How I Prepared for My First 24 Hour Endurance Race

July 4th, 2016, by Dylan Thomas
I have competed in a variety of endurance races and sportives on both foot and bike, some of which I considered pretty tough. But this was the first time for me to tackle a solid 24 hour solo event and marked a major milestone for me.

The event I chose was GO Outdoor Mountain Mayhem 2016, a mountain bike relay race for teams of various sizes or for the bold (i.e. stupid) solo competitor. The truth is that I originally entered as a two man team, thinking a 12 hour race would be a more suitable first step, but could not find a partner with the correct lack of self preservation as myself.

So, I decided to put my legs and glycogen stores where my mouth is, and sign up as a solo competitor...

The GO Outdoor Mountain Mayhem Event Structure

If you’ve not heard of Mountain Mayhem, it’s a race which starts at 12 noon on a Saturday and ends at 12 noon on a Sunday.

Teams perform in a relay fashion to complete as many laps of the 11 km course within the time frame. The course is predominantly forest trails, with some steep climbs and a few technical descents (some of which proved pretty challenging in the dark). It begins with a short run for those on the first lap, which aims to split riders into a natural staggered start.
Mountain Mayhem 2016 course profileThe course profile as recorded by Strava
Solo entrants need to be completely self sufficient as there are no food or water stops on the route. A designated campsite is reserved for the solo category which allows competitors to pitch camp at track side and create their own feed station.

Training Leading Up To The Race

The long term training leading up to an endurance event of this level is beyond the scope of this article (there are many resources with lots of protocols available on the web). To summarise, my typical training is multi sport and involves two strength training days, two cardio days and a single endurance day. Needless to say, before even considering a 24 hour race, you should be able to confidently complete marathon distance events.

During the week leading up to the event, I went through my usual tapering protocol which is essentially not changing the standard routine, but reducing the intensity of each session.

So my strength training sessions avoided any heavy leg activity and were more aimed at isolation and conditioning rather than heavy compound lifts (which meant no squats or deadlifts). Cardio sessions were performed as steady state rides rather than interval or hill repeat sessions. Finally, Friday training was pretty much cancelled except for an easy recovery ride staying within heart rate zone 1.

Nutrition Prior to the Event

During the tapering week leading up to the event, my food intake stayed the same. With the reduced training workload this placed me in a calorie surplus. On the Friday before the event I began a one day carb loading protocol.

I used the approach of 10g of carbohydrate per kg of bodyweight. At the time I weighed 71 kg, so that’s 710g of carbohydrate in 24 hours. This equates to quite a lot of calories when taken in conjunction with fats and protein. So, fat was kept to a minimum and protein was halved and pretty much came entirely from the carbohydrate sources. By adding in low fat dairy products, I was able to complete the proteins whilst still contributing to the total carbohydrate intake.

The body can roughly convert carbohydrate into muscle glycogen at roughly 25g to 40g per hour depending on muscle density (source Michael C. Prevost ), therefore it is important to not only split the carbohydrate intake up into regular intervals throughout the day, but also ensure that a variety of sources are used combining faster acting sugars with slower complex starches.

Fibre intake was gradually reduced as the day progressed. From experimentation, I find that going low fibre and using only refined carbs actually makes me far more hungry and sends my glycogen levels into complete mayhem. But sticking to only fibrous carbs can not only bloat you, but may well lead to many unnecessary toilet stops during the event (unless you’re a bear)...

Plenty of fluids were consumed throughout the day, from a mixture of water and electrolyte drinks plus coffee with each meal. Caffeine has been reported to improve muscle glycogen uptake (source American Physiological Society).

By sticking to my plan and arranging my meals in advance, I was able to get all the required food in and stay below 4000 calories. From experience, this does not lead to weight gain other than initial water retention due to the high amounts of muscle glycogen.

My meal plan for the day looked like this;
Breakfast 75g oats with 2 tbsp raisins (or tbsp honey/jam) (60)
150g/4 slices toast (60)
low fat spread/marmite
1 banana(30)
Snack 100g cereal (half muesli, half puffed grains) (70)
1 english muffin or 3 pikelets (30)
low fat spread
225g low fat fruit yogurt (30)
Lunch 3 whole wheat tortillas (90)
75g basmati rice/250g savoury rice (60)
Green salad
Snack 100g cereal (half muesli, half puffed grains) (70)
75g/2 slices bread (30)
low fat spread, pickle, tomato, lettuce
225g low fat fruit yogurt (30)
Dinner 175g pasta with low fat tomato sauce (150)
Carb loading meal plan with 710g of carbohydrate

The Morning of Event Day

The event itself was just over one hour drive. I decided to arrive on the Saturday morning so that I could get a good sleep in my own bed the night before. The car was fully packed the previous day, leaving me to just get myself up early enough to have a decent breakfast (same breakfast as above) and jump in the car hopefully avoiding any traffic congestion.

On arrival, I pitched my camp close to the track with all food, tools and clothing arranged within easy access, plus a sun lounger to attempt a mid race power nap. I could then get all the admin and bike setup done, plus have a second breakfast.

In The Next Part

In the second part of this article, I will describe my planned approach to tackling the race, how the race went and consider what I will change in my next race.

Read on in How I Prepared for My First 24 Hour Endurance Race Part 2.

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