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Long Distance Competition/Ultracycling, Randonneuring and Endurance Cycling Do you enjoy centuries, double centuries, brevets, randonnees, and 24-hour time trials? Share ride reports, and exchange training, equipment, and nutrition information specific to long distance cycling. This isn't for tours, this is for endurance events cycling

Starting Century Training

Old 05-04-11, 10:41 AM
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Starting Century Training

Hello All,

I just started training for my first century in September. I am 41 y/o, 5'6", 170lb. I have a 2010 Specialized Secteur Comp. I am using a form of the training schedule found in Bicycling Magazine's New Cyclist Handbook (©2005, Rodale). (Click to see.) I also created a google calendar that better helps me see how long each ride will take. (Click to see.) I am keeping track of my progress. (Click to see.)

There is another century on June 12. I am scheduled for a 59-mile ride on that day; so I was thinking about registering for the metric century also being offered.

If you would like to share any hints or tips, I'd love to hear them. Thanks.
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Old 05-04-11, 11:01 AM
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Don't overthink it. Go ride a bunch. If you're in good shape, you'll do it fast. If not, it'll take longer. How long a ride takes depends on the wind and on how long you stand by the side of the road at selected points with your tongue hanging out and is not always predictable. Find out how hilly the courses in question are, and make sure you're riding something comparable for training. If you normally ride fast in groups and have trouble with the distance, then slow down and you can increase distance considerably. Get some chow or snacks or Perpetuum or something down as you ride the century.
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Old 05-04-11, 11:56 AM
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The biggest thing people have trouble with when starting longer distance riding is hydration and feeding. Those will be the most important things to experiment with and get down. You do well with those, you'll be fine.
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Old 05-04-11, 12:19 PM
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You might want to change your BF screen name for starters It should only take 12 weeks to train up for a century, so you've got plenty of time.

I recommend you pick up a copy of The Complete Book of Long-Distance Cycling. There are a few minor inaccuracies here and there, but it's a pretty good resource for getting started on distance rides.
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Old 05-04-11, 07:18 PM
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Thank you all for your suggestions.

Find out how hilly the courses in question are, and make sure you're riding something comparable for training.
I have three things in my favor: 1) The century in September is flat; 2) The area I live in is hilly (see below); and 3) I live close to the course for the metric century on June 12; so I can ride that course ahead of time..

The biggest thing people have trouble with when starting longer distance riding is hydration and feeding.
So far, I've felt pretty good during and after my rides. I think I'm doing good with hydration and feeding.

I recommend you pick up a copy of The Complete Book of Long-Distance Cycling.
Thank you. This is exactly what I'm looking for. I'll be sure to pick up a copy.

My two issues so far are 1) Low mi/hr average; and 2) Difficultly climbing. I seem to be stuck at 12-13 mi/hr. I'd like to do better. Even cat 5 climbs present a problem for me. I have to stop for a minute mid-climb. Then I can get back on and finish. I don't know if it's psychological, physical, or both. I know riding often should mitigate both issues.

Thank you all for your help. If anyone reading this thread is in a similar situation as me; please feel free to use the training schedule and calendar. Thanks.
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Old 05-04-11, 08:39 PM
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I see you've ridden like nine straight days. Take a day or two off every now and then. If you feel like some exercise on those days off the bike then take a hike through the woods or something similar. Also make one day a week a day for doing your 'long' ride. I see you've already done a 30 mile ride, so maybe next Monday try a 40 mile ride, take Tuesday off, shorter ride Wednesday, then Thursday do a time trial type ride. You know where you ride as fast as you can for about 30 minutes. Use the Thursday time trial to gauge progress, not the long ride.

I think by September you'll find a century no big deal.

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Old 05-04-11, 08:41 PM
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Don't worry too much about speed, 1st time around is basically about finishing.

The best training for climbing is to climb. It really is mostly mental. Pick hills that are progressively tougher, and after a few weeks you'll find that what seemed tough at the outset is actually easy.
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Old 05-05-11, 10:26 AM
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+1 on finishing. As for speed, there's riding time and total/elapsed time. You can save a lot on total time by staying focused at rest stops and not spending a lot of time yakking. Bathroom, refill bottles, grab food (ideally, something you can munch on while riding, even at a reduced speed) and get back on the route. For riding speed, the best way are midweek interval sessions (1-2 times per week, NOT on your long ride days) whenre you concentrate on riding significantly faster for several minutes; recover (rising at a much slower pace), repeat. Not really needed at this point - goal #1 is finish and enjoy the ride so you'll want to do it again!

And +1 on climbing to get better at climbing, and on riding hills to prep for a hilly ride (using a relatively flat trail to prep for my 1st metric on a much hillier route was NOT a good idea!). What works for me for climbing is I learned to spin in my lower gears vs mashing pedals (or standing and mashing), unless it's so steep or a long enough climb I need the change for a few minutes. Mentally, I imagine a LONG fish line between me and the top, and I'm reeling myself up the hill with the cranks. YMMV.

The metric in June is an excellent idea. Remember to have fun! Outside of the bike events and forums like here, most people (family, neighbors, co-workers, friends, total strangers) are amazed ANYONE they know can cover any sort of distance under their own power, let alone for fun! (Unless you were the non-cyclist in a family of retired pros, RAAM veterans, and bike tourers).
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Old 05-09-11, 09:10 AM
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Take a day or two off
I haven't ridden since early Saturday. I do feel better.

Also make one day a week a day for doing your 'long' ride.
Four weeks remain before the metric century. I made arrangements with a friend to bring me to the course once a week so I can ride parts of it. May plan is 38 mi this week, then 42, 47, 53, metric.

do a time trial type ride
I did a flat 7 mi ride on Saturday. I know it's not much but hitting 15 mi/hr makes me fell better.

Pick hills that are progressively tougher
I've already found this to be very true. I can cover some small climbs much better than I could just 2 weeks ago.

Mentally, I imagine a LONG fish line between me and the top, and I'm reeling myself up the hill with the cranks.
I love it! I will definitely try this!

'73
NM1E
jay at nm1e dot com
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Old 05-09-11, 10:50 AM
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Although it is not the same sport, but in running it is rare that a marathoner runs the full 26.2 miles on any given week.

Try a long ride once a week (and no I do not mean a century), and build up by adding 5-10% to the ride. A heart rate monitor will help to maintain a pace for a century. Dont hammer the legs, go easy on the cadence...


Yeah, back off the last week and tap out properly, load on carbs 3 days before the race. Although you know it, dont try anything new for the century be it shoes, nutrition, saddle, gloves etc.
Good luck
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Old 05-12-11, 06:31 AM
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build up by adding 5-10% to the ride. A heart rate monitor will help to maintain a pace for a century. Dont hammer the legs, go easy on the cadence
The 5-10% increase each week is my goal. I do have a heart rate monitor. I read somewhere that the cadence should be 80-90. I'm in the 60s. I don't worry about that too much.

I did a 38 mile ride yesterday. (Like an idiot, I forgot to start the computer at the beginning; so the computer didn't register the first 3 miles.) This time I used a hydration pack filled with emergency repair gear. I was really surprised that I was able to make 3 out of 4 climbs without stopping, even with the added weight. The last climb at the end gave me some trouble. I really like ks1g's suggestion about the imaginary fishing line. It's much better to think about being pulled up instead of pushing up. In general, I think my difficulty in climbing is more mental than physical. I find that if I don't know the elevation details ahead of time, then I do better. Yesterday as I was heading for the final stretch, I knew that the road ran alongside a river. I thought, "Well, it must be flat if it's close to water level". I was wrong. I think that if I had imagined the final stretch to be a climb instead of flat, then I could've finished the climb without stopping.

Thank you all for your help and suggestions.
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Old 05-13-11, 08:20 AM
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Cadence is nothing to seriously worry about—some legs just don't fly, and that's fine—but your goal really should be to spin in that ~90 range. The better your spin, the less stress on your joints, especially your knees. Also, you'll find that the better you get at spinning those little gears, the better you get at spinning tall ones, which helps you go fast.

The advice about working a short, fast ride into your routine is good, too. It sounds kind of stupid, but the best way to get faster on the bike is to actually go faster on the bike. I am a pretty slow rider, but I find that getting out to an empty park and just doing laps once a week makes me noticeably quicker when doing my usual lazy noodling.
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Old 05-19-11, 03:19 PM
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I have been riding fairly seriously since I was in 5th grade. I did take a 15 year break due to plantar fasciatas. 2 years ago I bought a mountain bike, last year I had my old Centurion overhauled and started roadbiking again. By last summer I had accrued a bit over 800 miles between both bikes. This February I bought a Surly LHT. I have never ridden a century until last weekend.

I did not feel that I was all that prepared for it. Granted, since Feb I put 800 miles on the LHT before the century, but I felt somewhat under prepared for it because I didn't do what the books said. Haven't always ridden 100/week. I did a 65 mile ride last month, and have done a 3 or 4 2 day camping trips and some commuting.

They allowed camping at the park, but I left about 1 AM because the trains were too many and too loud, and woke up at 6AM or so. Another mistake-you are supposed to get plenty of rest....

Nevertheless, I did just fine, completed it in 7 hours, avg speed of 14.5. An LHT with the Surly racks is just over 30 lbs, so I thought I did good. I found myself limiting my speed at some points, and didn't ride too fast too early. I got passed by a lot of people at the start, but it's not a race, it's a ride.

At mile 60 I started bonking after a series of rollers, and that was about noon. So I started eating one of the pb sandwiches I brought(ate 2 for breakfast and brought 2 with me. Next time I will bring 4), and put gatorade that the sag stop was offering in one bottle and water in the other. They also had bananas and oranges as well as cookies. They also made burgers at the end, and I wasn't too excited about eating greasy food, but it didn't hurt me. After I left I went to the local Subway and ate an Italian BMT, 12". I have to say wasn't too impressed with the Cliff bars that I normally eat. PB is cheaper and does a better job, IMHO.

All that to say, just go for it. If you start to die or something you can call the sag wagon, or you can take a shorter route. Stop at every break, even if you feel you don't need it.

I was tired the next day, but by Monday I felt great. Slept 10 hours on Saturday night, and 8-9 hours on Sunday night. I had a 2 hour drive between where I live and where the century was, and I did have to pull over to take a 30 minute nap on the way home. Make sure you are fit to drive after you leave.

Every organized ride I have seen is some kind of benefit for some good cause, and the people that are volunteering are always very grateful that you paid money to ride their ride to help their cause, even if they don't always understand why we would want to.

Gear down and maintain 80-90. If you try pushing a hard gear at 60, you will probably get cramps. I know I would, and have seen it happen to other people.

I didn't ride about a week before the century...some guys max it out as if they are cramming for a test.

Last edited by c3hamby; 05-19-11 at 03:26 PM. Reason: add detail
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Old 05-20-11, 11:59 AM
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It is worth noting - that even publications like Bicycling Magazine use the idea of a 'goal distance' - such as a Century - a a method of defining an exercise routine.

But - in real life - what you are really doing is training yourself to become a cyclist with "all day" riding endurance. All the talk about "this miles" or those miles" is just a convenient tool for describing workouts.

For those who are really interested in their cycling ability - those people really need to understand that they are really working on their ability to "endure" for longer and longer periods of time - the miles are not really as important as your ability to continuously stress your body for long periods of time.

Earlier some one mentioned the 5 or 10% distance increase method. I say "boo-hah" - what's important is training to understand your pacing for whatever distance you must overcome and operating your body accordingly to finish that particular stretch of road successfully.

In other words, when all you do to define a goal is in selecting a ride-distance - it is the selection of a successful pace and the ability to endure the necessary time period(s) that is important not the miles.
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Old 05-20-11, 12:24 PM
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Originally Posted by Richard Cranium
It is worth noting - that even publications like Bicycling Magazine use the idea of a 'goal distance' - such as a Century - a a method of defining an exercise routine.

But - in real life - what you are really doing is training yourself to become a cyclist with "all day" riding endurance. All the talk about "this miles" or those miles" is just a convenient tool for describing workouts....
You know RC, these are your absolute best posts! I couldn't agree with you more!!!!
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Old 05-20-11, 01:54 PM
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I love your posts guys. I read this stuff enough times and eventually it sinks in. "Selection of a sucessful pace" and "it doesn't get harder, you just go slower", in my mind, are two ways to looking at what is essentially the same so very important concept that must be understood in order to do this stuff. More or less, anyone can ride all day so long as the pace is not too hard. Secondly, the key question has to then be: what time goal is being pursued? Simply "surviving" an event that has no real time limit is very different (and should be far easier) than trying to meet some ambitious target for completion.
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Old 05-20-11, 03:20 PM
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Originally Posted by Homeyba
You know RC, these are your absolute best posts! I couldn't agree with you more!!!!
Adding another Amen.
However, it's worth thinking about what training is necessary to be able to endure for long periods of time, and what training periods adapt one to what length rides.

My experience is that 4.5-5 hour rides, if ridden at full race simulation pace, are all one needs to be able to ride forever. After working up to doing rides of that sort and length every week for about 3 months, I was able to do pretty much any ride I wished to do, at least up to 250 miles. Of course I also did other workouts and rides during those weeks. There are special skills which also must be developed to be able to ride forever: riding at night, riding all night, riding in the rain, riding all night in the rain, staying fed and hydrated, staying on task, keeping one's butt in tolerable condition, keeping one's hands and upper body functional. There are probably other things.

Reasoning backward from the above and adding a little experience, it has seemed to me that 35-40 mile rides, again ridden at full race simulation pace, are sufficient for a century distance.

Along those lines, I am currently trying to convince my stoker that she will be fine on the century (probably solo) which we have scheduled for this coming Sunday, even though she's never ridden more than 65 miles. Success will depend on my experience to provide the correct pacing. We rode about 120 miles, or the equivalent, during the taper week leading to this ride, so we should be fine.
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Old 05-22-11, 02:45 PM
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Originally Posted by Richard Cranium
It is worth noting - that even publications like Bicycling Magazine use the idea of a 'goal distance' - such as a Century - a a method of defining an exercise routine.

But - in real life - what you are really doing is training yourself to become a cyclist with "all day" riding endurance. All the talk about "this miles" or those miles" is just a convenient tool for describing workouts.

For those who are really interested in their cycling ability - those people really need to understand that they are really working on their ability to "endure" for longer and longer periods of time - the miles are not really as important as your ability to continuously stress your body for long periods of time.

Earlier some one mentioned the 5 or 10% distance increase method. I say "boo-hah" - what's important is training to understand your pacing for whatever distance you must overcome and operating your body accordingly to finish that particular stretch of road successfully.

In other words, when all you do to define a goal is in selecting a ride-distance - it is the selection of a successful pace and the ability to endure the necessary time period(s) that is important not the miles.
I am a year-round commuter of 14 miles about 5 to 6 times per week from October through April, and to me this is just a fitness maintenance program. From April to October I do two cycles of the ten-week Bicycling Century Schedule. Only by then is the early morning warm enough to encourage longer distances, and due to time constraints early morning is the best time for me to ride.

I personally find that having a well-defined program of daily mileage “quotas” is very effective to motivate me to ride significantly increased distances beyond my usual commute, from about 70 to as much as 190 miles per week with the concomitant sacrifice of time. I’m such a wonk about it that I even graph my mileage in comparison with the quotas.

Maybe YMMV, but for a busy guy like me a specific daily mileage goal is more motivating than a general resolution to "become a cyclist with 'all day' riding endurance." It's more like I just want to enjoy the increased level of fitness, as well as savor as much of the nice weather as I can, and for me, miles motivate.

ADENDDUM:

Since a Century is "small change" on this Forum, for fun I looked up the recommended training schedule for the Pacific to Atlantic Bike Tour of about 25 days

https://www.pactour.com/

Three Months Before PAC Tour
150-200 miles per week
One day per week over 100 miles
One long 150 mile ride during the month
Hang in the back of a fast group (20+ MPH) 30 miles per week

Two Months Before PAC Tour
200 - 250 miles per week
One or two days per week over 100 miles
One 200 mile ride during the month
Ride in the middle of a fast group 30 miles per week

One Month Before PAC Tour
250 - 350 miles per week
Two days per week over 100 miles
Ride a 200 mile event under 14 hours
Ride in the front of a fast group for 30 miles per week

One Week Before PAC Tour
Ride enough to keep your legs fit but rested


Last edited by Jim from Boston; 05-22-11 at 04:16 PM.
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Old 05-22-11, 06:03 PM
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PAc Tour wants you trained and fast because they don't mess around. Pac Tour is not your typical tour.
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Old 05-22-11, 08:39 PM
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Originally Posted by Homeyba
PAc Tour wants you trained and fast because they don't mess around. Pac Tour is not your typical tour.
No kidding. My wife and I rode cross-country from LA to DC in eight weeks. Of course it was our honeymoon.
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Old 05-22-11, 09:45 PM
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Originally Posted by Jim from Boston
No kidding. My wife and I rode cross-country from LA to DC in eight weeks. Of course it was our honeymoon.
That's awesome.
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Old 05-23-11, 12:11 AM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy
<snip> Along those lines, I am currently trying to convince my stoker that she will be fine on the century (probably solo) which we have scheduled for this coming Sunday, even though she's never ridden more than 65 miles. Success will depend on my experience to provide the correct pacing. We rode about 120 miles, or the equivalent, during the taper week leading to this ride, so we should be fine.
Replying to my own post . . . Oh well.
The tandem century went great. We rode solo. No gastric distress or cramping, no flats, no mechanicals. 7:15 in the saddle, 8:55 ET, 4300' of climbing. I know, very slow, but pretty good for us. One of our faster long rides, actually. We maintained an even pace and still had enough left to hit 20-24 in the final miles. (We climb v e r y slowly). Wife's first century. She's only been riding seriously for a little over a year. She done real good.

Last edited by Carbonfiberboy; 05-23-11 at 11:18 AM.
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