Whether you are gunning for the win or looking to complete a stage race, showing up prepared is half the battle. That is, prepared mentally, physically and logistically.
You can train all you want, but if you show up without the mental fortitude or without the logistical plans laid, you will be hard pressed to meet your goals.
On the training front, you will need cross country to endurance fitness. Most stage races feature stages in the two to five-hour range for most racers on most days. Though they aren’t typically at quite the high intensity of cross country racing, you will need high end to be competitive and you will need to be able to do it day after day.
As with training for any cross country or endurance racing, you will need a solid base of steady distance riding to tempo pace. Lots of road miles will probably help you here. As you get closer to your goal race, you will add in some threshold and VO2 efforts. Throwing in some cross country races can help you here, especially if you can stack up back-to-back race efforts on consecutive days (or, if not, schedule a hard workout the day before your cross country race). This way you can practice/learn what your body needs to recover optimally for hard back to back days. For more specific training protocol, please contact me through PLAN7 Endurance Coaching.
On day 2, I wrote about how I struggled with mental fortitude. Over the course of seven technical days of racing, it’s not a question of if something will go wrong but when. Of course, the degree of that issue may be out of your control but what you can control is how you roll with it. These races are all about energy conservation. You simply cannot afford to waste mental energy on the stuff you cannot control. I wasted mental energy on my misfortune on day 2 and in hindsight the mental funk cost me significantly more time than the misfortune itself. Go figure. Stay calm, stay in control. Roll with the rough stuff.
In order to get through seven days of racing, you will need to plan. Make lists. Check them twice. Bring everything you might need for every kind of weather. Bring spares of everything. If you can, get to the area early so you can scope the trails. Barring that, talk to locals and make sure you have an idea of the terrain. Know how much you need to eat and drink. Look at the mileage and elevation. Have an idea of what’s coming up on the stage, where your strengths will help you, where your weaknesses might hurt you.
One of the biggest rules here at the Trans-Sylvania Epic is ‘Don’t be a jerk.’ Above all, this comes back to help you more than it helps others. No matter how well you’ve trained, there will come a time when your legs revolt; no matter how mentally tough you are, at some point, you will be cracked; no matter how well you prepare, something will surprise you. If you’ve not been a jerk, you are going to have friends out on course and before long someone will come along with a word of encouragement or maybe a sip of water or spare tube. Whatever it is, roll with it and get back in the race!
Sarah Kaufmann (Stan's NoTubes Elite Women's Team) is heading back to central Pennsylvania for the 2014 Trans-Sylvania Epic mountain bike stage race. Follow Kaufmann's adventures in her blog here as she contends for the overall GC win during the seven-day races in the State College, Pennsylvania area.
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