24 February 2015
In this post we will consider all the areas that need to be brought together to allow you to not only complete the race if it is your first one, but, if you have done it before to do it faster and more comfortably than ever before.
I like to consider the lead up to the race as three separate components:
Pre-Race, this occurs the week or so leading up to the race and take into consideration a gamut of different areas that we will go into more detail later in the article and these will include:
- Getting the bike sorted and set up.
- Getting your feeding and hydration plan finalised.
- Packing essentials, spares and clothing.
- Establish a pacing schedule.
- Check the race route make any bike setup changes
- General prep; accommodation and routes to the event.
- Race rules and waivers
During the Race, this will include the many different scenarios that might come into play on the morning of and during the race:
- How the morning of the race will unfold.
- Gauging your initial efforts and pacing from the start.
- Establishing your feeding and hydration plan the how, what, where and when.
- What and how will you deal with things going wrong?
Post Race, what and how you will recover after the race and conduct a post race analysis and learning:
- Having your post race food plan organised and ready to go.
- What to do in the days after the race, your active recovery plan.
- Post race analysis and setting more goals and plans for future races.
Pre-Race: Un-packing the details
Ok so as we outlined earlier, getting your bike fully serviced and sorted out well before the event is fundamental to success. This all needs to be done early! As Even with the best laid plans things can take longer to order in and arrive too late for the event. Give your local bike shop lots of time to get it ordered, fitted and make sure you have ridden any new parts well before race day. Best laid plans do and can go wrong, so, get them sorted super early to avoid issues and dramas.
Set out a feeding and hydration plan and establish all the energy products that work for you and use them during training – if you haven’t hop to your local bike store and train with a couple as a test. Think about how many gels, bars and how much energy drink you will need based upon your estimated time for the event. Add a few more for good measure and any mishaps and you will be covered. Remember with a simple multidextran gel or bar you can base your feeding plan on around 60 grams of carbohydrate/hour of exercise, with multidextran/fructose gel or bar you can increase to 1.3 – 1.4 grams/hour so simply do the math and work out how much you need.
For instance a 70 kg rider will need up to 90 grams of carbs for every hour they ride if using a Multidextran/Fructose product. An average banana has 20 – 30 grams of carbs, so, that’s a lot of bananas!
You might not be able to carry enough liquids and you might need to fill up at feed stations. Using zip lock bags you can carry extra powdered energy drink so it will be easy to mix up your next set of bottles or camelback during the race.
Make sure you have established what clothing you might need given the conditions you will face. Check the weather and pack/plan accordingly. As the races usually start early you might need arm and leg warmers to begin, but, remember to put on sunscreen to avoid burn later in the day. Get your favourite shorts and jersey along with your Chamois Cream all packed away ready for the morning of the race.
While checking the weather conditions for the weekend make sure you have looked at the course and noted any specific obstacles or areas to look out for during the race. This can be noted and relayed to your local bike shop and they may advise a tyre change.
Check the route to the race and work out how long it will take to drive – don’t start your race day with a stressful trip to the start line. Last but not least while looking at the course outline read the race rules and if necessary, print of the race waiver for rego.
During the race
On the morning of the race I hope that all of the running around has been done, you should get to the event nice and early to avoid any last minute stress and get your race rego sorted and the numbers and timing chip attached to the bike. Make sure you leave time for a quick visit to the toilet as after looking after yourself leading into the race, you don’t want to be carrying extra weight around up and down all the hills now do you…
With about 40 minutes before the race start go for a short warm up. The body should be ready for what’s in store after your pre-race warm up session the day before, so this is just a quick 10 – 15 minute spin to loosen the legs and elevate the heart rate. After this get yourself over to the start area and establish a starting position amongst riders that you know you are quite equal to in terms of fitness or where you feel comfortable. Don’t get yourself right up near the front if you are not at that level of fitness yet as all that will happen is you will be forced to start too hard and all your best laid pacing plans will be thrown out the window. You will also inevitably hinder the progress of faster more technically gifted riders as you enter the first sections of single track. These races are not often won in the first hour or so, but, they are quite often lost in that period of time with incorrect pacing and going out too hard.
The initial effort off the start should be established and monitored, when the red mist descends and the adrenaline is pumping it is just so easy to get caught up in the flow and go too hard. A concept that I like to tell my riders is:
“If you think you are going too hard off the start, then you are going too hard!”
“If you think you are going just right, then you are still going too hard!”
“If you think you are going too easy, then you are probably going just right”
You will be so surprised just how many people you will overtake in the second half of the race if you get your pacing strategy correct. A way of monitoring this might be to set your heart rate monitor give you a warning indication just below your current threshold, remember you will have established this to do all your training and it is a good level to try and keep below in the initial phases of the race. We are usually able to carry out a fair amount of work at or just below our threshold, but, very little time above it.
You will have established a plan for eating and drinking and now it is the time to implement it. Look for and use all the opportunities to eat and drink, these will include fire road sections and any less technical area where getting your bottle or eating a gel will not make you slow down too much. It could be helpful to have an alarm set on your watch to remind you to eat and drink. Listen to it and make sure you follow your plan. Don’t miss feeds as it will impact you later in the race, if this means slowing down to eat and drink then do it.
Hopefully as you have planned for everything and your bike has been fully serviced and is running like a dream nothing will go wrong, but, what will happen if it does? Making plans for these issues and problems can be a great way of dealing with an unfortunate shocker. The main key is not to panic, but, to simply put your plan into action and repair or get over the issue. Most of the time it will be a puncture or a sidewall slash. If you have planned for it might only mean a few minutes and you will be back up and running. During which time you might have also had time to eat and have a small rest. When things go wrong another thing I like to establish is a mantra;
“Smooth is fast Fenz”, I always say. This works at lots of different times and usually when we are stressed and things are not going according to plan. Rushing something usually makes it slower. So revert to your plan and focus on the things in your control. If you find yourself bouncing off the single track and riding poorly choosing all the wrong lines, set up this Mantra and see how it works in reducing stress and getting our Mojo back “Yeh Baby”…
This is a process that is all too often forgotten as we are just too smashed to care or worry about it, however, recover well and you can be feeling better in a few days and this can be helped by eating and drinking correctly and creating a post race plan
Have a recovery shake as soon as you finish and get yourself cleaned and washed up it is amazing how much better you will feel simply feeling clean.
Once you have got the recovery shake down and got changed try to have a good quality non-inflammatory meal as soon as you can stomach it. Non-inflammatory foods such as rice will help your damaged muscles far better than pasta and bread directly after a hard race. A risotto is a good post race meal, hydrate well and graze taking in as many calories as you can to replenish lost stores and combat muscle breakdown.
It is often not possible, but, a small sleep or nap planned as soon as possible after the race will work wonders for your recovery.
During the next 2 – 4 days I believe it is important to do some very light easy recovery rides. I would aim to do a ride of 30 – 60 mins at an, intensity, similar to walking on the day after the race, then have a couple of days completely off the bike. Along with a session booked in with a masseuse, cold baths are great for helping the healing process.
Once you have started to feel better it is very important to go over the race, log your positives and the negatives. Look at gear choice, eating plans, hydration plans and pacing. Putting all the info down onto a log or file will help you make progress towards better and better performances. If the race went totally to plan then great, if it didn’t and things went wrong, don’t beat yourself up about it, learn from it and use the negatives to fuel and create positive change for the next race. I always believe that without failing and making mistakes that future learning cannot and will not happen. The key is to make sure you don’t make the same mistakes again. Groundhog day I call it and so many of us continue to make the same mistakes again and again, now is the time to break the habit.
I hope this has been helpful and that you are now well on your way to either your first Marathon Race or fine tuning and beating your previous times.