By Jeffrey Stern
The thought of riding a hundred miles is daunting. Just thinking about triple digits on the odometer has the effect of creating butterflies in your stomach. The kind of butterflies that hang around for hours, even days, leading up to a century attempt. If you’re doing it on your own or with a group of friends, sans event support, there are many factors to consider.
Where will we stop for food and water?
Do we have all the necessary tools (and skills) to fix a disastrous mechanical 50 miles away from home?
How will my tush feel after 5 hours in the saddle and if it doesn’t feel good is there anything I can do (short answer: yes.)?
At some point in every cyclist’s life the opportunity to ride 100 miles will come up. It may be an organized ride, small group or it could be a solo effort that you’ve been dreaming of tackling for many years. However it presents itself, riding for that long for the very first time is not to be taking lightly. The easiest way to make it happen is to commit to a date, write it on your calendar and start training. Once the training is in the bank and the day has finally arrived, lean on these three (often overlooked) tips to make your first hundred-miler the best experience you can imagine.
- Eat all the foods, all the time. Riding for seemingly hours on end requires, well, seemingly endless calories. Depending on the effort level, your body is burning upwards of 750 calories per hour and while it’s not possible to replace all of these calories while riding, it is necessary to get in about half of that with each passing hour. Stick to low-glycemic (slow-burning) foods that you actually enjoy. Bars made with real foods like sweet potatoes, dates or nuts are particularly good. Bananas are easy on the stomach and a great consistency. At your rest stops, don’t be scared of a bag of potato chips. You need the salt, especially if you’re mostly drinking water. Whatever it is you like, don’t skimp on it: eating every 30-45 minutes will keep you fueled and moving towards that triple digit goal full steam ahead.
- Don’t conserve liquids. You’re going to sweat. A lot. Even if it’s cold and you’re bundled up under a bunch of layers, fluid and electrolyte loss is inevitable. A light sports drink is definitely recommended and since you’re going to be downing a couple hundred ounces of liquid, if you can bring some extra along for the ride you’ll be all the more better off. Starting drinking early and often. If you’re 90-minutes into the ride and both your bottles are still full then you’re behind. Smalls sips every 15-20 minutes is a perfect plan to keep you hydrated all day long.
- Wear sunscreen (or protective clothing). Don’t turn into a lobster on the road! Lobsters are meant to stay in the ocean. Not only does getting sunburnt dehydrate you because you body has to work extra hard to keep you cool, it hurts really bad for days after the expedition. Anything that hurts you while riding for hours on end will increase your chances of failure and we want you to succeed on your first 100-mile attempt. Spots often overlooked include the ears, back of your neck, hands fingers and lips. Sunburnt, chapped lips are the absolute worst! Bring a little stick of sunscreen along for the ride in your pocket or saddle bag so you can reapply a few times during the day. Even if it’s gray and cloudy out, where sunscreen. The sun’s ultraviolet rays are still hitting your skin.
When you finish, bask in your accomplishment! Most riders who finish their first century always want to come back for more…why do you think there are hundreds of thousands of gran fondos around the world? This is only just the beginning, maybe even a double century is in the cards for you in the future and we’ll have even more tips for you for a ride of that length, so stay tuned.