Cycling Marcia's Blog

Marcia’s Blog: The Seven-Year Training Plan

Marcia Brenner
Written by Marcia Brenner
bike cartoon threeLast week, right as I was entering the one-month countdown to the ride, I decided it was time to start training.For me, that meant making sure I started getting some longer bike rides in each week. I had it in my head that two rides a week of 30+ miles straight, with a few longer ones in there would be all I needed to add in to my routine. See, here’s the thing: I’ve really been training for this thing for seven years. I didn’t even do any research on how to prepare for such a ride (uh, until just about five minutes ago), because over the past seven years, I’ve been learning little things about my body, building strength, and gaining experience riding long distances.

In my teens I was overweight and my dad was an avid cyclist who had rode over the Rockies one summer. He kept building me bikes and trying to get me to go riding with him, tried to make it a “fun” activity we could do together. I thought he was nuts; I could not fathom why anyone would want to hang their body weight on their crotch for recreational purposes. I went a few times to humor him and the final road bike my dad built me ended up in storage on our back porch. That was around 1987.


That bike—I call her Emmy—lived on porches, in storage units, basements, and back stairwells until around 2006 when one day, quite out of the blue, I thought, “I’d like to go for a bike ride.” I figured my bike was probably toast, after twenty years of sitting. Turned out I was wrong.
women bike cartoonOver a period of time I went from weekend jaunts to summer commuting, and then my car was pronounced dead in December 2009. Now, biking is how I get around.I bike about 6-10 miles a day if I’m just going to work and running errands (I grocery shop by bike too, buying small amounts every few days like a European). In 2011 I  joined a bike Meetup Group and I started doing longer rides. Here’s where you start meeting serious bikers.I’m not talking about the Lance’s who blow by you on public trails and are too stingy to waste a breath on saying “On your left!” I’m talking about people who look to bike every chance they get.People who know their average miles per hour in any road or weather condition.People who track their annual mileage.People who (gasp!) have more than one bike. People who—like me—will bike for food and beer.


I admit, I got curious. How fast was I going? How far could I go and still walk the nextbike seat day? Over time, I learned the answers to these things, and realized that the question “What about your butt? Doesn’t your butt hurt?” is really dependent on three things: 1. Your seat. 2. Butt crème. 3. How frequently you ride.



While much Century training is about increasing strength and endurance levels, a lot of it is also about getting time in the saddle so you can gauge practical things like how it will feel to spend 8+ hours on a bike, if your bike fits you, how your seat feels, and any issues with your body that you wouldn’t notice until hour four or five. Much of that stuff I feel I already have covered, which is good, because from what I’ve read most Century training plans are ten weeks long and I’m essentially doing only four. That said, many emphasize you can have a shorter training plan if you already spend a lot of time on the bike.


So here’s what I was already doing up through April to ready me for the Century. I ride about 50 miles a week, just commuting, in fall and winter (more like 100 miles in summer and spring). I teach and practice Pilates regularly, so my core strength and body awareness have helped my biking form tremendously, and I don’t have to worry about things like back pain. I added in more cardio in January by rejoining the gym, and I hit the elliptical for three to four sessions a week, usually 40-60 minutes. I also throw a few free weights in there when I feel something (like adductors) isn’t getting enough work from biking, Pilates or cardio.  So basically, I’ve been cross training accidentally. It’s all happened over time as my love of biking and Pilates have changed my body awareness and helped me determine my weak areas.


I’m thinking of the Century in four twenty-five mile sections. I will take 10-15 minute breaks at each section to eat a snack and rehydrate. I anticipate an average pace of 12 miles per hour, so about 9 hours total.


To my regular routines, I’m mainly adding longer rides, which is exactly what most Century training plans confirmed is the thing to do. Last week I did two longer rides in addition to my commuting. The first ride was a 30 mile round trip with a 10 minute stop in the middle. I averaged about 14 miles per hour. The second trip was 40 miles roundtrip, but I took a two-hour break in the middle to have lunch with a friend, average pace 13 mph (but more traffic lights then the previous ride). I know marathon runners usually work up to a longer run that is around 65-80 % of the marathon a few weeks before, and most Century plans are similar. My version of this is a fifty-mile ride up to my mom’s this Mother’s Day. I will take a fifteen-minute break at the halfway point, and then push through. That will probably be the longest ride I take before the actual Century, but I may add a 65 miler the following week, per the results of my research.


I feel pretty ready to go, but research has shown me one thing I still need to add in: interval sprints. The body tends to adjust quickly to a steady pace, but for maximum cellular regeneration (good for a long haul like a Century or marathon), it’s good to put the heart and muscles under a bit of duress by adding in bursts of high intensity exercise to better prepare you for the stress you might feel when you hit that wall which (I’m guessing) will be around mile 85 for me. I’ve done 82, and thought I could have done twenty more, but thinking and doing are two different things. One thing I feel really good about is how my body felt after that 82 miler. I wasn’t sore at all the next day, just felt pleasantly relaxed, no real stiffness, no chaffing (Yay butt crème!). I know other cyclists who talk about back and neck pain, but my Pilates practice has protected me from that.  Mostly.


I have been dealing with a left neck issue for a several months now. I don’t think it’s a physical thing; I believe it’s related to a stressful family situation, and I’m working with a chiropractor and some energy healing techniques to try and let that go. It mostly doesn’t bother me biking, but sometimes it does. I’d rather it disappear by June 2nd, if possible.


bike cartoon twoSo, now that I’ve actually learned something about training, I’ll add some sprints in on both the bike and the elliptical in the next few weeks. Then there are some practical things I need to take care of, like the fact that I’ve never had to change a flat tire before. I’d rather not have to learn how on June 2nd.

About the author

Marcia Brenner

Marcia Brenner

Marcia Brenner is an adjunct in the Fiction Writing Department at Columbia College Chicago. She has published short stories, essays, nonfiction, garnering awards from the Columbia Scholastic Press Association and the Better Business Bureau. In 2006 she’d had enough with being overweight; she joined Weight Watchers, lost over 90 pounds, rediscovered her long-abandoned bicycle and fell in love with Pilates. She now combines her love of metaphors with bodywork by teaching Classical Pilates at Chicago’s Frog Temple, where she is a certified Pre and Postnatal Specialist. She explores the battle for life and health balance on her website,

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