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Laura’s First Century Bike Ride

If you are a cyclist, eventually, you have to do a century — one hundred miles by bike in a single day. It is a right of passage, much like runners eventually need to upgrade from a 5K to a 10K to a half marathon and finally a marathon.

When I say ‘eventually‘, I mean you ride increasingly longer distances and work your way up to a century. Some cyclists take years to get to the point where they can bang out 100 miles.

But Not Laura — I Hate Laura

Laura Friedman Before Her First Century RideIn February — late-February, she is quick to add — Laura decided to buy a bicycle and become a cyclist. She hadn’t ridden in years and was never a serious cyclist.

Her company, G4S Wackenhut, was organizing a team to ride the MS-150. I met Laura on a team training ride. She did nearly 30 miles at better than 16 miles an hour. I didn’t think much of her performance. That’s about average for a semi-regular cyclist working her way up to a charity ride.

She Had Been Riding for Only Three Weeks

It was only after the ride that I learned that she had owned a bike for only three weeks and, at that point, had ridden only 77 miles in the last decade. It was also about that point that I learned to hate Laura: no one should be able to ride that well after only three weeks.

Not only was she able to put in hefty mileage at a good speed after just three weeks, she did well in traffic, displayed no fear, road a pace line comfortably and — this is the worst part — never complained. She is always positive.

Pouring down rain on the Saturday morning we’re going to do 42 miles? No complaints. Hot? No complaints. Cold? No complaints. No sleep the night before? No complaints. It is almost pathological the way she manages to keep a positive attitude.

Police Athletic League Century Ride

April 19 was the Palm Beach Police Athletic League Century Ride. Laura’s longest ride to date had been 40-some odd miles. And, oh, by the way, did I mention she has only been riding for nine weeks?

Laura finished the hundred miles in about six an a half hours of saddle time for an average speed of 15.2 miles an hour.

To put that in perspective, my first four metrics (100 kilometers; about 62 miles) were done slower and my first century was done at 13.5 mph and I had been riding for eight years at that point. For a first timer with only nine weeks experience, she knocked it out of the park.

Nice work, Laura.

Laura at the Finishing Line Flaunting Her Cycling Prowess

Laura at the Finish Line of Her First Bike Century Ride.

Tell Us About Your First Century Bike Ride

Do you remember the first time you rode your bike 100 miles? Post your story below.

—Matt

23 comments to Laura’s First Century Bike Ride

  • Yep, you never forget your first century. I did my first century on the West Orange Trail outside of Orlando.

    Here’s the account of Matt’s first century across Florida.

    Interestingly enough, both of us elected to do our first ones unsupported.

    Yes, Laura is a freak of nature. Did you notice any strange wires plugging her into anything? I’d keep a close watch on her when she goes through a metal detector. Something ain’t right here.

  • SLM

    “A bicycle does get you there and more And there is always the thin edge of danger to keep you alert and comfortably apprehensive. Dogs become dogs again and snap at your raincoat; potholes become personal. And getting there is all the fun.”
    -Anonymous –

    Ah the very first century, so many hundreds of miles ago…there have been lots of century rides come and go since the very first one.

    Ken was there and so was my neighbor Wally. We rode in Columbia, Illinois on a flat country road that is known for wind, upholstery tacks on the road (the locals didn’t like bike riders) and the cool air that wafts across the road near the end from old mines adjacent to the road.

    I think we got back to the parking lot with about two miles short and rode around a bit to make up the final miles, unadventurous to say the least. Except for the fact that it was the first 100 miles that I had ever ridden on bike. A 100 miles. Let that sink in for anyone who has not ever done it before. Drive your car 100 miles and you think you have gone somewhere. Now imagine riding on a bike for 100 miles. Seems unfathomable, until you do it.

    Once you do ride 100 miles you realize that it really is all psychological, that is the biggest hurdle of riding a century. Some folks I ride with break a century down in 10 mile increments and then it doesn’t seem so overwhelming to them…”just 90 to go….just 80 to go…”

    Depending on the terrain, a century ride can be a piece of cake, or it can be something else if you throw in some large hills or mountains. I prefer the later. Riding in the Smokey Mountains in the Chattanooga Three Mountain, Three State Challenge Ride is the best worst century ride I have ever done (three times). The worst ride was in the upper Ohio valley where it was hot and flat and windy and I cursed out loud most of the way, “WOULD IT HURT THEM TO PLANT A FEW F#@*^% TREES OUT HERE!?” Needless to say, I have not been back to do that century ride.

    Congrats to Laura for doing her first century (and I’m glad to see her hoist her bike as well) and let’s hope she keeps Matt fuming for a long time to come.

  • Uh, hello, I was there, too.

    What my beloved Uncle fails to remember is that we didn’t set out to ride a century that day.

    I had never ridden more than about 40 miles prior to that day. The plan was to ride about 60 miles. I figured I could ride 60 miles since I had ridden 40 miles. Of course, the 40 miles I had ridden was flat and there were rolling hills in Illinois.

    What I didn’t expect is to have that 60 miles turn into an all day endurance ride.

    85.56 miles

    That day, I road 85.56 miles. Then, I stopped. I was near death.

    We got to the intersection of ‘Nowhere’ and ‘Middle Of’. I pulled over, put down the kickstand, found a soft spot in the grass and told everyone to pick me up later. I didn’t know that I’d still be alive when they returned but it would be nice if they could at least recover the body.

    It was at that corner I sat in the cool grass for nearly three hours while I waited for the van to come by and pick me up.

    Every once and a while, a farmer would drive by in his pickup truck and ask if I was dead. More often than not, I told them ‘no’ and they went on their way.

    A century is hard. After just nine weeks of owning a bicycle, it should be impossible. Laura sucks.

    —Matt

  • SLM

    Dearest Nephew/AKA Farmer Matt/Second generation Bianchi owner…

    Yes, I remember that you were there that day as well. BUT I have removed the image of you being there that day until now when you reminded me of it again. As you remember, THAT was the ride your bike shorts caused a small girl riding in a car next to you to blinded by a lower planetary moon and her mother nearly swerved off the road and killed us all like dominos.

    I have survived fairly well forgetting about you being there all these years after that ride with your thinner than air bike shorts.
    Now about that small child, no telling what sleepless nights and small physical ticks she has
    had to endure all these years…

  • Lisa Martin

    I just completed my first century yesterday and WOW, what a feeling.
    I completed America’s Most Beautiful Bikeride around Lake Tahoe. I’ve been training for about 11 weeks, never having owned a bike before that (at least as an adult…). It took me and my team about 8.5 hours in the saddle – which translated into about 10 hours total. We trained pretty consistently up to the event, having completed an eighty mile ride about 3 weeks before.
    Interestingly enough, I thought I wasn’t going to make it up until about mile 87. Physically, I felt fine the whole way – mentally, I started to lose it after about mile 60. I recovered after 20 of the most miserable miles ever – but I had to really talk myself through with the help of my teammates.
    I started out being jealous of the Lauras out there – 16 mph is unfathomable to me at the moment.. In fact, I still am… but I also know that as I rode on past walkers and resters while climbing a freaking mountain at 6500 feet, they might have been thinking that about me too… Everyone has their own battles, I think.
    Plenty of centuries to come in my future…and it’s true, I’ll never forget this one.

  • Lisa,

    Most of my centuries have been 10-hour events, counting stopping to shoot pictures, talking to folks along the road and eating.

    It would be nice to have fewer hours in the saddle, but I don’t have any desire to sniff someone’s Lycra in order to do it in five hours.

    That’s not to say that’s wrong; it’s just wrong for me.

    Like SLM said, riding 100 miles (or 20 miles, for that matter) is psychological.

    I have several points where I hit plateaus.

    Mile Two, when I look down and think, 98 more to go.

    My right knee bothers me from Mile 2 through 10, when it realizes that I’m not going to stop, so it might as well stop hurting.

    Ten thru 40 are usually pretty good, but 40 is where I will find out if there are any places that are going to chafe. If so, I pull out a film can filled with Chamois Butt’r.

    Somewhere around 80, I hit another little speed bump, but that’s where I start breaking the rest of the ride into pieces: 20 miles to go; that’s from my house to the Palm Beach Inlet; 12 miles left, that’s my normal Lake Worth nighttime loop; two miles, ANYBODY can ride two miles….

    If you can ride 45 miles, you can probably do a century. At that point, it’s more head than legs.

    Congrats.

  • Skippy

    First century today–July 30, 2009–6 hrs. 3 mins.
    Was hoping for under six, but hit a fierce headwind at mile 80 that slowed me to 14mph or so for 10 miles. I’ve only been riding since March after too many years with no road bike to my name. It’s all about turning the legs. I can’t wait for my next one–the 6 hour barrier is next to fall. Time for hill work and intervals.

    Nice to read about budding cyclists and best to all.

  • Congrats, Skippy. You’re faster than I am.

    Still, we’re in a small group of folks who have ever done it, not matter how long it took.

  • Dave Wright

    6.5 hours for a first century is an exceptional time, even a flat one. Congrats to Laura! She obviously had a good fitness base and was fortunate to fit her saddle well.

    Every century is different, though, and I welcome FL riders to check out some of the excellent ones at the southern end of the Appalachian chain. Many have ~10,000 feet of climbing. Gorgeous scenery, and friends no longer question your sanity – they know for sure that you’re crazy. So far this year we enjoyed Blood Sweat & Gears and the Hot Doggett 100. Tour de Tuck and 3-State 3-Mountain are great rides too.

    Come on up! You don’t have to be a hammerhead to enjoy these rides. Slow pace makes the scenery all the better.

  • I just completed my first century on 6/5/10. This is an absolute miracle as just 3 years ago I couldn’t walk 1/2 block or climb a flight of stairs without crying in pain. I started riding a bike last year when I decided I wanted to do a triathlon – which I did on 10/3/09 – my own event: swimming 1/2 mile, cycling 20 miles, and hiking 6 miles (4 miles up a 1,555 ft mountain). So this year’s physical challenge was Cinda’s Century – a solo ride throughout a route I mapped in Marin County, California. I actually did 101.4 miles, 10 hr 5 min in the saddle, climb = 3,758 ft. For about 55 miles, the road temps were 92-98 degrees which was the biggest challenge for me, requiring more breaks to buy water, find restrooms, and cool down. I had a friend bring me food and water at two locations. Oh did I say I rode on a mountain bike, Ill be 61 years old in July, and still have 60-70 pounds to discard (lose). I AM STOKED – I loved every minute of it. Next adventure: a 500 mile, multi-day trip in September: Pittsburgh to DC with side trips to Shawnee State Park, Chambersburg and Gettysburg.

  • Kent Ritter

    At the beginning of the year, I weighed in at 280. I was able to lose some weight in the cool months doing weight training and watching my diet.
    When it got a bit warmer my friend had the idea to go out for an 8 mile ride, the most he had ever ridden. Subsequently, I had a hair-brained idea to participate in a century ride for a charity sponsored by our church. When I said 100 miles he just kind’ve said “uhhhhhhhhh?”
    I got a cheapie road bike with 8 weeks to train for the century ride. He gave it a go on a trek mountain bike, all 35 pounds of it. Needless to say I tried too much too soon and had to take several days off and nurse an ITB injury. So now with 6 weeks remaining we were beginning to get skeptical.
    We bounced back and started riding just about everyday and longer rides on the weekends with and 80 miler the week before the century. We did train in the aforementioned Northern Ohio area- all fields and no mercy from headwinds.
    On June 19th, we completed the century ride, in spite of some significant hillage in the southern Ohio area in 7h 10m saddle time. Thanks weatherman for the heat index day! We were outmatched with everybody’s Fuji and Specialized bikes, me with a $250 road bike and my buddy with a 35 pound mountain bike. We weren’t racing, but we were second to finish.
    I believe anyone can do a century. The 70 something year old man that rode with an old Trek and a duct taped seat testified to that. My best advice to anyone wanting to ride: you will not regret any training on the day of the ride, and staying hydrated and nourished will get you through. Go Lance… number 8?

  • Way to go Kent. I’m not sure that “anyone” can do a century. I’ll say that anyone who has the motivation and a minimum of fitness can do it.

    The key is to ride your own pace. If you try to keep up with folks who are faster than you are, you’re burning gas that you’re going to need at the other end.

    I see distance riding as more about what’s inside your head than about your muscles.

  • Sailhard

    I finished my first Century by doing the Hotter than Hell 100 yesterday. Laura inspired me. I had ridden about 800 total miles this year, but my longest ride was 45. I got sick the 2 weeks I was supposed to do my long rides, but I was already signed up so I figured with the heck. I read about Laura last week and figured I would give it a try. I am a 48 year old 200 lb , 5 ft 10 inches male.

    This is Texas in August so it’s hot…about 96 degrees. The problem was the wind in the face for the last 50, but I made it. About 6.5 hours of saddle time, 7.5 hours total. Im not very sore today.

    The part that was tough was the food. You can only eat so much gel and food bars. The stop’s didn’t have any sandwiches…. just hot dogs. I passed as I was concerned in case they didn’t stay down in the heat. I was very nauseous and weak at 89 miles, but I think it was the lack of decent food. I’ll work on that one. Yes, I’m going to do another. This was one of the better experiences of my life.

    As I have read there is no substitute for saddle time. My next goad is to break 7 hours.

    Thank God for bikes , good health and a wife that let’s me ride and God Bless Texas!

  • I’m a guitarist in a band, and I got tired of getting winded carrying my amp & gear in and out of gigs. So I started riding my wife’s old mountain bike last year. Got up to doing around 30-40 miles per week. So in Feb. she bought me a Trek 4300 Mountain bike, and my riding eventually started getting more serious. To the point where two weeks ago I did 75 mi in 5 1/2 hours (did I mention I’m an ex-football player who weighs 285?) . I think I could’ve gotten it in 5, if the Illinois prairie headwinds weren’t so vicious that day. I’m trying a century this Saturday, shooting for 7 hours. Wish me luck!

  • Go for it, Frank. Let us know how you did.

    Nobody’s holding a gun at your head. Take Matt’s approach: when it stops being fun, hang it up for another day.

  • Frank, doing 75 miles in 5.5 hours is really good, especially if you are riding alone and on a mountain bike.

    I did 72 miles in 4:16:24 last month but I had nine other people with me to take turns at the front. Also, I was on a road bike.

    If you like cycling — and with the number of miles you’re riding — you may want to consider a road bike. It need not be anything super carbon fancy either. Thinner tires, a more aerodynamic posture and a better gear ratio will easily add three or four miles an hour to your speed.

    If you’re currently doing 14mph on a mountain bike, you should easily see 17-18 on a road bike.

    If dropping $700 to $1,200 on an entry-level road bike is out of your budget, please put smooth tires on your bike in place of the nobby off-road tires. It’ll cost you less than $100, your ride quality will improve and you’ll pick up maybe even a mile per hour of speed.

    Do you ride with a group?

    Cheers,
    Matt

  • OK…did it. 100.81 miles in 7:12:41, on ye old Trek 4300 mountain bike. Hit a wall at 47 miles that I pushed through, got my second wind, got all the way to 75. 75–100 really SUCKED, not because it hurt more, but just because I was ready to be done with it. But kept pushing.

    Matt, I am thinking about getting a road bike. I actually have a decent frame from when I was in high school 20 years ago. It’s steel, should hold my big tuckus! I plan on getting it from my folks place in Ohio, replacing tires, crank & cassette, & gear system (as it still has downtube shifters, in-line shifters weren’t prevailent yet). But it’s in the works.

    And no, I don’t ride with a group, yet. Working on getting where I can hang with the local cycling club. Gotta get my speed up to keep up with them.

  • Way to go, Frank!

    I did my first century on a Trek 300 comfort bike. When I told the wrench at my LBS what I had done, he said, “That’d be like riding 130 miles on a road bike.”

    Going from the 300 to a Trek 1220 added a couple of mph speed with comparable effort.

  • Nice job, Frank!

    I’m all about the steel. The 2001 Bianchi Talladega I ride has a steel frame with a carbon fork. It was a huge improvement over my aluminum Trek 7300 hybrid.

    Still, I’d look at the economics of sprucing up the old bike before you make the commitment. By the time you replace all the components, you may be nearing the cost of a new bike. If the components can be moved to a newer frame later, it may be okay to buy the components first, break ’em in and then buy the frame. My fear is that the components for a 20-year-old bike won’t work on your new frame.

    I would encourage you to find a group even if you can’t keep up for the entire ride. When I first started doing a 42-mile loop with a group on Jupiter Island, I could only keep up for the six mile warm up.

    Over just a couple months of riding with them, my form greatly improved and I could keep up with them for most of the route. Four months in, I could could complete the ride with the group at a pace that averaged more than 18mph. This morning, the group was feeling frisky and we cranked along at 23-25 mph for a ten-mile stretch before the wind changed from a cross wind to a head wind.

    Cheers,
    Matt

  • Nicholas Marino

    My first century was an awesome experience. I sometimes say it’ll be my first and my last, but I’m not much of a cyclist. My longest ride before that was 20-miles for a charity event in the Mt. Olive area of NJ. The century was in Dover, Delaware for the 25th Anniversary of the Dutchland tour through the Amish countryside and parts of Maryland. I finished the ride in 7 and half hours, more-so close to 8; riding with a heavy road/mountain bike at an avg of 14.3 mph..I had an opportunity to meet people from close to 15 different states that made the ride not as painful as it was. My biggest mistake was not wearing biking shorts that I forgot home before my trip..lol..

  • OK…here’s an update: 1 year later and I’ve done 2 centuries in 2011, plus a 75. The first was for the MS-150 up here in Illinois. A 100 the first day and a 75 the second day. Fixed up the old steel bike I had mentioned in previous posts and was hanging with a bunch of roadies on their custom carbon bikes. Finished the 100 in 5h 32m of saddle time (although we had about 2 hours of stops for all the food & such, MS 150 is a great experience). The 75 the next day did in 4h 04m.

    The second century I did was the Tri-Cities Grand Fondo in St. Charles, IL, did 98 mi (OK, so it wasn’t quite a century) in 5h 15m with stops.

    So far so good.

  • Cinda Weisgerber

    Seems like this track is getting a lot of activity lately so I’ll write a little update.

    First though – the times you guys/gals are riding are impressive. I’m wondering how much climb you have on these rides – or am I just slow?

    One year ago (9/9-9/26/10), I did my first bike tour – a solo adventure, from Pittsburgh, PA to Washington, DC. I pedaled 502 miles with 7,690 ft of climb. My bike, gear, and water (when full) weighed just under 90 lbs. Over the 502 miles, I averaged 9.85 mph which I thought was pretty darn good. I was 61 then and still weighed over 200 lbs.

    I love my life – hoping to cycle for at least another 20 years now that I found out how cool it is. Even considering a 3,000-4,000 mile ride next year.

    Keep cranking!