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Ahead of the 2017 The 36ONE MTB Challenge we spoke to last year’s champion Hannele Steyn (Follow her on Twitter: @Passion4Whole) and 2016 Tour d’Afique winner Katja Steenkamp (follow her on Twitter: @KatjaSteenkamp) for their ulta-marathon advice.
The 36ONE MTB Challenge is 7 weeks away, what training can you still do to ensure you’re physically in tip-top shape for the race?
Hannele: I would recommend T.I.T.S (Time in the Saddle) for another 5 weeks with lots of climbing and anaerobic to threshold HR. Playing with cadence and power and not anaerobic stuff. Then two weeks out start tapering off.
Keep your immune system strong with good nutrition and supplements (I recommend Passion4Wholeness’ products for an endurance event breakfast). Also make sure your bike has been serviced and you have fresh Sludge in your tyres.
Katja: It’s a long distance to ride in one go, so it is important is to simulate long distance rides. It’s not necessary to do the 360 kilometres in training but you should have a few 5-6 rides with sufficient climbing under your belt. It’s all about preparing your body for the long distance stress. 1-2 interval sessions a week should be included to get stronger and faster. A few weeks before the event intensity should be increased and time in saddle reduced! Make sure you rest and recover properly before the event. Nutrition is key to a successful finish. Experiment with nutrition now while training.
Packing for the event, what do you pack to take with for before the race, to carry with you on the bike, to put in your race containers and for at the finish line?
Hannele: Pack kit for warm and cold conditions, bum cream, rain kit, extra lube and necessary tools (chain links, tubes, hangers, plugs, CO2, gators, multi-tool) HR monitor, own nutrition supplements. For on the bike pack your energy drink, water and eats which you have trained and experimented with.
Katja: I learned that less is more. I use the Extreme Lights which last 40 hours but have a spare light and battery pack for emergency. The night is long and if over of the light breaks or battery dies without backup the race is over. I race on Hammer Nutrition Perpetuem (Protein/Carb mix) which I have in my bottles and Electrolytes Caps. I keep the refill in the containers. It can get really cold at night, so definitely leg and arm warmers, gilet and extra pair of shorts and shirt. I love that feeling of a fresh set of kit at the halfway mark. It’s like breathing fresh live into my tired body. Bioplus is my new favourite source of caffeine during rides. Once I am hitting sleep deprivation I am inhaling as much Bioplus to stay awake. I will also bring my iPod to ensure a great party while riding through the night.
Do you have any tips for a first timer on how to approach The 36ONE mentally?
Hannele: Stick to your own pace. Plan your actions at the stops. Make sure you gave excellent lights and back up lights.
Get some nutrition advice for this distance; you will not get away without planning correct nutrition.
Katja: It will be painful. There will be a point where you had enough of the pain and sleep deprivation. You will reach breaking point. It is very important is to go into the race with the goal not to quit, no matter what. Break the event down into sections and celebrate each part you complete. Your body is strong and able to complete the event. Use positive affirmations to motivate yourself to continue when it gets tough. Ask yourself before the event: why am I doing this? What do I want to get out of it? A clear purpose will make the journey a lot easier.
Talk us through what riders can expect in each section of the race:
Hannele: I am too ADHD to remember all the different routes to the stops. I just ride them.
- Start to CP 1 (De Rust): Everyone is excited and the start will be too fast for most riders. If you can start in your own pace and rather finish strong. The first section flies by in a blink, there is a bit of climbing bit the main challenge is really finding a healthy pace that is sustainable. Burning matches too early will make the rest if the race extremely tough.
- CP 1 to CP2 (De Rust to Volmoet): It’s now probably around 9/10 pm. The temperature will have dropped significantly; you will ride into the night. I recommend a good tune in the ears to stay focused with a good rhythm. Towards the end of this section riders typically hit the urge to sleep. You will have ridden about 180km and +/- 2000m climbing. That’s what most riders will have ridden in one go before. Pushing through this will be hard. Don’t linger too long at this WP if you want a good time. If time is not of concern, have. 2-3 hour nap.
- CP 2 to CP 3 (Volmoet to Calitzdorp): Tough. Very, very tough. Tired legs, tired mind. Lots of climbing with screaming legs.
- CP 3 to Finish (Calitzdorp to Oudtshoorn): The finish seems near. But kilometres drag out endlessly.
What makes you come back to suffer through 361km of mountain biking in one go again and again?
Hannele: I love thus race: the route, the organization, the prize money, the vibe, the night riding, the Challenge.
Katja: I am a bit of an endurance junky. I live for the challenge of putting my body to its limits. And the cherry on top, it’s a very well organised event, like all Dryland events.
To download a training plan to get you to The 36ONE MTB Challenge in top form click here to view various free training plan plan options from FitTrack.