Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Training for an 8-Hour Enduro

The Challenge
In just four weeks I'll be racing in an 8-hour off-road enduro. It was just announced a few days ago and I'm not really prepared. This leaves little time to train, but enough time to develop a strategy.

I'm most concerned with the following:
1. Hydration & Nutrition
2. Pace Strategy
3. Psychological State
4. Training

Here I am finishing a lap in last year's 12-hour night race

Hydration & Nutrition
I tend to not drink enough water, which is a real mistake in this oppressive, tropical heat of Singapore. Last year I did the first few laps with no water - I felt fine - but then about 6 hours in I was too dehydrated to push on. The ultimate way to learn.

Lucky for me, I have a good friend to coach me and monitor me for this race who knows what he's doing. He'll be racing vicariously through me - he's down with a broken ankle (from being drunk in Korea I hear). He has been racing and riding for maybe 20 years (me - only 4) and if I follow his advice I'm sure I'll benefit tremendously.

Because this race is in the format of laps around a course, with the winner determined by how many laps he or she completes over the period of 8 hours, I'll see him each lap. We'll have a pit and he'll be there (drinking beer I'm sure) and ordering me to follow his instructions on what to eat and drink.

For my long road rides (100km or more) or off-road races (usually about 45km) I fuel myself with Hammer Perpetuem. It provides me with the sustenance to feel neither full nor hungry, and prevents me from bonking. I've tested it enough to know that I need one scoop (135 calories) per hour.

Hammer recommends drinking a few sips of water after each slug of Perpetuem; I consume about 600ml of water per 4 scoops, which would amount to 1.2 litres over this race. This is following Hammer's "Multi-Hour Bottle" approach. Obviously that's not nearly enough water for hydration, just to make the solution go down.

Another approach Hammer offers is "The One-Hour Bottle", which they say is best when racing with support. For me, (one scoop per hour) it'll mean I mix a scoop in a bottle, fill it with water, and drink one an hour.

The benefit of this over the "Multi-Hour Bottle" is that it fulfills more hydration requirements. The drawback is it will only last one hour, not four. But that's OK because I'll have the option of stopping in the pit every lap, which is 6.8 km long.

In addition, I'll need plenty of other liquids, specifically more water and some kind of energy drink with electrolytes.

Then I'll need some more immediate energy source, like gels or some other sugars.

Pace Strategy
For all the mountain bike races I've ever done, even one 12-hour night race (which I didn't finish), I've always thought the best pace strategy is to start hard and fast, and grab a good position early on, and hold it till the end, if possible.

However, for a race this long, I think I'll just treat it like a ride. I will not attempt to secure a leading position at any time. I will just pace myself, steadily and consistently. I hope that my first few laps are not much faster than my final laps. Unless, of course, I somehow find that I have energy during those last few laps. Then I can nail it. But I don't foresee this happening.

I know myself. I will burn myself out too early if I'm not careful. 8 hours is a long time.

If I really pace myself so consistently, I believe others will drop out towards the end and I will be able to finish (respectably - say, the top half)! I'd be happy with that.

Psychological State
This relates to the pace strategy, in that I need to be mentally relaxed, and not over-anxious to hammer it when getting passed by dozens and dozens of others.

Last year - at this stage, late into the night, my psychological state was bordering on delirious
I need to strike a balance between staying competitive, to place as high as possible, yet having fun and still enjoying it. Once it stops being fun it's not worth it.

Next, I need to leave all mechanical and nutritional burdens to my crew, and not let them weigh on my mind.

Finally, some athletes use imagery or visualization to imagine the course, the lines, the actions, from a first-person point of view. This is said to reinforce the pathways between the brain and the body and can result in better coordination and technique. I'm not too sure about it but I can try it.

Given the fact that I only have one month, I won't be able to train to a state of being fully ready to complete this race, on form, at a high level of fitness. But I have built up a decent base of mileage over the past 6 months. Last week I only did 162 km (exactly 100 miles), and I lack the endurance needed for this race.

I'll raise my plan a bit to include more frequent morning rides, and even longer weekend rides. I normally only do two morning rides (35-45km each), and a 120km weekend ride. I should do three morning rides and 162km for the weekend.

This weekend I will recon the course with my crippled alcoholic coach and try to find out the exact course. This will help me in the earlier point - psychological state - in that if I am keenly aware of the turns, berms, boulders and flats - the whole topography - I'll have that much more of an edge.

Last, one bold thing I could attempt ("could" and "attempt" being key) is my own 8-hour ride. Go to the course one weekend and see how many laps I can complete! That would be the ultimate and would set a real, actionable and meaningful benchmark for the final event.

The Course


Bicycle Specialists said...

Wow, these are amazing tips for anyone who wants to join any kind of bike race. Thanks for sharing these awesome pointers and more power to your and your two-wheeler!

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