March 7th is the San Diego Gran Fondo (Big Ride) Century Ride. A local ride that is designed to look like an Italian style race. The ride starts out in Little Italy downtown and works its way up to Jamul and then back down to Imperial Beach and finally over the Coronado Bridge. Total trip is 102 miles. It starts at 7 A.M. and leaves in increments based on age. I will be squeezing in on the tale end of the 30-34 age group. Should be a very exciting day.
Training for a century is actually very similar to a marathon. All you have to do is continue to add miles to your ride or run. I’ve been riding my normal 40 mile rides, 1-2 times a week. Last week I bumped it up to 50 and I will continue to do so until the final week before the ride. The week prior I like to take it easy so I can keep my legs fresh and I will go back to my average 40 mile ride.
Nutrition during training is one of the most important things that I can stress. You don’t want to incorporate too many new foods into your diet too close to ride day. The last thing you want to do is worry about bowel movements or digestion problems when you’re on your bike for 5-6 hours. I try to limit the amount of carbs I intake starting a few weeks prior to the ride in hopes of dropping a couple of extra pounds. Keep in mind the lighter you are on the bike the less weight you have to pull up the climb. Then the week before the ride I will have a couple of good carb meals like chicken & pasta, or some black beans with rice. That way I have enough fuel on ride day. The more big rides I do like the Gran Fondo the more knowledge I am obtaining at how my body uses food and what I need to keep pedaling.
Ride day nutrition and fuel can take some practice. During a century (100 Miles) the average rider can burn anywhere between 800-1000 calories an hour. Of course stats are different for every rider. You have to consider weight, how your metabolism works, how hard you pedal, mph average. A lot goes into it. What this all means is that a cyclist needs to consume food (fuel) during the ride or they’re going to be in a world of hurt. There’s a lot of information out there on what a person can digest in a given hour during extreme physical activity. For myself I’ve come down to about 250-350 calories an hour. Can I eat more than that? Sure. Will my body use it? No. You’re body needs a certain amount of energy when you’re riding and it takes energy to digest food. It can only do so much and priority is to your legs nut your stomach. I came to that number by either under eating during rides or over eating. If you under eat, you begin feeling weak and can’t climb. Once you reach that point, there’s no coming back. And as far as over eating, basically I would get stomach cramps from too much food sitting in my stomach that wasn’t being digested. After consuming your food every hour or so, that still leaves you with a pretty big deficit of about 700 an hour. You still have to keep hydration in mind. On average a cyclist should consume about half a bottle (12-20 oz) of H2O or a sports drink every 15-30 minutes. If not you will wind up with cramps or even worse dehydration. Getting the combination of food and drink down is a science. The last century ride I did I consumed 2 Cliff bars, 2 PB&J’s, 1 banana and a cookie. Add to that 3 bottles of water and 1 bottle of a sports drink and I still lost 3 pounds. I also carry larger bottles at 36 ounces versus the standard 24 oz bottle.
The last thing every rider needs to prep for is a mechanical. What is a mechanical you ask? Well that’s basically anything that could go wrong with the bike that would stop or slow you down. You have to remember that you are riding a piece of equipment and as Murphy’s Law can tell you, things go wrong and usually at the most inconvenient time. Anything from a simple flat tire or a broken chain will require tools of some sort. Most rides are sponsored and they’ll have a mechanic driving around, but you can’t stand and wait for a mechanic to find you on an open 100 mile course. Having the right tools can save you not only from your weekend ride but also on a long century ride. No one wants to stand on the side of the road waiting for help. I usually carry a few things, starting with at least two tubes, two canisters of CO2, a small patch kit and also a multi-tool. These are bare minimums. Some people carry a tool chest with them, or at least it seems that way.
Oh wow, I almost forgot weather! Riding a century can bring you through all types of weather. Usually cold temperatures in the morning where you need arm and leg warmers to sometimes rain, and then the climb where it can get cold or hot. You have to carry everything with you. These are things that need to be considered on a big ride.
As you can see there is a lot that goes into preparing for a Century. You need to form a good plan and put it into action. The more I ride the more I learn, and for me it’s only getting better. I’m always looking for training partners and ride buddies so hit me up if you’re interested.
“Keep the rubber side down”