A few weeks ago a friend of mine, Randy, asked if I would like to join with him for his first Century bike ride (100 miles; 161km) and of course I said “yes.” Today (Labor Day in the United States) seemed like a good time to go so we headed out early into a rather strong headwind (gusting at 20 MPH). Randy has only been riding for a little over a year, but he has already more miles on his bike this year than many experienced cyclists will get before Christmas.
If you haven’t gone on your first Century ride yet, here are a few suggestions to help you along the way.
Work Your Way Up To It. In my opinion, anyone who can ride their bike 20 miles can be ready to do a Century within eight weeks—you just need to add 10 or 15 miles to your longest ride every week. Once you can comfortably ride 70 miles you are probably ready for a Century. If possible, plan it for a day when the wind is not too high. I don’t like riding Centuries in hot weather, so most of mine are either in the spring or fall of the year.
Get Some Rest. Everyone is different, but I prefer to not ride on the day before I do a Century. I also like to get a full night’s rest before a big ride (if you start a Century when you are tired it will feel like the Bataan Death March before the ride is over).
Fuel Up Before You Start. Most of the cyclists I know start their long rides within an hour or so of when they get out of bed—which means their body’s fuel supply is running on empty. On the morning of a long ride I try to consume about 80 grams of carbs and 15 grams of protein.
Keep Consuming Carbs. On a normal Century ride I burn at least 6,000 calories and try to consume about 2,000 calories during the ride. This morning I left home with about 1,500 calories worth of carbohydrate gels and planned to buy a few bananas or fig bars at a convenience store to supplement what I brought. Unfortunately, the one store that usually carries bananas was sold out! However, at the 75 mile mark I found a convenience store that had a ham, turkey and cheese sandwich on whole wheat bread (300 calories with 28 grams of carbs and 25 grams of protein).
Recovery Properly. The first thing I do when I get home from a long ride is to drink a can or two of pineapple juice, followed by a quart of low-fat chocolate milk (or some other recovery drink with protein). My goal is to consume 100 grams of carbs within 30 minutes of the time I get off the bike.
Take A Few Photos. On your first Century ride you really need to take a few photos—at least have someone take a photo of you and your bike when you get home! Let’s face, you can finally tell people that you are a real cyclist!
If you’ve gone on a Century ride or two before, what tips would you offer to someone before they make their first attempt?