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  1. #1
    Rational Hedonist
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    First century advice

    Hi. I'm hoping for some advice on training for my first century. I will be participating in the Amtrak Century, from Irvin to SD, in September. This seems like a nice entry-level choice for my first time.

    I've read a lot about what it takes, and I'm fairly confident I can make it. My only concern is that I'm pretty pressed for time, all the time, so I can't really do a lot of riding longer than around 40 miles. I might be able to squeeze one or two longer rides in before the event, but not much more than that.

    But I THINK I've got a workable strategy. First, I commute at least 3 times a week, sometimes 4 or 5 times. It's 10 miles each way along the SART (a relatively flat portion). So right there I'm averaging around 80 miles of riding per week, though obviously not consecutively.

    For my longer weekend rides, I've been riding Santiago Canyon. It's only 40 miles round trip from my front door, however it ends up being nearly as much total climbing (~3500ft) as the entire Amtrak Century route (~4000 ft), including some grades that are steeper than anything on the century route. I'm able to complete those 40 miles with plenty left in the tank, at a decent pace (15mph average overall). The only thing stopping me from extending my range is time.

    Does that sound like enough to prepare me? I figure with the same amount of climbing spread out across 2.5x the distance, I should be alright. I still plan to find the time to get a couple longer days in, but hoping for confirmation that I'll be alright with what I've got going, otherwise I'll have to figure out a way to squeeze more time out of my weekends.

    Thanks for any advice!

  2. #2
    just another gosling Carbonfiberboy's Avatar
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    Good rules of thumb are that you can do one ride equal in length to your weekly total, and you can ride one ride equal in length to 3 times your usual weekend training ride. So you're kind on the edge there. I'd try to increase the weekly mileage a bit. Find a longer way home. However, the big thing you haven't done is get your nutrition and hydration down. You really need to do a 75-80 mile ride and check that out. Plus things happen to your butt, hands, and feet in 100 miles that don't happen in 40.

    If the search function is working, there are easily 100 threads about "how to train for/ride a century."

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    For most people, total elevation gain is more important than total miles. If your regular rides already have as much elevation gain as the century, you should be fine. Find some wheels to suck on the flat parts and remember to eat and drink regularly during the ride.

  4. #4
    Rational Hedonist
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    Thanks Carbon, johnny.


    johnny - that's kinda how I feel regarding climbs vs. flat. If it's flat I feel like i can go for days as long as I've got fuel and water. With no effect one way or the other on climbing fatigue. That's why I'm feeling like, in terms of being able to handle the overall effort these shorter rides are preparing me well.

    But, carbon, you bring up a good point on the nutrition/comfort aspects. I will definitely pay attention to that when I do get the time for longer rides. That, and upper body fatigue, I think are going to be my biggest concern, rather than anything related directly to riding effort.

    Honestly I'm feeling pretty confident. But now that I'm officially registered, my brain just can't stop thinking about it.

  5. #5
    Junior Member WEBUYFUN's Avatar
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    Seems we are having the same issues getting ready for our first century . Im also preparing for one that is coming up in Sept . Juggling a buisness , 2 little girls , a wife , 2 dogs, trying to get out on the boat as much possible and ride a 100++ a week is alot on the plate. Like you Im doing 2 or 3 20 mile training rides during the week and one long 40-50 miler on the weekend ( mostly 40's ) . The weekday ride is a very steep ride at ( least I think so) it climbs over 2000' in the 20 miles and I can squeeze it in before work . The issue is the weekends I havent had time to increase my rides beyond the 50 mile mark due to family obligations . Im starting to get concerned that I wont have the miles under my belt for the big day. I definatley feel I could easiliy due another 25-35 miles at the end of the 50 but Im always rushed to get back home and havent tried it to be sure . Im thinking I might have to take a day off and try to do a 75-85 mile day a couple times before Sept . Good Luck and keep us posted !!!
    If your not living on the edge your taking up too much space

  6. #6
    Rational Hedonist
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    Well, as it turns out, I fell into a weekend with some extra time (who knew such a thing existed?!) and managed to get in a 65 mile ride.

    Carbon - no joke about things being different. Shoulders, back, and hands definitely felt it. My butt was okay though (I love my saddle). 4 hours is a LONG time on a bike. Of course, I pushed straight through without a stop, whereas I do plan on taking advantage of rest stops to get up and stretch during the real thing. I wouldn't say I was completely worn out by the end, but I'm glad I have a better idea now of what to anticipate.

    Hydration was fine, nutrition - I just barely had enough. I made it, but I was one granola bar short of what I probably should have had with me. Incidentally, "one granola bar short" is how I imagine my wife describes me when she tells people what I'm training for.

    Interestingly, while this was a much flatter route than I had been doing 40 miles on (1200 feet of elevation gain instead of 3500), I found it much more draining. In part because most of that gain came in 2 VERY steep climbs, and in part because half of it, the middle half, was into the wind. 30 miles of non stop 5-8mph breeze in my face. Holy crap, I'll take climbing over that anyday. It's just relentless.

    So I think I'm going to take Carbon's advice and take the scenic route home from work, and hopefully find time for at least a handful more longer rides. Definitely don't want to be surprised by that kind of fatigue day-of.

  7. #7
    just another gosling Carbonfiberboy's Avatar
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    One can ride pretty much forever if one eats the recommended 250-300 cal./hr, stays hydrated, and paces oneself for the anticipated distance. However how to do those simple things is quite a trick.

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    Rational Hedonist
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    It's that last part that's the hardest. Especially since most of my riding is distances where I'm able to push a pretty fast pace for the whole ride, it takes a lot of effort to continually remind myself to just slow down and not worry about maintaining speed. My biggest danger will be burning myself out in the first 30 miles. On the plus side, I will have a lot more drafting opportunities than I'm used to, that should keep my effort down.

  9. #9
    Travelling hopefully chasm54's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by swankgd View Post
    It's that last part that's the hardest. Especially since most of my riding is distances where I'm able to push a pretty fast pace for the whole ride, it takes a lot of effort to continually remind myself to just slow down and not worry about maintaining speed. My biggest danger will be burning myself out in the first 30 miles. On the plus side, I will have a lot more drafting opportunities than I'm used to, that should keep my effort down.
    If you have a HRM, use it to manage your effort. On the century ride, stay in Z2 except when the hills force you to make a bigger effort. In Z2 you should be able to ride all day, if you eat and drink properly.
    There have been many days when I haven't felt like riding, but there has never been a day when I was sorry I rode.

  10. #10
    Rational Hedonist
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    Me + HRM = shaving. Not gonna happen

    I'll just work on dialing things in with some more extended rides.

  11. #11
    just another gosling Carbonfiberboy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by swankgd View Post
    Me + HRM = shaving. Not gonna happen

    I'll just work on dialing things in with some more extended rides.
    HRM is really nice for assessing correct pain dosage. Buh-Bump cream or Parker Spectra electrode gel will give you good contact.

  12. #12
    Rational Hedonist
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    Hehe, cream and gel stand no chance against my mammalian defenses. We're talking Robin Williamsian levels of hair. Trust me, having experience from EKG's, nothing short of a shave is going to get an HRM enough contact with my skin to work and that's just not a look I'm interested in.

    Seeing as I've made it from zero (well, 20) to 65 miles in just a couple of months without one, I think I can dial in the last 35 miles without the need for critical manscaping decisions.

  13. #13
    Senior Member Chaco's Avatar
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    I would do at least one 80 to 85 mile ride with the same amount of climbing you will do in your century. You'd be surprised how much of a difference there is between 60 miles and 80 miles. That last 20 miles (as CarbonFiberBoy pointed out above) is when your butt, neck, and feet can really start hurting if you're not dialed in. For example, your feet may swell a bit after 50 miles, causing what was a comfortable fit at the beginning of the ride to be agonizing if you forget to loosen things up. Also, a ride like that will give you a much better idea about nutrition during the ride.
    Scott CR1 Team

  14. #14
    Senior Member Keith99's Avatar
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    Is the Amtrak still a North to South ride with a train return?

    If so it sounds like you are golden and this should not be a problem.

    Cautions.

    Go with the food and drink you are used to.

    Try to get in some riding in a group if you haven't alerady.

    One aspect of length is heat and hyrdation. Tyr to get in at least one ride in the late afternoon on a hot day. (Honestly trying to think paranoid I'm thinking heat may be the thing that has the best chance to get you. I do not think it has a good chance, but still best to find out how you deal with heat now).

    Related to heat is hydration. On the century be sure to dring early and often.

    The climbing you gave for the Amtrak century seemed high to me. Sometimes rides like tha tcount every inch of climbing. Yuo may be in for a pleasent surprise. It may be that yuo do not notice a lot of the climbing.

    One last caution. Try to avoid starting too hard. And keep a balance when it comes to staying with a group. There are advantages to having someone in front of yuo. But do not work yuor butt off to stay with a group. It can be very deflating to finally get dropped and then have to work even harder to go slower.

    AND if things go very very bad remember you can stop, hydrate and eat a bit and start up again after 10-15 minutes. That can be far smarter than trying to push on. (I know, not from a century from a double. And I know you can totally recover. At least I did enough to chase at with the afternoon wind at my back.)

    I expect you will get that same afternoon wind. If (big if) things go bad at least keep the hope of the tailwind.
    Perish any man who suspects that these men either did or suffered anything unseemly.

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