb. It is as flat as a pancake out there. I have since moved to Alberta and my "fast" century time has increased to about 8 hours. The altitude is much higher than the Manitoba area, and the terrain is much hillier.

    -----------------

    InTheRain .... I assume the event you are talking about is the STP. What kind of terrain does that ride have? I've always imagined it to be quite mountainous.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka View Post
    Where you could get hurt by doing a century without being "bike fit" is in the repetitive strain injury category. If you have put in time on the bicycle prior to the century, you will have discovered if your saddle will be all right for a long distance and you will have discovered if your bicycle fit is right or not ... and you'll have time to fix the situation. If you are active in other ways, but don't do much riding, you could find yourself 40 miles into a century with a very, very sore butt, and a knee or ankle that is in a lot of pain.
    I totally agree with you on this point Machka. However, I would hope that most people that attempt any distance ride would recognize these symptoms, and if it happens at 40 miles into a century ride, I would hope they would stop. There is no shame in starting something and then abandoning the ride to avoid injury. I'm sure that has happened to all of us on a training ride. I've short-cutted a planned route where my neck or shoulder has been sore and uncomfortable and the cycling has just exacerbated the condition. It can even happen if you think you have trained and prepared correctly. It just takes one night of sleeping in a funny position or an extended multi-hour session of posting on bike forums to get your neck and shoulder muscles tight before you even get on the bike. I think you still get on the bike though... give it a try.. if it goes away.. keep going.. if it keeps hurting, or gets worse, then stop or cut it short.

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    in a group? certainly. on the local Seattle-to-Portland ride you'll see people of all levels of fitness & cycling ability. sure, some of them bail, but most of them make it to Portland (two centuries back to back, or one double)

    solo, however, would be a different story. that takes more training & fitness, as well as mental fortitude.
    cat 1.

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