Finish Strong in Your Next
Century Rideby Joe Friel -
One hundred miles is a long way to ride, no
matter who you are. Of course, thats precisely the attraction of century rides
for those of us who do them.
But while we want a century to be
challenging, we most certainly do not want it to be downright dreadful. We do
not want to bonk somewhere in those last 20 miles. Better to finish exhausted,
Here are some tips that will help you do
In terms of training, the most important
thing you can do to prevent bonking is build your way up to performing one long
training ride whose duration matches the anticipated duration of your century
Begin doing a weekly long ride 15 to 18
weeks before the date of your next century. Your first long ride should be just
a few miles longer than the longest ride youve done in the past couple of
weeks. From there, increase the duration very gradually from week to week
and not necessarily every week until you reach peak duration
three weeks before race day.
Do your long rides at a very comfortable
pace that corresponds to about 65 to 75 percent of your maximum heart rate.
Training at this pace will enhance your bodys ability to metabolize fat
for energy, which will spare muscle glycogen, whose availability is the
ultimate must for extensive endurance.
If you dont use a heart rate monitor,
control your pace using the talk test: If you cant speak in complete
sentences without losing your breath, youre going too hard. Your
long-ride pace should represent 75 percent of your target century pace, which
means that your longest long ride should cover about 75 miles.
This leads me to mention the second means of
preventing bonking in your next century, which is pacing. One of the most
common causes of bonking in centuries is starting too fast. You can avoid this
pitfall with intelligent use of a heart rate monitor.
In your training, you should do plenty of
riding at your target century pace. Wear a heart rate monitor during these
rides and note your average heart rate at this pace. In the century ride
itself, dont allow your heart rate to creep over this rate in the first
50 miles, no matter how good you feel. We cant always be objective with
ourselves when performance is on the line; but numbers dont lie.
Another common cause of weak finishes in
century rides is failure to taper adequately. Lets face it: We
long-distance cyclists are not lazy. We tend to do too much rather than too
little. And were extremely paranoid about our fitness. As rational as we
may be in other areas of life, we are somehow able to convince ourselves that
we can undo the results of four solid months of training with one missed
So we are very paranoid about tapering. How
can we possibly become more race-ready by training less? Well, we can, and
thats that. Abundant research has shown that sharply reducing training
volume in the final weeks before a long race maximizes muscle glycogen storage,
blood hemoglobin concentration, and other factors relevant to performance.
A two-week taper is most appropriate before
a century ride. In the first week of your taper, cut your training volume by 40
percent. So, if you rode 200 miles in your final week of hard training, you
would ride about 120 miles the next week. Cut back evenly on all your workouts.
In other words, still do your high-intensity workouts, but make them 40 percent
shorter, and still do a longer ride, but make it 40 percent shorter as
In race week, reduce training volume by
another 40 percent, based on a six-day total rather than a seven-day total. So,
if you rode 80 miles in the first six days of the second-to-last week before
your century, ride about 50 miles in the final six days before the event,
taking one day off entirely.
During the ride itself, the most powerful
bonk-prevention strategy is proper fluid intake. There are three losses you
need to compensate for with mid-ride nutrition: water and electrolyte losses
through sweat, and carbohydrate fuel losses.
You can compensate for a large fraction of
each of these losses by consuming a sports drink containing electrolytes and
carbohydrate. Research has shown that the most effective sports drinks contain
6 to 8 percent carbohydrate (thats 1.75 to 2.00 grams per ounce) and one
gram of protein for every four grams of protein.
The presence of protein in this ratio has
been proven to stimulate a greater insulin response and deliver glucose to
working muscles more quickly, thereby sparing muscle glycogen and delaying
fatigue. Accelerade is the leading sports drink with a 4 to 1 ratio of
carbohydrate to protein.
The key to a successful century ride is
reaching exhaustion at precisely 100 miles, and not a mile sooner. By building
up to a peak long ride, pacing yourself, tapering properly, and consuming a
quality sports drink, you can finish strong in your next century.
Joe Friel coaches amateur and elite
mountain bikers, road cyclists, triathletes and duathletes. Among his current
clients is 2000 Olympic triathlete Ryan Bolton. Joe wrote The Cyclist's
Training Bible and The Triathlete's Training Bible and offers
Internet-based training through his websites,
TrainingBible.com. He is a columnist for Inside
Triathlon and VeloNews and conducts workshops around the country on
training and racing for cyclists and multisport athletes. A long-time endurance
athlete, he has qualified for the USA Triathlon National Team three times.
Copyright 2002 by Poweringmuscles.
Published with permission. For cutting-edge sports nutrition info, visit