I’m finally, at long last, after getting my first road bike in 1997, going to ride a century. I’ll be in the 102-mile category of El Tour De Tucson.
Considering how long I’ve been riding, it seems like failing to ride a century is a major oversight.
My longest ride so far, was 92 miles unsupported with my buddy, Stan. We were both in our mid-early 20s. What’s really weird is that I fully feel more ready for it now than I was back then.
So far, I’ve ridden three times in the 77-mile of El Tour De Tucson, getting faster each year. For the past two years, there has been no 70-ish category for El Tour.
Why I’m Finally Going to Ride a Century
I’ll be damned if I’m going to miss another El Tour just because they don’t have my preferred distance. It’s a fun event in any given year.
This year’s course looks particularly good, going largely south of Tucson toward Green Valley (Yeah, no Silverbell Road!).
Also, I’m constantly barking at people to get out of their comfort zones. That means, well, I’ve gotta do it myself, right?
The cooling weather is another reason. If I had to slog through a century in summer heat, I’d think twice.
So 2021 is the year.
My Century Plan
Over the course of three years, I moved from an average speed of 15.1 to 18.1 mph in the 77-mile category. I’ve used a wrist-mounted heart rate monitor and a Bryton GPS to get in the right general pace, and I’ve opportunistically and shamelessly latched onto faster groups and stuck with them for as long as possible.
My plan is to throttle back a bit this year, aiming in the high 16s to low 17s so I have some extra legs left over the final 25 miles.
Hydration and nutrition will be key.
How I’ll Hydrate for a Century Ride
I’ll carry two full-sized bottles and a single small bottle with me. Each will have a mixture of one Gu Hydration tablet and a scoop of Ultima Replenisher. The combination gives me the salt and magnesium I need (Ultima is particularly good for magnesium). It’s also my newest solution to hydration — I constantly test new stuff because I live in a hot desert climate.
My wife’s advice helped me figure out that magnesium depletion was my big problem, and it’s made the hugest difference in my pace. I expected potassium to be a bigger deal for me, but it’s not.
Two more important points: I’ll take some ridiculous powdered magnesium powder with me in case things really go south, along with a bottle of pickle juice. Starting today (6 days before the event), I’ll also take Electrolyte Stamina capsules from Trace Minerals Research three times daily.
My three bottles should get me about 100 miles before I need to fill up. Last time, my first stop was at the 50-mile mark for fluids.
What Will I Eat?
I’ve discovered that I simply cannot ride four hours on gels only. And I’ll be out there longer than four hours if I’m going to ride a century.
I’ll bring three packages of Nature’s Bakery fig bars for my solid food needs. I’ll have two Gu Roctane gels with me in reserve; their extra salt and hit of caffeine can be a difference-maker.
My main gels will be two, maybe three, cacao-almond flavor Muir Energy gels. These gels are a bit different from the rest. They have a thicker consistency that feels good in the stomach. They also have more calories than a typical gel — about 150 versus 100. I also like the taste, which doesn’t hurt. They’re a nice “event day” treat. I usually tape my gels somewhere on the bike. This flavor is also a slow-burning formula, which is great for long events like this.
If I do need a fast burn, the Gu Roctane should accommodate. I plan to try fast-burning Muir flavors to see if they’ll work for a future event. But it’s best not to throw them into the fire without testing.
I’ve Been Training … Kind Of
I haven’t specifically trained to ride 100 miles. I’ve just consistently ground out miles throughout our hot Arizona summer, which is a good place to start.
I typically don’t ride more than 60 miles. Most of my long weekly rides are in the 50-ish range.
All my miles are also solo, with traffic lights and drivers to contend with. An organized event, for the most part, relieves riders of that issue.
This always results in a nice step-up in event day performance for me.
It’s also good to be able to latch onto groups of riders and tag along.
And aside from the riding, I’ve also been consistent with my yoga. I’ve also been hitting the weights for the last few months — lots of deadlifts!
Do I Have a Wingman to Ride a Century?
One of my bike buddies tried to play matchmaker to hook me up with another rider doing the same event. I never heard from my potential new BBF (best bike buddy?), so who knows?
If I have to go it alone, I’ll be looking for riders who look like they enjoy a good steak and a nice heavy stout now and then. That should put me in my tribe!
What Else is Up My Sleeve to Ride 100 Miles?
I’ll try to keep my mood level. It’s really easy for me to go into party mode when I start doing well, which can lead to blowing my legs out.
So my mantra will again be “calm yo’ tits.”
My bike is well set up. I have a nice new (2 rides on them) set of Teravail 32 tires and a full charge of Seal-It sealant. I’ll be rolling with my Beer Babe top tube bag, which is super-handy for all the goodies I need to carry.
I will also carry a tube just in case I have any major tubeless issues (doubtful).
I’m also staying close to the starting line, so I can warm up with a nice spin.
Bottom Line on Riding 100 Miles
I remember in recent years working my butt off, seeing a century rider and thinking “oh, hell no.”
I still kind of felt that way until recently. I routinely do 50-60 mile rides unsupported in 100-degree heat. I recently knocked out 50 miles in 4 hours on a singlespeed mountain bike. I know more about how my body works and how it responds than I ever have before.
If I land in the 16s, I’ll be happy. I’d consider the 17-mph range a stretch goal.
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