With Elephant Rock just around the corner, you’re probably feeling a lot of things right now: nervousness, excitement, anxiety, sore arse, and strong legs.
You may have a ton of questions too: Where do I pick-up my registration packet? Where do I park? What should I bring with me? What happens if I get a flat or have a mechanical issue?
Luckily, all this information is posted on Elephant Rock’s website.
But what about the rest of the stuff that comes with riding your first century? Here are a few tips to keep you motivated, safe, and having fun:
1. Remember this is not a race
Pacelines form, people hammer the course, and sometimes it’s unsafe. An organized ride, like Elephant Rock, is not a race. It’s a ride with your closest 1,000 friends. Some people forget that there is every sort of rider on the course: all the way from beginner to pro. If you want to get the next QOM/KOM, remember: safety first. Call your pass, stay alert, and be respectful. If your plan is to take it slow and steady (because that’s how the race is won), also remember to stay alert, be predictable, and respectful. Enjoy the ride. Take breaks when you need to. Pull over off and take photos of the awesome scenery. Have fun!
2. Ride with someone
100 Miles solo can be a haul. Find a friend to ride with or jump in with a group. Introduce yourself and ask to ride with them. Most people are excited to have a newcomer join them. You can spend the next five hours getting to know your new friends in that case, which helps make time fly.
It’s also nice to ride with someone to distract yourself from the physical exertion that comes with riding 100 miles. It’s easy to get into your mind when you have no one else to talk to as you’re grinding up hills. We can convince ourselves we’re too tired to continue on, but with a friend, they keep you accountable and going.
Then again, if you like riding by yourself, that’s great too. Some of us can simply zone out and put one pedal in front of the other. Cycling such far distances can become meditative in a sense. In that case, get your Om on.
3. Pace yourself
It’s easy to go all out when starting the ride. All the adrenaline and excitement in the crisp morning air is enough to pump you up. If you don’t pace yourself, halfway through the Century, you may totally run out of gas. Feeling like you’re pushing yourself as hard yet going slower could totally happen if you were hammering it the first part of the ride.
You’ve trained for this. You know what your body is capable of. It’s okay to push yourself, but going twice the speed of your longest training ride won’t be sustainable. Be realistic about your speed. This is a hilly course and if you keep it steady, you’ll control the course, and not the other way around.
4. Stay hydrated and nourished/stick with the same eating habits leading up to the ride
The morning of a century ride is not the time to try anything new. We know you’re adventurous, but having to stop at every aid station because of GI issues won’t make for a great ride.
Eat the same breakfast as you did during training. A good mix of carbs, protein, and fat will keep you sustained for first part of the ride. The aid stations will be stocked with all sorts of accoutrements. Again, if you’ve never trained with a certain food (hello, Trail mix), it’s probably better to err on the side of sticking with familiar training foods. Have you ever rode someone’s wheel who noshed on trail-mix? It isn’t a breath of fresh air.
5. Check your bike
It’s easy to assume our bikes are in tip top shape rolling to the start line, but it’s better to double check the tires, chain, brakes, and saddles. Have you ever started a ride only to realize you had a leak in your tube? Five miles in and you’re already using your spare tube and CO2 tank? There are mechanics at the start line for this very reason. Take advantage of these kind people and check your bike.
It will be a rough first fifteen miles before the Aid Station #1 if you neglected a simple once-over.
6. Stick with what’s comfortable (a century ride is not the time to try a new kit)
Just like trying some new food or concoction during your first century, it’s also best practice to avoid new kits, especially shorts or bibs. There’s nothing like a kit that bunches, rubs, chafes, and burns during 100 miles. You know when you buy a new piece of clothing and the first time you wear it outside of the dressing room, you notice a stitch or tag rubs you the wrong way? Same thing but you’re stuck with it for 100 miles.
Sure, we all want to look cool and donn our new kit, but it’s not cool if you’re uncomfortable for 6+ hours. You’ll wind up with saddle sores and chaffed cheeks.
7. Get there early
There are quite a number of logistics to consider when undertaking a century ride. If you didn’t pick up your bib number before, you’ll have to do it morning if. Also consider parking and the commute there. If you don’t live in Castle Rock, plan out how long it will take you to get there. You’ll probably have to use the toilet.
Then there’s dressing for the day, slathering on chamois cream and sunscreen (not in the same place), and packing your hydration and nutrition. The race directors schedule the timing for a reason so make sure you’re prepared to leave at your designated start time.
8. Get mentally prepared
The most important aspect to riding 100 miles is being mentally prepared for it. You physically prepared your body. Your mind will want to quit before your legs. Train your mind to be as strong as your body.
One trick is to think about 100 miles as chunks. Starting out at 6:00 AM realizing you have 100 Miles to tackle gives anyone anxiety. Instead, think of it as ten 10-mile segments or four 25-mile segments or two 50-milers. It will make it seem more tolerable.
Another trick is distraction. If all you do is watch your bike computer tick away every .1 mile, 1000’s of those will seem like eternity. This is where having a buddy comes in handy. Talk to people. Look at the scenery. Tell yourself stories. Sing songs to yourself. Learn to actively meditate. Play “close the gap” with another rider off in the distance. Make it a game to catch up to someone. Once you catch them, find another rider up ahead.
100 Miles is not an easy undertaking. Be proud of yourself for taking it on. Have confidence in your ability. Most importantly, enjoy it.