Get ready for a century ride this year

Two hikers and one rider start off on the Cress Creek Nature Trail on Saturday afternoon. The trail is west of Heise along the Snake River. (Jerry Painter photo)

After Saturday’s Cinco de Mayo picnic at Heise, my sweetheart and I went for a hike up the Cress Creek Nature Trail.

The trail is a perfect for families with children — we saw several — and offers great views of the Snake River and the plain to the west. A good portion of the trail is paved and handicapped-accessible.

Because I am trying to get in shape for an upcoming century ride (100 miles), Julie then left me at the Heise Pizza Parlor and drove home. I got on my bike and rode to the end of the pavement next to the Kelly Canyon Ski Resort then turned around and rode home to Idaho Falls.

Maybe it was the special day or the smell of barbecue in the air, but I dreamed of tacos for much of the ride.

The ride also got me to thinking about how people prepare for a century ride. There are two general ways to do the ride: endure it or enjoy it.

To enjoy it, you’ll have to get yourself, your bike and your mind ready.

One professional Italian cyclist and coach was once asked how to get in shape for racing and his reply was simple: “Ride your bike, ride your bike, ride your bike.”

I’ve always thought the first thing you must do is toughen up your fanny. In the course of doing that — putting in daily miles — the conditioning comes along.

Look on the summer calendar and pick a cycling event and commit to ride it. I’ve signed up for the Jay Anderson Memorial Tour of Marsh Creek Valley century ride starting in Pocatello on May 26 — come join me.

Most of these rides offer shorter loops for those who don’t want to do a full 100 miles. There are enough events that you can work your way up to 100 miles by the end of summer. Here are a few specific things to do if you plan on riding a century ride this year:

• Ride three or four times a week for 1 to 2 hours, then once a week do a longer ride of 40 to 50 miles. If you can’t spare the time, do a long ride every other week.

• Get the proper bike setup. A road bike is best, but if you don’t have one or can’t borrow one, set up your current bike with road-worthy tires (skinny, smooth tires). This will make you more efficient and the miles go by faster. It won’t be as fast and easy as a road bike, but it will be better than a mountain/cruiser bike.

• Learn to eat properly. Pay attention to your nutrition. Riding 100 miles all at once is an athletic endeavor. Do yourself a favor and eat real food that you prepare during your training regime and before your big ride. (Hey, maybe this is a good idea all of the time.)

• Don’t overeat during your ride. Stomach problems can be an issue if your gut is full during a long, hard workout. Light snacks are usually enough.

• Get your bike tuned up before the big day. Bike shops often get an influx of tuneup work before big events. Beat the rush.

• Learn how to repair flats quickly. It can be demoralizing to sit alongside the road fussing with your tire while everyone else is passing you by. On the other hand, one friend I rode with wished for a flat so he’d have an excuse to stop and rest.

• Wear the right clothes. While road bikers tend to look a bit goofy in their spandex, the clothes serve a purpose. They offer greater comfort on long rides and give riders more visibility with traffic.

• Learn to ride in a group. Drafting behind others saves 20 percent or more energy than riding alone. Learn to ride in pace lines by joining some of the evening or Saturday group rides from Dave’s Bike Shop, Bill’s Bike and Run or other local cycling groups.

• Take in extra electrolytes, either in a sports drink or capsules at least hourly to help prevent muscle cramps, especially on hot days.

• Pace yourself. If it’s your first century ride, you’ll want to finish. For the first 70 miles, ride at a comfortable pace, then if you still feel good you can hit it harder, otherwise just maintain.

If you have any other helpful tips for preparing and doing long rides, pass them along and I’ll include them in future columns.