How I Prepared for My First 24 Hour Endurance Race Part 2

July 7th, 2016, by Dylan Thomas
In the first part of this article, I went through the build up and preparation up to the morning of the race. In this second part I will go through my approach at tackling the race, what happened during the event and take a look at what I might change next time.

As I described in part one, this was my first attempt at a 24 hour race and so I wanted to ensure that I had a solid plan of how I was going to approach what was going to be a very long day...

The Event Plan

I wanted to approach the Mountain Mayhem 24 with a pre arranged plan rather than just plunging straight in until I burn out. I wanted a plan which was non-competitive but would still give me a respectable finish result.

Basically, I wanted to complete the race and not be at the back!

I decided that the 24 hours was to be split into 4 hour blocks. Each block would involve 3 hours of cycling with1 hour pit stop (to eat, restock foods, maintain the bike, stretch and maybe a breather on the lounger). If I was pacing myself correctly, each 3 hours of cycling would allow 3 laps of the course.

This plan divides the 24 hours into 6 manageable blocks. As I don’t need a rest at the end of the last block, I decided to move the last rest hour into the middle of the race (at midnight) which would allow a 2 hour break for a short nap at midnight.

So, the block structure looked like this;
Block 112:00 - 16:003 hrs bike, 1 hr rest with 500 kcals
Block 216:00 - 20:003 hrs bike, 1 hr rest with 500 kcals
Block 320:00 - 24:003 hrs bike, 1 hr rest with 500 kcals
24:00 - 01:00extra 1 hour rest
Block 401:00 - 05:003 hrs bike, 1 hr rest with 500 kcals
Block 505:00 - 09:003 hrs bike, 1 hr rest with 500 kcals
Block 609:00 - 12:003 hrs bike
Dividing the rac into manageable blocks

This gives a total of 18 hours of cycling, so potentially 18 laps (in retrospective, this was a little ambitious for a first time but at this point I was a little naive).

Food was all prepared in advance and consisted of sandwiches, bananas and flapjacks (I used TREK Protein Flapjacks and CLIF Bars). As I was unsupported, the food needed to be easy to eat with no preparation (so even instant oatmeal was out).

During each pitstop at the tent I would eat at least 500 calories (a sandwich, a flapjack and a banana) providing a variety of carbohydrate sources, plus a little protein and fat. The sandwiches were a mixture of peanut butter, low fat cheese with pickle, and chicken. Coffee was out due to there being no time to heat water, so caffeine was supplied by cans of sugar free stimulant drinks.

Mountain Mayhem 2016 race photoHey, I’m nearly smiling!
During the cycling I would eat about 100 calories per lap in the form of energy bars (I mainly used nakd bars). Gels were on hand in case of emergency, but these were strictly for emergency use as I didn’t wanted to ensure a constant and steady supply of carbohydrate throughout the duration of the race, avoiding any peaks and subsequent drops in glycogen levels which the sugar would cause.

Fluid was carried in a hydration pack. I decided to opt for the pack rather than bottles due to the increased volume over the single bottle that a full suspension frame can hold. This would reduce my stopping frequency. Fluid was a combination of electrolytes and BCAAs, again avoiding sugar but adding BCAAs in an attempt to reduce catabolism as much as possible.

Executing The Plan

My block structure approach went pretty much according to plan.

By taking a steady approach, I was able to complete a lap in just over an hour when going through the start/finish was added into each lap. This left about 45 to 50 minutes back at the tent. Enough time to maintain the bike, stretch, sit down, eat, change clothes, apply chamois cream and get my butt back on the bike.

At this point I realised I hadn’t factored in re-filling of my hydration pack. I decided to re-fill during the first lap after each pitstop so this added about 10 to 15 minutes onto the first lap of each block.

What I also didn’t anticipate was the increased duration of lap time during the night. The race is almost entirely on forest single track, much of it quite technical in places. The combination of the dark and my sleep deprivation meant taking things at a slower pace which increased my lap time significantly.

Mountain Mayhem 2016 transitionEarly hours of Sunday morning and all is quiet at transition
The break at 23:00 (I got back to the tent at about 23:20) was very welcome, with almost 2 hours until the next block. This allowed me to change into a set of clean base layers then collapse onto the lounger with a down sleeping bag, food and an alarm set for 00:45.

Getting back on the bike after the alarm went off was pretty tough as my body struggled to get moving again. It’s 1 am, your muscles are sore and the down sleeping bag is a lot warmer and more attractive than the cold, dark night!

Having more food, a can of caffeinated drink and a set of fresh, warm kit within easy reach soon got me reluctantly back on my feet and onto the route. I also ensured I’d refilled the hydration pack before sleeping so I didn’t need to do anything other than pedal. After a couple of kilometers I was awake alert again and chatting to other competitors along the route.

Cycling through the next day was not as tough as I had expected it to be. The exhaustion and sleep deprivation seems to reach a level and then stay consistent, although my pace never increased to that of the previous day which resulted in a further reduction to the number of laps I was able to complete.

At approximately 11:15 on Sunday morning, I arrived back at the finish with 13 laps. There was no way at this point that I was able to get another lap in within the time limit, so I decided to stop at the event village for probably the best coffee I’ve ever had!

In Retrospective

Even though I didn’t complete the race with as many laps as I’d anticipated, my estimate was based on a maximum cycle time which I knew was not going to actually happen.

I still finished within the middle of the pack and as most solo riders were backed by a full support crew (be they professional or family members) I’m pleased with the outcome.

I think I will use the same approach in my next 24 hour race, but in hindsight I will keep a large water container within the tent. Although water tanks were distributed throughout the campsite and were well maintained, going to fetch water still took a significant part of my 1 hour rest periods.

You can read the previous part of this article in How I Prepared for My First 24 Hour Endurance Race Part 1.

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