The questions I receive about races like Crank the Shield are mostly about volume (i.e. ‘Am I training enough?’) but I find that far more often the limiting factors in endurance racing, the factors that really determine success, are small things related to preparation, health and movement quality.
Protect Your Bottom
Saddle sores and related skin issues arise very frequently in endurance sport. While at a certain point, it is inevitable that those who are pushing the limits of the human body will push the limits of human skin, there are also many things that can be done to help recover from skin damage and prevent overuse. Molly Hurford’s book “Saddle, Sore: A Women-Only Guide to You and Your Bike” is a great resource covering many issues, including saddle sores and hygiene. Some of the easy changes are to rinse your laundry well, use ‘gentle’ detergents and GET THE HECK OUT OF YOUR CHAMOIS and into the shower when you finish. Yes, even before the post-ride beer!
Hone Your Bike Skills
Much of my work is helping clients reduce time lost to simple lack of basic bike skills. Many endurance athletes neglect basic skill development early in their career, and instead, we take on huge volume before learning the basics and then wonder how we could possibly have trained more to reach our goal finish time or why we keep hurting ourselves. Common issues are being uncomfortable un-clipping to put a foot down, and a inability to ride rock-overs and hop over logs. Mechanical skill is important to maximizing training and racing, practice in training. Stage racing is special because these skills also need to be performed ‘blind,’ meaning without the benefit of a pre-ride. This necessitates a well-practiced skill repertoire, or ‘quiver’. Spend some time at www.bikeskillsproject.com and a few focused minutes daily on some element of your ‘skills quiver.’ The front yard or local park are perfect training grounds.
Strength and Mobility
Strength and mobility are two important areas for stage racing, as well as for cycling and life in general. These are two of my passions as a Registered Kinesiologist. I believe that there are things we can all do in our daily life to mitigate the stresses on our bodies (e.g. using cruise control to reduce strain on our right leg when driving, especially to and from far-away races). We can further help reduce this stress and imbalance by using a lacrosse ball or ‘trigger point’ tools to provide soft tissue stimulation in those target areas. The act of rolling can have many benefits, including relaxation/meditation, since that’s an oft-neglected time, yet one of the most needed for busy athletes. Further, by adding strength training to our fitness regimen, we provide a variety that allows for recovery from bike sessions, forces us to use great ranges of motion and adds strength required for multiple days of off-road riding including hike-a-bikes and bumpy terrain.
Pack for Success
Packing for success at stage races is also key. Often we are limited to how much we can bring and often it is hard to foresee the weather and mechanicals our bikes may experience. In the Smart Athlete – Crank the Shield Training Newsletter, we go over packing lists and get insider tips on the demands of the race. While not mandatory, the Trek Store ‘Rock Star’ Service Package can help reduce mechanical issues and the amount of tools to pack and allow you to focus on pedaling… and then getting out of your chamois!
3 things you need but might not think of:
a) Your favorite pillow, ear plugs and eye shade. Start using the last two now if you aren’t—you’ll thank me by mid-race.
b) Baby wipes to keep hands clean and your bottom clean if showers aren’t possible right after a stage.
c) Derailleur hanger, quick link, patch kit, tube, CO2 inflator, pump & a multi-tool with a chain breaker
Work Your Game Plan
‘Game Play’ is the final concept I really push on all my clients. It is especially important for stage racing since we are pushing the limits of our volume and frequency of riding. We need to know how our food digests, how to fix a flat, how our saddle feels after three days, how to use our gears/lockouts, what intensity/HR/RPE allows us to stay steady through 3-6hr days and whether our bike shorts annoy us. Try everything at least five times at race intensity and for at least a couple hours.
Happy racing, and we’ll see you out there!
P.S. If you have any questions please feel free to:
Join the Crank the Shield Newsletter to gain access to insider tips weekly
Check out the Crank the Shield Website and signup for the race (commit now to ensure success!)