Am I woefully unprepared for my first metric century?
April 2, 2013 2:06 PM   Subscribe

I've signed up for a cycling event that will be my first metric century (100km/~65mi). Last year I was regularly riding 20-40 miles at a stretch on the weekends, and then I did a 50-mile ride and felt great after. So when I signed up for this one, 65 miles didn't seem particularly daunting. However, that 50-miler was last year, and between illness, weather, and travel I pretty much took the winter off from cycling. I've been doing regular training rides since early February, but none of my rides have been longer than 25 miles (but I usually feel great after). The metric century is this coming weekend, and I'm torn between skipping it because I might be unprepared, and going for it anyway because I'm already registered and why not try? Cyclists of Metafilter, what do you think--am I woefully unprepared? Should I try anyway? Have you done anything similar and felt great/terrible about it? More details below the fold.

Relevant: I'm not and don't aspire to be a racer or pro cyclist. I'm overweight but in decent health, and I'm a slow but steady rider. This is a casual ride and they're allowing plenty of time to finish, and assuming I could maintain my current average pace I could finish the course well before the cutoff time. The event is is very well-supported, with rest stops and SAG wagons. The course isn't particularly challenging, terrain-wise. It's not a charity event so I don't feel beholden to donors, but I honestly don't know if I will feel worse about myself for not trying or for trying and maybe not finishing.
posted by rhiannonstone to Health & Fitness (20 answers total)
You'll be fine. It's going to feel like a slog, you're going to be sore the next day, but it's not like you're running a marathon - the wheels help quite a bit after all.
posted by Think_Long at 2:09 PM on April 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

I think if you keep your pace down and don't mash (stay in a spinning gear) you'll be fine. The greatest risk will be soreness to contact points (rear, hands, feet, especially since it's been a while since a ride of this magnitude)... unless you get tired and start grinding, which could really do a number on your knees. (I speak from personal experience.) I hum "Stars and Stripes Forever" (which is 120 bpm) to stay at least at 60 rpm.
posted by supercres at 2:11 PM on April 2, 2013 [4 favorites]

Sounds fine to me too. A number of years ago I cycled 100mi to visit a friend, which included a climb from sea level to about 1000ft. I wasn't in great shape either - I was maybe doing a few 20 mile rides on odd weekends, and was a bit overweight. With rests, that took me most of a day, and I was a bit rubber-legged at the end of it, but felt mostly fine the next day.
posted by pipeski at 2:15 PM on April 2, 2013

You should be fine. With your training, its not about whether or not you CAN do a 100k, but rather how fast. Don't push your pace too hard, keep spinning, take full advantage of the rest stops and have fun!
posted by voiceofreason at 2:16 PM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Totally do-able. I did the Santa Fe Century 100 miler on one training ride of 25 miles and a few spin classes. I averaged 14 mph so it wasn't fast, but that wasn't the point of the ride. My back and shoulders were sore from being in a position they weren't used to, but I'd sign up to do the ride again so it wasn't that terrible.
posted by shornco at 2:21 PM on April 2, 2013

doing something, and committing yourself to doing something are two different things, and create two different feelings inside yourself. You're probably just feeling apprehensive, which is expected. You could probably easily do this ride if you didn't have a reason to do it :)

I say go for it!
posted by zombieApoc at 2:23 PM on April 2, 2013

You should be fine, but will want to take the next day easy.

Just make sure you have lots of water. I also find that cold water makes me cramp after a day on the bike---it's not as immediately refreshing, but I find room-temperature water works best in hour three or four.
posted by bonehead at 2:30 PM on April 2, 2013

You should definitely do it! Remember that it is a lot easier to ride in a group that by yourself. You don't have to be in a fancy pace line to get the benefit of having someone blocking a headwind; just be a few feet behind. And you will be encouraged just by being with a large group of similarly motivated cyclists too.
posted by TDIpod at 3:47 PM on April 2, 2013

Ride it. If it isn't working, drop out.
posted by Ironmouth at 4:04 PM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Very casual cyclist here (male, ~45 at the time of the following anecdote, and not in particularly athletic shape):

Take this for what it's worth, but I was in a similar situation a few years ago -- I had signed up months earlier to do one of the "Tour de Tahoe" rides, which is a loop around Lake Tahoe (74 or so miles, all at ~6000 ft and higher). Due to sloth and work constraints I rode infrequently in the months before the event, and the rides I did were less than 30 miles each and at sea level, although they had some climbing. The kicker was that I did almost no riding in the four weeks immediately prior to the event. So when I pinned on my number I really wasn't sure if I was going to be able to complete the event or if I was going to be riding the sag wagon back to the start/finish line.

As it turned out, I had a fantastic time on the ride, with no issues to speak of. Being a part of a big herd of riders helped a lot. I was a bit saddle sore the day after the ride, but it wasn't unbearable. Adrenaline and previous training count for a lot on rides like this, where the only person you are competing against is yourself. Just believe that you can do it, know that you've done similar-if-shorter rides before, and realize that it will take a number of hours so you need to pace yourself. Stay well fueled and hydrated and you'll do fine. Oh, and have a great time -- these sorts of things are really a blast, and the feeling when you finish is well worth the effort!
posted by mosk at 4:38 PM on April 2, 2013

You'll be fine! I did a full century last summer with a season longest 60 mile ride before that. It was a slog at mile 70, but after a long lunch I powered through the last 30 miles and felt like I could have done 10 or 20 more.

Good luck!
posted by KevCed at 5:14 PM on April 2, 2013

Ride it, but start out slower than you've been going on your 25-mile rides, so that you have some reserves. Hydrate well, and eat a couple hundred calories of digestible food every hour. If you're feeling fine after 30-35 miles, pick up the pace a bit.

That's going to be my strategy for the 200K that I plan to ride on April 27. I haven't done more than 40 miles this winter and "spring" (snow fell today, so I don't think I can use the word without quotation marks). I've been training by doing short but intense rides, mixed in with a few longer ones. I'm fairly confident that I'll finish, though I'm also fairly confident that I won't feel that good for a day or two afterwards.
posted by brianogilvie at 8:22 PM on April 2, 2013

Eat food regularly before you get hungry.
posted by funkiwan at 11:44 PM on April 2, 2013

Just agreeing with everyone you'll be fine. Take it easy the day before and after. Linger a bit at the rest station if you need to.

The first year I started cycling someone suggested I sign up for the Trek Across Maine which is 180 miles over three days - so three metric centuries (more or less) in a row (with camping each night). I never did more than a 35 mile training ride over the weekends leading up to it and just did my regular work commute (about 60 miles per week). I did fine on the ride - in fact I felt great! I felt a little sluggish for the first half of the first day but then everything just clicked into place. As mentioned above, you might expose some contact point sore point (for me it was my right hand).
posted by mikepop at 5:45 AM on April 3, 2013

Lots of great helpful answers, thanks! You've convinced me to do it. Now let's just hope it doesnt rain...
posted by rhiannonstone at 8:54 AM on April 3, 2013

Do it.
The only thing I will add is that while riding you should pay very close attention to how your body feels. Listen to it carefully and respond. You're going to be on the bike for at least 4 hours, so if you feel your neck and shoulders ache, even a little bit, adjust your posture or you may be suffering by the end.
posted by Sleddog_Afterburn at 9:28 AM on April 3, 2013

You can totally do this- my one tip is food. Make sure you have an extra energy bar (or whatever) with you. You don't have to eat it, but it's good to have. If you've done 75k before, you can do 100, just make sure you're clued-in about how you're feeling. Sometimes, bonking hits your head before it hits your legs. If you start to feel dizzy, disoriented, or slow-of-thought, eat something. That and remember your hydration.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 2:17 PM on April 3, 2013

I asked my cycling coach husband - he says to check the time limit of the race. Depending on the course you might run out of time to complete within the race schedule. (If it's more hilly than you've been riding for instance).

According to Mr. 26.2 your legs will most likely be fine. It's your ass that's going to give you grief on the late miles. Take lots of chamois butter.
posted by 26.2 at 11:00 PM on April 3, 2013

As a fellow Clydesdale cyclist (i.e. overweight but in decent shape otherwise), I say go for it. The hardest time I have with long rides is handling hills with a relatively heavy (city) bike, but that doesn't sound like it will be a problem here. My other recommendations (some repeats from above):

1) Pace yourself. It's really tempting to try to keep up with the group at the start, but if it's a typical century, it will start to spread out pretty quickly anyway.

2) Even with the stops, keep some food and water/sports drink with you, but you don't need lots with the stops; just make sure that you don't overlook the signs/road markings for turns if you end up riding by yourself. Oh, and be sure to thank the volunteers at the stops.

3) If you need to take that sag wagon, take it. No shame in finding out what your limits are.

4) The last ten miles or so can be pretty tough. Just keep on keepin' on, but keep #3 in mind. There will be other metric centuries, I promise.

5) Most important of all, be prepared to find out how awesome you really are.

P.S. Let us know how it turns out!
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:27 AM on April 4, 2013

Well, I did it! I took advantage of SAG support about halfway through, though, because the unexpectedly hilly miles 25-30 were starting to wear me down and I knew if I kept pushing myself to finish I'd regret it. I had a blast and it was still the longest ride I'd done all year, so I'm glad I tried. And I'm looking forward to trying again with rather a bit more training and preparation. :) Thanks for all the encouragement!
posted by rhiannonstone at 10:46 AM on April 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

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