Century rides are a rite of passage for a cyclist. It shows you've transcended beyond the average weekend warrior and decided to tackle a difficult, but exciting, distance challenge.
Riding 100 miles is not for beginners, but it's not so far out of reach that a decent cyclist can't do it with some proper training.
Here are some tips to help you when training for a century:
The Pro Perspective
Kirsty Marrit has been racing triathlon since 1994 and has completed 10 Ironmans, the Leadville Trail 100, and several 24-hour mountain biking events—and can't even recall how many half-Ironmans and marathons she has completed. She's studied endurance-training theory for years and is currently coaching five Ironman competitors to achieve their training goals.
We caught up with Marrit on her way to Canada to compete in the 2011 Test of Metal cross-country mountain bike race in Squamish, British Columbia. Her biggest tip for training for a century: "Just get on the bike and ride!"
There is nothing more crucial to century training than riding long distances.
Choosing Your Route
Marrit believes familiarity is key to succeeding on your century ride. "Make sure you train on terrain similar to what you'll be riding on your century," Marrit says. "If you're going to ride a hilly century, I would not suggest training in the flats because [the hills on the road] are going to exhaust you."
You don't have to ride a full century to prepare for one; instead you can do some back-to-back long rides to help get your body ready for the big show.
If you anticipate riding a seven-hour century, do a four-hour ride on Saturday followed by a three-hour ride on Sunday. If you're able to do that several times, you should have success riding that distance in one day.
When training for a century ride, your initial rides should give you a sense of what pace you can maintain on your century. If you can ride really hard on your 2- to 3-hour rides, you should be able to push that pace when the time comes.
On your century, start out going slower than you think you need to. Your perceived effort will increase later in the ride, so give yourself some room to work up to it. If you start out really comfortable, you'll have more confidence in your ability to make it than if you're struggling early on.
You know you can work harder as the ride progresses. Marrit advises, "If you want to go hard for 20 miles, start going hard at mile 80."