5 Ways to Suffer (a bit) Less at Your Next Gravel Event
BY MILES FRANK
Whether it’s a long solo ride or a well-supported endeavor like the Belgian Waffle ride, I always remember that calories count and Less is Best!
We find that 120-180 calories per hour works very well for an average size person. So, go low and find your sweet spot, it is probably a lot fewer calories than you’d think!
Taper going into the event
Don’t feel like you need to keep pushing, training, and getting huge volume immediately prior to your big event. You will not gain any fitness, and all you’ll do is tire yourself out and introduce stress to the system. Legendary Triathlon racer and coach Jeff Cuddeback states, "The week of any event of this duration should be all about resting up and topping off your energy stores. Training is done to keep the engine lubed and tuned up, nothing more. If you think you're going to further your fitness through training the week of your key race, you're sadly mistaken. If you are the type to train right up to the event, you will almost certainly underperform”.
Take it slow, go for some easy spins on the week leading up to the ride or race. If you feel like you “need” some structured training, consider a classic easy day workout from an original gravel legend, Frenchman Jacques Anquetil: Ride 30 km and sprint for 10 seconds at every 1km mark.
Make a plan
I’m positive it was Mike Freeman, longtime motorcycle mechanic, bike racer, and organization genius that told me, “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail”.
It’s one of life’s funny paradoxes, that races are won before they start. Ever notice how the winner of the race or the first to the top of the mountain remembered to bring their bike, shoes, and water bottles?
Whether it's pre-race or on course, consider your best options to bring with you. Items like allen keys, a good pump, plus all the tools you may need on course to fix flats 50 miles away from the nearest town is a good idea. Don't rely on neutral support, aid stations, or your fellow racers to supply you at your moment of need.
Don’t be afraid to lose time
If you were to look at the heart rate data for an average racer post-race, the first thing you’d probably notice is a crazy tall spike in the first 10 minutes. That’s totally normal!
The natural issue that does arise, however, is that in long races, especially stuff more than 3 or 4 hours, you may very well encounter segments or obstacles that are not your strong suit.
Rather than feel like you need to keep up in others' strengths, allow yourself to take the path of least resistance and make up time later. I’ve stretched, had to walk technical sections, and taken slower routes around obstacles instead of over them. That type of thing helps to keep balanced and ready for a better spot on the day where I’ll be able to get back to equilibrium.
Respect the bonk - but avoid the urge to overconsume
Some still swear by the so-called “Golden rule” of 90 grams of carbohydrates per hour. I have ridden and raced a lot of different places with riders of varying abilities, and just know if this type of plan works for you - you’re a HUGE outlier.
The Less is Best rationale is that you stay consistent, and that consistency will pay dividends the longer you go. Drink before your thirsty, take Endurolytes before you cramp, and eat before you’re starving.
Carry a little extra than what you need, but don’t stuff yourself. After all, a full stomach is not what makes a fast racer!
Bring extra Electrolytes beforehand - a fellow racer might thank you
A principal consideration for training and racing far from civilization - take Endurolytes with you and pack more than you’ll go through. It really helps to be prepared and flexible enough to adjust calories and Electrolytes as perceived effort and weather may change drastically. The hotter it is the harder it will be to process calories, while at the same time you may very well need more Electrolytes.
Need to read up on Hydration in general for long days? Click here.