If you live in Chicago, you’re probably familiar with John Garcia’s face. It’s on your TV screen nightly. John is a reporter for Chicago’s ABC 7 News. If you’re a runner living in Chicago, you’re probably also familiar with John’s blog, The Running News Guy.
John is an avid runner. He ran competitively in high school and college. He’s completed over twenty marathons, including the elusive Boston Marathon. John’s been running for more than 30 years and he continues to run strong today.
John shares his experiences at local and destination races and fun runs, the planning it takes to run while also being a family man and the highs and the lows of running – all on his blog.
So we know John runs. But last year, a friend put the Wrigley Field Road Tour on his radar. An avid Cubs fan, the ride piqued his interest. He thought about it, considered registering and then forgot about it. The summer passed by. Then, a few weeks before the 2012 WFRT, another group of friends asked John to join them for the ride on the WFRT Media Team. So he bit the bullet and signed up with them.
Before August 19th, John had only ridden once and that was the L.A.T.E. Ride, a 25-mile ride in mid-June to benefit the Friends of the Parks. What made John think he could hop on a bike two months later and successfully pedal his way to 100 miles? “Ignorance was a big factor,” he admits.
John is a smart guy and a smart runner. He would never attempt a marathon without training for it first. But, could a “fun” 100 miles be different? “I talked to a lot of people who told me it was going to be very hard, but that it was doable if you’re in good shape. I really took it on faith. That said, I was nervous about it.”
While John has a bike of his own, it’s an old one that mostly collects dust in his garage. Instead, he decided to take advantage of the demo bikes that Specialized made available last year for the WFRT. So, the day before his first century, the longest ride in his life and his second ride of the summer, John headed up to Higher Gear. He was fitted on a Specialized S-Works Tarmac Pro SL4 Red – a bike that would invite the envy of many a rider the following day.
With the uncertainty of his first century ride looming, John must have forgotten his mini lesson on how to use his SRAM double tap shifters. Out on the ride the next day, at only fifteen miles in, he already found himself getting tired. Uh oh. How would he make another 85 miles?
It didn’t help that he seemed to be stuck in one gear. John flagged down the SRAM support team. After a quick lesson on SRAM double tap shifting, he was off again, much happier for having the full range of gears on his bike!
When asked how he knew to do this, John responded, “I knew about the concept of drafting. I watch the Tour de France. I’ve just never really done it.” Now, on his first 100 mile ride, John experienced exactly how drafting can be used to reserve energy. (Cyclists can maintain speeds, while saving about 30% of their energy by drafting off one another, allowing them to ride faster for longer.)
Speaking of energy, John has a little advice for those doing their first century, “Hydrate early and often. Bring a couple of gels with you to have along the way.” He says that, “Even though the stops are spaced well, it’s a good idea to keep well hydrated and to keep up your nutrition.”
Working with another cyclist allowed John to reach the lunch spot, where he could refuel for the rest of the ride. The catered lunch was one of the highlights from his WFRT experience last year. “The stop for lunch was just great.”
John also really enjoyed “riding through the streets way up north where there’s no traffic,” noting the difference between riding casually and riding more for speed. “I really enjoyed the later miles when the two of us were working together. I felt that I was getting in a great workout.”
But that speed comes at a sacrifice. It reminded John of the year he and his wife ran the Paris marathon, her first marathon. John was focused on his time, while his wife took her time and took in the scenery. “She saw so much more.”
With a century ride, John suggested, you can go more slowly and really appreciate it. “When you’re focused on going faster, you’re not taking it all in, as you would otherwise.” That said, this year, John hopes to pedal his way through the 100 mile route even faster. “I was a long time out there. I would hope to do it faster. I hope to finish sooner and get back earlier.”
To do so, John hopes to take advantage of pacelining with a larger group. “At one point, we had a group of eight to ten of us – including Dave Zimmer, Ray Stevens, Mike Adamle, Lissa Druss Christman, and Amy Jacobson and her fiancé, Chris Dell – who were trying to work together. I hope that we can get a bigger group than last year to work together.”
Why would John or anybody want the day to go by faster? To get to the post-ride party on Wrigley Field even sooner! The big highlight of the 2012 WFRT for John was definitely the party. “The party afterwards was so cool.” As he told readers of his blog last year:
After a great experience like that, the post-ride party managed to top it! We walked onto the outfield at Wrigley Field where they had a barbeque, open bar, and concert featuring one of my favorite bands, Poi Dog Pondering. Pinch me now!
John is even more excited for this year’s post-ride entertainment, the BoDeans who will be performing a semi-private concert on the outfield of Wrigley Field.
Before the ride, John received good advice about essential gear that he should purchase before his century ride – including cycling shorts, chamois cream and cycling gloves. While John is grateful for having these items for the ride, he credits the Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL4 he was riding for making it a comfortable journey. “Get a good bike. I was a lot more sore doing the 25-mile L.A.T.E. Ride than I was after the century. I attribute that to the bike, a great bike. It made a huge difference.”
John said that this year, he might invest in clipless pedals and cycling shoes. “I didn’t ride with them last year. I had cages. By the end, I had blisters on the tops of my toes.”
John’s experience highlights a secondary benefit of doing long practice rides before a century – to get used to the equipment that you’ll be using over 100 miles. A saddle or cleat position may work for shorter rides, but you’ll notice differences in fit and comfort as your body hits and adapts to the longer distances – 35 miles, 55 miles, 75 miles and beyond. There’s a saying that racers like John are familiar with: “Don’t do anything different race day than you do in training.” But, that, of course, assumes training.
At the very least, make sure your bike is ride-ready and that you know how to use it. Let John’s experience be a lesson. “At least learn the basics, like how to shift” before your ride.
Will John put more preparation into this year’s WFRT than the one 25-mile ride he did before last year’s? “I did my first ride of the year last weekend. I covered 10 miles.” But, John promises try to get in another ride or two before August 25th.
I think my experience speaks well to the idea that anyone can do it. You don’t have to regularly ride a lot to finish a century. I don’t ride really at all. I finished it and I enjoyed it plenty.*
And for anyone intimidated by a century ride, John highly recommends making the Wrigley Field Road Tour your first:
I can’t think of a better way to do it. It’s not competitive. It’s a lot of fun. The ride is very well supported. To top it off, the great reward is a party at the end.
John added that making the WFRT his first century was the best decision he made. He expressed his gratitude to “all the people that helped out to convince me to step out of my comfort zone and give the ride a try.” He added, “I’m doing it again this year because it was so fun last year.”
When asked if he could see the Running News Guy becoming the Running/Cycling News Guy, John laughed. “While I enjoy biking – and you can go faster and farther on a bike – I’ve never done too much of it. I don’t see that happening.” But John will be out there again, pedaling 100 miles for two great charities at the fourth annual WFRT.
On August 25th, John, we’ll see YOU on the roads – and on your bike!
* Higher Gear knows that many people will do a century or another charity ride with little training or preparation. It is possible to do, especially for those who are already active – like John, who is an experienced long distance runner and who stays “tuned” by running races almost every weekend. But we stand by our belief that your century ride will be more enjoyable and your recovery more swift if you prepare, which is why we worked with Coach Craig to offer you training plans for the 2013 Wrigley Field Road Tour.
Want to learn or read more about John Garcia or the WFRT Media Team?
- Read John Garcia’s blog entry from the 2012 WFRT.
- Check out John’s blog, The Running News Guy.
- See who else is riding for the 2013 WFRT Media Team.
Looking for more information on registering or preparing for the WFRT?
- Hurry and register for the 2013 WFRT.
- Thinking about trying a century? Your Century Ride Begins Here.
- Whether it’s your first century or you’re an experienced century rider, we have training plans to make this century your best.
- Not sure what to pack for your century ride? Here’s Higher Gear’s list of Century Ride Essentials.
New to cycling or group rides?
- Questions about how to get started with cycling? Please feel free to come in and chat with us.
- New to group riding? Check out our Group Ride Rules.
- Want to know how pacelines and drafting work? Read Paceline Rules.
- For a look at newbie mistakes and how to avoid them, check out Leveling Out the Learning Curve.
Meet more Higher Gear customers:
- Check out how Higher Gear customers Kiki Demopoulos, Glenna Lampner, Sheri Fisher, Theresa Waldbuesser, and Chad Smith approached their century rides and what advice they have for your first century.
- Read more stories from Higher Gear customers.