Century Training Tips?
Last year I committed to riding Etape du Tour… I had to prepare for 112 mi with 15,000 ft of climbing…long time commuter, some mild training for a few years, but had never done anything over 60 mi. For my training plan, I ended up using a chart generated here (h t t p : / / goo.gl/a8JZJ — ignore marketing, fill in date of your event, distance, and fitness level in the ‘personal cycling coach’ grey box mid-page). Pretty much stuck to the intervals schedule, devoutly stuck to the long ride distances for the months leading up to my ride. The plan worked well enough for me to survive the day & finish without being picked up by the sag wagon. Distances may not seem to make sense, but it’s a slow build, with some rest, and a push near the end to get you to a peak. I’m doing Etape again this year, and will use the plan with some slight modifications.
Random stuff that helped me get through my big ride:
– A century is 50% physical prep, and 50% mental. You’ll spend as much time fretting about it as you will training for it. Given that, sometimes your brain has to override your legs, sometimes your legs will override your brain.
– You’ll have some rides where you feel like a truck ran over you by the end, some where you feel like you could walk through a wall because you’re so freaking powerful that nothing can stop you. You’ll be all over the map both physically & mentally until it’s over, so get used to it.
– Stick to the plan. You’re going to have a 60 mi weekend ride where it’s 50 degrees and miserable annoying drizzling rain, but you have to deal with it. Building mental toughness in adversity is gold, and will make that warm sunny day 80 mi ride seem like a piece of cake in comparison.
– Find a group or a few folks to train with if possible. Chit chat helps the miles go down a bit easier, and you’ll get comfortable riding elbow to elbow in a bunch.
– Drink a bottle of water per hour, more if it’s really hot. Sip don’t gulp.
– A western PA century is going to involve around 7000 to 8000 ft of rolling climbing. Ride hills as much as possible. Do your hill intervals during the week, it’ll make your long weekend rides much more tolerable.
– 2nd on figuring out what sort of food you’re comfortable consuming on a long ride well beforehand… after 70 or 80 mi, I can’t tolerate Clif bars & am all about GU gels & gatoraide. Also beware the “bonk”…. if you’re doing a lot of long training rides it’s pretty much inevitable that you’re going to mess up on nutrition one day or another. If you’re out there after 50 mi or so & start to totally crumble physically & mentally, a convenience store stop for a can of soda & a candy bar will give you some quick simple sugars & carbs.
– Think about getting a heart rate monitor for training. Not necessary, but it does help keep you from working too hard when you shouldn’t be. Personally, I can’t always trust my instincts when it comes to determining how much effort I’m putting into a session… the HRM lets me know how hard my body is really working.
– 2nd also the notion on getting a good bike fitting. A centimeter or two adjustment on your seat height, stem reach, etc, will make a huge difference in comfort when you’re in the saddle for 6 or 8 hours. Note: I am quite a bit leery of gimpPAC’s “going with whatever shoe I’m wearing”… a different shoe is going to alter your pedal stroke, however slightly… over long distances and 10’s of thousands of pedal revolutions, you’re just asking for repetitive strain injury, particularly with knees by bouncing around on an ever-changing pedal contact height. Think about it… a 1 mm difference in your shoe sole height given an average 70 rpm cadence over 8 hours (33,600 strokes) amounts to a 33.6 meter change (per leg) in leg muscle/ connective tissue stretch during the ride. That’s gonna hurt, one way or another. Seriously…. don’t change your shoe gear randomly. Get a bike shoe and stick to it, preferably something with a rigid sole to avoid wasted power in your stroke.
– Don’t listen to anyone who tells you not to worry so much about training for it, and that you’ll be fine. If you hear that from anyone, you should definitely be training harder. You’re not going to be fine! It’s 100 miles on a bike and it is going to devastate you unless you are seriously prepared!
(edit: bad math on leg stretch
Sooo me and nochasingiguanas are signing up for the century option for the MS 150 this year…woot! Last year’s 78 mile first day is the longest we have ever biked in a day and it was a bit rough (not counting the lack of prep for cold rain the next day), so this year we really want to get our training on!
I made up a 2-month training schedule based on the information I found here (http://bicycling.about.com/od/trainingandfitness/a/century.htm). Likely I will be starting earlier with my regular commute and doing some core exercises into the spring months.
Does anyone else have any enlightening tips for century training? Also, would you modify the training plan referenced in the above link, knowing that we won’t be just riding the century, but also 50 more miles the following day?
i used to do 35 miles a day 6 days a week at north park when i lived there. the century was pretty easy for me in the past, but i overdid it.
i did the century this past year with only doing maybe like 15-20 miles a day 5 days a week and i survived. probably would have been less horrible had it not been like 93 degrees. just make sure you get some hills in beforehand and rest, hydrate, and get a good sleep the night before the ms and you’ll be fine. i plan on doing the century again this year if i am not knocked up.
Tip 1: Don’t ride it on a tall bike.
Tip 2: Sleep before hand.
Just as a note: I’ll be riding it on a tall bike, and not sleeping the night before.
^^^What john said.
Plus, drink before you’re thirsty, eat before you’re hungry, and don’t overthink it.
All good tips. Try and get in some 2-3 hr rides, esp on consecutive days on the weekend. Not only for the training but to make sure your equipment is what you want (both bike and clothing).
After ~3hrs it’s primarily a fueling contest. Figure on ~200-300 calories per hour every hour and figure out how you’re going to accomplish that.
Be aware they are assuming 10-12 mph is an easy pace. Around here most fast group rides of ~4hrs average ~15mph. It might almost be worth back calculating how many hours a week they want you to ride (and how many hours for your long ride) and base your riding on that.
great tips thanks! I’m confident we’ll get enough riding in, I guess I’m mostly nervous about overdoing it the first day then totally dying the second day (kind of what happened last year, adding the cold rain on top of that), even though it’s probably mostly downhill and half the distance. Any tips on how to keep up one’s energy over two days?
@Nick, you are just a crazy man. And after hearing your stories last night, I’m not surprised if you do that again this year…on a taller tall bike.
Any tips on how to keep up one’s energy over two days?
In my experience, this goes back to the fueling/hydration thing. As long as you keep topping up the tank on day 1, you’ll be hurting significantly less on day 2.
Also, make sure you’re real comfy on the bike…maybe even think about a good pro fitting/eval. If you have to burn a lot of energy to keep yourself from hurting, that’s energy that’s not going into the pedals.
If you have to burn a lot of energy to keep yourself from hurting, that’s energy that’s not going into the pedals.
Hmm, on that note, perhaps it’s about time to invest in some toe cages or whatnot for my pedals? (not interested in clip-ins…I like just getting on my bike and going with whatever shoe I’m wearing)
in addition to what dan said about expending energy to avoid pain, i’d point out that it’s a bit of a vicious cycle. the less energy you have and the more tired you feel, the more weight you’re going to be putting on your various bits, and the more things will hurt at the end of the day. a good fit will help a lot with that, but so will fitness, and your training.
That looks like a plan to survive one grueling century and never do another. Also, it doesn’t leave much room for knocking off for a few days due to rain or sickness. And finally, I suspect it was not designed for a ride as hilly as the PA MS150s are.
If you want to enjoy it, you should plan to get in some more base miles. If you’re commuting, that can be pretty easy — just tack on some extra in the morning and afternoon. 8 miles twice a day is a cinch, and that has you riding 80 miles a week right there.
Personally, I would suggest starting off with a month of 16-mile weekdays, add in their recommended long ride on either Saturday or Sunday, take the other weekend day off, and not worry about missing a few days here or there due to weather or allergies or whatever.
Also, there are various aches and pains that only show up after you’ve been on the bike for a while, and if the longest ride prior is only 65 miles, you don’t get much experience with those. So I would stick in another week or two with increasingly long weekend rides — 75-85 miles. And that last week before the MS150, I wouldn’t bother with a long ride at all, and would recommend only a minimal amount of riding for the last three days before the event. You’ll be cruising up that first hill past all the muttering walkers.
PS. I think that even if you do the century on the first day, you still do ~80 miles the second day.
PPS. Get “strapless” pedals with platforms on the opposite side. You can still ride in whatever shoes you want, but you’ll have the pedal bindings for improved efficiency when you want them.
@Lyle – Good call, I was wondering about only getting up to 65% of the century in training rides, I would agree 75 – 85% would give us an easier time. I’ll adjust my schedule accordingly.
you still do ~80 miles the second day.
Last year everyone road about 58 miles the second day, hence 150 in MS 150. ~100/50
@88MS88 – Yes, I am familiar with the wonders of the Butt’r…from my GAPCANDO trip in 2009!
Regarding fuel, figure out what works and what doesn’t now, rather than the day of the event. Some people can endless consume energy bars and gels, while others need real food. And even if you decide to stick with energy stuff, it’s still worth figuring out what sort of convenience store food you can consume without upsetting your stomach.
The consecutive ride thing is important, too. When I did my first 200k, my longest ride in the months leading up to it was 45 miles, but most weekends I would string together several 30+ mile rides. I was able to finish without a problem, and even managed to record a reasonable time.
gimpPAC – thanks for starting this post! What she’s not telling you guys is that when I said I signed up for the Century she said “oh… I thought you were joking.” I think she’s come around, no?
I think the primary thing I need to do is make sure I really fuel well, and I haven’t figured out what that looks like yet. After the MS150 last year I lost 10 pounds in 10 days and I was only at 125 to begin with (and I’m 5’9″). I have a metabolism that goes like greased lightning even if I’m sitting on the couch eating ice cream all day.
My plans involve eating large quantities of fig newtons and making sure I have a couple meals in the fridge at home when I get back. That way it’s okay if I’m too tired to cook. Maybe also looking into those meals-in-a-can (as a suppliment, not as a meal replacement).
All in all, I’m super stoked about doing this ride again. It’s always a good sign when you get to the end of it already planning on doing it again.
I hope you feel better at the end of the first day than you did last time!
1. “Ride as much or as little, or as long or as short as you feel. But ride.” –Eddy Merckx
2. The hills are your friends.
Joe, I think I remember being more exhausted on the second day after having no rain protection… we rode through pouring rain for 10 miles. It was warmish, but we were going mostly downhill at that point, so we were chattering and shivering up a storm by the time we pulled into our lunch stop.
So we had to become the bag ladies:
Sorry nochasingiguanas, I have no pride.
Also stupid small things to make yourself
more efficient: pump up your tires, make
sure there is no friction (chain lube and
brakes rubbing), friction in your clothing is
bad and causes chaffing….
Nochsingiguanas, i am jealous of you and every other really skinny person that can eat junk and never exercise and have a bmi of like 17 or less. Just a suggestion for next year- bring a light weight shell that can fold up really small and fit in the back of your jersey. It helps.
I think the primary thing I need to do is make sure I really fuel well, and I haven’t figured out what that looks like yet
Eat beforeyou are hungry, which in a century means eating while you are riding. Carry energy bars (or candy bars, or oatmeal cookies or whatever) in a pocket and make yourself eat starting about 10 miles into the ride. This is actually a training tip because eating while riding isn’t always easy and it pays to get used to it. Energy Gels like Gu etc. will give you a quick burst but I find eating something more solid is more useful for long rides. Save the Gu for the last 15 miles when you need the oomph.
@nochasingiqguans I’d skip the figs or use them in small quantities. They require a lot of water to digest. You can certainly use them sparringly. That’s one of the things we used before all the power foods came out.
You’re looking at consuming 2-300 calories per hour every hour during cycling. That’s a very good starting point.
If you want to read some excellent nutrition articles Monqiue Ryan has a book or three out and she’s been writing for VeloNews for years (on line).
Thanks guys, you all rock!
I’d have to say the past 2 years have really been a learning experience. For instance, during my GAPCANDO trip in 2009, I learned the importance of changing hand positions or you may damage a nerve.
Last year it was the importance of rain gear (even in the summer) and adequate training/fueling.
Maybe this year we’ll know enough so that we won’t have to learn things the hard way? (but since we’re human, I kinda doubt it)
@nochasing: sounds like you need to drink more. Leslie bonci suggests weighing yourself before and after a ride to see how much more fluid you should have consumed.
+1 to Mayhew’s advice about fig newtons. They were a source of fuel on my first long ride, and about halfway through, I never wanted to look at another one again.
@gimp and iguanas…..+1 on the use of Poortex for weather protection!
Ok quick question…
There’s a difference between a century where you’re trying to win a race (or break a PR or whatever), and a century where you just go for a 100 mile bike ride because you want to go 100 miles and don’t particularly care when you get there, provided it’s the same day… right?
Otherwise I don’t see how 100 miles on a bike would devastate someone who’s going through any effort to prep. Or is the use of the word “century” solely to describe a 100 mile race-type situation? The interwebs did not produce a difinitive answer to that last question, and seem to disagree on the first question, so I figured I’d ask.
In my head I’ve got an analogy to a marathon – if you’re going to see how fast you can do it, and expect to get under 3 hours, that’s a year of really _really_ hard training from scratch with questionable outcome. If your goal is to get your body across the line without dying, maybe eat breakfast the morning of, wear decent shoes, and walk it. Both ways completed a marathon, but one could destroy even a fit person, the other just increases likelihood of blisters. (Assuming a certain level of starting fitness along the lines of “pretty active” rather than “insanely sporty”)
I’ve never done a formal ride like that, so I don’t know if a “tour” is a “race” or a “ride” or either depending. Riding for 100 miles interests me. Destroying myself because I’ve made incorrect assumptions based on liesurely accidentally super long rides does not interest me!
A guy I work with is a member of the UPMC cycling team and he put together a comprehensive PowerPoint presentation-training guide I can email anyone.
The MS150 asked him to give a preparation workshop for the event a few years ago. He’s a certified master cyclist blah blah blah…The document he put together is very helpful.
All of the above advice from the board is pretty good.
Eating is important as many have said, but avoid becoming mentally dependent on exercise specific candy bars. I see lots of people that can’t seem to ride their bike for more than half an hour without downing a Gu and chowing down on a Clif Bar when the ride is over. Results may vary, but I find that I can ride fairly hard for about 2 hours before having to think about on-bike food. Over the years I’ve also learned that besides Gu or Hammergel when actually racing, I much prefer real food to exercise energy products. Get off your bike for two or three minutes and have half a bagel or something.
One of the hardest things I had to learn was pacing — knowing when I’m feeling good and to push it, when not and to back off, and how to sit at a relatively low perceived effort and keep it there for hours. It’s easy to go out too hard and then want to die by the side of the road later. Learning to ease on into it and keep it at your 60% no matter what people around you are doing is key to a fun, long day on the bike.
One of the hardest things I had to learn was pacing — knowing when I’m feeling good and to push it, when not and to back off, and how to sit at a relatively low perceived effort and keep it there for hours. It’s easy to go out too hard and then want to die by the side of the road late. Learning to ease on into it and keep it at your 60% no matter what people around you are doing is key to a fun, long day on the bike.
Excellent points. (Speaking as someone who has died by the side of the road more than once due to not pacing himself…)
@ejwme – sure there are differences between training for a race century and a touring or laid back mellow century, but you still need to get your body used to long hours in the saddle, you need to learn how to eat right, you need to figure out what clothing is comfortable, etc… and the only way to do it is with practice.
You could do some long rides in preparation – 60 or 70 miles, then a week or two later go out & do a century – but what I think it really comes down to is comfort. You’ll finish in a much better state if your body is used to going long. Even at a slow pace – 10 mph or so – you’re looking at 10 hours in the saddle, plus time for breaks. That’s a LONG day riding, and you really need to have everything dialed in (clothing, position on your bike, nutrition) if you want to enjoy the ride.
thanks quizbot – I was starting to think I’d missed an elliptical “race” in half the posts. I guess then the consensus is more that training is like clothing, one size fits none – it seems to be all about customization and self awareness.
My somewhat geezerly experience is this. Three key workouts a week works great (one distance, one pacing, and one interval sprints). I love the principles from the book “Run faster, run less” -even though that is running and I dont’ do running. If you care traing for a century, you want your weekly distance workout to be really long.
For good workouts, I gain little from doing the same exercise days in a row. I discovered when I stopped “days in a row that sometimes I’ve hurt my fitness progress that way. Recovery is important. Crosstraining can be a different matter – biking on Monday and, say, swimming on Tuesday can be helpful to me.
one thing that will make the ms150 century easier to prep for is the fact that there is a rest stop every 15 miles or so with food, energy crap and water. if you get to the point where an unsupported 60-70 mile ride around here feels pretty good, the ms century shouldn’t be too big of a deal for you. Doing the longest version of pedal pittsburgh is a great way to tell how screwed you re going to be a month later for the ms150.
ejwme: point taken, but there are usually time cutoffs in any case. And there are festivities and such at the end of the first day so that if you take 10 hours for the century option you miss the fun when all the 80-mile riders were done hours earlier. Not to mention that the slower you ride, the longer you are on the road, and that makes things unpleasant in bad weather. It’s not a race, but it is nice to be able to ride comfortably in the 20-60%ile with all the people.
Last year, I was keeping company at the tail of the pack with one of the slower riders on the first day of the Keystone Country ride. It was > 90F and the sun was baking down on us. People were dropping out left and right. I was fortunate that I could ride ahead and wait in the shade, but even so, I would have been much much happier to do that ride in 5 hours instead of 9. The poor sod that I was riding with had undertrained. She survived, but it was not fun.
You’re certainly right that a large part of training is self-awareness, which is something that nobody can give you — only experience with that specific event.
However, I have seen people exaggerate the “one size fits none” aphorism and ignore all advice because “nobody can possibly know what *I* need”. Trial and error is a hell of a rough way to learn.
(ps. to the point about shoes– I understood that to mean “this is my daily rider and I want to be able to go to the store without special gear”. Presumably, when going for intentional long rides, one would be using the same footwear, not those cute boots with the buckles on them.)
I’m so glad I posted here!
@quizbot: Lyle has it right, I just meant because I’m a commuter and I don’t always ride with the same shoes… but when I’m training, I will certainly use the same pair. I might be due for a new pair anyway so I’ll look into something with a sturdy sole.
@Greasefoot: Please send that PowerPoint my way! I’ll PM my email.
@ejwme Even walking a marathon would be 8+ hrs. Do you really think you could walk for 8 straight hours w/o any sort of training or prep?
Same thing applies to a century. Even at an easy pace that’s a long day.
Century applies to a charity and/or non competitive ride. Any sort of race is labeled as such.
Oh, right, low body weight does not always indicate lack of hydration. For every gram of carb you store you store three grams of water. So if you’re not replenshing your glycogen stores it can show up as weight loss.
The easiest way to tell is the color of your urine. Clear is good. If it’s the yellow that’s the predominant color used here you’re in trouble.
Yeah do the 60 mile pedal Pittsburgh. MT Washington is at the end and if you can probably get a good idea of how much more you have to do. Like I said, I didn’t do an intense amount of training before either pedal pgh or the Ms 150. I decided during the rides to do the longest options. The Ms 150 used to have the century option start more towards the end if I remember correctly. This year seemed like it was 20-30 miles earlier, and it made the decision a little more difficult. I thought it was difficult to tell if I was gonna make it that early.
I also agree with good riding position. I was reaching way too far on pedal pgh and my back was killing me by mile 20. I had a shorter reach a month later and my back was a lot better. Good luck training.
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