Monday, February 18, 2013

Riding Your First Century.

Don't be intimidated by this number.

One hundred miles.  Wow, that sure sounds like a long way on a bicycle, now doesn’t it?  Well, in reality, it is, and it is not.  The hardest thing about a Century is the mental aspect.  Sure, being physically fit is a large component of the event, however, it also depends how you prepare mentally to face “The Ton.”

Before you face that first Century, you should be competent enough on a bike to ride at least fifty miles (50).  Why fifty miles?  Well, that is not a magic number, really.  It is a basic benchmark to see if you are ready for the next level.  If you can safely do fifty miles (assuming your equipment, clothing and nutritional needs are in order), then you can do one hundred miles.  Yes, it is that simple. 

The key to turning fifty-miles into the Ton is not very difficult to realize, actually.  First, pace yourself.  The Century is a ride not a race.  By pacing yourself throughout the entire ride, the one hundred miles will tick by before you know it.  Second, you must fuel, fuel, and when in doubt, fuel again.  As on any ride, you should already be keeping a schedule of hydration and nutrition intake.  This is no different at a Century.  Those feed zones and rest stops are there to aid in your refueling so you can complete the ride without the dreaded Bonk.

On the equipment front, your bike and tires should be in good working order.  Quality cycling clothing will aid in the miles passing smoothly, and be mindful of the weather before you set out, thus you can prepare accordingly.  Remember to bring extra tubes, a multi-tool, and either a pump or a CO2 inflator with extra cartridges.  Eat a good breakfast, and bring along two water bottles (you will refill them along the way) and you favorite riding food.  And finally, bring along a good attitude and have fun.

Below is a recounting of my first century ride I did with a friend back in 2012.  It was the Ojai, California Century, and while I recommend you do a flatter one as your first, those whom are vertically prepared can feel free to tackle a ride with thousands of feet of vertical enjoyment (the Ojai had 5000 feet of climbing).

Here is a reprint of the article I wrote for another publication about the experience.

The names have been omitted to protect the guilty.

My Ojai Century Ride 2012

The Carpinteria rest stop.  Time to stretch and fuel up.

It is Sunday evening as I sit and write this, and truth be told, I am amazed I do not feel like I had just ridden my first Century.  Oh yeah, I am a bit sore, tired, and woke up with both hands in the claw position, however, overall, none too worse for wear, I proclaim.

Here’s how it unfolded.     

Arriving at the meet-point at O’Dark-Thirty, we loaded up and headed immediately for the closest Starbuck’s.  Hey, priorities!  We then hit the super-slab up to Highway (HWY) 101, and swung a right on HWY 33 into Ojai. 

The launch and completion point of the day’s festivities was MOB Bikeshop.  We checked in, got our bib numbers, route slips, raffle tickets, BBQ dinner tickets, ride food, drinks, and headed west in search of sore-legged bliss.

The Ojai Valley.

The scenery on the route was extremely awesome, taking riders west out of Ojai on HWY 150, past Lake Casitas, into Carpentaria, through beautiful Montecito, and then south to Pacific Coast Highway (PCH)/HWY 101, into Summerland, back into Carpentaria, through Rincon (you must actually merge onto the freeway here to follow the bike path), into Ventura, a left turn inland, onto HWY 126 into Santa Paula (where a beautiful old train station is located), then onto HWY 150, with a final drive down Dennison Grade and back into Ojai. 

In addition to the colorful scenery, elevations and beautiful real estate, were the host of riders, kits and bikes, with Team Break Wind (yes, their real name) a crowd favorite.  There were young and old participants alike, with speed and skill not only reserved for the youngsters.  The beauty of organized rides are the types of people they attract.  There were Roadies, Townies, Fat Tire People (mountain bikes), and one Beach Cruiser.  As for weather, it was cool overcast the whole ride until we hit Santa Paula, where the sun warmed us up a bit.  The final climb up HWY 150 was warm, but thankfully not too hot.

The author at a rest stop.  Remember to fuel up on a Century.

Back in town, and off our bikes, my butt was more grateful than my stomach, even after a wonderful BBQ Tri-Tip dinner at the finish.  As we chowed down our post-ride dinner, the music ceased, the light began to fade, and the break-down crew leaped into full force quickly dispatching the tables, chairs and Easy-Ups.  To paraphrase my friend: “I’ve closed down quite a few bars, but this is the first time I have ever closed down a Century Ride.”

My trusty Garmin Edge 500 logged exactly 100 miles, seven hours in the saddle, with 5,000 feet of climbing in total.  We kept each other going all the way with jokes and stories, even on the sustained 14% climbs we tackled.  In total, it was an incredible in-body experience, the weather was not too harsh upon us, and the organizers and volunteers were first-rate.

Part of the southern route takes you onto Highway 1 along the Pacific Ocean.

And now for the sucky part.  My buddy had two flats, one due to a previously undetected piece of glass, and the second one was a mystery puncture.  Thank the Good Lord that was it for flats in total.

As for me, my Ojai Century will forever be known as “The Day The Camera Died.”  While not quite so solemn as the hit song by Don McLean, it was sad to see an old friend that had accompanied me on so many rides fall out of my hand in a moment of stupidity, crash down on PCH, and puke its guts out.  Plastic bits, the camera body, the battery, and the data card all went in separate directions.  Note to self – Always use the camera strap.  The upside is I managed to retrieve the photos off the card, and the camera still actually works, however the LCD screen is broken, thus it would be difficult to compose shots, anymore. 

And, finally, just for good measure, I broke a spoke off my rear SRAM S40 wheel right at Mile 97, just after bombing down Highway 150 into the Ojai Valley.  Now, SRAM wheels had a habit of breaking spokes in previous generations, and they had assured consumers the issue had been rectified.  It appears to not be so (see my SRAM S40 review here).

One Century down and many, many more to go.

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