Training for a Century Ride: Part 1

Kathleen Burke Jensen

Last year Kathleen Burke Jensen left behind her life as a self-proclaimed non-athlete and joined the ranks of the first time triathlete with coach Morgan Filler (2008 Featured Athlete) guiding her through the challenges of open water swimming, and Kathleen sharing the experience with Chi readers.

For 2009, Kathleen is attempting another personal first—a 100 mile bike ride as a member of Team Fatty ( in the LiveStrong Challenge on July 12th in San Jose. This year we introduced Kathleen to Sage Rountree who, in addition to being an accomplished registered yoga instructor and USA Triathlon certified expert coach, is a USA Cycling certified coach. Needless to say, Kathleen is thrilled to have the wisdom and guidance of Sage as she prepares for her first century ride.

Kathleen lives on the West Coast and Sage lives on the East Coast, so this is a match made in Internet heaven. We invite Athleta Chi readers to eavesdrop on their conversation…

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KATHLEEN: For the last couple months I’ve been doing one *long* ride on the weekend and a smaller 11 mile loop 2-3 times during the week. Two weeks ago I did a 34 mile loop with about 600 vertical feet and last week we did a 40 mile ride with a few hills. The 40 miler is the furthest I’ve ever gone. With 9 weeks left to train, I’m wondering how far and how often to ride to prepare?

SAGE: Since sheer endurance is what will get you through the event, you’ll want to build that weekend long ride toward 80 miles or so. But let’s go on time rather than distance, because distance relates to your speed, which can be affected by weather, terrain, and by your hydration, nutrition, and attitude.

If your 40-mile long ride took three hours, this weekend’s long ride should go around three and a half. Then next week, shoot for four hours. Take a shorter week (two and a half or so), then build again: four and a half, five, five and a half. That should be plenty to have you ready, and it gives you two weeks to taper your training before the event. (If weather or your obligations keep you from one of the longer rides, and you’re feeling nervous about your endurance, we can push one last long ride two weeks out; let’s see how it goes.)

Thus, to count down in weeks to the event:

9: 3:30
8: 4:00
7: 2:30
6: 4:30
5: 5:00
4: 5:30
3: 3:00
2: 2:00
1: 100 miles!

Midweek, you can boost your endurance by doing your eleven-mile loop twice for a medium-long ride on one day, then doing one loop at a quicker clip on another day. For these speed workouts, give yourself a decent warm-up and cool-down, so you can hit the middle section hard. If you have a third midweek day to ride, focus on pedaling easy but keeping your cadence high, in the range of 90 or more revolutions per minute. This will help you build efficiency.

Also very important is getting enough rest to let your hard work sink in. Better to show up at the ride start well rested and slightly under-trained than un-recovered and frazzled.

KATHLEEN: There’s a giant hill on the LiveStrong route at mile 75. This monster climbs 300 feet for the first mile and then 700 feet for the next mile. How on earth do I prepare mentally and physically for such a challenge?

Kathleen Burke Jensen

SAGE: By doing it! Preferably, over and over. Lots of things that are initially tough—tying your shoes, public speaking, jumping from the high diving board—get easier every time. While they may always take work, knowing the skills and effort they require is more than half the battle.

At least one weekend of your training, make a point of traveling to ride that hill. Take a cue from runners and do repeats, climbing it not once, but two or three times. Turn around at the top, coast back down, and when you’re recovered, repeat. Play with different gearing, different mantras, different lines to follow up the switchbacks. By the third climb, you’ll know how it feels to ascend that monster when you’re tired.

I tell all my athletes—in training and in yoga class—that endurance comes from form and breath. Find the most efficient, economical form you can, and take the deepest breaths available in the moment, and you’ll be able to hang on. On a long climb, you want to send energy only where it needs to go: down to the pedals. Don’t grit your teeth, don’t clench your hands, don’t furrow your brow. Turn the pedals. And breathe.

KATHLEEN: I’m a fair-skinned redhead and heat is not my friend. San Jose in July is well known for temps in the mid-80s though they had a heatwave a few years ago and it hit 109 degrees. I’m going to do a rain dance the night before and hope for the best. Would love to hear any advice you have for managing the heat and fuel for the day.

SAGE: Good sunscreen is a must! If you burn, your body will try to put energy toward keeping you cool, instead of riding. Take a tube with you and reapply at a rest stop at least once. I like sunblocks with zinc oxide; Blue Lizard Sport 30+ works well for me.

Wear light colors. Some companies now make “arm coolers”—a sleeve like an arm warmer that shades your arms and wicks you. They’d also protect your arms from sunburn.

Beyond that, drink to your thirst, and be sure you are also taking in sodium if you’re a salty sweater. (You’ll know you are if there is white appearing on the outside of your black bike shorts after your rides.) Supported rides usually have a buffet of snacks at each aid stop. Since your ride is backed by my sponsor, PowerBar, I’m sure you’ll have plenty of good options. PowerBar Gels and PowerBar Endurance, their sports drink, both contain sodium to replenish the salt you’re sweating out.

Kathleen Burke Jensen

KATHLEEN: I love my bike, but on these longer rides my tush does tend to get a wee bit sore. Are there stretches I can do on or off the bike to keep things happy? How about my seat (it’s a Fizik), my bike shorts or anything else I should be doing but don’t know enough to ask about?

SAGE: That soreness comes from the pressure of your bottom on your saddle. Playing with various equipment and clothing options will help, as will the slow increase of your long ride described above.

Saddles and shorts are a matter of personal preference. More cushioning is not always better. Experiment with different options as much as you can. A good bike shop will have various sample saddles for you to try on a ride. You should also experiment with shorts–if your saddle of choice is cushy, you might do better in shorts with a thinner chamois, such as Athleta’s Spin Shorts. If you have a firmer saddle, you might like more padding in your shorts. In bike shorts, you get what you pay for. Make a beeline past the $29 options and head straight to the priciest shorts you can afford. Fancier shorts have channels in the chamois, which lets it conform better to your bottom and allows for some wicking and circulation of air.

Kathleen Burke JensenTo prevent chafing, try using some chamois lotion. After having a bad experience with a mentholated product (which was certainly NOT designed for women!), I have had great success with Paceline Products’ Chamois Butt’r, in its lotion (not cream) form. You apply the lotion to your body at its friction points with the saddle; any excess can be wiped on the chamois.

One other consideration is your tire pressure. If you pump 120+ PSI, you might be creating a rougher ride than necessary. Try 110, 100, or even 90, depending on your tires, and see if that helps.

More and more time in the saddle will help alleviate the soreness in your fanny. So will periodically repositioning your weight on the saddle. While you’re standing, it might feel good to hinge from the hips as your feet are at 3 and 9 o’clock. You’ll get a stretch in your back, hip, and hamstrings (bend your knees to keep it mellow). Repeat with the feet at 9 and 3 o’clock.

You’re going to be great, Kathleen. Such bike rides are a ton of fun because they are all about the experience, rather than the finish time—the journey, not the destination. Since you’re not racing, you shouldn’t feel too tense. You’re sure to meet some cool people, to enjoy some great snacks, and to feel really satisfied not only when you’re done but all along the way.

I’ll look forward to hearing how the long rides go; what that hill looks like the first, second, and third time up; what clothing choices you make; and any other questions you have! Read Part 2 »

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SAGE ROUNTREE is author of The Athlete’s Guide to Yoga, The Athlete’s Pocket Guide to Yoga, a contributor to Runner’s World, and a member of PowerBar Team Elite. She loves competing in triathlon and running races of all distances. Through her business, Sage Endurance, she teaches yoga to athletes and coaches clients in running, ultrarunning, triathlon, and duathlon… {more»}

KATHLEEN BURKE JENSEN loves to write, ride her beautiful horse, and train for exciting new physical challenges. She’s constantly looking for ways to do all three things; if not simultaneously, then at least back to back throughout the day. For more on her adventures, visit her blog Forging Ahead »

BERT VALENTIN JENSEN hopes that viewers of his photos feel something special for the familiar. Like sitting down with a good friend whose stories make life larger and curiously connected. And if his work resonates with them like a great big bell, well that’s good too. Maybe the bell tolls for thee at »

Patricia Hewes

May 28, 2009 at 5:25 pm

FYI. My husband’s doctor recommended a sunscreen that has worked really well for him on the golf course. Seems to stay on really well:

SPF 38
It is made by Person & Covey, Inc.


June 04, 2009 at 10:24 am

Sage just explained to me that sunscreens with zinc oxide or titanium oxide are true blocks in that they start to work RIGHT away! No waiting around for them to soak in and become effective. Good tip!

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