June 2016 - BICYCLING
Riding Your First Century
By Andy Ruiz
Now fully in to the summer season, it’s time to enjoy the outdoors! With the relatively mild winter, hopefully many got a jump on their fitness – whether spinning indoors or taking advantage of the milder weather to get some miles in outside.
Fast forward to June, most have been training outdoors for several weeks, and some may aim to complete their first long-distance cycling event by summers end. A 100-mile ride is a milestone nearly every cyclist strives to reach. For most however, finding the time to train when there are only so many hours in the day, between work, family and other obligations, is difficult.
For most riders, a century will take between five and eight hours to complete. A varied training plan of riding a minimum of four days per week, complete with long rides, steady rides and speed work will have you ready in no time! Whether an organized century, or individual rider’s goal, effective training and preparation can be the difference in finishing the distance feeling fresh and accomplished, or defeated and depleted.
That said, finishing a century involves more than just pedaling, but making the best choices before, and then during all 100 miles. The key is to start slow, gradually building your conditioning, and easing in to the increasing physical and nutritional demands training for a long-distance event brings.
Depending on your time spent riding up to now, the duration of an endurance ride can be between two and five hours – 25 to 90 miles. Riders should start at the low end, building mileage – and time – progressively each week. Though most cyclists find that the weekend works best for their long rides, it doesn’t matter which day, as long as the ride gets done.
Long rides should be about 70 to 75% of your maximum heart rate – a steady, but not taxing pace. At least once per week, riders should complete a steady “tempo” ride, aiming for 80 to 85% of maximum heart rate for two to four longer efforts – 10 to 30 minutes in length with a minimum of 10 minutes of easy pedaling in between. These one-and-a-half to two hour rides train your body to ride more comfortably under pressure, so you finish 100 miles faster and feeling fresher – with less exertion.
A common misconception is that “volume” alone helps you to go long. Incorporating speed work into your training plan improves endurance, so you can ride faster and longer. At least once per week, riders should aim to do four to six very hard or max efforts ranging from 30 seconds to two minutes at 85 to 90% of maximum heart rate, with easy spinning in-between for at least the length of the interval. With warm-up and cool-down, these rides can be one hour to one-and-a-half hours in length.
Lastly, make all of your training count. On the day of the event, eat a breakfast of carbohydrates, protein, and a little fat a few hours before the ride. Carry enough nutrition in order to ingest 200 to 300 calories every hour thereafter. Sports drinks with electrolytes and a few carbohydrates can be helpful for both nutrition and hydration needs. Plan to drink at least one bottle each hour; more if it’s hot.
If it’s an organized ride, take advantage of every rest stop, and refuel with food and liquids. Stretch and replenish, but don’t linger. A stop that last more than a few minutes will cause your legs to stiffen up and make it harder to get going again.
Ride YOUR century at a comfortable pace for you. Avoid getting drawn into riding too fast early on and going into the red, only to crack later. If you’ve got it, save riding hard for the last quarter, when you know you’re almost done and confident that your goal will be reached. Avoid aches and pains in your back or neck by standing out of the saddle to stretch or change hand position.
Three Great Centuries:
On Saturday, August 27, the 16th annual Pat Stratton Memorial Century Ride puts wheels down in Saranac Lake offering rides of 100, 50 and 25 miles and a kids’ fun ride. The event winds through the northern Adirondacks on wide-shouldered highways and quiet back roads. The route sticks to valleys and easier grades to give the mountain views – without the climbs and passes – through Paul Smiths, Meacham Lake, Lake Clear, Gabriels, and St. Regis Falls.
Feed stations and sag support are available, and finishers enjoy BBQ, T-shirts, music, and homemade pies! Proceeds support Kiwanis community programs in Saranac Lake, including the annual bike rodeo and helmet distribution that has given away 1,000 lids to area youth. For details, go to active.com – and active duty military and law enforcement ride for free.
On Sunday, September 4, riders head to the second annual Catskill Mountain Cycling Challenge that’s based at the Catskill Recreation Center in Arkville. It’s sponsored by the recreation center, Overlook Mountain Bikes, and Catskill Mountain Cycling Club. There are five different routes for riders at every skill level, covering 100, 76, 55, 29 and 11 miles – all in the beautiful western Catskills.
The routes of 100, 76 and 55 miles cater to more advanced cyclists, with some challenging climbs mixed in with the stunning scenery of the area. Participants receive a T-shirt, lunch, and a pass to the recreation center for access to the swimming pool. To learn more, visit catskillrecreationcenter.org or bikereg.com.
On Saturday-Sunday, September 10-11, is the 46th annual MHCC Century Weekend, where one registration fee gets you two days of riding, based at Saratoga Spa State Park in Saratoga Springs. This is the Mohawk-Hudson Cycling Club’s main riding and fundraising event for the year, and all cyclists are welcome. Last year over 350 riders from six states participated in this event put on by the Capital Region’s largest cycling club, with over 700 members.
The ride is well supported with stocked rest stops, sag and mechanical support, and fully marked routes with maps and cue sheets. The courses are on quiet back roads in scenic Saratoga County, and there’s also a post-ride catered lunch provided. Participants can choose from routes of 100, 62, 50, and 25 miles – yes, that means you can ride two centuries in two days!! For info, go to: mohawkhudsoncyclingclub.org or bikereg.com.
Most importantly, have fun and be safe on your century. It’s likely that your first century will not be your last one!
Andy Ruiz (firstname.lastname@example.org), owner of Ruiz Racing, is a USAC certified cycling coach, specializing in power. He has been a competitive cyclist at the national and regional level for more than 30 years, and has also competed in running, duathlon and adventure races. In addition to coaching cyclists and triathletes, Andy has been the director of an elite women’s cycling team, and currently serves as vice president of the Capital Bicycle Racing Club.