By Paul O’Donoghue
Just thought that I would put a few ideas on paper for people who are riding an audax event for the first time. This list is not comprehensive but much of the information for a 200k carries through to the longer distances.
ENTRY: Once you make up your mind to ride a distance you should send your application and fee to the organiser. Prior to start date the organiser will send you a route sheet / electronic map of the route. It is important to leaf through these to ascertain the nature of the terrain to be covered i.e. whether route is predominately flat or hilly. It is also an idea to note the location and distance of controls, this will give you an idea of how to plan your hydration and nutrition strategy for the day. This is particularly important if it is an unsupported event, at night or you are travelling through a remote area of the country.
Having knowledge of the major changes of direction during the day is good to know beforehand as you will have some sort of an idea of where the wind will be beneficial or a hindrance during the day.
If you have any queries about the day, ask the organiser
WEEK BEFOREHAND: the more preparation that you can do the days beforehand the less work you will have to do nearer the time, allowing for a more relaxed and efficient start. Some things you should consider:
Start location: locate the correct start point of the event to ensure that you will not have difficulty finding it on the day. Calculate how long it will take you to get to the start allowing time to register, etc.
Bike: Always remember “a clean bike is a happy bike” .Wash your bike and give it a good going over to try and prevent problems on the day.
Some basic things to do are:
- Lubricate chain
- Deflate tyres and check for flints. Remove these with a small screwdriver/penknife. If tyres are worn or damaged, replace them.
- Check brake pad wear.
DAY BEFOREHAND: Ideally the day prior to an event should be a leisurely one if possible, aimed at saving energy. If you get an opportunity to go for a short spin take it as this will stretch the legs and provide an opportunity to check everything on the bike is in order.
- Lay your gear out, doublecheck and make sure everything fits in saddlebag
- Avoid any food that you don’t normally eat to prevent stomach upset,
- Stay well hydrated, consume carbohydrates plus lean protein, avoid fats
- Plan nutrition strategy for day not forgetting recovery drink / snack. Even if the event is fully supported it is always important to carry some of your own supplies.
- Dress from your feet upwards as this is a good way to ensure that you don’t forget anything on the day. So start with socks, shoes, overshoes, legwarmers …..finishing with cap, helmet and glasses.
ON THE DAY: No one likes dragging themselves out of bed at an ungodly hour on a weekend day, but arriving and starting an event late can leave you chasing your tail for the rest of the day. Bear this in mind when you are setting your alarm clock.
- Have a decent breakfast (avoid fibre).This should be easy to digest, supplying you carbohydrate with a small amount of protein with minimum fat such as cereal(carbo) with added nuts(protein) followed by wholemeal toast and peanut butter (both).
- Leave plenty of time to get to start and register.
- Double check that you are carrying all that you need for the day.
- Once you start, stay focussed on nutrition strategy, start eating /drinking early. Always drink before thirsty and eat before hungry.
- Take recovery drink/snack at finish no matter how unsavoury it may feel at that time. Try to consume this within 30 mins of finish. Once again this should be a mix of carbs/protein as the carbs will replenish blood sugars and the protein will facilitate muscle repair staving off soreness. This is doubly important during a multi day event or a longer audax.
If the opportunity to go for a ride is feasible go for a short spin using light gears to spin out the legs. If you can do this on a mountain bike all the better, your body will be glad of the upright position, spongey tyres and suspension.
Stay hydrated and keep sipping water all day.
If you have scheduled a recovery day off the bike, consider replacing it with a recovery spin instead and take a day off later in the week.
You may feel hungry the day after an event, this is normal so try and ensure that you have something to snack on at hand.
The main challenge in riding an audax event is the distance as opposed to the speed, very few people run out of time on a 200k and everyone has 13 hours 30 to complete the distance. Your chances of finishing within this limit will be greatly increased if you take the following into consideration:
Pace: if you are struggling to ride with people who are faster than you will it is unlikely that you will last the day. Ease back, ride your own race and more than likely there will be a group following more suited to you. Alot of people are content riding on their own as they can ride to their natural rhythm and control the duration of their stops. It is important to find which works for you.
Preparation: I have mentioned preparation above and knowing that you have prepared as best you could have will give you the confidence you need to face the challenge at hand. Stay hydrated, take a steady supply of food on board throughout the day, keep an eye on the routesheet, keep the other one on the clock when stopped, ride your own pace and enjoy the day.
THE GOLDEN RULE (Always remember) ALWAYS FINISH AND ALWAYS FINISH SMILING