Wiggle CX Century – Preparing the Body
Well, reading through Paul’s advice, I would say I’m pretty happy with where I am. I’ve been upping the miles to get close to the hundred and have finally got around to adding some core and strength work into my week. Living at the eastern end of the South Downs Way has it’s advantages as well as I can train on the hills that cluster at the end of the route.
My only worry is that so far, most of my mileage has been on the black stuff and I’ve always had a rough rule of thumb that any distances ridden off-road, are worth double on the road! This isn’t based on any kind of scientific research, merely how I feel during and after a ride. So to avoid having to ride double century road sessions, I’ll be starting to put in more time off-road.
Living in Eastbourne means that I can do simple out and back routes, with the advantage that I’ll be hitting the final climbs in a similar state to what I’ll be in July – knackered! This should allow me to become accustomed to what I find to be the hardest part of the route. From just before Brighton all the way to the finish, the route rolls up and down with a vengeance; chalk hills that shimmer in the sun, the rutted surfaces battering you physically and mentally.
I’m hoping that upper body and core strength training – areas that I, like most cyclists tend to ignore – will help me deal not only with what could be a twelve hour day, but also the battering the trail will hand out. The South Downs Ways surface, especially at it’s eastern end is mainly chalk. After a few days of sun and wind, both of which we have in abundance, the surface will be bone dry and rutted, testing your concentration as well shaking you and your bike.
As Paul mentioned getting fuel for the ride is vital. No point in all that training and new kit, if you’re running on empty halfway around. I’ve made a few mistakes on long rides before – on one occasion passing out on the side of the road – and don’t want to repeat those experiences again.
The CX Century organisers will provide eight feed stations on the route and the South Down’s Way also has water taps along the route, so I’ll be forgoing any kind of back pack. I’ll take some emergency food in my pockets, but intend not touching it and relying on the feed stations instead. I’ve found that as long as I mix up what I eat, rather than only eat one type or brand then my stomach can, well, stomach it! Also on long and hot rides I find that swapping between plain water and energy or hydration drinks is the way to go for me. As Paul said this is something you should be trying on your training rides, rather than on the day.
Another factor to consider is the weather. On the seven times that I’ve ridden it, the South Downs has simmered under scorching blue skies all but once, when it was so wet I had to pedal downhill against the mud! This brings in all the problems of heat exposure: lack of concentration (not what you want on a tricky descent), cramps, nausea, headaches, dizziness, the list goes on. So remember your sun cream as well as your chamois cream!
I suffered from heat exposure once while riding the South Downs Way on one of the hottest days of the year; it was thoroughly unpleasant. I put the blame on only consuming energy drinks, bars and gels. Three quarters of the way through, I didn’t want to drink any-more and this led to me shivering under my silver foil blanket in the sun, waiting to be rescued by the family! Lesson learned; try out your food and drink before the event and in my case this means plenty of water and normal food as well as energy products.
Another important piece of kit – not just for you, but possibly another rider – is a first aid kit. I thoroughly recommend you buying one and learning how to use it in an emergency. Although the South Downs Way is not exactly a barren wilderness, phone coverage is patchy in places and it could be some time before assistance reaches you. Having a first aid kit to hand could make a massive difference.
So there we have it; the CX Century is going to be a seriously hard ride, which you will need to prepare for properly. The organisers have recently added a 100km option to the event, so you could do the shorter distance first, get a feel for it and then go for the full-fat ride next year!
Now with my training ticking along quite nicely, it’s time to look at the bike and what I can do to make it as efficient and comfortable as possible. My next article will cover the kit I’m going to use and any changes to my normal set-up.
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