training for Portland Century

Know Your Limits, But Don’t Get Discouraged

Recently I caught an episode of the Extreme Makeover Weight Loss show. I don’t really watch those “Biggest Loser” type shows anymore for a lot of reasons but I watched a few episodes of this show. One in particular was about a guy who started out in the 400 pound range. He lost a significant amount, then fell off the wagon and gained back a bunch of the weight. The personal trainer had him doing interesting but in my opinion, dangerous workouts.

First, he had to climb over 100 flights of stairs at a tall building in Chicago. This poor guy was like 380 pounds and doing something so strenuous I thought for sure he was going to have a heart attack in that stairwell. He looked woozy by the end.

Second, his trainer took him and his brothers out for a 100 mile bike ride. Really? I scoffed at this and immediately lost respect for the trainer and the show. I don’t think the show has integrity or realism, but more on that later. It was a hot summer day, about 100 degrees in the sun but the trainer said “it will be 110 degrees biking on this hot pavement.” Really? You’re taking a morbidly obese man who hasn’t exercised at all in three months out into 100+ degree weather to bike a century with no training whatsoever?

Can you guess how this ride ended? Around mile 30 he started to fatigue and feel the effects of heat stroke. At mile 40 he was incoherent, delirious and suffering from heat stroke so badly they had to call 9-1-1. He was hooked up to oxygen and fluids and the bike ride was over. DUH. I was irritated with the show because of this and it brings me to today’s important topic of knowing your limits.

It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of a goal or event and lose perspective on our abilities. Especially when we are big weight loss losers. It’s easy to feel overly confident because for once we can do something wonderful! We aren’t picked last for the team, we can run! We can bike long distances! Woo hoo! And the tendency is to bite off more than we can chew. I know I’ve been guilty of that.

I trained for Hood to Coast for a year. I was a fairly new runner but I was feeling confident and strong. I was running a lot. I thought I would be unscathed running something as epic as Hood to Coast. My longest run while I was training was about 8 miles without stopping or walking. That’s pretty good, but not good enough. My mileage for Hood to Coast was 17 miles. I should have been clocking in over 20 miles a week before the race and my weekly mileage was more around 15. Not good enough. I ended up injured.

I learned from my mistake with Hood to Coast and knew my limits when it came time to do the Portland Century. Was I conditioned for 100 miles on the bike? Sure–in a way. My fitness level is strong. But am I bike strong? Not really. I knew I wasn’t conditioned enough the complete the 100 miles without hurting by the end. That’s not fun. My weekly mileage on the bike was hovering around 65 miles and I knew that wasn’t enough training to do 100. I switched my miles to 72. Not quite a Century, but it’s still a great accomplishment. And I don’t regret that decision at all!

I see a lot of people in the blog world making this mistake. They are new runners and they sign up for a half marathon as their first race. Don’t get me wrong, I commend their enthusiasm and determination. I just silently worry about their bodies holding up. Why not start small? Do a 5k, then an 8k, then a 10k…? There is something to be said about working up towards a big goal.

Besides risking injury, you are robbing yourself of the joy of getting better and challenging yourself. Last year I biked 55 miles in Reach the Beach and this year I did 72 miles in the Portland Century. I was SOOO happy! I did 20 more miles this year without any issues. Awesome! That means next year I can totally rock 100 miles! And I’m looking forward to it.

There is something really special about challenging yourself to try harder, do more, bit by bit. It’s why training for things is so fun. You start small and work up the ladder. You earn that big accomplishment by the end!

That does not mean you should be discouraged, or feel less than someone else who is doing more. I did not feel like less of an athlete because I biked 72 miles instead of 100. I still felt like a rockstar at the end! Don’t get discouraged that your abilities are not quite what you expect them to be. It takes time. It takes training. You’ll earn it.

QUESTION: Do you agree or disagree with this? Do you know your limits?

The Kinda Girl That Goes All The Way

That’s right. I’m that girl. I went all the way baby!

All the way from my house, that is!

I was going to wait until after the Portland Century to attempt biking to work from the house. But I realized that this was the last week I had to get in some BIG miles so I decided to give it a try. Last weekend when Michael and I biked almost 40 miles I was watching the clock to see how long it took to ride from the house to the waterfront downtown. It took us about an hour and ten minutes with two stops.

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I’m registered. It’s real. After months of waffling back and forth on whether or not to do The Portland Century or try a different ride, I bit the bullet and registered. But back to my ride.

I got up extra early in order to get everything ready to leave from the house. In a way leaving from the house saved me some time–time it takes to load my bike on Michael’s car, drive to the Park n’ Ride, unload and head out. That takes a good 15 minutes at least.

I got up at 6am, showered, dressed and ate breakfast. Michael kindly pumped my tires and I was out the door at 6:45. It was a cold morning on Wednesday.  I wished I had my long gloves, but I warmed up after about 10 minutes. I rode on back roads that had less traffic, trying to stick to streets that had wide bike lanes.

The ride was going well.  I was alert enough, I was warming up. The route I took was a good one, with very little traffic. I knew it was time to try biking from home because every ride lately I felt like it was too short–like I was just getting started when the ride was over.

I didn’t make many stops because I was a bit worried about my time. I gave myself an hour and fifteen minutes to ride into work and that included changing time.  I didn’t stress about being late, though, I just rode. I crossed the highway at a light and biked through downtown Milwaukie. I crossed a lot of train tracks as I looped around the city (about four different times).

I didn’t bike on the Springwater, going side streets instead to get to Sellwood, where I biked down to the Springwater trail on the waterfront (the usual part of my commute).

By the time I got to the Springwater Trail along the river I was warm and uncomfortable in my cycling jacket. I made up some time on the trail because it’s straight and it was pretty empty.

I stopped briefly at OMSI to drink some water and check my time. I’d biked 45 minutes so far. I was making great time!

I bypassed the Hawthorne Bridge, rode North on the east esplanade, crossed the Steel Bridge and was on my way to the office.

Morning Commute Stats:

Time: 1 hour
Calories Burned: 461
Distance: 12.2 miles

Awesome! It felt so good to accomplish it!


I was excited about biking home after work. It was much much warmer–75 degrees! I headed down to the waterfront, rode across the Steel Bridge to the east side where I left downtown. The first mile of my commute home is the longest and slowest. It takes forever to bike four blocks to the waterfront and maneuver all the people not following etiquette on the trail.

There’s a portion of the trail that has a grated bridge across the water. It’s quite disturbing riding across it and seeing the rocks and water underneath.

I try not to look down. 🙂 So my ride home was good but annoying. On the east side of the esplanade I ran into a little trouble. There were three girls running side by side deciding to take up the ENTIRE trail no matter how loudly I yelled “On your left!” and “Passing!” I barely made it passed them and dodged oncoming people doing the exact same thing. Do people just not care?! Then when I got passed OMSI and was turning right to get to the Springwater Trail a guy riding his bike on the wrong side of the road came THIS close to hitting me head on when we both turned the corner. Jerks. I tell you!

I got to the Springwater Corridor and it was smooth sailings. The trail was less crowded and I made it to Sellwood without any more incidents. I stopped briefly to drink some water in the shade and then continued on. All of the hills were super easy–no issues at all. I love seeing the progress in my abilities. All of the hills on the way home were so easy! Love it! The rest of the ride was easy, quick and uneventful. I was so happy that I had made the decision to ride to work from home!

I got home in no time at all and literally five minutes later Michael got home from his commute. His commute his SHORT and ALL HILLS. My commute is LONG and relatively flat for most of it.

Afternoon Stats:
Time: 58 minutes
Calories Burned: 445 
Distance:  12.2 miles

Not bad for a day’s worth of riding! That makes my total mileage for the day: 24.4 miles! I think it’s pretty fitting that I accomplished this goal on my 3 year anniversary of keeping the weight off! When we got cleaned up and settled in, we made Mexican Salads for dinner with chicken.

Lots of fresh lettuce from my garden, black olives, beans, tomato, onion from the garden, sour cream, and of course guacamole.

The dinner was the perfect food after biking 25 miles!

QUESTION: What’s a challenge you’ve faced recently that turned out positively?