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Need some help training for my first century

Old 07-08-22, 09:30 AM
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ark40
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Need some help training for my first century

Dalla TX (Plano to be specific) native here. Have been cycling for decades but never did a century. For the last few years, I have been associated with a loosely formed cycling club which has been progressively getting faster and almost everyone has done a century, I'm one of a few who still haven't attempted one, hence the push to ride a century this year. Last year I missed out on one due to an injury just before the ride, and had to abandon the second opportunity to give company to a friend on the 72 mile option. I have been relatively off since January and just got into serious training in early June. Here is what I am doing these days, tentative race days for the century, and other key facts that might help subject matter experts gauge my status. I need some guidance on what I can do to achieve my goal, I am obviously not doing well which is why I seek help
1. 56 yrs old
2. Typical training week is; 40-60 mile ride on Sat, 20ish miles on Mon and Wed to get between 80-100 miles per week. I will add 5 miles every Sat to build up to the race day in late Aug
3. Slightly below average rider. On a 20 mile loop I frequently ride (about 500 ft climb/elevation gain total), I average about 13.5-14 mph. Last year around mid to late July I was doing this loop at roughly 14.5/15 mph regularly. So I have lost close to 1 mph since last year
4. I am able to handle a 50 miler, 60 is probably the max I can handle.
5. The first century is coming up on 27th Aug, some of you may have heard of Hotter Than Hell 100. The name says it all. It's relatively flat ride but wind in Texas is ever present.
6. The second century is in Little Rock AR, that ride is slightly hilly and over 100 miles you can end up with a total of 2000+ ft of climbing.

I have about 7 weekend from now till HHH-100 on Aug 27th. If I add 5 miles each week from now until HHH my last ride on Aug 20th will be around 85 miles. I plan to take the rest of the week off to recover and be ready for the ride day.

What am I doing right, what am I doing wrong, what needs to change etc. Any help/advice is appreciated.
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Old 07-08-22, 10:10 AM
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Taking a whole week to recovery might not be a good idea. 2 to 3 rest days would be better and then take another 20ish mile ride, rest the next day, and then take another 20ish mile ride the day before century ride.

That will help keep your muscles "awake" for the race day.
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Old 07-08-22, 10:16 AM
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My advice is to relax. Don't worry about doing a fast century, just remind yourself that you get to ride bikes all day. If you can do a 50-60 mile ride with no issues, I have no doubt you could bust out a century tomorrow. It's mostly mental at this point.

(And making sure you eat enough food, drink enough water, and apply enough chamois cream. )
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Old 07-08-22, 10:27 AM
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You haven't mentioned what is holding you back from more than 60 miles.

As mentioned above If you can do 60 you can do 100. Most of what will hold you back is more mental than physical.
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Old 07-08-22, 10:56 AM
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If you have been riding 100 miles/week for a few weeks before a century, you can ride 100 miles in one day. That's a good rule of thumb. So you're already doing that. You'd like to ride faster. A good approach is one day/week you do speed work, intervals of max effort for 30", then 5 minutes riding recovery. Do them until your power starts dropping noticeably. Say 4-8 repeats after you're well warmed up and then finish a 25 mile ride, moderate pace. One day a week, do hill repeats. A good workout is 3' uphill, must be hard enough to make you pant by the end. Coast back down, rest maybe 1 minute, repeat until you aren't making it up the hill as far as you have been. Finish a 25 mile ride, moderate pace.

The speed work can alternatively be done as out of the saddle hill sprints, same 30", 5' riding recovery.

A novice century rider should probably do the long ride about how you're doing it so you get the hang of eating and drinking on the bike, not bonking, not getting dehydrated, etc. To ride a faster century, I like the long ride to be 4-5 hours, ridden hard enough that I can hardly walk at the end. You can of course still do that with your long ride but getting up over 6 hours, you won't be able to go all out on the hills.

Using a heart rate monitor (HRM) is a very good way to pace yourself. Pacing is the trick. On really long rides, doubles and longer, I set an upper HR limit and don't go over it. Get one if you don't already have one and get familiar with what your heart rate does under various conditions. The other use of a HRM is to monitor your stress level. You get up in the morning, pee, and then lie down and take your resting HR for 5 minutes. Say your usual is 55. If it goes up 6-8 beats over your usual, you need to rest and don't ride until it comes back down to close to normal.
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Old 07-08-22, 11:17 AM
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If you can can physically handle riding 60 miles then you should be able to handle riding 100 miles....those extra 40 miles are more mental than physical...Since this is your first century, don't worry about speed and performance. Keep your focus on finishing your ride.
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Old 07-08-22, 11:57 AM
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I wouldn't take the week off before your century ride. Your body will lose a lot of any heat conditioning it has achieved. And you seem to have picked the rides that you really need to be at your best for heat as your initial exposure to century rides.

I do agree that at your current mileage per week you should be able to do a 100 mile ride. Though in this heat, make certain you are use to the heat. Your average speed though seems a tad slow for the heat. I usually want to be doing 16 mph plus when it's hot. But if you stay with a group of riders your speed will be higher and you'll use less energy. Just be sure you don't get with a group that is so fast that you are working to keep up with them.

If the rides take place early in the morning then the humidity might sap your energy. Be sure to have plenty to drink while you ride. 25 fluid oz bottles only last me 40 to 50 minutes in 95F temps and less in 100F temps.

Nothing wrong with doing a metric century.... 62.1 miles (100 km) for your first experiences with such events.
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Old 07-08-22, 12:41 PM
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I just did a solo century yesterday to get used to some more warm temps over PNW - yesterday was on high 70 and cloud with some sunny spots.
Since I was riding on mostly cloud and colder temps, my body is not used to but taking a lower pace at the start helps for me to keep going later.
Other main issue I see for longer rides is the butt pain, so standing, cream and giving a break is essential.
Hydration is the other factor - if you are not peeing, you should drink more liquid.
I'll be trying the double century in a week, and feels good so far
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Old 07-08-22, 01:46 PM
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what are you doing right?

Building up slowly week by week.

What should you do differently?

1. Skip the 85 miler the Saturday before, if your longest ride on August 13th is 80 miles, I would suggest 40-50 miles on the 20th. You won't need 85 miles and it will likely add a lot of fatigue that you might not recover from in time.
2. Do NOT take the week off. Cut back the miles a lot, maybe to 50-60% of the prior week. Keep the effort up. You do not want to lose plasma volume for fitness nor do you want to lose any heat acclimation. Maybe take Thurs off and on Friday ride 10-15 miles at an easy zone 2 pace (probably 15 mph for you)
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Old 07-08-22, 05:09 PM
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Originally Posted by prj71 View Post
You haven't mentioned what is holding you back from more than 60 miles.

As mentioned above If you can do 60 you can do 100. Most of what will hold you back is more mental than physical.
Mostly I feel physically exhausted, the energy is not there and I start to slow down noticeably, going uphills is a dead block after 50, just don't have the strength to do it. Having said that I haven't really pushed beyond 50 this year. But plan to do 55 this Sunday. Let's see how that goes.
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Old 07-08-22, 05:20 PM
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We are talking about a road bike on paved road aren't we?
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Old 07-08-22, 05:24 PM
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Originally Posted by ark40 View Post
Mostly I feel physically exhausted, the energy is not there and I start to slow down noticeably, going uphills is a dead block after 50, just don't have the strength to do it. Having said that I haven't really pushed beyond 50 this year. But plan to do 55 this Sunday. Let's see how that goes.
Start off easy and pace yourself through your ride, avoid going too hard., especially in the heat..., You're goal isn't to win a race, your goal is to complete 100 miles. Be sure to have enough drink and snacks to fuel yourself, it's better to bring extra than not have enough.
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Old 07-08-22, 05:26 PM
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Good advice guys. I'll ride the week of the race but limit my self to 20 milers as a relatively easy pace. Heat I am used to, and I do drink as much as I can, fortunately I do not sweat as much so I do end up taking a rest stop during the ride and most times at the end. In my club rides I am usually the slowest rider so I usually get dropped and catch up on stops, because of which I get zero drafting, which I am sure helps with training. Expecting the race day to be significantly better for drafting, allowing me to finish sooner and avoid the hottest part of the day. The advice on butt pain is spot on, I already try to manage that but I think more attention is needed to keep the body pain free. The toes are something I can't seem to find a solution yet. That was my #1 request to the bike shop when I was getting fitted earlier this year (they use a Retuhl), changed insoles, added some shims to the cleats to improve pressure balance, still get pain on the outer toes in both feet. But that's an ongoing project.
Oh! and I do have a HRM (Wahoo Roam) and I keep my Hr rate between 145-155 most times, and go into mid 160s when on a long steady up hill. Never cross 170. I don't know my resting HR but I should know in teh next few days as soon as I can find my wife's fitbit :-).
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Old 07-08-22, 05:33 PM
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Originally Posted by Iride01 View Post
We are talking about a road bike on paved road aren't we?
yes, a Lynskey R270 :-)
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Old 07-08-22, 05:59 PM
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Well if you are tired after riding a road bike for 50 miles and you recover quickly and can go out for another ride later that day or the next day, then you probably just need some more miles behind you. A training program can help as to will a coach or someone that can see what you are doing each time you go for a ride. You aren't wearing your self out trying to push a big gear (high ratio gear) all the time are you?

If after doing 50 miles you are tired and wore out for days, then you probably are getting dehydrated from not drinking enough fluids while riding.
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Old 07-08-22, 06:19 PM
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all of the above
and, if you're getting dropped in the rides with your ride buddies (with whom you plan to do the 100), then either work hard to stay on a wheel in your current rides, or plan to 'hook up' with other informal groups on the century... not disallowed if you ask and also become part of the group. In fact, if you're dropped along the century, it's not a bad idea to keep hooking into small groups, progressively, after getting dropped... Usually the 'groups' become slower paced, the further into a century - fast riders go out harder, finish faster - and so on, as a century progresses.
...doing a century, by your lonesome, can be a real mental challenge for anyone who has not ridden near that distance...
if you're not comfortable riding close in a steady group (no idea how you're group 'rides'..., some can be quite inattentive chat sessions). then that is a good objective to develop as you progress towards the century.
There have been many great threads on BF covering group riding... also good info on the interweb.
Ride On
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Old 07-08-22, 06:19 PM
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Originally Posted by ark40 View Post
Mostly I feel physically exhausted, the energy is not there and I start to slow down noticeably, going uphills is a dead block after 50, just don't have the strength to do it. Having said that I haven't really pushed beyond 50 this year. But plan to do 55 this Sunday. Let's see how that goes.
How do you feel at the end of a 40 mile ride? Could ride some more miles?

I like the idea of a once a week "sprint" / "hard efforts" type of ride. My local hills are 1 mile, 300 feet, so with a 90 minute ride, I can attack a few of them at full blast, without worrying about saving some energy for later in the ride.

Before I retired, I used to do a local Tues evening ride that had lots of speed groups and fairly flat routes. I liked to try to hang on to a speed group that was just a little too fast for me -- and found that I could go longer and harder on the fast parts than I expected. That "keep this effort going for another 30 seconds" is really hard to do solo -- I needed the motivation to not get dropped right there.

I didn't see any mention of energy bars or other carbs eaten during the rides.

Shoes -- I finally got some nice Lake shoes that are large enough to fit some fairly thick socks and there's no tight spots at the sides. It made a big difference for my longer rides. I've used the donut shaped "callus" foam pads from the drugstore for strategic padding at times, too. Those sometimes don't stick very well, so a cut down piece of "moleskin" with the donut pad stuck to it's surface is a more reliable pad.

Last edited by rm -rf; 07-08-22 at 06:23 PM.
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Old 07-08-22, 06:29 PM
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Originally Posted by ark40 View Post
Good advice guys. I'll ride the week of the race but limit my self to 20 milers as a relatively easy pace. Heat I am used to, and I do drink as much as I can, fortunately I do not sweat as much so I do end up taking a rest stop during the ride and most times at the end. In my club rides I am usually the slowest rider so I usually get dropped and catch up on stops, because of which I get zero drafting, which I am sure helps with training. Expecting the race day to be significantly better for drafting, allowing me to finish sooner and avoid the hottest part of the day. The advice on butt pain is spot on, I already try to manage that but I think more attention is needed to keep the body pain free. The toes are something I can't seem to find a solution yet. That was my #1 request to the bike shop when I was getting fitted earlier this year (they use a Retuhl), changed insoles, added some shims to the cleats to improve pressure balance, still get pain on the outer toes in both feet. But that's an ongoing project.
Oh! and I do have a HRM (Wahoo Roam) and I keep my Hr rate between 145-155 most times, and go into mid 160s when on a long steady up hill. Never cross 170. I don't know my resting HR but I should know in teh next few days as soon as I can find my wife's fitbit :-).
Two possible ideas:
Tired after 50 = not eating enough. Eat 200 Cal. of carbs/hour. Back when I ate solid food on the bike, I'd take a bunch of Clif Bars. open 2, put in my jersey pocket, take 1 out, break into quarters, eat 1 quarter every 15' from the start. That works and it's simple. That might be more food that you need going at your speed, but try it for a couple hours, see how that goes. You don't need to eat like that on your shorter rides, but try it on your long ride. If you're under-eating, you might notice that your HR seems to be dropping for the effort you're making. If you're getting dehydrated, it's the opposite. That's a big advantage to using a HRM.

Tired after 50 can also be simply going too hard. It is said that most riders ride neither easy enough nor hard enough. The thing is, the power you need to go at a particular speed increases as the CUBE of that speed. That doesn't matter on climbs because the resistance is almost all from elevation gain. So what you do is go WAY easier on the flats and harder on the climbs. I know HR is individual, but I think at your age mine was similar. Try 130 on the flat, and then 160+ on the climbs. That should be faster than holding a more steady effort like you're doing. Think about it. CUBE. 130 might even be too high.

Ignore the rest stop food on the century, it's usually garbage and you'll get out of there quicker. If you have a group in which you're riding, watch them and leave with them.
Drafting will cut your HR by ~10 beats. You want a group that passes you at 1-2 mph faster than you're going solo, then try to hold them on the hills.

On the flat, you should be pedaling at 85-90 cadence, on the climbs at 70-80. Many people pedal faster, fine, but slower, not so good.
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Old 07-09-22, 06:37 AM
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Originally Posted by wolfchild View Post
Start off easy and pace yourself through your ride, avoid going too hard., especially in the heat..., You're goal isn't to win a race, your goal is to complete 100 miles. Be sure to have enough drink and snacks to fuel yourself, it's better to bring extra than not have enough.
Same thing I always do. In fact, I get dropped by random groups at the beginning but I often catch up to the fast groups near the end of the ride as everyone slows down while I'm basically just trying to maintain the same pace throughout the ride. I'll push harder and go faster in the last 30 miles if it's not too hot. However, that is not your goal if this is your first century. Just try to maintain an easy pace/effort and might actually end up in the mid bunch or closer to the front.

Another thing is the amount / quality of the hydration and food you bring will have an effect on the pace you can maintain. On mostly flat terrain, you can bring even more since the extra weight would only be an imposition if there are lots of climbs.

Last edited by koala logs; 07-09-22 at 06:40 AM.
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Old 07-09-22, 09:03 AM
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100 miles, in August, in Texas? seriously? my new favorite riding temperature is 56 degrees ... ;-)

sounds like you're completely capable of riding 100 miles. some things I've read & from long rides of my own: start early, drink before thirsty, eat before hungry. consume electrolytes the night before, the morning of, 1/2 way & after the end. take it easy at the beginning. you don't want to have to try to recover while riding. the last 5 to 10 miles are the hardest. got a computer? it helps me mentally pace myself on the last stretch knowing exactly what is left to ride. not knowing, is the worst

don't experiment w/ new foods, supplements or clothing gear, shoes, etc. stick w/ what you know. on long rides I like to take a break at the 1/2 way & treat my feet. sometimes, with creme, sometimes flipping my socks inside out, sometimes adding a covering on a foot hot spot, like taping on a gauze pad w/ creme

is it a race? I'd hate to be in that position. I'm more happy riding solo anyway. if it is a race, or group ride w/ friends, I'd be inclined to tell them I'll be riding my own pace, so "see ya later"

killer/epic rides sometimes takes me 2 weeks to fully recover from

I would not ride the 2 days prior

good luck!

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Old 07-09-22, 06:18 PM
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On the few event ride 100 mile days that I've done, I stopped at every rest stop, about 15 miles apart. Food at every stop too.

I've noticed that even stopping for 30 seconds at an overlook on a long climb kind of resets my attitude. it's like a boost in energy and mood.
Don't try to keep up with your group riders if the pace is too high. I like riding along with riders I don't know on these event rides. I try to evaluate how erratic the riders are, though, and keep a distance from those people.

It seems that every time I do 100 miles, I ride for a "long time" and then check the distance on my GPS. 22 miles done! 79 to go! What! How discouraging. But once I get to about 50 miles or so, things settle down and the finish seems doable.
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Old 07-09-22, 06:32 PM
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Man! you guys are a treasure trove of advice/information. I'll read through some of these and share what I feel I need to do.
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Old 07-09-22, 07:09 PM
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Originally Posted by rumrunn6 View Post
I would not ride the 2 days prior
I find that I'd do better if I did a relatively easy ride the day before the century ride. Mostly easy effort with shorter tempo intervals.

I'd be resting two days prior, no exercise of any form.

Last edited by koala logs; 07-09-22 at 07:48 PM.
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Old 07-09-22, 08:00 PM
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Another thing not mentioned so far. If you're getting a good draft from the rider(s) in front of you, spend some time riding as upright as possible, hands on the tops and don't even try leaning forward. Just be upright and as relaxed as possible. It will save your neck and shoulders getting sore later on, especially if you're thinking of completing the century with the least amount of stopping as possible. When doing century myself, I only stop once or twice to pee or to buy cheap fruits and vegetables from road-side makeshift stalls.

Pros during a long race would also sit upright often by taking their hands off their handlebars. Because their handlebars are very low, taking your hands off is the only way they can sit upright.
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Old 07-10-22, 09:01 AM
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Originally Posted by koala logs View Post
Pros during a long race would also sit upright often by taking their hands off their handlebars. Because their handlebars are very low, taking your hands off is the only way they can sit upright.
Pros don't ride with their hands off the bars for very long, because they know that they need hands on the bars to keep control of their bike.

If you're riding along in a peloton with your hands off the bars, you'll get yelled at.
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