I’m Through With Centuries

Now that the Hotter ‘n Hell Hundred is done, I’ve had time to reassess my long-distance biking efforts. My conclusion: I’ve ridden my last century.

This represents a major turnaround in my thinking about cycling. When I started in mid-2007, I thought the goal would be to continually build mileage and do longer and longer rides. My first big organized ride was 50 miles, which was a major accomplishment then. It was quickly followed by a metric century, and a couple more 50s. My goal was to work my way up to an Imperial Century ride (100 miles).

I did my first one in October, 2008. In 2010, I did two of them — one on the first day of the MS 150 from Houston to Austin, the second a repeat of the 2008 ride. The Hotter ‘n Hell was my fourth.

I realized after the first one that no matter how many centuries you have under your belt, these are challenging rides. If done well, the rider will have prepared for the rides with adequate training — including building up to the 100-mile distance by working in some long rides in the month immediately before the century. And by long rides, I don’t mean 45 or 50 miles — or even 65 miles. I mean 75 or 80-mile rides.

Interval training helps, too, because when you build up your speed you’re also adding to your endurance. It’s easy to go online and find lots of training plans for century rides, both for beginners and for riders who want to finish strong — maybe post a personal best.

For others, century rides are just the beginning. The shortest distance randonneurs ride in a sanctioned brevet is 200 kilometers — about 125 miles. But they’ll do 300K rides (180 miles), 400K (250 miles), and 600K (375 miles) — all in one year. I read several randonneuring blogs, and I admire the fortitude and stick-to-it-iveness of randonneurs. But while I once thought that might be where my own cycling would be heading, I know it’s not now. The accomplishment of riding a 300K ride isn’t important enough to me.

My friend Barbara, whom I mentioned in my account of the Hotter ‘n Hell, has an ambitious goal: to ride a century in each of the 50 states. Go for it, Barbara! I won’t be joining you.

My problem is that I prefer the idea of the century ride more than the doing of the century ride. I have never yet put together a training program that really got me prepped for the ride. That meant that when I got there, I was able to finish the 100 miles, but I was worn out at the end. After the latest 100-mile extravaganza, I wondered why I did this kind of thing.

And I came to the conclusion that I don’t need to. Most of the group I participated with in the HHH last weekend did the 100 kilometer version. These folks are all experienced cyclists, and most of them have done centuries in the past. They’ve just reached that point in their cycling that four hours on the bike — the time it takes to finish a metric century at roughly a 15 mph average — is challenge enough for them. And you know what? I think that describes me, too.

So I intend to keep riding. I’ll bet I continue to put up mileage totals similar to what I’m doing this year. I’ll ride hills — I’ll even practice to get better on them. I’ll do speed work occasionally. My long weekend rides might increase their distances, and I’ll work in more in the 50-mile plus range. But from here on out, my cycling is going to be fun, not work.


  1. says

    This is a wonderful post, and it echoes some things I have wondered about myself, but haven’t had the guts to admit to myself. Yet. Good for you! Enjoy!!

  2. says

    A century is work, there’s no doubt about that – it’s gettng into the crazy distance for sure. I don’t blame you a bit… I still refuse to run anything more than a half marathon and I’ve been running for some time. At some point, enough is enough, and you’re lucky to recognize it – you’ll be happier for it in the end. Happy riding my friend.

  3. Richard W says

    I’m with you! After doing a few century rides, I was on one this year and stopped at 70 miles because I just had no interest in trying to make it to 100 for the sake of making 100. I’d rather do the occasional metric and have most of my rides during the week in the 25-30 mile range with a longer weekend ride a couple times a month. To me, the ride itself (who, where, what) is more important than the distance.

  4. andrew says

    I think it’s all down to personal preference. I love riding, it’s pretty much all I think about, but I’ve never had a burning desire to finish a century. On the other hand, I’ve become interested in racing crits. I’ve always felt like I shouldn’t force myself to do something on the bike if I’m not totally committed.

  5. says

    Our stories sound very similar. We started riding in 2007. I have completed the 100 miles three times and my wife two. As you know, I didn’t complete this year. In my mid-70’s so I think I have enjoyed about all of the 100’s I can stand.

    Enjoy your articles. I will be following your adventures.

  6. says

    Totally understand, my last Century Ride was 1984 and too be really honest I only rode it to get the “last patch” to complete a LAW series riding patch set, LOL!! You’ve done WAY more 100 milers than I could have dreamed of doing, ENJOY the ride, I mean if your not a “professional”, then why not have FUN! :)

  7. Oculos says

    I will definitely do one more HH 100, only because I cramped so bad I had to sag in at the 90 mile point this year. I have to finish one more. The 2011 HH 100 was my first and only century, aside from this year, and it was not fun. Like someone said, the idea of the 100 miles is way more appealing than actually riding it! But I did finish. Like previous posters, I think doing 25 -50 mile rides is what a lot of us do, because we work. It’s a time thing. 25 to 50 miles is doable during the work week. Maybe a long ride on the weekend, too. It’s hard to train for a century doing that, it’s just barely adequate training to finish 100. So next year may be my last one, too! The metric century benefit rides are easy enough to finish and help out good causes. I may just do a lot more of those.

  8. raygarza710 says

    Hi Ray

    I ride to have fun and to stay in “shape”. If the ride takes me 20 or a 100 miles, as long as I’m having a good time riding then that is all that really matters to me.

    Keep them pedals moving …

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