You've completed every training ride and double-checked every piece of gear in preparation for your first century.
You've even followed a nutrient-rich diet in the months before your event. Just one final challenge remains: finishing on race day.
Don't let anxiety affect your first century ride. Follow these 10 tips to make your 100-mile journey an enjoyable, stress-free event. Believe me, I've done a few!
1. Pace Yourself
Your first century is not the time to see how fast you can ride 100 miles. Start at a pace that's easy to maintain. Keep in mind that your heart rate may be elevated at the start from nerves or excitement, so pay attention to your breathing rather than your heart rate.
A good rule is to ride at a pace in which you can talk comfortably with your fellow riders.
2. Eat Every Hour
If you pace yourself and eat enough food, you'll finish your century without difficulty. Set a goal to eat 200 calories of carbohydrates every hour during the race, including the first hour. If you wait to eat until the second half of your race, it's already too late. Stick to what you are familiar with and have trained with
If you're a smaller rider, you can eat a little less that the recommended 200 calories. If you're a bigger rider, you'll need to eat a little more. Be prepared to take enough food with you that you don't have to rely on the food at the aid stations.
3. Drink to Satisfy Thirst
Drink enough fluid to satisfy your thirst, but be careful not to overdo it. If you get slightly dehydrated it won't affect your performance. If you drink too much fluid, you risk hyponatremia (very low blood sodium), a potentially fatal condition.
4. Be Careful Riding in a Group
Riding in a group, sharing the workload and chatting are part of the fun of an organized ride. However, if you aren't familiar with your companions' bike handling skills, be careful and don't risk a crash.
5. Check the Navigation
Refer to the cue sheet frequently to make sure you don't miss a turn. Don't rely on a group to navigate correctly—double-check to make sure you stay on the course. Riding extra miles if you get lost, can make or break your race.
6. Finishing Is Mental
Yogi Berra once said, "Baseball is 90 percent mental and the other half physical." This applies to endurance cycling as well. If you feel tired or discouraged, ask yourself if you're eating enough. Low blood sugar is the most likely cause of fatigue or a bad mood.
7. Don't Think of it as 100 Miles
One hundred miles seems like a long way to ride—and it is. Don't think about riding the whole distance at once. Instead, divide the ride into smaller sections and focus on one at a time. Give yourself smaller goals to conquer, like riding to the top of a climb or to the next aid station.
8. Get Through the Ugly Middle
Early in the ride you'll probably feel fresh and have good legs. When the middle comes around, fatigue is likely to set in and you'll start thinking about how far away the finish is. Try to persevere.
During a century, it's important to recognize when you're in the ugly middle and convince yourself that you can ride through it. Eventually, you'll get a second burst of energy and you'll be surprised at how strong you feel.
9. When Something Goes Wrong
First, take a few deep breaths and try to relax. Then ask yourself how bad it really is. Is it in your control or not? If it's a strong headwind, it'll just take you longer to finish. If it starts to rain, you'll get wet. If you have an upset stomach or sore butt—keep riding, those will be gone tomorrow. Know what you can control and what you can't, and do your best to push through these kind of obstacles.
10. Have Fun!
This is your first century. The only time you'll ride your first. Relax and enjoy the unique experience.Take a camera or smart phone and take pictures when you stop. You'll meet new riders too, so get their contact information. You may meet a new training buddy.