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Training for bikepacking races

Check out my new article on Bikepackers Magazine: Training for bikepacking races

(Click on the image to read the article)training for bikepacking racestraining for bikepacking races

All bikepacking races are big events, all of them! Big events attract athletes who love to ride, and love to ride a lot. This becomes the default training plan most bikepack racers follow – go out and ride big.  This is a great approach for athletes with lots of time to train and goals to simply finish, rather than push their limits.

If your goals are loftier than simply finishing, or you have a time-crunched busy life, you have to be more efficient with your training time. Time-crunched athletes will get the same results with less training time on a structured training plan. Athletes with loftier goals will achieve higher results with the same time dedicated to training on a structured plan.

Execution Factors

Bikepacking races are not simple events to execute accurately. They require many abilities. A single hole in your arsenal can lead to a DNF. You really do have to sweat the details to be a successful bikepack racer.

MTB training for bikepacking

Choose your goal event well ahead of time and schedule research time into your training plan. Learn about the route, equipment required and conditions expected. Show up to the event prepared with fueling, pacing and logistics strategies in place. Most of all, start with a ton of stoke about the race, a load of grit, and determination to finish. Mental attitude, joy, and tenacity are important pieces for success in this game.

Contact point maintenance is a detail to sweat. Wearing the wrong shoes, leading to foot damage, is one of the most common reasons to DNF in a bikepacking event.  Months of training derailed by blisters.


Fitness Factors

Bikepacking events range from sub-48 hour, non-stop, no-sleep efforts like the Coconino 250, up to the 2,745 mile Tour Divide, which takes some racers over a month to complete.

bikepacking training fitness

  • The scale of these events requires athletes to start healthy with no injuries. Sick or injured athletes rarely finish bikepacking events.
  • Flexibility, muscle balance, alignment and solid core strength should be worked into training. If any of these items are a limiter for you, see a physical therapist for a muscle balance, flexibility and alignment exam to correct any weakness.
  • Visit a bike fit specialist early on in training. Get your bike position set up correctly and log many miles on that set-up before race day.
  • Add a core training session to your routine three times per week consisting of 30 mins of work that makes you sweat. Read this Core Strength for Mountain Bikers menu for core training ideas.
  • Daily nutrition and excellent recovery habits will shore up your immune system, eliminate sickness induced training inconsistencies and allow you to pack more quality training into the time you have available.
  • Review this Tools to Speed Recovery checklist to see if there is anything you can add to enhance your recovery. Body composition is an area most athletes can reap performance gains.
  • Athletes more than 15 pounds over ideal race weight should put extra focus on body composition improvements.
  • Aerobic endurance and fatigue resilience are abilities all bikepack racers require no matter the distance and level at which they are competing. This is the heart of training for bikepack racing. This is where the long steady aerobic miles, over-night trips and epic climbing days fit.
  • Technical ride skills and hike-a-bike training are important for some courses and less so for others. Research your event, compare the course demands to your skill set and assess how much training time is needed to improve these abilities.
  • Athletes with goals to set record race times and ride as fast as possible should devote structured training time to aerobic capacity and threshold power development to increase average moving speed on course. Racing shorter events, riding high intensity intervals, threshold intervals and tempo focused training fits here.

Bikepack races are diverse events. You’ll see sunrises and sunsets from the saddle, great vistas and if you are lucky have a white moment. You’ll likely crack a few times, suffer and wonder what the heck you are doing. While out there, smile to yourself when things get vivid knowing you signed up for a flash of intense living and you are getting exactly what you asked for!

By Lynda Wallenfels Google+

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