A Century – also known as The 100 Mile Bike Ride, is often considered as a rite of passage for any cyclist. The Century Ride (100 miles or 160.9km) is considered by some, to be the distance, that if you can complete it in a day, then you are a “good rider” and can call yourself a true cyclist. I, personally, do not buy into this belief, for a couple of reasons:
First, I quite regularly ride centuries, and don’t consider myself to be a particularly “good rider”. In fact, in 2015, I rode 23 Century rides, which included riding the whole of the Tour de France route.
And second, I believe that with the right preparation, a sensible pacing strategy, good route selection and an excellent nutrition and hydration plan, the century ride is manageable by most people. Please do not think that I am belittling the Century Ride, far from it in fact. But some prior preparation will prevent poor performance and part of that essential preparation is eating and drinking, before, during and after the ride.
So here is my nutrition strategy for a big day in the saddle:
Pre Ride: I eat a bowl of porridge every morning, whether I am riding or not. Sometimes I add a banana, and I always have a cup of coffee. Some nutritionists would say that you may need more, and toast, yogurt and eggs are popular choices. Experiment to see what suits you best. Top Tip: Do not try something new on the morning of a big ride, experiment on shorter rides first! Whatever you decide, I try and get all my eating done 90 minutes before the start of the ride. I also aim to drink a 500ml / 16oz bottle of water an hour before hitting the road to ensure that I am properly hydrated to begin with.
During the Ride: The picture above shows what nutrition I carry in my jersey pockets. From left to right there is the following:
- Emergency High 5 Energy Gel – I always carry this gel with me, just in case I need it. Touch wood, I never have so far, and it is probably now out of date!
- 2 x GU Energy Gels. Each 32g pack contains 20g of carbs.
- 2 x Clif Energy Bars. Each one contains around 40g of carbs.
- 2 x Mini Soreen Malt Loaf. Around 40g of carbs in each one
- 2 x Zipvit ZV Energy Bars.. Each 55g bar packs in 37.2g of carbs.
- The red at the top right is my tube of High 5 Zeros (electrolyte and magnesium drink). I carry a small tube (10 tablets) and can easily pop one in a water bottle if and when I refill. Incidentally, I usually carry 2 x 750ml / 25oz bottles on my bike.
I am aiming for about 40 – 50 grams of carbs per hour, and some riders would consume this through energy drinks and gels alone, but I am not a big fan of this personally. I prefer some solids and aim to drink a few gulps of High 5 Zero electrolyte drink every 15 minutes to replace minerals lost through sweating and eat a small quantity of food every 30 minutes.
So my nutrition strategy for a Century Ride would look something like this, based on a 5 hour ride time:
- 15 mins – a few mouthfuls of drink.
- 30 mins – half a Clif Bar and a few mouthfuls of drink.
- 45 mins – a few mouthfuls of drink.
- 1 hour – half a Clif Bar and a few mouthfuls of drink.
- 75 mins – a few mouthfuls of drink.
- 90 mins – half a Soreen and a few mouthfuls of drink.
- 105 mins – a few mouthfuls of drink.
- 2 hours – half a Soreen and a few mouthfuls of drink.
- 135 mins – a few mouthfuls of drink.
- 150 mins – half a Zipvit Energy Bar and a few mouthfuls of drink.
- 165 mins – a few mouthfuls of drink.
- 3 hours – half a Zipvit Energy Bar and a few mouthfuls of drink.
- 195 mins – a few mouthfuls of drink.
- 210 mins – Gu Energy Gel and a few mouthfuls of drink.
- 225 mins – a few mouthfuls of drink.
- 4 hours – Gu Energy Gel and a few mouthfuls of drink.
- 255 mins – a few mouthfuls of drink.
- 270 mins – full Zipvit Energy Bar to see me through to the end of the ride and a few mouthfuls of drink.
- 285 mins – a few mouthfuls of drink. At this point, you may want to consider eating a protein recovery bar to kick start the recovery process.
- 5 hours – Bask in the glory of finishing your ride.
Top Tip: If you have a bike computer or watch with a time alert facility, set it to beep every 15 minutes to remind you to either drink or eat, or both.
You will note from the above that I still have a Soreen and Clif Bar, along with my ever faithful High 5 Gel in reserve. There are surplus to my requirements normally, but I take them just in case it is a particularly tough day in the saddle.
Post Ride: Try to consume a recovery shake as soon as possible post ride and get some protein on board so that those muscles can start to recover. Even better, if you have room in your jersey pocket, put a protein bar in there to eat during the last few miles of the ride and really kick start the recovery process.
So there you have it. That is what I do. Others will do it differently, and this is only a general guide. The most important thing to do is to get out there and enjoy it.
P.S. If you live in the south of England and are worried about riding a century, why not get in touch with me, I may be able to help out.