CTS Coach Dave Sheek has been coaching 2015 Dirty Kanza 200 Champion Amanda “Panda” Nauman for more than three years and has a good understanding of what makes her engineer/math whiz/cyclist brain tick. She loves pandas, data, intervals, and most of all… food. When they sat down to create tips for this article they both came up with many and narrowed the lists to their Top 6. With nearly two months left before we all line up on the start line, we hope these tips will help you optimize your preparation, reduce any pre-race anxiety you might have, and help you have a great race!
If you or someone you know still needs an entry into the 2016 DK200, CTS has a handful of race entries – the only entries still available anywhere – that include our comprehensive race support package. View Details.
1. Listen to your Coach. In the days and weeks leading up to the event you will begin to question the meaning of life and wonder if you’re prepared enough. This is the time when a coach is most valuable. If you don’t have a coach, trust that you will be prepared if you did the work. Don’t second-guess yourself; it won’t help and in the last few weeks you have a greater chance of hindering your race day performance than enhancing it with radical changes to your preparation.
2. Create a schedule for the 48 hours leading up to the start of the race. To help minimize anxiety immediately prior to the event, stick to a schedule. Following a schedule you wrote when your head was less stressed will give you peace of mind when the nerves start kicking. You’re also less likely to make rash decisions, like riding an extra hour the day before or hitting snooze on your alarm when you know exactly how your time needs to be allocated before the start.
3. No new food on race day. A study from ultrarunning indicates that GI distress leads to more DNFs in ultraendurance races than any other cause, so focus on your gut! Plan your nutrition and hydration strategy around food and liquids you have been training with. Introducing new things to your gut on race day will only increase the risk of GI distress. Trust me, I know from experience!
4. Be flexible. Unexpected incidents are bound to happen. The weather might go bad, you could have mechanical trouble, or take a wrong turn. Take the problems in stride and be flexible. Being rigid about a race plan gets exponentially more difficult as races get longer and less predictable. You’re going to be out there a long time, meaning there’s plenty of time to work your way out of a rough patch! Don’t sweat the little things.
5. Know your limits. We’re drawn to the DK200 because of the challenge, but remember that this is a fun event and it’s not worth risking your life or pushing your limits too far. Whether it’s being more conservative descending some rocky hills or not blowing your legs up within the first hour, know where to keep yourself in check so you can have a safe and fun day.
6. Have fun! The Dirty Kanza is an amazing adventure. You’re guaranteed to suffer, but it’s going to be a blast and you’re going to have the most awesome memories and stories to tell. Do your best to be as prepared as possible, but recognize that on race day the fitness you have is what you have, so take a deep breath at the starting line, use your fitness wisely, and enjoy the ride!
COACH DAVE SHEEK’S TIPS:
1. Listen to your Coach. With a little less than months to go before the event, there is still time to make significant improvements in your training. This is the time to focus and communicate frequently with your coach. In the final two weeks before the race, the hay is pretty much in the barn in terms of fitness, and your coach is likely to be working on ensuring you are well rested and have solid race day strategies.
2. Don’t worry about what anyone else is eating or drinking. Amanda’s nutrition and hydration plan is whacky, but it works for her. It probably wouldn’t work for you, and what works for you probably won’t work for her. Don’t get caught up in what others are eating – or avoiding. Find out what works for you and stick to it. Be ready, however, to be flexible. Non-ideal foods are better than no food! Use the last two months before race day to dial in the foods and drinks that work for you, as well as a schedule of eating and drinking that works for your stomach. If you have trouble remembering to eat or drink, set a timer that beeps to remind you to drink at regular intervals. You don’t have to wait for the beep, but the beep should be a signal to evaluate and make a decision about whether it’s time to eat or drink again.
3. Go Long a Few Times. There’s no magic number of miles you have to ride in your longest pre-race training ride. And there isn’t that much physiological training value in one or two ultralong training rides. They are far more useful for dialing in nutrition and hydration strategies, conditioning yourself to sitting on the bike for long hours, and developing mental toughness. You can learn a lot from a few 5-6 hour rides, which for a lot of working parents and career professionals is about the most you might be able to fit in. But don’t just cruise around. After an hour to two at a moderate endurance pace, mix in a few 15-20 minute Tempo intervals (perceived exertion of 6-7 out of 10), and then continue the ride with a goal of keeping your power and pace relatively consistent.
4. Don’t cram in the last couple weeks. It is almost seven weeks until your event. Don’t wait until the last minute to start training. Doing a couple centuries in the last two weeks isn’t going to get you the fitness you want. The same goes for your rider bags and bike prep. Start thinking and acting on these things now. You might want new tires for Dirty Kanza, but don’t wait for the night before to seal up tubeless tires. There should be very little left to do in the final 5 days leading up to the start.
5. Don’t Skimp on Gear. Be prepared for anything. In your aid station bags pack extra tires, extra tubes, more tubes, a chain, brake and derailleur cables, brake pads, tire boots, etc. Anything you can fathom happening to you or your bike is possible out there. The more prepared you are, the less stressed you’ll be about a mechanical. If you don’t already know, learn how to repair a broken chain, how to replace your brake pads, the basics of truing a wheel on the side of the road, and how your derailleurs work. These things – along with knowing how to fix flats – can save minutes, hours, or even your chance to finish.
6. Come in rested, but don’t overthink your “taper.” The Dirty Kanza 200 is a one-day event, so you want to be as fresh as you can be on the start line. You also want to be relaxed. A prolonged and very strictly structured taper may improve performance by 1-2% (which isn’t a lot), but can also be a source of considerable stress for some athletes. Generally, in the 7 days leading up to the race you want to reduce training workload by reducing hours and either maintaining or reducing frequency, but you also want to retain some short bouts of intensity. Beyond that, don’t let the pursuit of a perfect taper add a lot of stress to your pre-race week. On race day there will a ton of variables to deal with and work through. Being more fit, rested, and prepared gives you greater ability to deal with adversity and have a great ride. The recurrent theme here is: PLAN AHEAD. The more prepared you are the better things will go and easier it will be to make good decisions during your Dirty Kanza adventure.