Sunday, August 19, 2012

Riding That First Century

This morning was my first Century Ride as I pounded out 100.7 miles in scenic northwestern Vermont with an average speed of 17 mph.  It wasn't a lark -- I put a lot of thought and effort into preparation which I'll touch on here, in hopes that maybe it will help other cyclists mulling their first Century Ride.

Training: Before the Century, I'd logged 1,110 miles in the past 4.5 months.  Many 26 miles rides, a pair of 55 milers, and lots of 10-15 mile jaunts sprinkled in.  Tried to ride 3 times a week: some speed work, some hill climbs, some casual -- a nice mix for the muscles.  To support that, I weight train 3 times a week and do cardio 3-4 other times a week.  I thought it would be the leg strength that would help the most, but the core work turned out to be the star of the show as it has really helped my body handle the distance rides.

Equipment:  I currently ride a 2012 Trek 2.1 road bike, affectionately named the Delusion 2.1: aluminum frame with a carbon fork, compact apex, sized for my body (5'4", 135) and fit to me, with Shimano 105 pedals, an insulated water bottle (worth the money), and a small underseat gear bag.  You don't need top of the line - this one is closer to entry level, in truth - you need reliable equipment that fits you have confidence in. I learned last week that properly inflated tires make a huuuge difference. Rock hard road tires rock the road. 

Route:  I've been keeping my eye out as I ride for good prospects for routes, have checked to see where Century events are held to see their routes, and have spent some time with an online ride mapper with an elevation checker.  I wanted: an interesting mix of flat stretches and rolling hills (ducked the killer climbs for this purpose), wides side riding room, sparse traffic, well located mini marts to restock the water supply, cell coverage, and interesting scenery.  I actually started my ride down at the Bay so I wouldn't have to spend mile 99 and 100 making the climb back up into St. Albans -- let your route set you up for success!

Weather Forecast:  I've been mulling chasing down the Century mark -- but knew the 90 degree heat we've had so frequently would add more challenge to my first attempt than I wanted to tackle.  So, I've been monitoring the weather forecast looking for a day with a high in the 70s, no threat of rain, and mild wind.  Nailed it.  Started at 6:11 am, when it was actually chilly.  By the end of the first 30 minutes it was comfortable and I was already nearly 10 miles in.  With the ride and the rests, I was done before the day hit it's high temp -- which was still comfortable for riding.  I'll do a hot Century at some point, but not first time out.

Pre-Ride Prep: I got all my stuff together the night before so there was no scramble in the morning - including the bike moved from the shed into the living room.  That might have been obsessive.  :-)  I didn't put the bike rack on the night before and will do that next time to make the morning even simpler.  I went to bed in time to get 8 hours of sleep despite my early launch time.  The importance of good sleep can't be overstated for an endurance event.  Neither can breakfast -- I had my typical: a protein shake, multivitamin, banana, and protein bar plus a Gatorade Phase I drink right before the ride.  Fuel your body!

What I Brought: I loaded my insulated water bottle with 24 ounces of Gatorade Phase II, with the intent of refilling it regularly during the ride.  I carried 4 protein bars in my shirt pockets, thinking I'd eat them at 20, 40, 60, and 80 miles.  I carried my cell phone in a zip lock in my shirt pocket.  My underseat gear bag had: two replacement tubes (pump strapped to bike frame); tiring changing levers and bike tool; extra sunlotion (lubed pre-ride and again about mile 60); bandages and wrap; a $5 bill for the 20, 40, 60, 80 mile stops; my passport ID card (as the route rubs the Canadian border); and my car keys.  Don't lug too much crap - but make sure you'll have what you need.

During the Ride Hydration, Nutrition, and Stretching:  I'd anticipated stopping at 20, 40, 60, and 80 to drink and eat a protein bar -- and then decided to listen to my body as I rode.  Ended up drinking at 20, 26, 44, 50, 65, 74, 80, and 96 -- buying refills of Gatorade at 44 and 80.  Drank 88 ounces during the ride, likely could have used another 16.  Ate at 20, 44, 65, 80, and (having bought another bar at 80) 96.  Stretched every time I stopped - with an emphasis on my neck and back in addition to my legs.  When I felt strong, I kept pedaling.  When my body winced, or when it was convenient, I imbibed.  I hadn't planned out bathroom breaks -- but was fortunate to have convenient portolets at 26, 44, and 74.  Good things to think about, as the better care you take of the body the better it will perform and the more comfortable you will be!

Post Ride: I packed a cooler in the car with a banana, a 16 ounce Gatorade Phase III for recovery, a 24 ounce water bottle, and protein bar (yes, my 7th of the day -- that's a lot of fiber, by the way ...).  With my wife out of town and my daughters grown and gone, I called my Mom from my mile 96 rest stop and invited her to grab my camera and meet me at the Bay Park to share in the celebration and capture a photo of the end of my adventure.  Stood in the shade, refueled, and chattered as my body reset itself.  A quick drive home for a long hot shower with the loofa was jussssst what my body needed.  Think through the conclusion of your Century - the adventure continues for a bit after the ride ends! 

RIDE!!  I put those points in place and successfully completed my first attempt at a Century.  If it's a milestone you're chasing, I hope they help.  Set yourself up for success.  Listen to your body during your rides and you'll know when you're ready to give it a try.  Good luck!!