Why a Metric Century Now
Those who know me know I’m very competitive, especially with myself, and when I take up a new sport or hobby I feel a need to give it all I’ve got and that’s exactly what came into play when I started riding more seriously this summer. A self-declared cardio junkie and distance enthusiast, I felt drawn to ride one of the more popular cycling distances, a metric century. With winter approaching and concerned that my days of riding outside are limited, last Monday evening I checked the weather and decided that Tuesday was the day to attempt my first metric century ride.
About the Ride
It was 54° and misty when I rode out of our cul-de-sac to join my friend Amy for our 8 AM ride. I met her on the W&OD Trail near her house which was about 5 miles into my ride. We decided since it was cool and damp to take advantage of fewer runners and bikers out and head east where it’s usually more crowded.
Our first quick stop was in Herndon to take a few pictures of the turning leaves and it was there that I told Amy that I had a secret, I planned to ride a metric century that day!
From Herndon, Amy suggested we continue east to Vienna and as we rolled downhill along the W&OD Trail, I though, “Oh boy, this is going to be a long climb out.” Once in the Vienna area the trail is mostly gently rolling hills or flat and it was at some point along there that I started to struggle. I felt like I was working extremely hard yet my Garmin (affiliate link) showed my speed slipping into the 13’s.
I realized that I needed fuel and asked Amy if she minded stopping. We pulled over for a few minutes while I ate something and got a few swigs of water and sports drink. It was a mere matter of minutes before the fuel kicked in and I felt like a new person.
It had been a couple of years since I’d been this far east on the trail and by now I was feeling great and looking forward to riding to the trailhead. With construction and a detour at around the 5-mile marker, we chose to turn around and head back toward home.
Back near Vienna, we stopped again for fuel and pictures…
Luckily the three-mile climb out of Vienna wasn’t nearly as bad as I expected, most likely because I’d eaten relatively recently.
By the time we got to Herndon, the sun was shining and it was starting to warm up. We stopped at the Green Lizard and sat outside at their picnic tables while refueling and hydrating one final time…
After saying goodbye to Amy, I continued west toward Leesburg, stopping once to calculate the math and to make sure that after my turnaround I’d reach the full 62.13 miles just before arriving home. I quickly discovered that long distance cycling math is just as hard as marathon math. 😆 😂
The trail near Leesburg was lovely and I felt great. I actually picked up the pace significantly during my last ten miles on this very familiar section of the trail.
The Final Numbers
A metric century translates to 62.13 miles and I ended my ride at 62.6 miles with an average speed of 14.4 MPH. Interestingly, I felt best the first ten miles and the final ten miles when I was alone. I was in familiar territory during those miles and I was well fueled.
Goals Versus Reality
Going into the ride I had two goals: finish the metric century distance and maintain at least a 15 MPH average speed. I met one of those two goals. A week earlier I had ridden 55 miles at a 15.1 average speed so I thought the speed goal was very doable, especially since the majority of both rides would be on the W&OD Trail; however, I had not originally planned to ride that far east on my metric century, but rather stay on familiar trail in Loudoun County. I don’t think the 1,663 elevation gain was a factor since the previous week’s gain was 1,427. In reality, I’m pretty sure fueling was the issue.
Lesson Learned, Now How to Fix It
The biggest lesson I learned on my first ride of this distance was that I need to learn how to fuel better when cycling. I came very close to bonking a couple of times and have done that before when riding. Fueling was never an issue with marathoning, and I only came close to bonking once or twice in forty marathons. Interesting, though, the last ten miles were my strongest, but of course I’d just fueled prior to taking on those last miles.
For this ride, I’d eaten a hearty dinner of spaghetti and meatballs the night before and ate a blueberry bagel before I left my house that morning. I was well hydrated and had a bottle of water and a bottle of sports drink with me. During my ride I ate two Honey Stinger gels, one package of chews, one Quest protein bar, and two Nature Valley biscuits. Including the bagel, I consumed 1,220 calories immediately before and during my ride. Based on my weight, speed, and the duration of my ride, I probably burned about 2,500 calories.
Experienced cyclists, any advice you can send my way would be greatly appreciated!
I walked in the door after my ride feeling great and very accomplished. I had a lot of fun and was thrilled that Amy was able to accompany me for 38 of my miles. It’s definitely something I’m sure I’ll do again. In fact, I plan to ride 63 miles on Saturday, November 14th to celebrate my 63rd birthday! Locals, want to join me for some or all of my miles?
- • What fueling recommendations can you pass along to me?
- • Have you ridden a century or metric century? If so, was it part of an organized ride or did you just decide to do it on your own?
- • Do you run or ride your age in some formate on your birthday?