When a race is held at altitudes between 9,200 and 12,600 feet, it's no wonder that the event is called "The Race Across the Sky." That title originated with the Leadville 100-mile trail run and now some consider the 100-mile mountain bike event a race across the sky as well.
In last month's column I described some of the demands of completing the Leadville 100 Mountain Bike Race. For this event, and any other mountain bike event that takes some seven to 12 hours to finish, there are key items critical to successful to training and racing.
Completing the event has many of the same critical factors as competing in the event. Whether you're trying for a podium spot or just trying to optimize your personal ability, competition requires more dedication and sacrifices. More often than not, those sacrifices affect everyone around you.
While it's impossible to list every detail to successfully train for and race at such an event, we can begin with 10 key areas:
1. Foundation Aerobic Endurance
Competitive athletes in any endurance sport keep a good foundation of aerobic fitness year round. Yes, they do take some time off after the most important competition of the season, but they stay fit.
Athletes looking to complete an August event can begin building fitness in January and perhaps as late as March; but know that a late start for an event this long means a shallow level of fitness, with little room for errors.
One training tool I like to use is a crash-training week of high cycling volume four to six weeks prior to the event. This can be self-designed or a bike tour. This kind of a training week can significantly boost fitness if the athlete is ready for and can recover after the crash training.
If a week of training isn't possible, block three days of longer training together. For example a Friday, Saturday and Sunday block containing a total of eight to 12 hours of training. The longest training day of the weekend is between four and six hours.
2. High Power-to-weight Ratio
Three things influence your power-to-weight ratio. The power you can generate on a bike is a combination of the force you apply to the pedals and the speed that you can turn the cranks. Two means of increasing your ability to apply force to the pedals is with weight or strength training, followed by hill work on the bike. You can increase cadence with form drills like spin-ups. The third area of influence is body weight.
You can increase your power-to-weight ratio by increasing power, decreasing your body weight or a combination of the two. Some athletes believe that the person who weighs the least is the best climber. That's not always the case. If you decrease your body weight with drastic measures, you'll likely lose muscle in the process. Lost muscle is lost power.