How to Ride a Century

Distance: 107.2 miles
Time: 6:05
Average Watts: 167 watts
Normative Power: 187 watts
Average Heart Rate: 142 bpm
Total Work: 3,474 kJ
Average Speed: 17.6 mph

I always try to write a short blurb about my workouts and then something of value to bring you people back here. Today I am going to break that mold a little and just talk about me. :) I will embed by tips into the discussion about this ride, but I am going to talk about the tough 100 miler my buddy Juston and I did this weekend.

We rode this century with a purpose — we are riding the Triple Bypass in July together. For those of you who don’t know about it, it is a ride from Denver up to Vail for about 120 miles and 10,000 feet in climbing on Saturday. We are doing the double, which means we will then turn around on Sunday and ride back to Denver for — wait for it — 120 miles and 10,000 feet in climbing. The way the course works out is you have 60 miles of climbing and 60 miles of downhill both ways. You go up and over three mountain passes, hence the name, “Triple Bypass”. All three passes peak at over 10,000 feet, with the second peaking at almost 12,000 feet. There will be some sucking of wind on this ride. Here is the profile for the entire race:

Saturday Juston and I set out for one of our training rides. This ride is specifically designed to prepare us for the Triple Bypass. The only problem with this ride is there is only 3,500 feet of climbing involved. Obviously there are other rides we are going to have to do to prepare for the climbing, and we have them on the calendar. In the mean time, this was a great start. Juston and I did ride a century together two weeks ago, but it was flat as a pancake. On that ride we averaged just over 21.0 mph.

This ride starts with a sustained climb for the first 64.0 miles. For those of you locals, we met at the Walgreens on the northeast corner of Main and Redwood in Lehi. We went west up Main towards Cedar Fort and just kept going. Here is the map…

So like any century ride, we took it easy for the first 20 miles and treated them almost as a warm-up. According to my Garmin 500 and PowerTap, we averaged about 180 watts on this section. My power threshold is 240 watts right now, so 180 watts were well within my comfort zone. Technically my Endurance Zone ends at 181 watts, so keeping my watts below that number theoretically means I could go all way at that pace.

At mile 40.0 there is a small convenience store in Vernon, population 236. Go into the diner section and talk to the old guy with the long white beard and he can tell you which direction the wind will be blowing from and how strong it will be. I have chatted with him twice now and told me I looked like I needed to be tested for performance enhancers. I got a kick out of that one. Really, it is a great place to fill up your bottles and use the restroom. I buy a package of thin sliced turkey lunch meat and pound it before I leave. No kidding, the protein at this point really hits the spot.

Speaking for nutrition, I have a friend who I was talking with about nutrition on a century the other day. The difference between finishing a century and not, regardless of your fitness level is nutrition. WHile your nutrition starts a couple of days before your ride, let’s just talk about nutrition the morning of and while on your ride.

I like to start the morning off with a ProBar and about 40 ounces of water. It sounds like a lot of water, but I like to pee before I hit the ride. The ProBar will have about 380 calories, which is typically a lot for me pre-ride. During the week when I ride early morning I will eat half of a bar. But then every 30 minutes on a ride I will try and drink half a water bottle worth of Infinit. The way I mix it up I will get about 275 calories per hour from this strategy. Once I get hungry (about every two or three hours), I will eat a while ProBar and try to drink straight water with it. I will also take a couple of Enduralytes from Hammer Nutrition when I eat solid food on a ride.

In 10 years of riding I have used this type of strategy (liquid nutrition) for about the last 5 years. Before that I used gels and tried to manage how my stomach processed the calories and man I had a tough time dialing it in. I would always either feel bloated — my stomach wasn’t processing the calories well — or I would feel hungry — I wasn’t getting enough calories. Once I moved to 100% liquid nutrition, I haven’t had a problem since. This strategy works for me.

Like I said, at mile 40 we stopped and I ate a whole package of turkey lunch meat I bought at the convenience store. I don’t know why, but man lunch meat sounds so good when I am on a long ride. I think the slower to release energy in protein is appealing, but I crave it on a primal level. Sometimes you just have to listen to your body.

For the next 24 miles on this course there are some good climbs, lots of rollers, and a general uptick in the elevation. You can really blow up on this section if you are not careful. I know we could have pushed this section much harder than we did, but if you blow up here there are 40 miles back home on good rollers that will really suck. Next time we ride this course we will push harder.

At mile 64 you get to the town of Eureka where there is a great convenience store on the east side of town right before you hit the county line. The Pony Express Century was being held yesterday, so it was good to see so many people at mile 40 of their century yesterday. We filled out bottles again and I downed a whole ProBar for the 380 calories. Can I say how good the Superfood Slam flavor tastes when you are on a ride? Not too sweet, and whole and raw foods are used in this product. I think it makes it easy to digest. Here it is in all its greatness…

On this particular ride you then take an awesome downhill for about 10 miles. On that section I averaged 31.5 mph with only 115 watts. I got busted by a photo cop for speeding too — on this section the speed limit is 30 mph and it registered me at 35 mph. I would be interested to see how many cyclists get their photos snapped by the photo cop. It actually told me to slow down. That was very satisfying.

Once you hit the bottom of the hill you have about 40 miles left to the start point. For me, this is the point where you start to hammer. Juston and I really pushed the pace early and kept the pressure up for this last section. For these 40 miles, we averaged almost 20.0 mph and 195 watts. For the last 40 miles of a century, that is a good pace over rollers for two riders. I was impressed that we finished as quickly as we did.

How could we have improved? We took our time at the stops. We were at each stop for about 30 minutes and I know we could have cut those times down by 15 minutes each. When you are doing a century to workout and prepare for a specific ride, I think it is important to replicate the conditions as accurately as you can. Looking down the road at the end of the summer, I will have to cut those times down considerably for LOTOJA. For us triathletes, it is almost like you have to treat the stops as T1, T2, etc.

We had our nutrition down and I think we have our pacing down. Since there were only two of us, we planned on taking a mile at the front for our pulls. It seems to work well because once you got on the front you took it easy because you knew you would be up there for an hour. I would keep the power right at 200 watts when I was on the front on the flats and downhills at at about 230 for the steeper uphills. Resting while Juston took his pull sure was nice. We will adjust the amount of time we spend up front depending on the number of people in our crew.

I think equipment made a difference on this ride. I was on my new Zipp 101’s and you could really tell a difference on the downhills. Literally, I wouldn’t pedal and just coast down the steeper declines while Juston had to soft pedal just to keep in my slipstream. I don’t want to say the Zipp 101’s were faster because they are more aerodynamic, but I do think the quality of bearings made the difference.

Overall, this was a great ride. Juston and I pushed the pace and effort really hard during the last 40 miles, which is the section that we targeted. This was a great training ride for the Triple Bypass, but certainly we will need to put in a couple of really difficult climbing rides to improve the strength in our legs.

About the Author

I have been participating in running and triathlons for 10 years and love the feeling that training provides. You may not agree with me, but you know you just can't look away...