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Preparing for the ULCER Century ride


This article was written before I rode the ULCER. For details about my actual ride click here. Notes written in red in this article were written after the ride.

Why Ride a Century?
Just like runners have marathons, cyclist have the century. It is a feat of strength and endurance. 100 miles of riding. Riders do it to benefit a cause and to prove to themselves that they can do it.

Riders on the Epic Century Course will travel through Lehi, American Fork and make their way to Utah Lake traveling clockwise around the lake and back to the pavilion at Electric Park. The ULCER fee goes to benefit the National Kidney Foundation of Utah & Idaho. The main course is 111 miles with a 67 and 33-mile option. I'll be riding the full 111 miles.

According to my GPS, the total course was a little over 108 miles.

My Goal
My main goal, of course, is to finish the course. Riding 50-60 miles at a time is one thing, but riding 111 consecutive miles is another. My secondary goal is to finish the course in a decent time. I'd like to finish in about 5 hours which means I need to average about 22mph for the duration of the event.

I did finish the route at a total ride time of 5:40. My average speed was 19.2mph. Taking into account the hills and headwinds I'm satisfied with my results.

Choosing A trike
When it came to choosing which trike I would ride for the ULCER it was a tough choice. I have two main trikes that I ride, a WizWheelz TerraTrike Cruiser and a WizWheelz TerraTrike Race, both heavily modified. Both trikes are very fast, and each have their own advantages. While my personal speed record, 56.4 mph on a trike, was made on the TerraTrike Cruiser, ultimately, I decided that I would ride the Race. The number one reason came down to the lower weight of the Race and the hills I'll have to climb. The heavier the trike, the harder it is to get up the hills.

The Race proved to be an excellent machine for the ride. My gearing was great, but I could have done with a slightly higher low gear. The weight of the trike was the main killer going up the hills. Me shedding another 30lbs will make the biggest difference, but I'll see what I can do to take some more weight off the trike.

Benchmarking Myself
My main training tool has been the Garmin Edge 305 bike computer. I use the Edge to track my current speed, average speed, cadence, and calories burned, among other things. According to the Edge my average daily commute ride speed without pushing myself too much was about 16-18mph including all the stops and starts. I figured I'd get a better average on some longer rides, so over a couple of weeks I did four 50-75 mile rides. On the longer rides my average was between 18-20mph. So, this tells me what I need to work on. I need to build up my speed to get an extra 3-4mph.

The Edge 305 worked great at tracking my results of the ride.

Tweaking The Trike
While my average speed will ultimately come from my training, I've tried to squeak as much performance out of my trike as possible. I keep a running log of my modifications here, but I'll mention the main ones here in brief.
Gears - I modified my gear range from 18-96 gear inches to 30-124. Instead of maxing out my pedaling at 24mph I can still pedal at over 45mph (going down hill). This raises my average speed and lets me vary my cadence more while maintaining higher speed. My low-end gears are a little higher, but I've ridden over the hilly section and it shouldn't be a problem.
Fairing - Over 20mph my greatest obstacle is the wind/air resistance. My Cruiser is equipped with a WindWrap GX fairing, so I know first hand the aerodynamic benefits of a fairing. On the Race I decided to go with the WindWrap XT fairing because it weighs considerably less than the GX. Riding with the XT has given me about a 2mph increase above 20mph and the weight is nearly negligible going up hill.
Tires - The Race comes stock with the Schwalbe Marathon tires and they are great. The Marathons are fast rolling and have built-in Kevlar to resist most punctures. Schwalbe gives the Marathons a 4/6 speed rating. Well, I want to go as fast as possible and Schwalbe has two available 406 tires with a 6/6 speed rating. I chose to go with the Kojak tires and have already noticed a speed increase. My main fear with these tires is that their puncture resistance is significantly lower than the Marathons. I'll take a spare tube and a bunch of patches. Hopefully I won't need them.

As mentioned above, my gearing was great. My low gears were a little low for these hills though. The fairing was awesome and made a big difference cutting through the headwind and going down the hills. Although I had two flats, the Kojak tires were super fast and I would definitely recommend them.

Besides just commuting everyday I've been specifically working on building endurance and faster speed. To build endurance about 6 weeks before the event I started doing a 50-75 mile ride every weekend. During the week I would ride my normal 25-40 miles each day commuting to work but would more or less take it easy. To build up speed I've been working on both top speed and cadence. When I first started riding my cadence was about 65rpm and I wanted to get it up to about 90rpm. To do that I would ride for a day in a low gear so I would have to spin fast to get going. Eventually my cadence came up and I now average about 85rpm and can easily maintain 95rpm if needed. To build my top speed I would do interval training of maintaining a high speed for 5 minutes and then resting for 5 at a lower speed. I would then do 4 minutes, 3, and so on.

I was able to maintain about a 85rpm cadence for the first 40 miles until I hit the hills and I switched to about 75rpm. When I was done my knees didn't hurt, so I did OK.

I've discovered that I can accelerate faster by pedaling fast in a lower gear. So, I might pedal 120-130rpm to get up to 26mph, and then I'll shift up one or two gears to get my cadence to a more maintainable 85rpm. Once my speed dips down 3-4mph I'll downshift again to build my speed back up.

Early on when I was riding with other cyclists this worked very well. As I became more fatigued I found it harder to hit the 100+rpm cadence.

Food And Water
Something I've learned from some of my longer rides is that I have an energy store of about 3-4,000 calories. Averaging 20mph, the Edge 305 says I burn about 1,000 calories for every 10 miles. That means I'll burn over 10,000 calories on this ride. Without any food during a ride I can go about 45 miles before I completely crash. They do have a lunch in the middle of the ride, but I'm not sure I'll stop for that. For food I've been trying various energy bars. I tend to choke and gag on the PowerBar-type bars because they seem to dry. I like the Clif bars as they seem to be a little more moist. Using the Edge 305's calorie counter I try to eat one bar (250 calories) every 750-1000 calories that it says I burn. For this ride I have a 3-liter Camelbak water system on the back and I'll be using a 1/2 water and 1/2 Gatorade mixture. Combined with the Gatorade I should be able to eat about half the calories I burn with the rest coming from my energy store.

I found it nearly impossible to eat while riding. I loaded up on carbs before I left and then stopped for lunch. While riding I consumed about 12 liters of Gatorade/Water mixture.

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