So you have signed up for your first mountain bike race- awesome!! Congratulations for taking that first step.
Mountain bike racing is fun and exciting, but preparing for your first race can be daunting. There are many challenges to overcome just to get to the start line. This guide is designed to prepare you to overcome all of those challenges and finish your first race, strong. We will be covering these training and nutrition topics more in depth in upcoming blog posts. If you have any specific questions, contact us or check out our Beti Bike Bash Race Plan! We are always happy to help!
Training: (Tips from Coach Melissa Ross)
Set a goal!
Now that you’ve taken the first step of registering for your first mountain bike race, set a goal. Maybe it’s as simple as finishing the course or finishing in the top 10. Goals are the fuel that drive you to challenge yourself and keep you motivated during your training.
Create a plan!
Figure out what days during the week you have available to train and get started with your new routine. If you are not able to ride the trails until the weekends, do some interval training to get the most bang for your buck with limited time. Intervals may involve repeats up a climb or short sprints. Mountain biking involves a mix of aerobic and anaerobic efforts so be sure to mix up your training, purchase a training plan, or hire a coach to help you with your plan.
Practice your skills.
Mountain biking is different from other aspects of cycling and requires a lot more attention to your skills. This not only makes you a more efficient and faster rider, but keeps you safer as you’ll have more control of the bike and are less likely to fall. If you haven’t already, attend a skills clinic to get expert instruction on what you need to work on. Then, find an area to practice these skills over and over again. A grassy field, a familiar trail, or a bike park are great locations. Think of other sports like soccer or basketball – the athletes work on their skills for hours before they scrimmage. If it makes you feel safer, wear knee and elbow pads for extra protection. Practice your cornering over and over again. Gradually work up to more technical areas where you can work on descending, braking, and balance.
Pre-ride the race course.
If possible, get out on the race course to pre-ride ahead of time. If it’s local this might mean that you can ride it several times. If the course is out of town, try arriving early enough to scope out the course before the race. Ask friends about the course or look at the map and profile on the race website at the very least. Knowing what to expect on the trail is invaluable as it will help you prepare better and give you a little peace of mind going into the race knowing that you can do this! When you become more competitive, course knowledge gives you a big advantage over your competition too!
On the day of the race, be sure to arrive early so you have time to check in, get your number, bike in order, and have time to warm up. Most people have pre-race jitters which is normal! Just remember to breathe, relax that upper body (shake your arms out!) and have fun!
Nutrition: (Tips from coach Julie Cornelius, MS)
Make sure to eat a good breakfast at least 2 hours before the race. This will allow your body enough time to digest it, especially if you are nervous (Don’t be, bike racing is fun!) Focus on good carbohydrates with a little bit of protein. Try a bowl of oatmeal with some milk, dried fruit and nuts.
During the Race:
Try to eat often. Take small bites of a bar, dried fruit or whatever has worked for you in training. Don’t try anything new for the race that you haven’t tried in training! Also, make sure to stay hydrated. A sports drink can help you to get electrolytes and some needed calories. Try making your own with half juice, half water and a pinch of sea salt.
After the Race:
You might not be really hungry, but eating as soon as possible after the race can help you to recover. Eat a carbohydrate rich meal within 30-60 minutes following the race. Have a little bit of protein too as this will help your body replenish the much needed carbohydrates. If you have trouble eating right after finishing, try making a smoothie ahead of time and bringing it with you in a cooler and you can drink instead of chew. Here’s a good recipe for a delicious and nutritious recovery smoothie!
- 6-8 oz any type of milk (low fat milk, soy milk, almond milk)
- ½ cup frozen mango
- ½ cup frozen strawberries
- ¼ cup frozen blueberries
- 1 banana
- Any other frozen or fresh fruit
- 1 tsp ground flax seed
Blend together until smooth
Other things you can add:
- A scoop of protein powder to boost the protein content
- A handful of fresh spinach to add some greens
- Frozen cherries to help reduce inflammation and aid in recovery
- A scoop of peanut butter or almond butter to keep you full longer and add some healthy fat
Everything Else: (Tips from coach Tricia Davis, PT)
This is the section where all of those other things fall into. It’s like the secret sauce or the icing on the cake. We want you to have the best possible time out there during your first race, so here are some tips that take years of experience to learn. These are important tips to keep you health, happy and injury free. There may be some things in this section that you’ve never thought of and there might be some that you do on a daily basis. Figure out what works for you, in your busy life and get to that start line ultra-prepared knowing you can handle anything the course throws at you that day.
Core and Hip Strength:
Make sure you are not neglecting these areas, by focusing only on riding your bike and eating well. Muscles that power the bike and stabilize your body while you ride need to be rock-solid strong to make you the best cyclist you can be. Exercises that include multiple muscles (as opposed to focusing on one or two) as well as those that require complex and coordinated movements are the best. Why use a leg extension machine when you can do step ups in 3 planes as shown below. Do exercises that give you more bang for your buck (or time.)
Muscle imbalances and tightness can be implicated in most, if not all, injuries. Protect yourself by being proactive about your flexibility. Cyclists as a whole tend to have tightness in these main areas: upper back, anterior chest, hip flexors, quadriceps, hamstrings, low back and calves. Make sure you have some time set aside to perform stretching exercises to counteract the mostly static position on the bike which can shorten muscles and lead to injury and pain. If you sit all day at work be sure to focus particular attention to the upper back, lower back and hips.
You are much stronger than you think you are. You are doing a mountain bike race! That alone makes you a bad-ass. Do not allow negative thoughts to creep in and make you doubt yourself after the race (or training) starts. You may not be the fastest out there, but at least you are out there. For your first race, do not set your expectations too high. Maybe just try to finish the race strong, have fun, be safe and encourage others along the way. Realize this – “IT DOESN’T GET EASIER, YOU JUST GET FASTER.” The pro’s out there have the burning legs, searing lungs and sweat dripping into their eyes too; they just get around the course quicker. Keep negative talk in check and realize that it is hard, and that’s exactly why its’ worth it!
“Mind is everything. Muscles – pieces of rubber. All that I am, I am because of my mind.”
– Paavo Nurmi (great Finnish runner)
Technology has allowed us to recover quicker and return to training stronger than ever before. There are many strategies you can use in order to gain all of the benefits from your cycling training rides. The time spent recovering between rides is very important and should not be neglected. This is the time that all of the body systems, muscle fibers as well as your mind recharges and builds momentum toward making you a fitter and faster cyclist. Make sure to include massage, naps, skills training, foam rolling and other recovery techniques found here into your program.
Are you registered or thinking about riding in the upcoming Beti Bike Bash in Castle Rock, CO on June 19th?
We have created an easy to follow plan just for you – to help you prepare for this amazing event!
About Melissa Ross:
Melissa Ross is Co-Founder and Cycling Coach of Potential Energy Training and Nutrition. Melissa’s 11+years in the sport as an athlete and 5+ years as a coach has taken her all over the world from touring Italy, racing across Europe and the US as a professional road cyclist, to becoming a pro mountain biker, exploring the trails across Arizona and even recently finishing 13th in the Absa Cape Epic in South Africa and making the podium 2 years in a row in the Leadville Trail 100! Melissa has an incredible desire to help other people reach their full potential and bring the passion of having a healthy lifestyle into their lives.
Julie Cornelius, MS is Co-founder of Potential Energy Training & Nutrition. She has an extensive background in nutrition and graduated from the University of Arizona in Tucson, AZ with both her Bachelors of Science and Masters of Science in Nutrition. She has worked in fitness studios helping clients achieve their nutrition goals, spent two years teaching college nutrition courses, and was the founder of Julie Bar, an energy bar company. Julie is a long time cyclist and mountain biker who loves being outdoors. Julie helps individuals to meet their nutrition goals, whether it is eating to win an endurance mountain bike race, losing weight, or just eating to be healthier.
Tricia Davis, PT
Tricia is a hyperkinetic, Canadian trained physiotherapist and athlete. Good at seeing the big picture, she is able to focus on the most important specific details for you to achieve success. Tricia thrives most in helping those with limited time by providing evidence based training and skill acquisition in order to make training the most efficient way to attain goals while reducing risk of injury. Tricia is passionate about health, wellness and efficiency in sport while maintaining a balance in all aspects of life.
If you need help with your training schedule check out our coaching services here!