Due to work and other commitments, I often have to save up my serious riding for weekends and that often means as much time on the bike as possible. The result has been dozens of century rides under my belt as I seek new and different places to visit or different ways to test my body. Putting down 100 miles in a day has become a pretty common feat, though the mystique of the "Century Ride" remains. There is something rewarding about seeing the odometer flip to the triple digits, and now I am training (weather permitting) to double that in a day's ride.
With all the long rides I post, a number of people have contacted me about my preparations for completing a century ride. Although I am not as meticulous asI was when I first tried 100 miles (note: This is not kilometers) there are still some practical and sensible things a rider should do to prepare.
1. Be physically prepared: Ride longer distances leading up to your century and try to emulate the conditions (hills, flats, estimated wind direction...). If you know the route and you now the landmarks then you know where you are in relation to your goal. It helps rein in a defeatist imagination that seems to want to imagine you are further back. You don't need to long distances to get into shape. Shorter, high intensity rides, can increase your overall fitness so the long miles won't seem so long. Two weeks before your first century, you should complete a longer ride, maybe 50-75 miles. Cut back on the riding the week prior. When you ride, pace yourself. Do the first 50 miles at an easier pace and see how you feel for the other half. A slow 15mph pace can easily get you to your destination in 8 hours with the occasional pit-stop.
2. Make sure your equipment is in good working order. The last thing you need are mechanical problems on a long ride. This goes with shoes and clothing. Can you imagine finding out your chamois rubs or you get hot spots in your shoes at 50 miles? Once you start to think about any article of discomfort, you will think about it all day. Be sure your bike is fit well and is comfortable with properly inflated tires. Every imperfection is magnified the longer you sit on a bike. Overinflated tired might not be noticed on shorter rides, but an beat you up on the long rides. One century ride I got a flat and filled with CO2. I usually inflate to 100psi, but I bet I was around 130 and it just beat the crap out of me. A helmet that doesn't fit can give you neck and back aches down the road as well.
3. Food and nutrition management is vital. Start eating and drinking for your century a week before. You want to make sure you have plenty of glycogen stored in your muscles. Start really packing in the fruits, veggies and carbs mid week. If your body is ready it helps ease the mind. Cut the caffeine and the booze. These will only dehydrate you. Start taking in the carbs to fill your glycogen stores for maximum exertion.
4. Eat during your century. Maybe one thing every hour if you are not conditioned for regular centuries. Eat before you are hungry. Granola bars, raisins, a ham sandwich... whatever works for you. Try not to eat candy unless you are 20 miles from the finish.
5. Drink during your century. Drink before you are thirsty. If it is hot, you may want to add one sport drink for every two bottles of water.
6. Start stretching more the week before your century.
7. Read for pleasure. It gives you something to think about on the ride if you go solo.
8. Don't worry too much. You put down a few miles and take them one at a time. Next thing you know you have put together a string of 'em and they make 100.