Social Media Handles: Twitter: @KevBenky | Instagram: @kevinbenky
Best 36ONE Result: 2017 Mixed Team Champions (18:34:08)
Best other MTB Race Results: 3rd Place 2017 Munga MTB
Goal for 2018 36ONE:


The 36ONE: It’s probably too late to make any real difference to your fitness ahead of the 36ONE now, but what mental/psychological preparations can riders still do to help them complete the 361km route?

KB: Yes it definitely is a little late to get any fitter but it’s important to keep riding but just a little less than you normally would. I don’t like extra rest days, your body needs to keep its routine, but riding shorter and easier is good for you – about 80% of the volume that one would normally do with less hard riding and more cruising.

Mental preparation is by far the most important prep when getting ready for a ride like this. I like to imagine the ride and what I will do at various points, preparing myself so that when the time comes to do something it feels most natural to be doing it. I also try to take time to focus on why I am doing the ride, what made me want to do it, so that when it get hard I can focus on that and make sure that I keep going.

Mental preparation is key says Benkenstein.

The 36ONE: In 2017 the temperatures dropped as low as 2 degrees Celsius in the early hours of the morning and rose to nearly 40 after mid-day on Saturday afternoon. What kit do you suggest riders start in? And should they pack warm gear in check point boxes or complete changes of kit?

KB: I like to pack each box so that I have what I need for the next leg easily available and organised waiting for me at the check points. It is most likely to get really cold between CP1 and CP2 for most, so I recommend packing warmer clothing to put on or start carrying from CP1, there is no need to carry something if you have the choice to put it in a box until you need it. I’d do the same with any special food or drink that riders want that isn’t available at the check points, although there isn’t much like that.

I would start with arm warmers, an under shirt and a buff on and then put a jacket of some sort on at CP1 and maybe some warm gloves too. Staying warm is very important in the night so that your body can work properly but you also don’t want to get too sweaty on the climbs as that will leave you cold on the descents. It’s a tricky one to balance but an important thing to think of.

The essential details of the 2017 36ONE. Photo by @KevBenky.

The 36ONE: You’ve done a host of ultra-endurance events, including single stage multi-day rides. Nutrition is obviously key to completing events like that. What advice can you give less experienced riders?

KB: The most important thing for me is that riders break the ride into smaller parts rather than focussing too much on the full distance. It is far easier to ride from water point to water point and to do what needs to be done to get to that point and then continue from there.

Pacing is also key and riders should do their best to keep things steady from the beginning rather than to ride too hard and then fade. The last 120km of the race were the hardest in my view last year and riders should save their legs for that.

Nutrition wise the number one rule is not to do anything new on race day. A person’s body is used to a certain way of eating and a big change to that can cause stomach issues when doing a tough event, like 36ONE. Specifically the new use of gels or a new energy drink might cause issues and should be avoided if possible. Personally I prefer eating my calories as opposed to drinking them.

The 36ONE: In 2017 you rode with your then fiancée, now wife, Mikayla, as a mixed team. How did you manage the difference in your strengths and what advice would you give riders taking on the 36ONE as teams?

KB: To ride as a team! The biggest mistake I see teams making is to race each other which is not the point, the point is to get to the finish together in the fastest time possible. My advice is to ride to each other’s strengths and to share the workload accordingly and also to respect each other’s physical feelings during the event. Invariably a rider will have a tough patch during the event and the role of partners is to help the other through that, both by doing extra work and helping them from a mental side by encouraging them to keep going and not make them feel bad for suffering a bit – it hurts for everyone after all!

Benky’s wife and teammate for the 2017 race Mikayla. Photo by @KevBenky.

The 36ONE: Breakdown how you, in an ideal world, would spend your time on Friday before the race starts at 18:00.

KB: Firstly a sleep in, which in my world is 6AM, and then a nice big breakfast. After that we would drive through to Oudtshoorn which will be 4-5hrs and then a quick registration before finding somewhere to relax. I will try eat two more meals in that time, making sure that my energy levels are topped up, with the last meal being at about 3PM. I’ll get ready to ride at about 4:30 and then ride across to the start around 5 to give a little time to take in the atmosphere and catch up with friends. If I can fit in a nap along the way that would also be nice!

I try not fuss too much on the day and have everything ready a day or two before the event to make the day as trouble free as possible.

Regarding registration I like to have my boxes pre-packed in plastic bags so as to make that a quick and easy process too.

The 36ONE: How do you pace yourself across the 361km distance? Do you ride to heart rate zones, to a power meter or just by feel?

KB: I suppose a mix of each really. Once the nerves of the start get out of my system and my heart rate returns to normal I try keep it in the 60-80% range as much as I can, avoiding the extra stress of ‘going hard’ for my body as it hurts later in the race when you need the energy. On the climbs I use my power meter to pace myself, keeping myself within my limits, again to save energy for later in the race when it counts. Heart rate is fine or pacing though as most don’t have a power meter, it’s very important to keep it in the 60-80% range in that case.

My number one rule is that the tank should be emptied in the last 20% of the race and not the first 20%, there is way more time to be made up riding hard at the end than at the beginning.

Will Kevin Benkenstein be on the podium in the solo men’s category after the 2018 36ONE? Only time will tell.