How to Finish a 100-Mile Mountain Bike Race


Toeing the start line with an appropriate pacing strategy is required to achieve your goal. The goal assumed for this article is to finish within the time cut-off, elated and tired. To achieve this goal you must pace the race with close to even splits, meaning keep an even pace all day. This is not the same as keeping an even effort level or heart rate the whole day.

Perceived exertion should be very low in the first few miles and gradually climb for the duration of the event. Pacing at an appropriate perceived exertion off the start line is extremely difficult in the face of race day excitement. Having an objective pacing control such as watts or heart rate on board can be useful.

Here are some pacing tips:

  • Keep your pace entirely aerobic at all times.
  • It is ok to walk short steep sections (in fact your butt will love it) to stay aerobic.
  • Limit power spikes by avoiding short intense burst of speed or power.
  • Ignore other racers in the first few miles and focus on yourself.
  • Ride the first half of the race at a moderate to high cadence to keep your muscles fresh.

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Speed, positive mental outlook and enjoyment of the second half of a 100 miler is almost entirely reliant on the fuel plan followed in the first half of the race, or more specifically, keeping your stomach working. A foul stomach is the number one reason for ultra mountain bike race DNFs at every level from first timer to pro.

A fuel plan has five parts:

? Pacing: How weird to have pacing as part one of the fuel plan, right? Wrong. Over-pacing with sustained time over threshold at the start of a 100 miler is the fastest way to shut down your stomach and derail your fuel plan. A working stomach is the foundation of a fuel plan.

? Timing: The stomach is a delicate creature. You should treat it with lots of TLC if you want to get some love back. Throwing down a big wad of anything quickly puts stress on your stomach and it will rebel. If you are indulging in a double whammy and over-pacing at the same time it will visibly rebel and that is no fun. Whatever goes into you stomach needs be in frequent and small portions. The smaller and more frequent, the happier your gut will be.

? Calorie Intake: Personal differences in the calorie amount athletes can process through their stomachs occur but a good rule of thumb is to aim for 0.5 grams of carbohydrate per pound of body mass per hour. A 150-pound athlete will be shooting for 75 grams per hour or 300 calories per hour. This is only achievable if pacing and timing described above are taken care of.

? Hydration Balance: Ideally replace the fluid you lose, no more and no less. On hot days you will lose more than cool days. Dehydration will slow stomach emptying and decrease performance. In training, weigh yourself before and after rides. For every pound lost, replace with 16 ounces of fluid. Over-hydration is less than ideal and has its own problems. If you gain weight on a ride, drink less next time you are out in identical conditions.

? Electrolyte Balance: During exercise, electrolytes (largely sodium) are lost in sweat. Perfect body functioning and athletic performance requires attention to electrolyte balance. Again, significant differences in electrolyte demands exist between athletes and under varying environmental conditions. Anywhere between 500 to 2000 mg of sodium per hour may be required.

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