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The Sportive Survival Guide

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1 The Sportive Survival Guide on Wed 07 Jul 2010, 02:37


There are many things to consider when undertaking a sportive. This guide is not exhaustive and will also depend on the many unforeseen variables that we all may encounter along the way to the ultimate goal. To finish the ride in a respectable time and grab some glory along the way!
The best way to categorise the guide is to break it down to: Before/During/After

Before The ride:

• Make sure you target a sportive that will give you enough time to prepare for it. It is no good deciding 48hrs before an event you want to ride 100miles of undulating terrain. Not only will you be in pain but it will probably put you off riding your bike for many months afterwards. At the very worst you could end up needing medical attention and then all of a sudden that good idea you had has started to cost other people time and effort.

• Decide on a pre-event training program (ask the seasoned campaigners/captain in the club for tips) and at the very least just ride your bike. Club rides will suffice for this and will give you the grounding you need to conquer all but the awesomely challenging routes.

• With a week to go before the event you may need to start looking at the machine that is going to get you around the selected route. I mean your bike and not your body at his point. Your body if you are in any doubt should be checked by a doc prior to starting your training if you have any concerns.

• A good service or at the very least a check over by a competent person is the best way to deal with your selected steed. You can help yourself here by completing some simple checks of your own. 1. Check your chain for smooth motion and ensure it is lubricated and free from dirt, rust or debris. 2. Check your tyres for excessive wear and any flints you may have collected during your training rides. If you puncture you can repair or replace a tube but a shredded tyre is a show stopper and means a long wait for the SAG wagon to sweep you up at the end of the day.

• Buy some new inner tubes and ensure they have the correct valve stem and length for your wheels. It is often good practice to un-box them and check them over. Inflate them and check the valve operation. Squeeze the air from the tube and once done close the valve stem. Chalk or talc the tube and repack it, preferably in a tail pack or suitable bag for ease of access in an emergency. You may want to consider wrapping them in cling film as you never know when you may need them again and the water gets into everything when it rains!

• If you can acquire some surgical gloves these go a long way to keeping your puncture repair out of the realms of the amateurish efforts and into the well thought out and practiced club rider repairs. At the very least you will have not only a means of keeping oil from your hands and bar tape but they can double up as an emergency pair of under gloves if the temperatures plummet while riding.

• Check your brake blocks and ensure they have plenty of life in them. Remember that if it’s wet they will wear even faster than normal. Equally you should check the operation of your brakes, cables and gear change mechanisms. Your service should have picked up any anomalies anyway but its good practice to check this regularly.

• You have sorted your spare tubes (two will suffice) but you will also need to sort out your other repair kit items. A multi tool will help in an emergency and one with a chain splitter can save your bacon for sure. If you are unfamiliar with the operation of your tools then check them out and seek advice. A suitable set of tyre levers are a must and practising with this equipment is very important. Having to guess how stuff works is not the best way to deal with a technical issue with the rest of the club waiting for you!

• An effective and preferably lightweight cycle pump is also something to consider. Alternatively you can consider a CO2 cylinder with adapter and spares. Again if you are not familiar with the operation of this inflation system then get another spare and give it a go before hand. Whichever you choose i would recommend as light a system as possible. If you are going to ride for 100+ miles you want to keep excess weight to a minimum.

• Check over your clothing and ensure that you are not going to be wearing anything new or previously unworn for the event day. An untested seam that rubs is going to wreck your day. Make sure you don’t do anything different with your kit for the event day. This includes changing your washing powder etc. Again, you don’t want to be discovering you are not suited to the latest version of pine forest and camel hoof very biological powder!

• Check over your ancillary clothing and equipment and ensure it all fits well and is going to do its job. Things to consider for your potential 6+hr ride are - Helmet (is it comfortable?), Gloves, glasses, shoes and cleats, over shoes, sweat band, buff scarf (good for dealing with sweat and sun), sun cream (is it waterproof?),arm and knee/leg warmers?

• If you are lucky enough to be able to use a GPS system there are some checks you need to do for this as well. The unit will need a full charge for one and secondly the route once loaded should be run to ensure it has downloaded correctly. This goes for any electronic device you use inc. Mobile phones! Make sure the batteries and connections work and its going to last you for the entire ride (which could be in excess of 7hrs). Don’t forget a few pounds to cover the emergency items you may need which the event organisers may sell. And if you are stuck in the back of beyond and waiting collection by your own family/support team, it’s much better doing this with a pint in front of you.

These are some of the things you should be thinking about before you turn up on the day. As i mentioned, it’s not an exhaustive list. Now we should look at your Diet, Nutrition, Hydration and Recovery.

These topics are a very personal thing and i will only attempt to give broad guidelines based on my own experience and knowledge. Please understand that your training throughout the year should give you the best steer as to what works for you and i would not recommend changing that tried and tested routine. These notes are for guidance.

Pre-event hydration is very important and you should ensure you are not thirsty immediately prior to the event start. The amount you drink is very much dependant on the individual of course and i would advise you increase your normal fluid intake by at least 25%. It would also aid your hydration efforts if you were to take some electrolyte products 24hrs before the start. This will ensure your cells are suitably saturated. You will lose a lot of fluids during the ride and this includes essential minerals as well. You will need to balance levels and overcome this deficit very carefully to ensure you are riding at your optimum. Your body will tell you when you are running low as your effort becomes more laboured and you may cramp up.

You need to be in charge of your body and your effort not the other way around. Give your body what it needs, don’t starve it and still hope to be able to perform! As a rule of thumb! If you are on the start line and need to just nip off to the Loo for the second time in an hour then you are about right for the start. Drink religiously every 20 minutes throughout the ride. You will need at least two 750ml bottles for the event and ensure the fluids you take in your bottles are tried and tested. Don’t attempt to try the new magic carbohydrate powder in your bottle on the day of the event. If you can manage water then this will work adequately. If you don’t get on with plain water then try putting frozen lemon, lime or orange segments in your bottle. Just top them up with more water and you will continue to have the subtle flavour.
An electrolyte replacement product should be easy to consume either by separate means or additional to your water. I personally use Nunn Tablets and just drop this mild product into my water bottle No2 as i leave the feed station, keeping my bottle No1 for just water. This gives you the option to manage your levels easily in as painless a process as possible. DONT be tempted to take onboard something new from the feed station if you are not used to it! You have not mixed it and you don’t know the strength. You don’t know if you can stomach it either and once you have left the feed station it is too late to find out you have reduced your effective fluid levels by 50% because you wanted something that was FREE! Again, sip the electrolyte drink alternately with your water and keep your levels balanced. Your stomach is going to become tender anyway and you need to protect it as much as possible.

Food prior to the event is also something you should concentrate on and not give lip service to. Your meal the night before and your breakfast on the day of the event are crucial. Try and consume a balanced meal and nothing new to your taste buds. Try and consume high carbohydrate foods and the traditional pasta foods are a good bet. Your breakfast should be as much as you can manage (within reason) as this will fuel your efforts while riding. Look at fruit and/or porridge honey, nuts, cereals etc.

You should look at foods with a low Glycaemic Index (GI) to sustain you throughout the ride (porridge, nuts) and add some high GI foods to give you some early and immediate energy (honey, fresh & dried fruit). Avoid overly sugary foods as you will encounter sugar highs and then resultant crashes as well. You want to be looking at a balance throughout the event. Avoid scoffing your jelly beans in the first hour if you can absolutely avoid it!! Save those for just in case you struggle for energy and can’t muster the strength. Don’t treat them as sweets! They are emergency fuel!!

During the ride:

Feeding while riding and During the Event, you should again attempt to keep a balance to your energy levels. As a rule of thumb you should look at religiously eating every hour as a minimum and ensure you always have food with you. Only consume your final stash when you are content that you will not run out and affect your closing stages. Try to manage your food quota to include the period after you have finished. Your nutrition is MOST important within the 20 minutes after you come over the finish line and for several hours after that. In fact, if you have been ultra organised you can look at replenishing your protein even before you finish. I don’t want to jump the gun so the replenishment process will be covered in the next section.

Food stuff to be consumed should be easily carried and dispensed without too much mess or litter. Unlike the TdF riders we don’t have the benefit of a post stage clean up team and the locals will have a dim view if we go ditching gel wrappers and cling-film all over the roads! The best solution to this is: fruit (banana’s or various fruit dried), Flapjack bars (home- made variants or shop bought), Gels (various types & flavours but try them out and check to see if you need lots of water with them), Cake (fruit, carrot etc), sandwiches (various). You get the idea yes? Just don’t get into a situation where you have covered yourself in jam and the whole wasp population on the south coast wants what’s in your pockets or over your shirt!

In Summary, The key to a successful ride where food is concerned is to keep it simple. Eat simple food, easily digested, full of energy (not sugary), easily stored (in pockets) and No mess. Jobs Done!

After the Ride:

This phase of the ride is something that is most important and very often forgotten. As i alluded to before, you can start this process even before you finish the ride. Keeping a protein bar in reserve for you to eat in the final 20mins is an ideal time to start replenishing your depleted stores. You are looking at rehydration and glycogen replacement all within a reasonable time after you cross the finish line. Before you go looking for your nearest marshal to find out your overall time you need to think about your body first. VERY IMPORTANT!

This is going to make the difference as to whether you can walk the next day or not! It’s no good having a gold standard time for the event if while regaling folk of your adventure, you look like you’ve been abused by a prize marrow!!

The lactic acid that has built up in your muscles that made them hurt when you were riding along, this is going to have the final word if you’re not careful. Here is what you need to do. Firstly you need to get some quality protein into your system within 20 minutes of finishing. This can be found either in a home produced shake or food or a prepared shop bought shake. The SiS REGO shake is one that i have used in the past and is easily stored for post ride consumption. Just knock it up prior and store it in bottles then in cool bags in the car or at home (whichever is nearer).
The other alternative is a fruit and honey shake with yoghurt and raw eggs. Trust me on this one, once blended it tastes like the food of the gods. It will sort out your replenishment very quickly and effectively. Once you have consumed your shake or whatever, you should stretch and work the lactic acid out of your legs. Again you can work on this even prior to finishing the ride. Spin your legs vigorously in the closing miles to pump the fresh oxygenated blood into the muscles and flush the lactic acid. A good stretch routine is a must and will pay dividends for the next day. Remember the Marrow!

Next you need to take onboard more protein and include a more balanced diet. This needs to be within an hour of finishing and the longer you wait the more damage you will do. Your body is going to continue burning calories and trying to repair long after you have finished and this is going to make things worse if you don’t refuel adequately. Rehydrate at a rate you find comfortable and don’t bolt the fluids down as you will make yourself ill. You should, if the plan has worked be suitably hydrated anyway and if you find yourself needing the toilet when you finish then you got it right. Urine should be a very light straw colour and not carry too much of an odour. If it resembles coffee and burns your eyes as you look down then i would suggest you grab a glass of water or ten.

Finally, if you are in a position to coerce a family member, friend or professional to give you a massage then get stuck in. It’s going to hurt like hell but it will feel better in the long run. If you aren’t lucky enough to get a massage sorted then a good old bath will suffice. Soak away the tiredness in your legs and recount your climbs, attacks, descents and avoidance of marrows while letting the warm water do its thing.

Oh and if you are especially brave you can venture into an ice plunge bath and compression tights through the evening to really drive that lactic out of your legs.

I hope this has in some way helped you avoid the pitfalls of what is supposed to be an enjoyable day out. It can go horribly wrong and i would dearly wish you to avoid this. Of course there is the little matter of actually being able to do the ride and achieve your goal? ‘Can i do it?’ you ask yourself.

In my experience, when it comes to doing physical things that hurt. It is mind over matter. If you mentally allow climbs to beat you before you undertake them, the pain you inevitably have to go through will be felt twice!

Pain is just Fear Leaving your Body!! Don’t give in to Fear. Respect and conquer Pain. These are wonderful feelings. This is my body working hard. I AM STRONG!

Absolutely finally:

If you are about to pack it in, if you are going to wrap your hand, if it all becomes just too much..........................Try and smile! You will always feel better when you smile!


R J Walker
PNECC Capt & Sec 2010

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2 Re: The Sportive Survival Guide on Wed 22 Dec 2010, 20:10

In the words of Evil Kenivel "Pain is temporarily, Glory is forever"

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