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  1. #1
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    Beginner training for a Century Ride - advice please!

    Hi everyone,

    I am new to the Bike Forums... I have done some short distance triathlons in the past but the bike has always been my weak leg and I've never considered myself a cyclist. I am a runner, and I also do martial arts (Tae Kwon Do & Krav Maga). A cyclist friend has convinced me to enter a century ride with him (we were planning on doing the Ojai century in June). Which means I have to start riding my bike again! Since I am trying to squeeze in my training around other stuff, I decided a trainer (the thing, not the person, although that would be helpful!) would be useful and I just got one set up last week. It's a Cycleops Fluid2 and my bike is a Cannondale R1000 Feminine road bike (2007).

    I have a Garmin 305 that I use for running, which has a HR monitor. My bike has a computer (a cateye Astrale 8 which measures cadence, speed, and distance) that seems to work fine with the trainer.

    So my questions:
    What parameters should I be using for training on the trainer? I plan for MOST of my rides to be on the trainer (I know most of you would not want to do it that way). Do I need to try to do a 30 minute TT and get my max HR? Or should I focus on cadence and speed from the bike computer? Really any advice about trainers would be helpful, actually.

    My friend has had to bail on the century so I think I'm going to be riding it alone! I am a bit apprehensive. I mean, I do my running races alone, but that is different. I'm a lot less comfortable with cycling, and I worry about mechanical problems too! I can change a flat but I'm not fabulous at it and anything beyond that would be problematic. But I want to do this!

    Are there any beginner training plans available for getting through a century that's 5 mos out? I know for half marathons and marathons there are abundant online training plans, and didn't know if anything similar was available for the bike.

    And one final question - something that has nagged me ever since I started biking (as an adult I mean) about 6 years ago... My left elbow gets sore/ stiff when I ride. I try to change up my hand positions often, but still, even after 20-30 minutes it's bothering me and I find myself taking my hand off the bars to flex it and shake it out. The longer the rides, the more it bugs. I don't have any known problem with my arm, and it doesn't bother me doing anything else - swimming, pushups, Tae Kwon Do, etc. My cycling friend has looked at my bike and he thinks the fit is good. I also had the bike fitted professionally when I got it. If anyone has any ideas on this I would really appreciate it.

    I'm a 34 year old woman if that makes a difference. And if you want to reply and just say that I'm crazy for trying to do a century as a beginner then that's okay too.

    Oh, I forgot to add - I take propranolol (a beta blocker that lowers my BP and heart rate) to prevent migraines. I don't know how that will affect HR training. I don't really use HR zones for running training. I only take it once a day so timing might also be a factor.

    Thanks!!!
    ~Laikabear~
    Last edited by Laikabear; 01-13-12 at 12:33 AM. Reason: add in propranolol paragraph

  2. #2
    Senior Member Garfield Cat's Avatar
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    The Ojai century ride has some climbing to it, even the shorter metric century version. If this is your first time century, its not a better choice.

    http://www.ojaivalleycentury.org/Rid...formation.html

    If you choose to do this in June 2012, the climbing portion will be most challenging. Using a trainer exclusively is not a good idea, especially when you're already in Southern California.

    Elbow: go back to the professional fitter and tell about your concerns with the elbow.

  3. #3
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Regarding the elbow ... bend it. Chances are you're locking your elbows when you ride.

    Regarding your training method ... You talk about 30 min TTs and cadence and speed ... but I don't see any mention about your long distance/endurance ride days.

    You talk about doing most of your rides on a trainer. Most people don't opt to ride the trainer if they can ride outside. And most people don't do more than about 2 hours on the trainer. You'll need to do at least 2 hours and preferably quite a bit more as you build up your distance, and if you choose to stick to the trainer, that'll be tough.

    Short rides are all right for evening/after work rides, and it is good to work on your speed and strength, but you'll need to pick at least one day each week to do a long ride. You train to do long rides ... by doing long rides.

    And incidentally, your age does not make any difference at all.

    Here's my article about riding centuries:
    http://www.machka.net/articles/century.htm


    (My qualifications ... I've ridden 160 centuries or longer rides. )

  4. #4
    Don from Austin Texas
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    You could just take off on your bike one morning and ride around Pasadena until you have either accrued 100 miles or found your limit. You have a Cateye to track it so you are good to go there. You won't get that far from home so you have relatively little risk re' mechanical problems. If you make 50 miles, try for 55 next week and etc. This will be more meaningful than the trainer IMHO.

    Don in Austin

  5. #5
    just another gosling Carbonfiberboy's Avatar
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    Yes, you have to ramp up your one-day mileage. Not necessary to do more than a 70 mile ride, but it is necessary to do that much. It's not just about conditioning.

    For your elbow, set up a mirror in front of you on the trainer. Try turning the inside of your elbows up and keeping them close to your sides. Don't stick them out. Then bend them to about 15. Try to keep your wrists as straight as is comfortable. Relax and drop your shoulders. Try to straighten your back. Watch to see that both your arms look the same.

    For therapy, do pushups, rows, pull-downs, that sort of thing.

    Specifics of how to train most efficiently are complicated. If you really want to get into it, buy Friel's Cyclist's Training Bible. Most folks do fine just riding a lot. There are a lot of century training plans on the web. Google. One is here:
    http://www.bicycling.com/training-nu.../100-mile-goal
    Obviously, one would like to spread this out over more than 8 weeks.

  6. #6
    Senior Member ericm979's Avatar
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    Get this book: http://www.amazon.com/Complete-Book-.../dp/1579541992

    It's the best one out there for training for and riding centuries. It's got a lot of tips about the actual ride, which is something that's usually ignored and would be useful for someone who's doing their first. It's a bit old now so the bike technology has moved on a bit, but everything else is still valid.

    You can do a field test to figure out your lactate threshold heart rate (LTHR) and base your training from that. That's better than using max HR. But being that organized about training is not required to finish a century or even be fast on one. Don't feel that you have to do it; but if that sort of thing motivates you there's nothing wrong with it. Especially if you have to ride the trainer. Doing intervals can make the trainer a bit less tedious.

    Most people find it difficult to get longer endurance rides done on the trainer. If you can figure out a way to ride outside, the time goes faster there. They make good lights for bicycles now, and warm clothes.

    As a new century rider, you mostly need to get your endurance up. Which means doing longer rides and more cycling in general. You want increase your riding gradually. The Long Distance Cycling book can help you lay out a plan.

    A century is an excellent goal, especially if you're already fit from running. Since your goal century is next summer, you could target a metric or half century in the spring to give yourself an intermediate goal. You'll learn a lot about pacing and how to organize your self for a ride, and when you finish it you'll get that positive reinforcement.

    If you break something on a century, you can usually get other riders to help. Many centuries have some sort of sag vehicle cruising the route to help out riders. You should be able to fix flat and do other basic stuff on your own. You can practice at home where its warm and dry.

    3500' is not much climbing for a full century in California. I've ridden those roads. Nothing is very difficult on that route. They do put the longest climb near the end, which would make it more challenging if you haven't saved something for it, but other than that it's a newbie friendly course for out here. Make climbing part of your training, and do climbs that are as challenging or more so than that one on the Casitas loop. Being in Pasadena you should be able to find a number of good climbs.

  7. #7
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    Machka's site has good advice.

    I have not done as many centuries as she has. I have probably done somewhere between 80 and 100 centuries.

    Time on the road is essential. The more days out of the week you ride the better. If you can not ride, doing aerobic conditioning on as many days as possible helps too.

    Think about this, you are going to be in the saddle a pretty long time, if you are going to do a century.

    I knew some ladies. They were all over 50. They swore that they were going to complete a century. It was something none of them had ever done. They dubbed themselves "Team Turtle". They rode at about 14 mph on flat terrain. They all finished. They were not in great shape but pacing on a century is a big deal.

    Going too fast can burn out a rider in about 50 miles. Most people train on relatively short rides, 30-40 miles. On the day of the century, they are all excited and ride faster than their normal 30-40 distance pace. Going out fast like that is a recipe for disaster. After you have a few centuries under your belt, you will get a good feel for the pace you can maintain. On the first century, ride at a moderate pace. If you feel fresh at 80 miles, you can pick up the pace.

    A rule of thumb is that one should ride a 70 mile training ride in preparation for a century. If you can finish 70 miles and still feel fairly good, you can probably do the century.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Miyata110's Avatar
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    While I have never done a century, I have to say that all of this advice is identical to what I received in doing my first marathon last year. Treadmills/Trainers are fine, but you should try to do most of your training on actual runs/rides. Building up distance is key. Get out there often. Cross training on occasion is a good idea.

    I plan on attempting my first century this year and my biggest concern is sitting on a saddle that long. My a$$ hurts just thinking about it!

  9. #9
    just another gosling Carbonfiberboy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Miyata110 View Post
    While I have never done a century, I have to say that all of this advice is identical to what I received in doing my first marathon last year. Treadmills/Trainers are fine, but you should try to do most of your training on actual runs/rides. Building up distance is key. Get out there often. Cross training on occasion is a good idea.

    I plan on attempting my first century this year and my biggest concern is sitting on a saddle that long. My a$$ hurts just thinking about it!
    If your butt hurts, you either aren't riding regularly or you have the wrong saddle. Saddles are very individual. There's not one that fits all. One can't tell if a saddle has the potential to work for them until after the 3rd hour. Most stores will allow one to return a saddle if it is in perfect condition and in the original packaging.

  10. #10
    Galveston County Texas 10 Wheels's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Miyata110 View Post
    While I have never done a century, I have to say that all of this advice is identical to what I received in doing my first marathon last year. Treadmills/Trainers are fine, but you should try to do most of your training on actual runs/rides. Building up distance is key. Get out there often. Cross training on occasion is a good idea.

    I plan on attempting my first century this year and my biggest concern is sitting on a saddle that long. My a$$ hurts just thinking about it!
    Standing up in the big ring and pedalling some will help much.
    [SIZE=1][B]What I like about Texas[/B]
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PGukLuXzH1E

    Set F1re To The Ra1n ( NY Night Rain Ride)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W7jfcWEkSrI

  11. #11
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    Thank you all for your replies! Some specific comments:

    @Garfield - I haven't registered for Ojai yet. It was my cycling friend who chose that one, and I was trusting him to make a good choice for a beginner. He does tend to overestimate my abilities a little and I was worried he would push the pace too fast. Personally I don't have a time goal (other than the course limit).

    If you know of a better first 100 near SoCal I would definitely be open to it if it fits in with my schedule (a few half-marathons on the horizon) and isn't crazy hard to get into. Honestly I am not very good at reading elevation charts and deciphering what they mean to me, for running either. I am better at comparisons with things I know (like I was asking my friend "Is it more hilly than _____ local ride?"). A half marathon I did in October was rated as VERY HILLY and when I got there I was baffled. It was a few rollers but nothing extreme. <shrug>

    @Machka - I'm not locking the elbow (making damn sure not to!) but I feel if it weren't as stretched out it might be more comfortable. Maybe I need a shorter stem?

    As far as training - I plan to ride 2 or more shorter rides during the week (definitely on the trainer). These are now 30 mins but could go up to an hour max due to time constraints. On the weekend I will do a longer ride. With marathon training my long run was 22 miles (26.2 being the marathon distance). I would assume a maximum training ride distance of around 4-5 hours would be enough. I will work up to that, starting with an hour this weekend. I probably will do some longer rides on the trainer. So far I don't get bored, and I like that there is not traffic to contend with. I am a bit afraid of riding in traffic - I don't like it. I would love to do some local group rides but I'm not strong enough YET to hang onto the pack. I don't want to make a fool out of myself.

    I read your article and it was helpful! So it seems aerobars are allowed in centuries? I have never used them before (and am a little apprehensive) but I do have a set of clip-ons. I could get used to them prior to the race and having an extra position to be in would be nice, and probably great for my elbow.

    @Carbonfiberboy - thanks for the positioning tips for my elbow. I will try that and if no improvement, I'm going to take the bike in (I no longer live near where it was fitted) and see if the bike shop guys have any helpful hints. I have Friel's Triathlete Training Bible - will check out the cycling one. I would prefer NOT to train with numbers and just get some miles under my belt. (Which is what I do for running). I was just worried I'd be better served by doing power training (I don't want to shell out $ for the equipment) or HR training. If it's not that important then forget it! I'll just go on intuition.

    @ericm - thanks for the book recommendation. If there is a half century that fits in with my schedule anywhere near here for the spring I will gladly sign up. I don't want to travel since I am already traveling for some running races this year. I probably should try to find somewhere offering a basic bike maintenance class in the near future. That would do wonders for my confidence. I don't want to have to rely on others (true for so many aspects of my life, LOL)!

    @PatW - I will have no problem keeping a snail's pace during the 100. That's how I finished the Berlin marathon this year. I know my limits. Actually it is probably better my friend is not going - I want to get there on my own power, not be dragged by him (as a triathlete originally, drafting always seems like cheating to me!), and I don't want to feel like I am holding anyone back. I am familiar with the concept of training only up to a certain distance. 70 sounds great!

    Thanks again everyone,
    ~Laikabear~

  12. #12
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    I just did my first century last September. It was the Amtrak Century from Irvine to San Diego. It's very flat so it's supposed to be a good first century especially for those newer to cycling.

    It sounds like you are going to try to do your longer rides on the road and I really think that you should, especially if your not comfortable with cars. I would assume the roads in Ojai won't be crowded with cars but there will be a lot of passing and being passed by other cyclists. You need to be comfortable with cars, pedestrians, other cyclists, route finding, etc. Maybe it's just me but I was glad I'd done all of my riding outside because by the time I got to century day, I didn't have to use extra energy worrying about how to deal with everything going on around me. I could just ride.

    There is a metric century in Orange County in the spring, in March I think.

  13. #13
    Senior Member ericm979's Avatar
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    If you can finish a marathon, a century should be no problem once you have enough time on the bike to build the bike-specific muscles. I think a marathon is a lot harder. But I turned to cycling because I kept getting injured running so I may be biased.

    A century generally isn't a race. There are centuries that are timed and are sort of races (i.e. http://www.planetultra.com/KOM/) but they're still not real races. I know of one century in NorCal and that really is an unsactioned race but that's unusual. You know how at a running race the really serious people who are looking to win line up at the front, in the middle there's people with no hope of winning but maybe looking for a PR, and in the back there's people just hoping to finish? A bike race only has the people from the front in it. (there's also a license and a bunch of rules involved)

    I know some people use them but I don't think aero bars are that useful in typical California centuries. Too many curves and hills, and if you want to go fast you should be working in a group. Aero bars are not safe to use around other riders.

    Drafting isn't cheating in century riding, or racing for that matter (except time trials of course). It does take practice however.

    If you're scared of traffic you should work on it rather than staying inside on the trainer. Try going out early on weekend mornings and picking routes that don't have a lot of traffic. Ask your cycling friends to show you low traffic routes.

    It should be easy to find a metric or half century. Most centuries have shorter options too. The organizers are already set up so it's not hard to support more than one route at a time. (this means that you need to watch the route markings and the route sheet so you don't follow the wrong route and end up on a longer ride than you intended). Here's a good ride list for California: http://www.bikecal.com/asp/century-result.asp

  14. #14
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Miyata110 View Post
    I plan on attempting my first century this year and my biggest concern is sitting on a saddle that long. My a$$ hurts just thinking about it!
    Quote Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
    If your butt hurts, you either aren't riding regularly or you have the wrong saddle. Saddles are very individual. There's not one that fits all. One can't tell if a saddle has the potential to work for them until after the 3rd hour. Most stores will allow one to return a saddle if it is in perfect condition and in the original packaging.
    I'd start with the bicycle fit. If your bicycle fits and is set up properly, you've increased your chances of being able to ride on a saddle for a long period of time.

    Personal fitness and good core strength also increase your chances of being able to ride on a saddle for a long period of time.

    And then ... the saddle. You've got to experiment to find a saddle that works, and as CFB says, you won't know till at least the 3rd hour in the saddle.

  15. #15
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Laikabear View Post
    @Machka - I'm not locking the elbow (making damn sure not to!) but I feel if it weren't as stretched out it might be more comfortable. Maybe I need a shorter stem?

    I would assume a maximum training ride distance of around 4-5 hours would be enough. I will work up to that, starting with an hour this weekend. I probably will do some longer rides on the trainer. So far I don't get bored, and I like that there is not traffic to contend with. I am a bit afraid of riding in traffic - I don't like it. I would love to do some local group rides but I'm not strong enough YET to hang onto the pack. I don't want to make a fool out of myself.

    I read your article and it was helpful! So it seems aerobars are allowed in centuries? I have never used them before (and am a little apprehensive) but I do have a set of clip-ons. I could get used to them prior to the race and having an extra position to be in would be nice, and probably great for my elbow.
    You might need a shorter stem. Also, it can be hard to tell if you're locking your elbows or not. I don't think I do ... I don't feel like I do ... but my husband keeps after me to bend my elbows, and I do get sore elbows on really long rides.

    If you can comfortably do 4-5 hours on the bicycle, you've got a good chance of doing the century.

    If you're nervous in traffic, it's a good idea to get out there and start riding on the roads to get used to it. I have never ridden an organised long distance event on a closed course, so if you're going to ride a century, chances are you'll be out there in traffic. But start with routes with light, slower moving traffic to ease into it. Ride in a straight line, ride predictably, ride with confidence like you know what you're doing and where you're going. Listen to the traffic. Follow the rules of the road.

    Regarding aerobars ... it depends on the century. And their usefulness depends on the century too. If there are lots of people on the century and you're all riding in a group, do not use aerobars. If the century is quite hilly, they are almost useless. But if the century is relatively flat and won't have a lot of people, aerobars can be a good thing.

    The reason aerobars are not recommended when in groups is because many aerobar riders wobble. It can be a challenge to keep the bicycle in a straight line. Dodging potholes and gravel etc. can cause a really big wobble, which could potentially take out other riders. And it takes longer to reach the brakes if everyone suddenly stops.

    If you're riding on aerobars in a group, you may be told to get off the aerobars, or you may find that you're suddenly riding alone. Other cyclists don't like riding in a group with someone on aerobars. And so, for some events, the aerobars are banned entirely.

  16. #16
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    Training rides near Pasadena

    I too am training for my first century: the Cool Breeze in August (http://www.cibike.org/cool-breeze.html).

    Some rides I'm doing in preparation:

    Tour de Sewer on 3/17 - metric century: http://www.bellgardenslions.com/index.html

    Santa Clarita Century on 4/7 - half century: http://santaclaritacentury.com/

    Crusin' the Conejo, probably on 4/28 - metric century: http://www.cvcbike.org/?page_id=35

    Great Western Bike Rally, Memorial Day weekend - many rides: http://www.greatwesternbicyclerally.com/

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