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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, September 14, 2001

Preparation key to ride

 •  Map: Century Bike Ride route

By Michael Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer

Here's the good and bad news: If you haven't trained for the 100-mile option Century Bike Ride, it's too late.

Preparing for the Century Bike Ride - particularly for those who want to attempt the 100-mile leg of the event - takes solid planning and awareness of your body and your equipment.

Hawai'i Bicycling League

With the big ride coming up, no amount of last-minute preparation will get you to the final turnaround point at Swanzy Beach if you haven't already logged some serious miles this season.

"You probably shouldn't try it if you haven't already done 50 (miles)," says Fay Saiki, owner of the Bike Shop and one of the original Century Ride riders.

Of the 2,300 riders signed up for the Sept. 23 event, about one-quarter are expected to go all the way — or bust a gear trying.

The non-competitive ride, sponsored by the Hawai'i Bicycling League and the Japan-America Society of Hawai'i, offers cyclists of choice of 15-, 25-, 50-, 75- and 100-mile course options.

While the out-and-back course is relatively rider-friendly, riding the full 100 miles is physically and mentally demanding. To ensure a safe and enjoyable ride, cyclists need to be finely attuned to their bodies and their bikes.

What you need

You'll do yourself a big favor by taking a few minutes to think about what you'll need for your long day on the road.

A certified helmet is a must. No helmet, no ride, according to HBL rules. For the rest of your ensemble, you might want to go with a lightweight, breathable bike shirt with pockets to hold food, padded bike shorts, hard-soled bike shoes, lightweight synthetic socks (if you wear socks), gloves and UV-protective sunglasses. Speaking of UV protection, don't forget the sunscreen — 15 spf minimum.

While sag wagons are available to help with repairs, you should plan on bringing your own repair bag just in case. That should includes a spare tube, pump (CO2 pumps are compact and fast), patch kit, tire-changing tools, and a multipurpose tool for adjustments. Note: Be sure you fill your tire to the suggested pressure. Saiki says many riders under-inflate their tires, which can lead to pinch-flats.

One last indispensible item: A water bottle. Maybe two.

100-mile buffet

"The mistake most people make is that they don't eat and drink enough, then they start feeling woozy and sick," Saiki said. "Once you start feeling that way, it's too late. You're not going to recover. You have to stop."

Eating and drinking shouldn't be a problem with HBL volunteers manning eight support stations along the route. Each station will be well-stocked with drinks and easily digestible, high-energy snacks. Riders are encouraged to stop at each station to rehydrate and reload.

"The main thing is to get enough fluid and food before you run out," Saiki said.

Managing your pain

Even so-called iron okoles feel a little uncomfortable as the miles pile up. Thighs cramp. Shoulders ache. Hands go numb. And, of course, unconditioned derrieres do get a little saddle-sore.

There isn't much you can do for those grumpy glutes, but releasing the handlebars once in awhile to shake your hands can prevent numbness. You might also raise your arms to stretch your shoulders and back, so long as the road is level and your balance is good.

Preventing cramps takes some forethought. In addition to maintaining a consistent level of exertion (as opposed to periodic bursts of heavy pedaling) proper hydration is key.

A good indication that you're taking in enough fluids is if your urine is clear. Sports drink or sodium-potassium supplements can also help.

How you sit on your bike is also very important to your comfort. If you and your bicycle aren't fitted correctly, you can put a tremendous amount of undue stress on your body.

"If you're too high on your bike, you're hands and shoulders will be forced to support all of your weight," Saiki said. "Make sure you're familiar with your bike. If you're bent over or not aligned properly, you might need to have your bike adjusted."

The pace not the race

In plotting your ride, just remember this: The first is the worst. From the nasty headwinds near Kuli'ou'ou, to the quad-popping climb to Queen's Gate to the roller coaster that is the road to Makapu'u, many of the most challenging portions of the ride occur in the first 15 or so miles.

"You'll want to pace yourself," Saiki said. "A lot of people will go gung-ho in the beginning and get tired out as they go along. You should start at a moderate pace with some spinning."

From Waimanalo through Kailua and on to the North Shore, the Century course is mostly smooth cycling with only a few moderate climbs.

Cyclists will want to remember, however, that they'll need to keep their legs as fresh as possible for the return up steep, steep and steeper Makapu'u.

According to HBL, most riders finish the 100-mile course between five and seven hours. However, it could take hours longer and riders should consider their split times leading up to the 75-mile turnaround before deciding to go all the way.

A final reminder from Saiki. If you're feeling sick or fatigued, stop! Riding requires attention and control.

Continuing on when your body has reached its endurance limit is a sure way to get into a serious accident.

There's no shame in hobbling over to an aid station or waiting by the side of the road for a sag wagon to pick you up (just make sure you're visible).

For more information on this year's Century Ride, call HBL at 735-5756.