Century training as a commuter
I have been digging around on here and found a wealth of advice on training for a century. I'm going to be doing my first in May, the Shiner GASP ride from Austin TX to Shiner. I really appreciate all I have found but have a question about training. I cycle commute five days a week, 13 miles each way (26 miles a day.) I can't really modify my commute due to my schedule. To see how a longer ride felt, we recently rode a 44 mile route on a weekend and I felt fine the whole time and wasn't sore the next day. What kind of training should I focus on? Do I need to go for longer weekend rides? Also, I ride a road bike modified to be a commuter if that matters. Any recommendations on modifications to the bike that might help me get through the race would be appreciated. I have considered changing the tires (I have 25s but think I might go a bit bigger, like 28) or perhaps changing my rear derailleur and cassette for something with a greater range (currently 11-25.) I don't currently clip in but could start? I go through downtown and a university on my commute so don't clip in to ride normally. I know that this is a scattering of questions but want to approach the century as an extension of my commuting. Any and all advice is appreciated. Have a great day!
Commuting is good because you ride almost every day. You might take a look at some of the century training plans to add some longer days, and try doing longer rides over the weekends. If you did 44 miles last weekend, try for 50 next weekend, then 55 and 60 the next couple weeks.
After you can ride 60 miles without problems, all you need to worry about is eating and drinking enough. I've pushing 10 years of centuries, and I think I've managed one in which I drank enough. (It helped that it was in February!)
Also try adding some variability to your commutes. Not necessarily the route, although you might add another 5-10 miles to the trip home, but intensity. Add a few intervals -- 30-60 seconds of riding as hard as you can -- to your commute 2-3 times a week. In between, catch your breath.
And don't worry about changing your bike or gear yet. If you need to change something, you'll have time to figure it out; maybe before your second century!
If you just want to complete a century, you have the base miles today.
If you want to do a fast century, get one progressively longer ride in each week and add one interval session per week. Commute a little slower and no intervals for the week preceeding the Century. Use the long ride to learn to eat while riding, if you are going to ride the century at a brisk pace, you need to eat 200-400 cals/hr. No higher. Since it will be hot, you also need to learn about your electrolyte needs. If your pace is moderate, you eat, and you maintain your electrolyes, the ride should be a piece of cake with your current base mileage. If this is your first 100 miler, don't treat it as a race.
Gear Combo Guru
I'd highly encourage getting some clip-in pedals. Don't mess around with the road-style pedals, just get some Shimano SPD (mountain bike-style) pedals and some MTB shoes; you'll then be able to walk around normally when off the bike and have proper control at stop lights during your commute.
I find that having my feet clipped in allows far better control of the bike. It also saves a bit of energy, not because I pull up on the upstroke but simply because my foot is always in the optimal position. Also, a real pair of bike shoes will probably have a stiffer sole than what you might be using now, allowing a better transfer of energy.
As said by others above, it sounds like you've already got a lot of good base miles in. I would just do some longer (40-70 miles) weekend rides to figure out what food and drink works for you. This doesn't need to be fancy sports drinks and foods, some people do just fine with regular food and stuff found at gas stations.
Regarding the bike, a road bike modified for commuting sounds pretty good for a long distance machine, you may not need to change much. For the gearing, you'll have to have an idea of what the route is like to know whether what you have will suffice. Bear in mind that a small hill 90 miles into the ride may feel like a major mountain by the time you get there.
Thank you for all the excellent information. I had gathered that my greatest hurdle would be nutrition/hydration, but wanted to check about training just the same. I will take your advice about the SPD pedals, my current pedals are flop/flop with flat on one side and spd on the other. I have just been reluctant to embrace them because I don't have them adjusted properly and clip in and out so often on my commute. I'll give that a second thought for sure. Otherwise it sounds like I'll be okay. I did refer to it as a race, but you are quite right, it is not, since it is my first. I got a flat on my commute yesterday and think I may go with some new tires just the same, you can see the under layer through some of the small cuts and pits in the rear tire. I have also made arrangements to do a practice ride in the 70 mile range to test hydration/nutrition. Thanks again for your advice!