A thought for long days on the bike and back to back rides.
Yes, I know I know another blog about the benefits of just putting in some time on the bike (or skis, snowshoe or whatever you do) to better prepare for a race weekend.
I often write training plans for time crunched cyclists and something I am reminded of when it comes to planning a race weekend for someone is how much time it takes to prepare properly, race and Cooldown. And how important it is to get some back to back days of training in to prepare for that.
Looking at an XCO MTB race weekend, pre-riding a course to the point your comfortable with it and doing some intensity to get all systems firing this can take 1.5-2 hours to do. Then on race day getting in a good warmup which in my opinion is a minimum of 30 minutes of moving time again with some intensity to get all the energy systems activated. Then the actual race part which can 1-2 hours, followed up by a minimum of a 20 minute cooldown. That weekend of riding can easily be 3.5hr- 5hr of saddle time. If a regular week is 6-8 hours you can see how much of a chunk that can take up.
I find many of my squeezed for time athletes CTL’s (measure of long term training stress) can really start to ramp up just due to those weekends. And it actually can be a battle to keep that in check to help prevent burnout, injury or illness. And why its important to always consider racing as a part of training.
I believe this is one reason why many racers feel that “burnout” by July, with a front heavy racing schedule (at least here in Ontario) many athletes simply don’t have the chronic or foundational fitness to handle that ramp.
If you’re a MTB racer who follows a pattern like the one above it’s a great idea to build that kind of stress into your training weeks. Or at least some of your training weeks. Even if your race is “only” 60-75 minutes long its important to consider the saddle time to properly prepare, race, and cooldown from that race weekend.
For development athletes I feel (my opinion) its important to build that race weekend routine as it is a common one when you begin travelling and racing World Cups, Nationals and Canada Cups. But for the master athlete or casual racer who wants to still race well on race day. Consider getting a pre-ride in earlier if possible. Many courses are open to pre-ride earlier than the day before the race. And just stay home, prepare with some intensity and head to the race rested and prepared. (and don’t forget to cooldown after)