There are any number of reasons why you are reading this post. Maybe you are bored and it's a great time filler, or perhaps you just like reading my musings. It could even be because you are interested in my understanding of what it takes to compete in endurance events. Whatever the reason, welcome.
Endurance racing adaption is poorly understood with little research to back it up. Try googling endurance racing tips and apart from some reasonable advice on Double Century and 24 hour racing (entry level endurance events) you are unlikely to find anything other than a few offering "the top 5 tips to successful endurance cycling." The first three bits of advice are typically; drink, stretch and eat. It's far easier to find a list of 30 things to do to ride a faster Argus or 947.
What follows is my opinion based on years of experimentation, observation, and extensive field testing. As such, it constitutes empirical evidence rather than the trite information you are likely to dredge up on the internet. I will not tell you to "drink one bottle of water an hour" , or tell you that "by the time you feel thirsty it's too late". You certainly won't hear me prattle on about the right gels or carb energy bars to eat while riding - you are more likely to hear me elucidating about the pleasure (and therefore benefit) of poking a jam smeared roosterbrood down my throat sometime between midnight and sunrise or the simple joy of munching on a packet of crisps while seated in the shade of a doringbos.
What you do with this information is entirely up to you. There is no one silver bullet that will make you good at the endurance game. Endurance adaption is a multi stranded bow. Below is an outline of the strands that work together for me.
Most, if not all, good endurance athletes compete in a manner which is consistent with who they are in their day to day existence. They are tough nuggets, who are naturally wired for the task. Even so, they need to condition themselves and have a lot to learn when they first start plying their trade in the endurance arena. If you consider yourself an average Joe without natural endurance toughness there are things you can do to lessen the odds against you. If you, like me, aren't a dyed in the wool endurance athlete don't shy from the challenge because there are very few naturals out there and most of our fellow competitors are in the same boat as us.
In my last post I covered how I go about training which, quite frankly is fairly unimpressive. This post was originally intended to address the mental challenges of endurance racing and how I go about addressing them. However, there are a few things I should have covered in the physical training preparation post but I forgot to put them in. We will begin by looking at those challenges. The physical and mental issues in many of them are well entangled.
Replace your alarm clock with a sundial.
If you are in the habit of waking up at 4 AM and going for a long ride then I hate you because you possess a level of discipline that I don't have. Envy aside, you need to prepare yourself for the heat you are going to encounter on The Munga. It gets quite warm. 45 degrees Celsius warm.
As the Race approaches I keep a bike at the office and make a point of riding in the middle of the day particularly when it is blisteringly hot. There are a number of benefits. Firstly, you simply get used to the idea of riding in the heat and find a rhythm that keeps fatigue and pace in balance. But the biggest benefit is the physiological adaptation that takes place. Physiological Adaption - sounds cool doesn't it! The definition is more impressive: "Physiological Adaptations are internal systematic responses to external stimuli in order to help an organism maintain homeostasis."
I have included the definition so that you understand that while some of the things I do might seem a little weird there is some science behind them.
Among the many benefits of heat acclimatisation is improved thermal regulation and sodium retention which means you are less likely to suffer from cramp and heat stroke. The best part about this adaption is that it only takes a couple of weeks to reach peak adaption. Cautiously combine this with dehydration training (covered in the previous post) and you'll cope with the heat without worrying about dying a lonely death on the side of a deserted Karoo farm road. Here's a link to fill in the details: http://www.sportsci.org/encyc/heataccl/heataccl.html
Go for a ride when your sundial stops working.
In other words, do some training rides after the sun goes down.
Most cyclists have never ridden at night. I have taken many people for their first night ride and the response has always been positive. I love riding at night. It goes without saying that it is very different to riding during the day as your world shrinks to a small circle of light. Most of my night rides are off-road. It helps keep my night navigation skills sharp (for other non-GPS races) and I get used to how the terrain looks under lights. You will soon find the right lighting solution. I always recommend a combination of bar and helmet mounted lights. The bar mounted lights should be brighter than those on your helmet so that you can pick up the detail. Don't take my word for it, get out there and find out for yourself. Better still, if you live in Johannesburg join me for a night ride.
The best time to move during The Munga is during the cool of the night. I love riding at night and have become very adept at it. I'm very ordinary while the sun is up but you'll have to ride like crazy if you want to catch me at night.