The pinnacle of “success” for most serious cyclists is the century ride: 100 miles on your bike, all in one go. At least this has always been a bucket list item for me, as I’m an age-group triathlete who’s been ramping up his training with goals of completing a 140.6-distance event before he’s 50 (I’m running out of time.)
To that end, I had a goal of completing a century ride by the end of 2019. I even had the weekend picked out, but by the end of October, my training and nutrition fell by the wayside and didn’t put me in a good place to do that. Work and life got in the way, as they will, and the off-season is a hard time to train that hard. So I picked a new hard date of Monday, January 27th. I scheduled the day off from work, planned nutrition and communication with my wife (and training partner), and got my butt back in the saddle to train properly.
What does this have to do with Zwift? Exactly this: I don’t ride outdoors anymore except on race days. Maybe one ride before the first race of the season to work out the bugs in the system, but otherwise it’s 100% Zwift, my 2016 KICKR Snap (which is still going strong) and our vast DVD library.
The benefits of doing this on Zwift were numerous:
- Safety, security, and I didn’t have to worry about weather and stupid drivers
- I could take breaks and do a walk around the Pain Cave to stretch out
- I could have all the nutrition I wanted right at hand (i.e. my fridge was just inside the garage door)
- I could finally earn the coveted metric and imperial century jerseys in Zwift!
That all being said, there are some cons when compared to riding 100 miles outside:
- You’re on the trainer; anyone who’s ridden for more than three hours on their trainer knows exactly what this means
- Unless you’re watching something really engaging, the time will drag by
- You’d better have some bodacious fans, because you’re going to get hot fast
Still, I was excited and couldn’t stop talking about my upcoming “event” to friends and family who usually glaze over within seconds of me starting to talk about triathlon. My wife (a frequent podium-placing duathlete herself) was very encouraging and helped me work out my nutrition plan and how often to take breaks. We agreed that I’d text her every hour when I took a break, so she’d know I hadn’t expired (she would be at work that day).
My bike was cleaned, tires inflated, DVD cases stacked, and I was ready.
The morning of, I got up, had breakfast (oatmeal and a smoothie), and set out my nutrition and hydration. After my wife had left for work, I changed into my kit (my favorite Primal Wear “Ace of Spades” jersey and my most padded bibs), loaded up my first movie (“Man of Steel”), plugged in my Macbook Air, booted Zwift (I chose the “Tempus Fugit” course in Watopia as it was the flattest in the game) and I was off!
The first hour was uneventful, and I was in the zone: 18 miles down. Texted my wife, stretched, and got back to it. Hour two was similar to the first, 38 miles in, had a banana to keep my energy up. Same routine: stretched, used the restroom, texted, jumped back in the saddle. Had to stop to change movies (“Batman vs Superman”, the three-hour-long extended version, was next) and continued on to the third hour (55 miles complete at three hours).
Things were starting to get a little tight, but not bad. Spent most of my time on the hoods. Hit my metric century (and the resulting Zwift jersey) at three and a quarter hours: 62 miles. By the start of the fourth hour (75 miles in) I was starting to get a bit chafed and sore; apparently shifting between the hoods and sitting straight up was causing my chamois to shift in an uncomfortable way. Took the time to take a slightly longer break (three to four minutes), readjust my kit, then got back on. By this time, I’d already gone through one bottle of water, one of electrolytes (SIS hydration tablets), some dried apricots and an SIS energy bar.
My last break was at five hours, 92 miles in. I was really uncomfortable by this time and dreading the last eight miles. Conveniently, my movie ended, and I was able to incorporate my DVD-switch with my break (next up: “Suicide Squad”). My feet hurt, my sit bones were screaming, and my entire kit was soaked through. Did I mention that I had three fans running and it was only 60°F in the Cave?
I managed to tough it out and completed the ride in 5:30:22 per Zwift. In my haste, I forgot to take a screenshot before saving the ride, which was very disappointing (the only automatic screenshot that Zwift took was at 11.4 miles):
All in all, this was a great experience, and one I’ll repeat again as I continue on my road to Ironman-distance racing. I learned quite a few things along the way:
- My longest ride prior was three hours. This was not adequate… I need to be in the four-hour range, or multiple shorter rides in one day.
- I need to clean my bike chain, or at least lube it. This is a sanity issue… listening to an even-slightly squeaking chain for five and a half hours will drive you crazy!
- My nutrition was perfect. I didn’t bonk out at all, and I felt (mostly) strong the entire time.
- A rocker plate would be super helpful for reducing back fatigue (it took two days for my lower back to recover).
- Body Glide: ‘nuff said.
So the Zwift Century can be done in the security and safety of your own home. I highly recommend giving it a go if you have the time and inclination; it was a very rewarding experience. I’m already planning my next one!
Thanks for reading, and please feel free to check my data below:
What About You?
Have you completed your first Zwift century? If so, share your story below! If not, what’s stopping you?