Race Across the Sky - Part II

The final two weeks before the race is no time to bemoan the training, dieting, stretching, strength training, etc. that you didn't do. No one training plan is perfect for everyone and seldom are perfectly laid out plans executed without a hitch. You accomplished what was possible given your own situation, so quit the negative talk because it does nothing but harm. Being rested for race day is the best thing to do in those final few days.


7. The Ability to Pace Effort When Everyone Around You is Going Nuts

I'm convinced there were athletes in the event who had fitness equal to or greater than mine, but they failed to finish under the time cut or hit their goal time. Why? They went out with too much intensity too early in the race.

A sizeable percentage of world-record times are set with a negative-split strategy, meaning the second half of the event is faster than the first half. Using time as a measure for an ultra-distance mountain bike is difficult because of the terrain and changing weather conditions, so a negative-split effort is a better measure.

For the first half of the event, minimize the amount of time spent at LT and above. To measure this, you can also use perceived exertion (How "hard" does it feel? Are your legs about ready to burst into flames?) and heart rate. There are some issues with using heart rate alone, but it's a good tool. A well-trained athlete can have several short efforts at high intensity, with recovery, and still keep his or her blood from becoming too acidic.

If blood becomes too acidic, the body takes self-preservation measures to keep the acid from causing too much cellular damage: The capability of key enzymes decreases and slows the rate of fuel breakdown, which in turn slows pace.

An optimal race result depends on learning to maximize aerobic speed during the race and keep high-end efforts manageable.

8. The Ability to Pace Fluid and Fueling

Humans are not Indianapolis 500 cars. We can't run our tanks until almost empty, power into the pits to refuel and head out again -- I wish we could.

The rate that we can absorb fluid and fuel is limited. Too much of either can result in a system reversal, leaving all stomach contents in the dirt. Too little of either also causes problems.

A further complication is a fair amount of individual variability in fluid and fuel absorption rates. What works perfectly for one person doesn't necessarily work for the next. It's important to learn what you can tolerate, and enjoy, in training. Then, be ready to make adjustments on race day. Fueling needs change based on pre-race nutrition status and fitness, race intensity, temperature and sweat rates.

To help keep your fluid and fuel rates well-paced, set a watch timer to go off every 20 minutes as a gentle reminder.

9. Mental Toughness/Skills

This is a big category that includes training, pre-race and race-day skills. Athletes must work on mental fitness, all year, as much as they work on physical fitness.

Focusing on race day, athletes need to enjoy the fact that the race is unpredictable. The day can, and will, present problems that need to be solved during the event. This is part of what makes racing so fun. When challenges present themselves, top athletes ask, "What do I need to do to solve this issue and increase my chances of being successful?"

10. Luck

The old saying that "Luck is when preparation meets opportunity" is true. However, a different kind of luck is needed to avoid broken parts, flat tires, bad weather and bad decisions by other riders. It never hurts to be lucky.

If you have your eye on Leadville or another ultra-distance event, maybe now is the time to start your training so you can increase your chances of success.


Gale Bernhardt was the 2003 USA Triathlon Pan American Games and 2004 USA Triathlon Olympic coach for both the men's and women's teams. Her first Olympic experience was as a personal cycling coach at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. Thousands of athletes have had successful training and racing experiences using Gale's pre-built, easy-to-follow training plans. For more information, click here . Let Gale and Active Trainer help you succeed.

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