It had been two years since I had completed a six hour mountain bike race. I certainly have had my attempts in those years however my mind would give up before my legs would.
I signed up for a DORBA six hour mountain bike race on a whim. A race where I would not put pressure on myself to race but just to complete the distance. What was there to prove ? Nothing really I just wanted to get it on and go for a long ride.
The interesting thing is when I came into mountain bike racing it was on the coat tails of being an endurance runner. Going for hours on a run was not a problem but on the bike it was not the same. I had spent a couple summers with Mark Payne cranking out century rides like it was casual Friday, however six plus hours on a mountain bike was a different game all together.
I set the bike up with some skinny two inch tires and bar ends. I like a skinny fast tire for these longer events I did not plan on pushing hard into every single corner. Giving up a little bit of traction loss for better rolling resistance is worth it. I used bar ends as each lap had a decent amount of climbing and switching hand positions in these longer events is easier on the hands. Call me nostalgic but rolling a 26 inch hardtail with narrow tires and bar ends amongst a sea of 29er’s made me feel a bit like Ned Overend in the 80’s.
The first sign of fatigue in a six hour mountain bike race is the literal pain in the neck sensation that starts to creep up a few hours into the race. It’s in these moments were spending a few extra clams on a lighter helmet start to make a whole bunch of sense. Secondly the lower back starts to tell you how you are no longer in your twenties and why full suspension bikes are still popular and a fast choice. Lastly the upper body starts to give out from all the pounding.
So why do it ? Why the hell not, nothing feels quite as good as finishing any endurance event. Whether it is a 50K run or a six hour mountain bike race the beer afterwards will always taste extra special in the evening. I must say I did learn a few things in this race. Rules that I would not follow for shorter two hour events like Xterra or XC racing.
Caffeine ingestion. My recent trend for last season was complete deprivation before hand and then ingesting around 300 plus milligrams before and during the race. However for this race I decided not to ingest any caffeine until I was three hours into the show. It worked like a charm my energy levels were consistent and steady throughout the race.
Pace. My ultimate goal was to finish this event not to RACE it and beat myself up. On the very first lap I had to keep telling myself to slow down and not get caught up in the moment. My last lap was my second fastest. I held a nice sustainable pace and kicked it in hard for the last hour and a half. The payout was I rolled across the finish line at 6:00:02. A historic first for me, my normal times in these endurance races are thirty to forty five minutes past the six hour mark.
Think layers. I knew it would be a brisk morning and wore layers to accommodate that. There is nothing I dislike more than extra clothing when riding.I skipped on the tights and went with some leg warmers, arm warmers, compression layer, wind vest, jacket and skull cap. After lap one I removed the jacket. After Lap three I removed the wind vest. Lap four I removed the skull cap and arm warmers. It worked out perfectly layers make it a smart choice on race day for these longer events.
Have fun. I must say it has been a long time since I had this much social fun at an event. Racing takes its toll on the mind and body, kicking back for a few events is good for the soul. Commend the other racers out there and really take some time to appreciate the beauty of the day and how truly fortunate we are to have this opportunity to participate in this type of event.
Hopefully I can make it to the next two races in the series. Still working off the holiday pounds. If you have never tried these longer races give it a shot the next time the opportunity presents itself , it is a completely different environment from shorter course racing. The competition is just as deadly, however after a few hours even the fast guys get soft and at the end we all can say we road for six hours and for that there is a mutual understanding. Until the next time, keep on riding.
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