So you want to do a (insert super cool endurance event)?

Laurie Woodbury steps in for Rea and talks going the distance!

Cycling provides so many event and distance opportunities!  No matter what your choice of bike or terrain is - road, gravel, mountain, or fat, eventually you’ll get the bug to try a long distance event.  Maybe it’s a century. Maybe it’s an Ironman triathlon. Maybe it’s a gravel grinder, a mountain bike stage race, or even an ultra-distance fat bike race.  So…you’ve made the commitment. Now what?

Because we all come in different packages, I’ll not focus as much on the training aspect of your long distance effort.  For that, I suggest that you consult with experts such as coaches, trainers, books, articles, and even your physician for assistance in a training plan that works for YOU.  Instead, I’ll focus on some other important pieces of your effort.

YOUR BIKE

It goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway!), the most important factor in this effort after your own personal fitness is the fitness of your bike.  Make sure your bike is in great, even perfect, condition. Get a professional tune up. Make sure your tires, tubes if you use them or sealant if you use tubeless, brake pads, chain, cables, pedals, and everything else are new or newish.  I’ll say “newish” because you’ll want to give your bike a good shakeout ride or rides even after a tune up just to be sure everything is working.

YOUR CLOTHING AND GEAR

Your clothing and gear must be tried and true.  This includes helmet, jersey, shorts and chamois, sport bra, socks, shoes, sunglasses, hydration pack or bottles, and gloves.  Make sure they all fit you perfectly. More importantly, try EVERYTHING you plan to wear in training and give it a good workout.  And then do it again. NEVER, EVER start an event like this with untested clothing or gear. Even if they have really cool stuff at the event expo, go ahead and buy it but don’t ride the event using it – wait and wear it another time.  Your various body parts thank you!

YOUR EVENT NUTRITION

Event nutrition is another area that is very specific to each individual.  There are more sport related bars, gels, supplements, drink mixes in every possible dietary combo, than you can shake a stick at.  Some of them are even pretty good tasting. Most of them will work fine for your nutrition. They can be expensive, however, especially for use in a long event.  Equally as good tasting and beneficial is “regular” food. PB&J sandwiches are a favorite of mine. Fruit, trail mix, cheese sticks, cookies, boiled potatoes, chocolate covered espresso beans, pop-tarts, potato chips, and pretzels are all foods I’ve used on the various distance and ultra events I’ve done.  The possibilities are endless. I mention “real” food because sometimes that is just what the body craves. If all you have with you is sweet bars and gels, and you’re craving something salty or savory, you’re not going to be happy.

What food you bring with you may depend on the event, the temperature, and your ability to carry and access the various foods as you ride.  

Whatever you bring, be sure you actually eat it.  A good rule of thumb is to take in 100-200 calories worth an hour.  Start that within the first hour, don’t wait for 2-3 hours before you eat.  You don’t want to play catch up with your nutrition. The same goes with hydration. Drink dependent on conditions, but be sure you drink.  

As with your clothing and gear, give any or all of these things a try as you train.   Train your stomach to be familiar with the food items you plan to use. You want your tummy to be happy as you ride happily along for hours!

Are you catching the theme here?  That is, TRY, AND TRAIN, WITH EVERYTHING you plan to bring and use.  Don’t leave anything up to chance. That way, on the day of the event, you’ll be starting off just like any other ride!

TAKE CARE OF YOUR PARTS DURING THE EVENT

So you’re out there.  You’re feeling a hot spot in your shoe, or a bit of chafe in your chamois area , or a bit of sunburn coming on, your helmet strap is driving you nuts, your sock is bunched up in your shoe...  STOP and take care of it! Don’t let it fester and get to the point of no return. Take care of the little uncomfortable things as they happen. Stopping for 60 seconds to adjust something is worth it.  The little things sometimes grown into big things that ruin your day if you don’t nip them in the bud.

FINALLY, THE MENTAL ASPECT OF THE EVENT

Okay, now you’re really out there.  A few tips for managing the event mentally:

  • Pace yourself.  Don’t let the speedy guys lure you into starting too fast.  You will regret it later. Instead, start out at your own pace.  Many is the time I’ve watched people take off like rockets and I reel them back in later in the event as they suffer their quick start.  

  • Divide the event into manageable chunks as you ride.  Focus on, and check off the chunks in your mind as you go by them.  It’s easier mentally to think of a 5 mile chunk than it is a 100 mile chunk.  Or a one hour chunk rather than a 10 hour chunk.

  • Patience.  This one can be hard, but be patient as you’re out there.  Combine your manageable chunks with your patience. You will likely hit a stretch (or two or three) where you feel tired, stressed, it’s windy, it’s hilly, my butt hurts, my arms are tired.  BE PATIENT. It will pass. You’ll get through it. Patience!

  • Enjoy what you’ve worked and prepared for.  You’ve earned it. Take it in.

I’ve done all of the events I listed above, so I’ve done lots of endurance and distance events.  Experience is a good teacher. Track what does and doesn’t work for you and learn from it for the next event.  Because I guarantee you, once you catch the endurance bug, you’ll never go back!