November 2005

The Really Unofficial Guide
to LA-Area Centuries
by Susan Stahl

La Grange overwhelms at the Ojai Century, photo by Susan Gan’s camera

I know there are folks out there with way more experience than I in this area, so as a relative newbie to SoCal distance cycling I offer my humble observations for your consideration before planning your Centuries for next season:

  1. Read Susan Gans’ emails, especially on Ojai. She seems to have the inside track on most cycling events, including where to stay and how to get the most fun out of them. If she says something will sell out in a day, you can pretty much bet it will sell out in a day. For Ojai, just send her the money as she asks for, immediately. Speaking from experience, I can assure you, you won’t be sorry.
  2. Go with friends, but be flexible. Maybe it’s just me but I feel like if you make it to 50 miles with the same group, you’re sort of bound by honor to stay with them the rest of the way. Anyway, unless you’re time-trialing, it won’t kill you to hang out and grab a cookie at the rest stop. Remember that people who start out slow might pick it up with some wheel and little encouragement, and people who bonk may recover with a gel or two. Also, while I’m not a big fan of cell-phoning while riding in this case a cell can come in handy for staying together.
  3. Under NO circumstances should you ever believe anyone who says, “no, no, you just go on ahead without me; I’ll be fine.” They are LYING. This goes double for anyone you happen to be married to.
  4. Be ready for mechanicals. Lots of mechanicals. (See #2) Especially if your friends insist on riding super-lightweight tires and tubes inflated to maximum achievable PSI. This is a good time to pack your saddlebag with all those patched tubes.....and be patient.
  5. Do at least one double-metric in your life. It gives a whole new dimension to the century thing. There’s no feeling in the world like riding 74 miles and realizing you still have 50 to go. Every century you do after this will seem like a (cool) breeze.
  6. Skip “on your left”. Unless you started at 6 am, most people you pass will have heard this about 300 times by the time you utter it. “Good morning” and “hello” generally work just as well. Remember a significant number of people are newbies and might think “on your left” means “move to the left.” If you insist on starting at 9 am and cruising at 25 mph, then please bring a bell.
  7. Start early. Seriously. Your average LaGranger is going to be faster than most of the people out there and the fewer people you have to pass, the better for everyone. (See #6). Even if you’re not that fast, it is so much nicer to be one of the first 100 people to get to the feed tables, not to mention the PortaPotties. (While we’re on the subject, please remove your snotty gloves for both activities, and wash your hands in between. Especially if you get there before me.)
  8. Don’t pick fights with LA Tri folks on the 101. You know who you are. Yes you do. No, you shouldn’t have.
  9. If you do have to pick a fight with LA Tri folks, make darn sure you can stay ahead of them afterwards.
  10. Speaking at least for Solvang, Ojai, and Cool Breeze: you don’t need to bring that much with you. Unless you have a very delicate digestive system, you don’t need to cram your pockets with calories. Do bring gels if you use them, and do bring lip balm (which can double as sunscreen in a pinch).
  11. Five women in one hotel room might just be too many.

I am not a coach, nutritionist, exercise physiologist, or even that knowledgeable about cycling! I’ve just logged several hundred miles of centuries with many of you this year and wanted to pass on the wisdom I’ve accumulated.

La Grange and friends, Cool Breeze Century
photo by Susan Gans' camera

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