Hey all! I'm intent on making the start line again this year. Please let me know if you have suggestions to add to the tips below. Ride lots, I'm eager to see you there.
Here's a list of training tips. Just so you know, the suggestions here are SUGGESTIONS. This race will kick your butt no matter what I post, and success or failure depends on how you handle things on the course. Just because I'm interested in helping you a little doesn't make me responsible for anything you actually do. Or don't do.
1) Train with Pain.
If you don't put intensity into the training, finishing isn't a reasonable goal. Look at other rider's training schedules. Consider when/how you'll use speed work. Sit down and actually draw up a training schedule of your own and stick to it. Most of us will have to train in lousy weather, on crappy roads, etc., but you need to progress regardless.
a) Have a plan. You won't make the mountain-top if you don't know the way up.
b) Ride Hills. You must be able to ride hill after hill and be able to ride more afterward. You
will climb something like 80+ hills on this ride, and many of them are absolutely unkind.
c) Ride gravel, and get good at picking lines on crappy surfaces. There is more to this than luck.
d) Ride in heat. Acclimation and tolerance of extreme temperatures is not optional.
e) Go long. If you can't push 125+ and finish strong, consider DNS rather than tempting fate.
f) Ride at night, in the rain, in wind, in cold, in heat, and be a peace with whatever condition sucks at the current moment. No matter what else, there will be wind.
g) Practice solving problems. Be able to change a tire and repair a broken chain. Figure out how to handle cramps and survive a bonk (NEVER induce a bonk or other problems; if you train hard enough you are likely to encounter catastrophe - take the opportunity to use your brain and either get help, or find a way to get better).
h) Train your support crew. They need to know what to have on hand and ready at rest stops, how to find you if you can't finish, and what kind of beer you'll need cold and fresh at the finish.
2) Train nutrition and hydration.
a) Hydration: At the start of the race, and with every chance you get you should have the 4 B's -
- Full Belly - Load on fluid prior to the race, have as much in your gut as you can comfortably ride with.
- Full Bag - Camelback or similar tank.
- Full Bottles - In addition to your Camelback, you should have at least two bottles of fluid - use these for protein drinks or concentrated electrolyte solutions.
- Full Bladder - if you find that you need to pee just before the race, you are well hydrated.
Practice taking fluid on the road, and be ready to haul enough fluid to tolerate 70 miles at 90-degrees or hotter, before refilling.
b) Carbohydrates: Your body has enough ready sugar to last 20-30 minutes. That's it. Once that's gone you start burning protein, then fat. Protein and fat require LOTS more energy to burn and produce byproducts that will slow you down. You will need a steady supply of complex carbs throughout the day, meaning fuel needs to be consumed every 30-45 minutes. If you've never bonked, the DK is NOT the time to experiment with it.
c) Electrolytes: Sodium, Potassium, Magnesium, Calcium. Also consider trace minerals and vitamins. I suggest you limit plain water to less than 10% your total fluid intake, and focus on taking electrolyte-containing sports drinks instead. Water will dilute the fluids you already have in your system, and because you'll sweat/pee craploads of solutes on the road, the more free water you take the sooner you may cramp. I also use Endurolytes several times daily during these rides, and drink pickle/olive juice whenever I get the chance. Once you cramp, you are more or less done for the day.
d) Protein: Get some. Otherwise your metabolism will cannibalize your muscles and burn the protein your muscles require when you tap out of sugar. Which is a distinct possibility.
I hate the flavors of most protein-containing sports drinks, but use them anyway, at least once hourly. I also eat cured meats like pastrami at almost every pit stop. This provides lots of sodium as well as protein/fat, sparing the muscles of which I am so fond. I've seen riders using beef jerky, nuts, peanut butter, pickled eggs, Casey's pizza, whatever. You start harvesting muscular or plasma proteins, you fatigue, you cramp, you DNF.
e) The Bonk: If you suddenly find yourself without energy, without strength, unable to keep pedaling, relax. Get 150-200 calories of ready carbs, take 8-10 ounces of fluid, give yourself a few moments. Then, start walking, easily and slowly, relax, keep your head in the game. Take a few minutes before calling your crew. As soon as you begin to feel stable, mount up and start to ride; don't push it. Set a speed limit for your self (ex. 12 mph) beyond which you won't pedal. If you recover successfully, you'll be able to resume race pace in 15 - 20 minutes. Hopefully you'll bonk training and have some experience avoiding and recovering.
3) Train your psyche.
This takes practice. You should do a few long rides solo prior to the race, at least one of which should be in the dark; there is no guarantee you'll have the company of friends on the course. It is both wonderful and important that you can handle riding under stress in any number of conditions.
You are on an unsupported ride in the middle of BFE. Most riders experience lots of miles solo out there, many of which come after dark. In 15+ hours on the road, you are going to experience a lot of stuff, most of it is awesome, some of it will be stressful. Your emotions will be variable, and well within your control. If you have the moxie to deal, you will more than likely keep rolling. If you aren't ready for this challenge emotionally, nothing else you do will make a bit of difference. Being nervous is a good idea, but don't be freaked out. If you train like you are gonna kill this ride, you will. Have faith in knowing that enough cranks on the pedals will have you back in Emporia, and that just crossing the line will make this world a different and better place.
Be comfortable with your pace, your cadence, your breathing. This crowd is HUGE, you'll be tempted to join groups that are either faster or slower than you. Ride YOUR pace. Eat YOUR food. drink YOUR drink. Stick to YOUR plan. Develop your plan as you train, try it, push it, find its failings, ask other riders how to fix problems, dial it in as you train, and then trust it.
Don't listen to anyone else on the course who has negative things to say, or who isn't coping. They will suck every last bit of Zen out of your peaceful cycling soul. Help others when you have the chance (that'll actually help you, too), and focus on the rhythm, the breathing, and the beauty of your competitors and surroundings.
Sleep!!!! The importance of high quality sleep is extraordinary. If you sleep well you'll be more motivated to train, more capable of completing long rides, and more likely to meet goals you've set.
Push the speedo. The longer you are on the bike, the longer you are on the bike, and the greater chance you have of not finishing. I don't care if you can go 120 miles at 10 mph - you'll die in the heat if you are only half-way at 10 hours.
Get good with your multi -tool. You should know about every nut and cable on the bike, and be able to adjust them. Be able to fix your chain, adjust your seat, use your pump, and fix SEVERAL flats.
If you are a heavy rider on a heavy rig, please consider holding back at the start. No matter how fit you are, physics for you and for a lightweight rider on a carbon fiber bike are NOT the same. Passing on gravel puts faster riders in peril, please don't plug lanes.
Get fat tires.
Reconsider the full-suspension.
Be comfortable with every piece of equipment/food/fluid you take with you. Otherwise, why would you haul it 200 miles on gravel??
Carry 3 spare inner tubes. Ask Cornbread about this one.
Get comfortable with your bike light, and carry a spare. Get a penlight or small LED for reading your map as well.
Check out every blog you can find from people who've ridden before you. Stand on the shoulders of these giants - it really helps.
Check out sites like hammernutrition.com. It'll answer a myriad of questions regarding what your body needs to make this happen.
Practice using your map holder.
Have fun. We all do this because we need it somehow, and somehow it is both validating and healing. Feed your soul on the road!
5) THINGS NOT TO DO:
DON'T: Enter if you have no realistic way of preparing for the start line.
DON'T: Talk crap. If you intend to ride everyone else into the ground, go for it. This group of riders is among the coolest bunch of folks on the planet. If you're a jerk, you don't belong, and shouldn't spoil the race for anyone else.
DON'T: Ignore advice from other riders. Yep, they are wrong sometimes, but if experienced athletes tell you you are in trouble, you probably are.
DON'T: Show up with less than 3,000 miles of cycling experience, at least one competition century and at least one recent training ride of 125 miles or longer. If you don't have these, you aren't ready.
DON'T: Start with the intent of only riding half-way. Entry slots are limited, and you'll knock someone off the list who needs the ride.
FYI, I've done the DK. Finished in 17+ hours in 2008, and hope to do it again this year in less than 16. I'm a Physician Assistant working in Family Practice with 6+ years of ER experience. I crewed for the DK last year and saw the carnage, which was kinda cool, and avoidable. I mention these things because I'm an opinionated know-it-all, AND a cyclist with an understanding of the human body. Please let me know if you have any questions. Hope to see you there.