How to Prepare for an Endurance MTB Event…or not!

Preparation is key, they say…

On the lead up to one of my bigger, more challenging mountain bike events I have entered there may have been a few features in my ‘training’ that may not have set me up for the greatest result or in fact overall experience. So let me fill you in on what I would have liked to have achieved before diving into the Bontrager Twentyfour12 solo race and then what I am actually going down to Devon like!

Bonty 2412
Bontrager 2412 mtb race. Newnham Park, Plymouth. July 23/24

So last season…

Last year I had a training plan designed for me specifically to do the MTB Marathon series (75km in distance) and also Torq in Your Sleep (12hour solo). This plan had me focus on building up my endurance and increasing my pace with interval training. It got me going out in all weathers, and mixing up road, mountain bike and turbo trainer. It was tough at some points, but really felt the benefits of them as the the events went on. I didn’t go the full hog like I’m sure the full time athletes may do, such as changing my diet or strict on sleep patterns (don’t know if that’s a thing?!). Basically between each event there was a build up in the training and an increase in the intensity and/or duration with enough recovery and tapering time to head into the ride with maximum strength and energy. Those who have entered sporting events will know the score, if you are intrigued on the subject I shall kindly pass you over to Torq Fitness who have written up some scientifically based training guidelines, this is the highlights:

The ‘Ifs’, ‘Buts’ and ‘maybes’

I ended last season of fun racing with a sigh of relief that training was over after the last MTB Marathon. However much I loved the whole experience I knew it was ending especially when I gave the bike back! I essentially chilled the beans (for a few weeks). Then the Andalucia Bike Race (6 day MTB stage race) happened, so did 6 weeks of some sort of training, typically sitting on the turbo for many hours (weather was horrible!) and then we managed a 2nd place in the Master women category. What if we had trained a bit harder and took it a bit more seriously (knowing we were doing the race a bit earlier may have helped!). After that I just stopped (lost enthusiasm for biking, briefly) The high had ended, but the thoughts were there as I considered a few events I’d like to try.  What if I didn’t stop training, what could I have achieved. Did I just waste all that time spent on the bike when I could have entered something else and built upon my pretty good fitness levels. Now, I won’t know and it’s not something I regret either because life continues and biking becoming less of a commitment and rather something I want to do when I want to, no expectation, no pressure.

There is the big ‘if’ now though as I have the 12 hour solo looming. If I had put in more time in the last couple of months that I would be a lot fitter than I am just now and more confident in what I am capable of, but it is what it is and I am at the level I am at! Don’t live in regret, just love what you’re doing!

The Reality

There is just a few days now before I sit on my saddle for 12 hours or so down in Devon to take on a new event, new course and race against new people. I find it motivating in myself to go to a new event, it’s all a bit more exciting and intriguing as to what goes on. Saying that the last new location broke me and left me still feeling the effects. If you have read the previous blog about the Exmoor MTB Marathon you will know that I had an argument with the ground leaving me winded and writhing in pain from the impact to my butt! This pain left me in bits and was surprised to finish that ride (it was not comfortable at all). That was 3rd July (3 weeks before Bonty) and was setting me up to increase the duration of the following weeks training rides…

…This did not happen as I could hardly move, sleeping was interrupted as with each turn I’d wake up in pain. I struggled to walk and biking was out of the question. I even drove to work (it’s 2km away!). I was getting grumpy and frustrated that all I could do was lye uncomfortably on the sofa and be entertained by Wimbledon and then the Le Tour (glad there was something interesting on TV, not a fan of day time rubbish!). A full week passed, I attempted one turbo training session with instant regret when I got off in more pain. I was using Ibuprofen to try and help, but unfortunately my self-diagnosis was that it just needs time.

Local trail somewhere in the Surrey Hills, wasn’t expecting steep drops!

A couple of days passed, the pain was easing, just in certain positions that I would notice it more, so with an already pre-planned trip down to the Surrey Hillls/Bracknell I was just going to suck it up and go biking. It’s the hill climbs that killed me, I was really struggling to put the pressure down, so I was having to get out of the saddle and ease up. This is usually where I would be a little bit quicker (love a good climb), but no where near normal climbing pace for me at this point. The second day after spending most of the day chasing my lovely nephews I went for another spin around Swinley Forest and weirdly that felt ok, not fast, but minimal pain. Did the youthfulness of the boys rub off or something?!

The following day I wanted to see if I was on the mend and what better way than on the new road bike that I have just been staring at, unable to ride for the last week or so.

Cube Axial C:62 SL, bit of a Peacock!

A quick hour up and down the valley. On the hoods it was ok, on the drops was not so pleasant, the pain started to kick in again. A couple of days break and thought I’d try again, a steady 80km on the road and it was ok, i did pre-empt the pain with a couple more Ibuprofen, but it was ok. The pain is still there, I’m not fully fighting fit and can’t run yet as the impact of each step is a bit too much. If it doesn’t kill you it makes you stronger, right? (Think I’m waiting for the stronger bit!). All in all there is pain and 12 hours on a bike is not something I am now looking forward to!

How Not to Prepare!

My top tips then for worst preparation for a 12 hour solo race is this:

  • Crash and injure yourself within a few weeks of the event
  • Do little if any cycling on the lead up
  • Veg about on the sofa and watch sport
  • Eat too much to fill the times when you should be biking!
  • Go to bed late because you can’t get to sleep due to lack of exercise and pain

It’s all a bit of fun, no worries!

This is my attitude to it all. Accidents happen, some you get away with, others can leave you broken or in my case annoyingly OK, but in pain. It kind of takes the pressure of the upcoming events as I don’t know if I will be able to go the distance. If I do, will it be at any kind of race pace. All I know is that I aim to have a load of fun in the sun (hopefully). It’s a new event to me, a new location, I’m again going solo (in the race) and solo (to the event) so no support, no pressure, no worries! If I am not having fun then I may well stop, I don’t want to be slogging my guts out just to be in more pain, it’s simply not worth it. I’d probably stop, find a cider and watch the nutters who are taking on the 24hour (now that is bonkers…maybe next year!). There is no stressing happening here, just need to start packing, finding a few edible delights (great excuse to by myself some treats) top up on Torq energy products and check the bikes ok, even if I’m not!


I leave you with this video from last years Bontrager Twenty-four 12 just to show you what I will be embarking on this weekend! Here’s the course route for 2016 approximately, should be a good weekend away, whatever comes my way.



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