Preparation for your first marathon
If you have managed to keep to the 17-week training planner, you should be feeling quite a lot fitter than when you started out! So, with the physical preparation taken care of, let’s look at what else needs to be done in the final weeks and days before your first MTB Marathon.
2 weeks before
This is the time when you will complete your longest training ride. Learn from that experience – did you drink / eat correctly? Did you wear the right clothes, were your shorts comfortable? Make any final adjustments to your riding position and gear at this stage, if you have to.
If there are any technical problems with your bike at this point – get them sorted! They won’t just go away on their own. Ensure all your cables are working and that gears and chain are smooth. Make sure your forks are in good order and don’t need a final service before the event.
1 week before
Apart from a few “tune-up” rides as detailed in your planner, this week should be relaxed and a time to get plenty of sleep. Avoid any big nights on the beer where possible and keep well hydrated throughout the day. Eat normal sized meals that are high in carbohydrate and stick to foods that you are accustomed to. You should try and avoid feeling thirsty or hungry in the 48 hours prior to the MTB Marathon.
During this week make sure you have all the kit that you need. Basic kit for endurance rides. Buy the food that you will need for the weekend.
2 days before
Two days before event day should be the most restful day. Use this time to do any final checks to your bike, get your tools organised and pack up your camping gear. Make sure that you continue to drink plenty of water throughout the day and eat normal sized, high carbohydrate meals.
Try to allow for plenty of time to get to the events rather than having a mad dash across the countryside at the last minute!! Build time into your journey to get out and stretch your legs so that you arrive feeling fresh. Continue to eat food that you are accustomed to and drink plenty of water on the journey.
1 day before
On the day before the event, try a short bike ride throwing in some 20-second accelerations at a hard pace. Cool down with 10 minutes easy spinning and then stop and stretch. Check that your bike is mechanically sound one last time and then leave it alone! Don’t be tempted to overhaul your bottom bracket just because you’ve got time on your hands. Make your High 5 energy drink up and pack your rucksack so that your energy bars are readily accessible. Then put your feet up and enjoy the social atmosphere in the Chain Reaction Cycles tent. Head for the pasta party and try and get a reasonably early night.
Get up with plenty of time to spare and keep warm if it is a cool morning. Even if you are feeling a little anxious (this is normal!) and don’t have much of an appetite, try to have a good breakfast at least 2 hours before the start. Sip regularly from a water bottle during the morning – remember that you need to take on at least 600mls of fluid before you ride – that’s almost a full water bottle. An energy drink such as High5 Energy Source can also be used at this stage.
Leave plenty of time for queuing for the toilet, as everyone else will be going at the last minute too!
Try to get to the start line early to secure a starting place that is within your abilities. Remember that the Chain Reaction Cycles MTB Marathon rides and have mass starts and these can be pretty chaotic if you’re not used to riding in a bunch. Control your speed within your ability particularly when riding through towns – parked cars have a habit of appearing out of nowhere when you can’t see beyond the rider in front!
Be aware that it is all too easy to be pulled along at the pace of the riders around you when in a mass start. If you know you take awhile to warm up, don’t start too quickly in an attempt to stay with riders around you, or you’ll be shattered before the first climb!
On the ride
Pace yourself! It is a common mistake to set off too fast at the beginning, muscling up all the hills and then suffering for the whole second half of the ride. Using a cycle computer to track your progress through the ride will help with your pacing and acts as a great incentive when you know there’s only 10km to go!
Keep to your planned strategy for eating and drinking during the ride. Remember that this should involve starting drinking early EVEN IF YOU DON’T FEEL LIKE IT.
Average fluid requirements for endurance events are over 750mls / hour – that’s a whole drink bottle an hour and more if it’s hot. If you are only drinking when you are thirsty – it’s too late! You will already have become dehydrated and your performance will start to deteriorate.
Know where the food stations are during the ride but don’t rely solely on these. You will need to eat and drink more regularly to maintain your energy levels so make sure you pack plenty of High 5 gels and bars in your pack and that they are easy to get hold of.
On the ride, there will be some people riding faster and some riding slower than you. Don’t get disheartened if a lot of riders seem to be passing you. Keep going and concentrate on your ride. Everyone goes through high and low points during such a long ride, so you may well find that later on, you pass the same people that passed you.
Above all, ENJOY IT!!! There is some fantastic scenery on the MTB Marathons this year so take a moment to appreciate it!