The difficulty I had in finding traditional cross-country races this season created a vacuum I decided to fill with trying endurance racing instead. So back in May I competed in a 30-mile race. It was a lot of fun, and I learned a lot. Due to schedule conflicts, I didn't do the second 30-mile race in the series, and that brings me to Saturday, and the final, 50-mile race.
The median time for my class, Open Men, last year was 6:15. I wanted to be faster than that. So, over the summer, I tried to work my volume up. My plan was to train all the way up to a 6-hour ride two weeks before the race, take it easy the week before, and then ride my heart out. This month ended up being a little weird, for one reason and another, so the longest ride I did in training was 4.9 hours. Which isn't so bad. I also had some idea about doing speed work, but as in most seasons, that didn't quite happen. Finally, I learned that three hours at race pace is a long enough ride for a nutrition strategy to be a real thing that actually matters.
This is the nutrition strategy I had for my 30-mile race.
I staged another pair of water bottles in my aid bag at the lap line so I could swap without stopping. I expected to take a bit over three hours, and I've always done fine eating power bars every hour or so for rides of that length. This was a bit of a fail. I didn't eat anything during the first lap. During the second lap, I knew there was some fire road riding at the far end of the course, so I tried to choke down a power bar while on that, and also barreling ahead at a pretty high effort level. I managed to eat most of one, but still bonked pretty badly on the last climbs. By the finish, I was barely able to keep the pedals turning. Part of this was a pacing error too. But apparently, I need to eat. Go figure.
I read some forums and decided that my new strategy was going to have three points. First, I was going to keep the bars. I like to put something solid in my stomach from time to time on a long ride. It feels like eating. Second, I was going to figure out which gel things I like, and get some. And I was going to start sucking them down before I thought I needed to, and have one every half hour or so. Third, I was going to put an energy drink in my water bottle. I knew I'd be able to refill my bottles at the race, but I didn't know what energy drinks would be available, how supplies would last, or how well my stomach would tolerate them. As it happens, full-strength gatorade is a little much for me when I'm working hard. So I've been putting one scoop in a small bottle, and one and a half scoops in a large one. Here's what I took with me this time.
I planned to only stop twice, but I knew I'd have the opportunity to stop four times. I figured if I needed to do that, I may as well also be able to top up my gatorade - as a powder, it's very light, and the single servings just went in a zip-loc baggie. I've found I have some trouble fitting everything into my pockets for a long ride, and I also don't like having to reach behind me while riding off-road terrain. So I got top tube bag for my bike.
It's little, but it adds enough more capacity for the crowding problem. I found it was actually a little harder to use than my back pocket. The zipper has to be manipulated, and then I need to get something out through the slot it creates - it's not like a big, open top. I still think I chose the right back, though. It fits on my bike and it's secure. Bigger, more open bags may be okay on the road, but this is a bike that's going to spend several hours rattling around a lot and maybe even being crashed.
I pre-rode a lot of the course a couple of weeks ago with a teammate. I found some of the descending very sketchy. One particular corner was rutted out and the rut was filled in with loose rocks. Yikes! So I decided I needed more front tire. Ultimately I only cut off a few seconds from my descent on the day of the race, but that was about four hours in and I'd already made one visit to the pain cave. So I'd say that actually, the new tire was a win.
Everything was as ready as I could make it on Friday night. So I went to bed early, with my alarm set, my clothes laid out and my bag packed. Of course I slept really badly.