Friday, June 12, 2009

A few essentials for a century ride

Tomorrow I'll be riding in my 2nd century ride since I started cycling last summer. It's the Tour de Cure in Brigham City. I'm still a rookie at cycling, but I've learned a few things from my limited experience with long rides.

1. Nutrition - I've tried almost every type of gel and have settled on PowerBar and Clif. To be honest none of the gels really taste that good but these 2 brands I've found aren't too bad. Gels I've found are awesome because they are very small and light (easy to stuff a handful in my jersey pockets), they're quick to down while still pedaling (don't have to chew like other foods) and they provide immediate semi-sustainable energy

I actually prefer the PowerBar over the Clif and other brands because it has 200 mg of sodium per gel, which is really helpful for me since I'm a "heavy sweater" (I know it sounds nasty) resulting in me losing lots of sodium. In fact, after a really long ride, I'll usually have sodium crusted on my face! The extra sodium ensures I'm keeping the electrolytes in my system that are essential to endurance performance. You'll notice in the picture that I have one gel that has 2X caffeine. I'm not a big fan of caffeine, but I've found that downing the caffeinated gel during the last 20 miles of a long ride gives you a needed boost when the tank is running low on fuel.

I've also included a Clif Bar, chocolate brownie flavor. I honestly don't know if I'll eat this during the ride because I'm sick of these things. I bought 2 boxes at Costco about a month ago ($0.79/bar) and I'm tired of them, just like I'm tired of eating PowerBars since I finished the two boxes I bought at Costco the month before. So, I'm tentatively thinking I'll rely on the food stations along the ride route for the rest of my food stuff calories.

2. Hydration - On long rides like a century where I'm on the bike for 5-6 hours I have to drink plenty of fluids. There are numerous types of sports drinks and endurance drinks on the market but I've found a couple that are really great. The picture below is CarboRocket, which has worked really good for me when I'm riding more than one hour. It has maltodextrin and fructose, plus it contains a healthy dose of sodium at 325 mg per serving. I'll probably alternate this drink with water during my century. I've also found Carbo Pro works really good too. It too is maltodextrin based and is flavorless, so I'll usually mix it with G2 or Vitamin Water for flavor. The only drawback with Carbo Pro is that it doesn't contain any electrolytes like sodium, so mixing it with G2 seems to work well.
2. GPS - One of my favorite post ride things to do is download the Garmin tracks from my ride and analyze my stats. I usually make notes and then compare my progress over time. This a must have during a century ride too as you can monitor your level of effort and pace yourself according to the distance. For the century I'll want to keep my heart rate around 140 -150. If I get above that every now and then, it's no big deal, but if I'm consistently above 150, I'm going to fatigue too quickly.
3. Chamois Creme (pronounced "shammy") - This is something I learned since I started cycling. The Chamois is the pad that's stitched into the bottom of cycling shorts and Chamois Creme is the wonderful stuff that you put on your arse to keep from chaffing. Believe me, you'll want to apply this stuff before you hop on the saddle for 6 hours straight. This brand made by Assos of Switzerland and I've found it to be pretty good "stuff".
There are of course many other essentials that you need to bring along on a century ride, but I've found these right up there at the top of the list.

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