Our First Major Lessons: Road to the Century, Part I

Tips from one rider's first time planning and riding a 100-mile route
Staff Writer

When I asked my boyfriend Jacob if he wanted to train for a century with me, we had been dating for two weeks. We barely knew one another’s favorite foods, let alone whether we could endure hours of serious physical activity together. And yet for some reason—whether budding love, curiosity about the intense physical challenge, or both—he enthusiastically agreed.

Since then, I have moved to New York City while Jacob stayed in Chicago, and part of our long-distance bonding is the lessons we’re learning about how best to train for and plan a century. 

Our goal is to ride the 100 miles while in California for Christmas. Each week, I'll share a couple of important lessons as we build up our mileage, as well as our list of what and what not to do. 

Lesson No. 1: Have a rewarding mid-point on training rides
As you build mileage on challenging rides, your morale can flag. However, a reward at your half-way point can keep you motivated. 

The first weekend Jacob came to visit, we learned this lesson by accident. Unfamiliar with the routes around New York City, we looked at a map, chose an area that seemed relatively traffic-free and started pedaling. After five hours, we arrived near Rockaway Beach in Queens and had dinner at a Thai restaurant overlooking the water. After a hearty meal, our morale was high and we finished the three-hour ride home in the dark. 

Last weekend, I confirmed the lesson on a ride with my friend Richard. About 25 miles in, we stopped at Bunbury’s Coffee Shop in Piermont, New York. Although this would mark my farthest ride with the most altitude gain, the coffee shared with fellow cyclists gave me the energy I needed for the ride back.

Lesson No. 2: Call on experienced friends
While Richard, a New York-based Ironman, has been my go-to for advice on rides, training and gear, Jacob’s key contact, a cycling enthusiast named Alistair, could be singlehandedly responsible for our ability to design a century more than 1,000 miles from where we live. Alistair shared his past routes with us via Strava, a program that creates online maps of your routes (Map My Ride can also be a good resource), including distance and elevation gain. If you need to find good places to ride or want to plan a century from afar, ask friends in your target area for their logs. 

Click here for more stories from the Lessons Learned Series.

Jacob and I on our first long ride out to Rockaway, Queens.