Why Your Identity Matters
A 100-mile ride can be a big day in the saddle or just another training ride, depending on the kind of rider you are. When considering how many centuries you should complete in a season, think about how 100 miles fits in with your total weekly mileage.
For a racer, 100 miles may only be 25 to 30 percent of his or her peak-season weekly mileage. For rookies, 100 miles might be 200 percent of their weekly mileage. This is important because it provides a sense of how stressful a 100-mile ride will be for you.
A 100-mile ride that represents 100 percent or more of your weekly mileage will be a stressful challenge. Thus Rookies, Charity Riders, and some Century Regulars need to be more thoughtful about post-century recovery than some Group-ride Groupies and Racers.
These latter two groups, and some well-trained Century Regulars, can recover more quickly because there's a smaller gap between the physical stress they can handle on a regular basis and the stress from a single 100-mile ride. At certain times of year, a weekly training program for an elite racer may include two or three rides over 100 miles. See the chart below for a rough, albeit realistic, guide to scheduling centuries within a typical season.
||# of 100-mile rides for the year
||Weeks between 100-mile rides
From One Century to the Next
When a 100-mile ride is significantly longer than your typical training ride, it's much more stressful on your body than when you regularly ride long distances. As a result, it takes longer (sometimes up to two weeks of easy riding) for Rookies, Charity Riders, and some Century Regulars to recover and feel fresh and strong on the bike.
What happens if Rookies or Charity Riders ride two centuries within a month? Typically, they do fine in the rides themselves, but the overall stress is so high that they're at increased risk of getting sick or burned out well before the end of the cycling season.
The reason for the relatively long period of time between centuries for these groups is to allow for adequate recovery, followed by several weeks of training rides focused on building aerobic endurance. Since normal training rides for people in these groups are relatively short, it takes longer to build the endurance needed for a successful 100-mile ride.
Group-ride Groupies, Racers, and some well-trained Century Regulars can handle more 100-mile rides during the typical cycling season because the rides don't take as much out of them. Thanks to the volume of their training, their bodies have been conditioned to recover faster, sometimes in as few as two days. However, even experienced cyclists need to be wary of signs they're overdoing it.
If you normally feel fresh and strong on your bike three to four days after a 100-mile ride, and suddenly it takes more than a week to feel fully recovered, you'd be wise to take more recovery time (seven to 10 days) before stressing your body again with another 100-miler.
These guidelines are not meant to restrict your riding goals for the year, but rather to help you smile through the final miles of each century you finish. Cycling is more fun when you're prepared for the challenge, and properly spacing your big rides throughout the season helps ensure you'll be fit, rested, powerful, and eager to ride your best.