If you fancy the challenge of a 24-hour MTB race then be sure to soak up the knowledge with these essential 24 hour MTB racing tips…
Nutrition is Key
You need to develop the belief that staying power primarily comes from nutrition, not fitness. Sure, you’ll have to do some long rides in training and behave like a racer during the event, but any range of standard MTB riding will put you on the start grid of a solo 24-hour race. Not least as generally, there are no pre-entry requirements for these races. So your nutrition needs to be proven for your tastes and should include a good mix of sugary, savoury, fast burn, slow burn foods and hydration fluids. Over the course of 24 hours it’s also possible to in a way emulate your standard meals i.e. include an evening meal and breakfast, with similar timing and food types. Munch some stimulants if you already know that they suit you: ProPlus, caffeine tablets, coffee and Red Bull are the clear favourites. Consider also, amino acids for muscle recovery, but whilst riding.
Mind control is key: you need to develop the philosophy that no problem is insurmountable, and that finishing your challenge is imperative for fulfilment. If you think you are weak or marginal in this regard, then counter this by listing all of the reasons not to bail.
Bike and bike light reliability are essential, but as an accomplished MTBer you’ll have this sorted, won’t you? The bike needs to be proven and ready. The bike lights, in combination with the bike and helmet, need to be proven. (I used one handlebar light and two bike helmets each with their own light rig, so that recharging was not crucial and no time would be lost swapping light sets over). If you are not competent at bike maintenance, then make bike preparation a priority, even if you believe a pit crew will save you.
Think Tortoise and not Hare
Pacing: You should aim to ride at the pace at which you would normally ride and take rests and back stretches whilst descending the easier trails. Try not to sprint, especially in the first hours – going anaerobic is not clever and your body will punish you for such exuberance later.
It’s a Race, not a Leisurely Spin
Downtime: Let’s be clear – this is a race. If you are not riding, then this is generally time that you will not be able to haul back. So unless there is an essential fix going on to your body or bike, you need to be riding 95% of the time. This is also why most riders have a second bike, so that maintenance can take place while you are out riding the spare.
Get some Pre-event Sleep in
Get some good sleep before the event. It’s about your pre-race lifestyle, the week before, and two nights before, the night before is least important – there will be adrenalin at play by then. If travelling to the event make sure that you find a good accommodation solution that can virtually guarantee good rest.
Prepare and Prepare some More
Comfort-centric preparation is my approach: trial the clothing, saddle, handlebar grips and handlebar type. The bike is fundamental obviously, but there is a vast range of choice. As a pure (and totally credible) test, perhaps you can handle a rigid single speed? Some people know they can, some know they cannot and some won’t know. Make sure that you are not in this latter group.
Focus but have the ‘right’ Support
A frugal-centric support environment is my choice: I want to reduce distraction in the pit area. Anything that might encourage you to stay in the pits for more than five minutes is not good. This includes not having an immediate facility to lie down on, to sit in a (heated) vehicle, or to have long conversations or attenuated decision-making moments. Make your decisions whilst out riding a lap.
Allow some Luxuries
So, I had coffee in a thermal water bottle. Other luxuries probably relate to food choices. Everything else is maintenance serving: bike, lights, chamois cream, clothing (in good stable weather conditions you should not need to change any items of clothing). For many events, in-ear media systems are banned, so there’s one luxury that you need not concern yourself with!
Keep an active mind by focussing on the minutiae of what is around you and squeeze some pleasure out of that – the riders, marshals, flora and fauna, climatic effects, conversation, singing, humming, mental quizzes, and ace-ing all the technicalities in the trail. One massive asset to the No Fuss Events/Nevis Range course was that it was very stimulating by default. Though some would say, ‘tough and continually demanding!’
Read about a 24-hour MTB race and upcoming events here.