Ultra Distance Races: how to train and keep motivated.

Posted by William 28/05/2018 0 Comment(s)


Adrian competed in his first MTB event in 2012 and has since challenged for titles in various different distances and categories, including placing 3rd in the British 24hr Championships and 6th in his age class at the World Champs. He also regularly podiums at the British MTB Championships, winning his class in 2015. 


In a weeks time Adrian will compete at the 24hr European Championships in Slovakia and later in the month the British Championships. Later on in the year he will also be competing in the World 24hr champs in Fort William. He is a man on a mission! Active Root are looking forward to see how Adrian gets on and help him fuel his 24hr events! 



As a 54 year old veggie 24hr ultra mountainbiker with previous experience of madness in the world of ultra walking I enjoy talking about my journeys and experiences. 


I thought I would take a departure from the normal area of nutrition and generally surviving a 24hr bike event and think about the most important thing to consider, namely the journey there, the motivation, dealing with illness, the odd family crisis and most importantly, trying to maintain the full support of those closest to you. I often say I can't wait to get pedalling at the event, it's easiest part....even for nearly 25hrs!


Training. Always a tough one, trying to train for a 24hr I would suggest engaging a good coach, one who understands your targets and understands what it's all about. Yes you can self coach but I have definitely found it's one less big thing to think about. This helps the motivation, feeding off someone especially who walks the talk...


Unless you're lucky enough to be a pro or only work part time for example then realistically fitting in your training with life is the hardest part, not just the training but recovery and equipment prep, you have to be very, very good with your time management and being extremely realistic with what time you have available to deal with. It does mean however that you may end up training at anti-social times or bad weather, or both. That's where the smart turbo comes in very handy, great bang for bucks and no issues with weather or bike maintenance but you enjoy it and max it out


Motivation. How do I sit on a turbo for hours on end if lack of time and weather means you can't get that endurance ride in? Easy- think of the end result, the jersey, the achievement of personal targets, knowing you're putting the quality work in while others may not be. A well set up "pain cave" to make it comfortable, not often a word you hear associated with turbo sessions, but good cooling fans, your favourite (Active Root) sports drink, great sounds or video collection and then just smash your targets out of the window!


Fitting in with work or if you're lucky enough to live within range of work then use a combination of direct cycling to work as an essential part of your training rides. I find that a pleasant recovery ride in to work if no showers are available (so avoiding getting sweaty!), also purchase the best foul weather gear you can find, after all there is no such thing as bad weather only bad gear, that way you arrive at work and if needs be change in the toilet and come out looking as fresh as a super hero ready to face the day. Then ride hard on the way home if the programme says to. If you're out of cycling range drive or commute part of the way, then do the rest on your bike. 


Overtraining (or as more than one experienced top flight coach says, under recovery) is a spectre that I think can really haunt the keen amateur and set you back months. I stick with a mantra of I would rather arrive at an event healthy, but 80% fit, than ill having in theory hit all my targets. Starting an ultra feeling sh#t is guaranteed to not be a pleasant experience 25hrs later. 


As I mentioned in a previous blog post (https://www.activeroot.co.uk/single-post/2018/03/15/Staying-fuelled-as-a-24hr-solo-mountain-biking-vegetarian), LISTEN to your body, but it's not easy when you're committed to being the best you can. I still have to keep myself in check and constantly remind myself of this. Luckily I have a great coach who lives this point and gives great support when I have to sack off the occasional session due to whatever crops up. If you get ill then recover first. Hard though it is to rest, turning a head cold into a raging chest infection could knock your plans out for the whole year. Enlist one or two of your peers to convince you to rest up! 


Finally and MOST importantly of all factor in your nearest and dearest. I don't think any of us could do such an ultra based sport without some home support, but it takes me back to your time management. Be realistic and super efficient with your training, NO junk miles, quality all the way. Discuss what you need to do with those who will be there when you're not and live with the reality of not being able to train like a pro all the time. The odd 5.30am alarm may have to be put up with to get certain targets in at times if necessary but don't constantly compromise your recovery. Sleep is one of the best performance enhancers ever...

However one thing that may well derail your immaculate plans is a family crisis. It can't be helped, it's life. So you miss a block of training, treat it as recover, deal with the crisis and get back to it super fresh. 


Happy training, Adrian