Conditioning: Preparing for 100 Miles in 11 Saturdays Flat

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Outside magazine, August 1995

Conditioning: Preparing for 100 Miles in 11 Saturdays Flat
By Douglas Gantenbein

Training for a century ride, the 100-mile benchmark of road-cycling fitness, doesn’t mean sacrificing much more of your life than spending several Saturdays in the saddle. In fact, if you start now, you can pass the classic two-wheeler’s test in the fall–without living in spandex for the rest of the summer.

While weekday rides are important (but rarely exceed 20 miles), the Saturday miles are the key, according to Estelle Gray, who shares the Ultra Marathon Cycling Association’s women’s transcontinental tandem record: ten days, 22 hours. “Just count backward by ten from the week you’ll do the century,” she says. “Of course, on the two Saturdays before the ride, take it relatively
easy. The Saturday before them, however, you want to be sure that you can ride 80 miles; the one before that, 70; and so on. “Gray adds that you can vary your speed, but not your mileage. Here’s advice and a training map from Gray–and some recommended routes for riding the century.

Training Tips

  • Ride with a group once a week. Groups go faster than solo cyclists, forcing you to keep up. You’ll also learn to ride in a pace line, where you pedal along in single file, taking turns with other cyclists at the front to draft off one another. It’s a valuable skill.
  • During the longer training rides, stand in the pedals every 30 minutes or so, roll your head around, shrug your shoulders, and stretch your legs. This keeps your neck from knotting, shifts the burden to a different set of leg muscles, and helps prevent a sore bum.
  • On the century course, avoid the temptation to loiter at food and rest stops for more than 15 minutes. Any longer and you’ll stiffen up. Don’t overeat at rest stops–a full stomach will send blood to your gut and away from your legs, where it’s needed. Instead, carry fig bars, bananas, and liquids with you. Nibble and sip every 30 minutes during the entire ride. Practice
    this on Saturday training rides so that your body isn’t surprised on the big day.

See also:

Good, Long Rides