Starting out... and a century in August



belmont

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May 30, 2004
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I just got back into cycling after a bit of a break through college (and a switch from a Trek 820 Hybrid to a nice '04 Trek 1200). I am currently a senior, and I am getting back into shape without the incessant injuries I have racked up after running for years.

I have just started out training - I did about 12 miles yesterday without a problem. In fact, felt like I could of kept going for a while. Then today, the 90 degree Georgia heat cut my time outside down drastically! Plus, I was feeling a bit sore in my quads.

My question is this (and I am sure it has been asked at least a million times) what should I be concentrating on while I am out there? I have already registered to do my first Century on August 1. I am up to the challenge and am willing to give it my all! (The same thing that helped me run a half marathon on Thanksgiving Day in 22 degree weather!)

I hear that I need to maintain a good caidence. What exactly is a good measure of this? I don't have a computer on the bike yet... I will pick one up before the Century. Should I be focusing on a nice steady medium speed?

Any tips would be appreciated! I'm pumped!
:D
 

kneighbour

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Apr 30, 2003
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Well, having done more centuries than I care to think about (and I have another one scheduled for this Sunday), I think I can speak a little from experience.

1. First of all - do not pick a century as your first ride. Do 2 or 3 shorter rides 75km, 100km, etc. And after at least 2 or 3 of these, then go for the 160km. Just because you are fit for running (for example), does not mean you are fit for cycling. And 160km is a LONG way...

2. Eat properly. Eat high carb food before the ride, and continue to eat/nibble during the entire ride. Or take energy gels - which is what I do. This is MOST important...

3. Try to keep with a pack - riding in a paceline is so much easier you will almost finish the distance without raising a sweat. If you make it known that this is your first, you might not even be expected to take your turn at the front.

4. Do not go too slow or stop too often. If you do, you will be spending a LONG time on the bike - and that gives you a sore butt, you get sick and tired of it all, and your body seems to run out of energy. The idea is to stop when you need to, but only for 2 or 3 minutes. Do not have hourly 15 minutes stops, etc!

The thing about going too slow is a bit hard to judge. If you go too fast, you will wear yourself out. Too slow, and you take too long - you don't want to be cycling in the dark!

I would forget any hints about cadence, etc. Just ride at a speed/cadence that is comfortable for you. Do not push yourself too hard at the start - this is a big error that we all tend to do. You will end up stuffed at the end.

I find that the single biggest issue on these sorts of rides is food - you simply have to keep the muscles fed with carbs...and I personally find it very hard to eat anything at all on a ride - so I have to make a conscious effort to do so.

A few other small things-

Do not try out anything new on your bike. ie do not fit a new seat, etc. Do anything like that on a short ride.

Take a lot of water. I do most of my long rides way out in the country, and it is often hard to find water when you need it. It is awful running out with 20 km to the next town.

I use a commercial rehydrating mixture - I don't know if it is a waste of money, but it seems to work.

Hope these few small hints help...
 

Postie

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Sep 25, 2003
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I don't have much to add after kneighbour, however I do offer a few things.

1) Ensure you get enough time off the bike. You mentioned that you rode yesterday and again today. Clearly that's fine, but it's important to ensure you give your body enough time to repair itself.

2) Just like any good running program, ensure you have one long easy ride a week. Most running programs have the longest run be 20 miles (75% of total distance) out of 26 which is to occur three weeks prior to race day. In century terms that would be your longest ride at 75 miles the second week in July (which sounds like an aggressive goal).

3) Do very little activity in your last week prior to the ride with no activity for 3 days prior.

4) Training under higher cadence (90 - 100) is great for cardio and if your running injuries included joints, your joints will thank you for the lower gears. To give yourself a good guesstimate on cadence, take 15 seconds to count how many times your right knee comes close to your chest. Then times this number by four.

Good luck!
 

kneighbour

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Apr 30, 2003
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Originally posted by belmont
I hear that I need to maintain a good caidence. What exactly is a good measure of this? I don't have a computer on the bike yet... I will pick one up before the Century. Should I be focusing on a nice steady medium speed?


From my experience, you will not be concerned with cadence in the least. You will simply be trying to finish. I don't know how fit you are, etc, but from my experience, the first century is usually a pretty arduous affair.

So checkiing things like cadence and average speed is the last thing on your mind. Your goal is to finish in fairly good form. Most people can finish, as long as nothing goes wrong, or it is not too hot, etc. The thing is to finish without having to be carried the last 40 km (I have been there), or virtually swearing off cycling for the rest of your life - and I have been there many times.

I think any ride over about 75 km is a hard ride. It becomes less fun as the distance increases. At 160km, it is really not fun at all - it is pure endurance.

So how do most people sit on a bike for 7-10 hours or so? There is no way around it - it is simply practice. The more long rides you do, the easier it is. After you have done 2 or 3 centuries, and perhaps a dozen or so metric centuries, you find it is really not all that difficult at all.

I have not reached the stage yet where I enjoy these thngs - they are still a hard thing to do. But I am now at the stage where I am trying to get my average up and my overall time down. On my metric century last weekend I managed 29.1 kph average, which is my best so far. I hope to do a similar average on my imperial century this weekend, but I will not be unhappy if it is anywhere over 25 kph.

I try to sit on a speed that I imagine that I can keep up for hours. This is not as silly as it sounds. When you start off, you are usually full of beans, and it is very easy to get into a paceline sitting on 35+. I do it all the time, and every time I warn myself - BE VERY CAREFUL HERE - can I keep this speed up for 7 hours or so? This is a sobering thought - and usually I will back off and sit on what is to me, my normal "rest speed". This is the speed and cadence that I can comfortably sit on for hour after hour, all things being equal, and the road being flat, etc. Currently, and with my Trek 2300, this is 32kph. And this is not in a paceline, which can raise this comfort speed quite a bit.

I took some effort to work out this comfort speed - I actually call it my "cruise speed" - I do not know if there is a proper technical term for it. I varied the speed on long flat rides until I found a speed I could pedal at with very little effort from my legs. ie the muscles on the tops of the thighs do not hurt. And also I was not working very hard in the cardio area. This is a problem if you have too high a cadence, and I am not fit enough to work at more than about 75-80 cadence.

All in all, I have found my cruise speed - you need to do the same thing.

And then, if at all possible, find a group with a similar speed and form a paceline. In my experience (at least in Australia), this is very difficult. I do rides with very few riders - no more than 10 or so, so it is very hard to find riders of exactly the same fitness as you. They are either too fast or too slow. But make a special effort to try an find such a group as it will make all the difference.
 

belmont

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May 30, 2004
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I realize this is a fairly aggressive goal; Just the kind of person I am... Looks like I will be taking today off at least... as it is raining now. I plan on doing some longer rides in the upcomming months. In fact, I have a 30mi and a 60mi that would work perfectly on a nice Saturday afternoon.

The university I attend also has a cycling team that I am going to start meeting up with. Unfortunately, I can not do all their rides with them as I get home at about the same time they leave, this summer.

The course I will be riding is very flat. It winds its way through the rural counties here in Georgia. It has been deemed "the fastest century around." I am not looking for any time record at all. I am just looking to complete the thing and the personal satisfaction of doing so.
 

Doctor Morbius

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Mar 15, 2004
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Originally posted by belmont
... The course I will be riding is very flat. It winds its way through the rural counties here in Georgia. It has been deemed "the fastest century around." I am not looking for any time record at all. I am just looking to complete the thing and the personal satisfaction of doing so.
Could you post the link for registration? I'd like to know how to get into that one. My Brother lives in Atlanta so I could camp out there for a short while. I'd like to have a route to ride that is flat with no traffic and no kids chasing their balls into the streets and no dogs - you get the picture. :rolleyes:

The only place I have where there isn't any traffic is Eagle Creek Park and it's a too little hilly. I don't want my first century to be a hilly one. No thanks. I'd just like to have a good course so I can try to finish one in about 7 hours.