Fall is an ideal time to conquer a century ride. The temperature is mild and because your "A" races of the year are done and dusted, you can focus more on enjoying yourself rather than your power output.
Instead of cruising through another century ride, use this season to seriously train to achieve a new personal record. It can set you up for a stellar season for the following year by providing a solid base of threshold mileage. It will also give you a goal to shoot for while you're putting in long miles of base training.
If you're considering pushing it for 100 miles, you'll need some help. Here are some ways to improve your time on the clock.
Add Interval Training
Logging oodles and oodles of miles will not make you faster. If you train at the same output, you're not going to magically show up on race day and be able to perform at a higher level.
To improve your time, even for a long race, you'll need to add interval training at threshold pace once a week. This will increase your VO2 Max and prepare you mentally and physically for the demands required to "race" 100 miles.
Do the following interval set either on a trainer or out on the road (being careful of traffic of course): Complete five sets of 5 minutes at 85 percent of your max heart rate, with a 2-minute easy spin in between sets.
Plan One Group Ride Per Week
If you want to be a stronger cyclist, the best way to do it is to ride with people who are stronger riders than you. Sure, you might get dropped at first, but every week you show up you'll get stronger and more fit. The improvements will show on race day.
Riding with others is also a good way to pass the time and let you practice drafting.
Do a Dress Rehearsal
Theatre performers don't just show up on opening night and hope that they can pull off their performance based only on regular rehearsals, right? They need to make sure they can hit the high notes wearing those awkward costumes and with the stage lights in their faces. It's no different for cyclists on race day.
Make your dress rehearsal as realistic as possible whether you're signing up for a 50-mile ride halfway through training or using your last long ride as a test run.
Fuel with the same nutrition you plan to use on race day, practice how and when you take in fuel and liquids and your planned pacing. Try to keep going and practice staying in the zone the entire ride.
Ramp Up Your Mileage Wisely
Once you commit to a century ride, that's usually when life decides to throw you a few curveballs. Whether it's that project that gets thrown your way at work, unexpected travel, childcare issues or illness, you can plan on something interfering with your training schedule.
That's why it's important to have a clear-cut plan to increase your mileage. This doesn't mean that every single weekend you're going to be able to hit those numbers—it's more for you to keep track of where you should be so you aren't cramming in a 90-mile ride at the last minute.