If you’re looking at how your training plan has withered along with your quads and wondering whether that Dirty Reiver entry was such a great idea, here’s some inspiration for you.
Follow along as PEARL iZUMi athlete, Marley Blonsky takes on her first century ride in the Gravel Graceland of Emporia Kansas.
I always felt like an imposter, having never actually ridden a century in my entire cycling career. I set the goal of completing the Unbound Gravel 100 and wasn’t entirely certain I could do it. While maintaining a 10mph doesn’t sound that hard, I really like to take breaks while riding – Marley.
We asked Marley a few extra questions. If you find yourself digging deep on a long ride, maybe some of these words will come back to you and help you through.
Q: Any tips for making sure you get to the start line on time and with everything you need?
A: Make a list. Laminate it and literally mark things off. I use categories to make sure I’m not forgetting anything – “Bike”, “Nutrition”, “Body”, etc. Under Bike it’s all my tools, spare tube, etc. Nutrition is all my food. Body is Ibuprofen, Chamois Cream, Sunscreen, Chapstick, etc.
Q: What item of kit do you think it’s easy to overlook, but getting it right makes all the difference?
A: Chapstick and sunscreen. Being out in the elements for 10+ hours it can be easy to forget to take care of our skin. Taking care of your lips and skin from the beginning of the day will allow you to focus on the pain in your legs/lungs/etc (the pain that matters).
Q: Chamois cream: apply to the chamois or straight onto the skin?
A: Straight on your skin, and then any leftover on your hands, goes on the chamois.
Q: Not all ‘encouragement’ is welcome – sometimes it can feel patronising, or like heckling. What’s a great piece of encouragement to give to someone along the ride?
A: Anything you can say that takes the focus off the rider – I hate things like “You can do it” or “You’re almost there.” I’d prefer folks to focus on our shared experience like “Such a nice day for a ride” or “This hill sucks” or “See you at the end!”
Q: Which song would make you ignore the pains and keep pedalling?
A: All through MidSouth I was rocking Miley Cyrus – give me Wrecking Ball and I can ride all day.
Q: Part way round the course, you’re tired and you reach a fork in the trail. One sign says ‘Shortcut to quitting and comfort this way’, the other says ‘The long way still to go to the finish’. How do you convince yourself to push on the long way round?
A: Remind myself that I signed up for this. This is supposed to be fun. And eat a snack.
Q: You get to the feed station… and everything is gone except your worst nightmare food. What is it?
A: I’m allergic to almonds and hazelnuts, so anything I can’t eat.
Q: Any tips on making a long ride feel more achievable?
A: Break it into chunks. I think of a 100 mile ride as 10, 10 mile rides. Anyone can ride 10 miles.
Q: Would you rather… draft on a wheel, or have the company beside you to chat to?
A: Oh I would LOVE to draft on a wheel. When you ride as slow as I do, there are rarely other folks out there who are a) going my pace and b) willing to do a pace line. I’ve joked that my goal is to teach the other slow folks how to ride in a paceline and we’ll magically jump from 8mph to 12mph!
Q: At the finish line, Mary Poppins hands you her magic bag. What would you want to pull out of it?
A: A dairy-free milkshake, a hot shower, and a massage.
Thanks to Marley for answering our questions. Follow her on Instagram for more of this sort of thing!
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