Finishing a self-supported, multi-day ultra endurance race such as Tour Divide (TD), Colorado Trail Race (CTR), or Arizona Trail Race (ATR) is a challenging task. With DNF rates regularly over 50%, finishing one of these events is no ‘gimmie’. Racing them competitively with the goal to win or set a course record is another step up in accomplishment. Both finishing and competing to win require specific preparation.
THE MENTAL PART
The most important part of your mental preparation is to do your homework. Study every inch of the course on maps and in Google Earth. Pre-ride sections if you can. Learn where your resupply points are, what the weather is likely to do, and what equipment you will need to safely cover the course. Practice with every piece of your equipment; know how to use it properly, and how to fix it if it breaks. Confidence in a self-supported, multi-day ultra endurance race hinges largely on the depth of your race course knowledge and equipment preparation.
Know exactly what your race goal is. You will need this goal to motivate yourself when the going gets tough. Rest assured, the going WILL get tough during an event like this.
The higher your excitement level for the race, the more motivated you will be to achieve your goals. Stoke your race passion before the race by reading race reports, talking to other athletes, looking at race photos, and doing whatever works to fuel your fire.
THE PHYSICAL PART
As in any other mountain bike event, training for a multi-day ultra endurance race involves two parts: (1) general fitness and (2) race-specific fitness. Take care of your general fitness first by training aerobic endurance, neuromuscular power, threshold, and VO2max to the highest level time allows. Then build on your race-specific abilities. For multi-day ultra endurance racing these are: endurance, strength, technical bike handling skills while riding a loaded bike, night riding, possibly hike-a-biking, and resilience. Resilience is the ability pedal day after day without generating overuse injuries.
The final preparation required for a self-supported, multi-day ultra endurance race is to absolutely sweat the small stuff. In these kinds of races, minor details overlooked can explode into deal breakers. Small details do count. Blisters can and do cause DNF’s. Running out of brake pads, flat tires, missing a water resupply, deleting the route on your GPS, and saddle sores can all be race-enders. Make lists and check them twice. Scope other racers personal bike set-ups to see if you are overlooking anything necessary. Do multiple race rehearsal rides wearing your race kit and riding with everything on your bike, at night and during the day, to ensure you have no surprises during the race.