Monday, 9 December 2013

Lessons from the 2013 Maxi

Before doing the Maxi, my intention had been to progressively increase the distances.  However, the Maxi gave me a scare, especially seeing the pain the 8-lappers were going through.  Rather than making any rash change of plan, I had parked the issue until I was in a better frame of mind to make a rational (rational?!) decision.  Well, I’ve done that now.  My next race will be the 1,010 km 10x Graperide in early April!

So, let’s sift through the entrails of the Maxi and see what can be learned, especially for even longer distances.  (Note that I may add to and change this a bit over the next few days as further ideas comes to me)

1. One amazing positive lesson was the power of the human body.  At the end of the third lap, I thought that I was shot.  However, I finished the last segment of the fourth lap with strength and speed.  The lesson might be to just never give up on your body.  It is the mind that you have to work on!

2. Having said that, the various types of pain and discomfort I felt on the ride may give an indication of things to work on, especially for a longer race.  These were:

  • Sore triceps.  Possibly thie could be improved through strength exercises.  Far more important, however, is riding style.  I have to develop a style that relies almost 100% on core-muscle support.
  • Sore wrists.  This is also something likely to be assisted by using those core muscles; i.e. anything that means I’m using the wrists less.  One problem I have is that I often have my hands on the brake hoods, which puts them at an angle and means that they’re also at an angle when changing gears or applying the brakes.
  • Sore neck muscles.  I would like to use my aero-bars for most of the Graperide.  That will put a lot of stress on my neck muscles; and probably also on various arm and back muscles associated with the position.  I will need to build up strength and endurance in these muscles.  There may also be a better way of holding the position that doesn’t involve such strain.  It might even pay to look at my bike set-up and consider a less aggressive aero position, although only if necessary.
  • Sore hamstrings.  This could be a bike set-up issue.  It definitely is a riding style issue, as the problem lessened when I followed Nick Dunne’s advice, which was to pull rather than push with my legs.
  • Sore knees.  Great news for me is the fact that the pain was the same for both legs, i.e. it wasn’t related to imbalance on the bike or to my usual problems with the right knee.  The pain was at the bottom half and in front of the patella.  I wonder if this is related to bike set-up.  Maybe also riding style.  The knees hurt for some days afterwards.
  • The bottom of my left foot felt slightly bruised.  The fact that it’s only one side is symptomatic of an unbalanced riding style.  I tried to make sure that I was sitting plumb in the middle of the saddle, but obviously this was not enough.  It was a minor discomfort, but did seem to nag at times.
  • Saddle discomfort.  This wasn’t really too bad considering the distance, but it’s something I will need a strategy for. 

3 .My speed was slowest on the hills.  This was partly a deliberate part of my pacing approach, something greatly aided with easy gear ratios.  However, it also reflects a lack of strength.  Strength will be something I have to work on.

4. Pain and discomfort will be an issue with longer rides.  I found my speed increase considerably when I found a more comfortable position.  The ultra-distance rides are likely to have the cyclist living with pain and discomfort all the time.  So the issue becomes how to delay it, how to manage it, and how to ride through it.  This will have a crucial bearing on how well I do.

5. Support crew.  Even the Maxi was pushing it with only one person as support; 33 hours straight is a lot to ask from someone, especially when that person is herself effectively unsupported.  Ideally I would have two crews of two people each.

6. Type of support.  I respond best to positive encouragement.  I respond best to people who respect me and encourage me with practical advice and by the fact that they have confidence in me.  This doesn’t mean that they have to pussy-foot around me though.  However, I have found that I react very badly to negative messages, especially when there is an ego behind them.  I therefore need to be very careful about who is on my support crew.  I would also want to prep them in regards to the types of interaction likely to work best with me.

7. I found that I’m very motivated to finish.  Pride and fear of failure is a very powerful motivator.  However, I suspect that it will be important to make sure I have a group around that keeps me positive and focussed as the laps continue.  The race has to have meaning.  It should even be fun.  I cannot ever be allowed to think, “What’s the point”.

8. Stops have to be managed efficiently.  Sometimes a stop is good, both physically and mentally, and can actually increase average speed.  However, time off the bike should be kept to a minimum and definitely should not be wasted.  The best person to manage the off-bike time is the support crew.

9. Obviously fitness is vital.  My fitness should be of a level that in a race I can recover quickly from a long period of hill work and still have enough in the tank to be able to hit those hills lap after lap without flagging.

10. My “head” messages seemed to work well.  This will be tested more in a longer race.  I’ll need to think more carefully of strategies and even practice some.

11. Food is vital.  I found that the Perpeteum wasn’t enough.  This may have been because I wasn’t consuming enough, although I did consume the Perpeteum and water planned.  The times I had additional food were followed by a lot more energy.  I found even simple carbs (a couple of sips of coke) seemed to work, without any great sugar fall afterwards.  Perhaps best might be to use Perpeteum as my staple, but supplement it.

12. Pacing is also vital.  The Maxi was my best experience with good pacing.  I'll need to remember this in future races.  Be able to finish as hard as you begin!  That's the way to get the highest average speed you can.

13.  The big unknown in the Graperide will be sleep management.  Strangely enough, it was earlier on in the Maxi that I had felt the most sleepy-tired.  Maybe it was coffee that successfully kept sleep at bay later on in the race?  But sleep will be necessary in the Graperide, even just 1-2 hours.  I'll need to develop a carefully worked out strategy for this and even practice.  I could try and wing it with no sleep, but that may be somewhat risky near the end and, also, I want to use the Graperide as practice for even longer races, which means practicing sleeping.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Andrew - you mention bike set up a few times. I am stating the obvious but have you had a proper assessment done? Also might be useful to visit a physio who can carryout an assessment to check for any body imbalance/alignment issues and also give you some targeted exercises for strengthening those key muscle groups you have identified. Keep me in mind if you are looking to put together a second support crew. Cheers Peter.