A big thank you to pro racer Danielle Musto for taking some time do a Q&A on endurance racing and the upcoming Lumberjack 100 endurance race!
Me: Now that the most important question is out of the way, we’re in the final weeks of preparation for the Lumber Jack 100, what’s the most important workout we shouldn’t miss?
Danielle: Ideally you want to get in one long endurance ride a week. I’m not saying you need to do a hundred miles, but it’s really smart to go out and do a few long rides on your mountain bike. 100 miles on trail feels a lot different then 100 miles on the road and you want to condition your back/shoulder/neck muscles for what it’s going to feel like. (Not to mention your butt.) Use the long endurance ride to practice your nutrition/hydration so that everything will be dialed in come race day.
Me: How would you suggest tapering the training in these final weeks?
Danielle: Everyone is different when it comes to tapering, but keep in mind there’s not much you can do the week before the race except keeping the legs loose and getting enough sleep. Any sort of last minute hard/long training sessions will just create fatigue for the big day. My coach (Andy Applegate) usually has me do a long-ish endurance ride the weekend before the race and then I start to taper down. I will usually take a full day off, and then do some easy one-hour spins throughout the week. That being said I still do a few short more intense intervals to keep my legs fresh, but they are really short. Again, it’s important to avoid creating any lasting fatigue.
Me: So I’ve read that some people take half of an Ambien the night before a big race to help them sleep. Do you have any secrets or tips to help calm the nerves and ensure a rest-filled night on the eve of the race?
Danielle: The night that really matters is actually two nights before the race. So if you don’t sleep the best the night before the race, relax. Almost everyone is in the same boat with pre-race nerves. However, there are a few things that I do to ensure I’m as relaxed as possible. First of all, I make sure that all of my gear/nutrition is ready to go. That way I don’t go to bed stressed about things I need to take care of in the morning. I LOVE coffee but I refuse to drink any sort of caffeine after 10 a.m. the day before a race. At night I try to get to bed early, put on a fan, and watch a movie. Don’t try to visualize the race course right before going to bed. It will just make you nervous and make it harder to sleep. If I feel really awake I will take a melatonin (natural sleep aid). It usually helps make me sleepy. If you are going to take something, I wouldn’t try it for the first time the night before a race. Know what effect it’s going to have on you. Endurance races start early and the last thing you want to do is feel some sort of drug-induced grogginess at the start line.
Me: What must-haves should we stock at the start/aid station?
Danielle: Regardless of what your goals are for the race (whether it be placing, a certain time, or just finishing) try to keep your pit stops short. Just remember that the longer you stop, the harder it is to get going. It’s smart to have your nutrition/hydration for each lap planned and ready to go. I usually have banana slices and maybe some other fruit available just in case I want to grab something extra. Pretzels, Fig Newtons, and Payday bars are also favorite snacks that are easy to grab and break up the monotony of gels. You will sweat a lot throughout the race so it’s smart to keep Hammer endurolyte tabs or Elete handy so that you can replenish your electrolytes. Other helpful items are a tire pump, spare air cartridges, spare tubes, chain lube, sunscreen, bug spray, chamois butter, Tums (in case you have stomach issues), some sort of pain reliever, and extra water. Are you confident that you can ride with sweaty gloves and socks for 100 miles and not get blisters? If not, bring extras just in case. If it’s really hot keep a few ziplock bags in a cooler filled with ice. You can put those in your jersey pocket to help cool you off.
Me: How much and how often do you recommend eating/drinking during the race?
Danielle: If it’s hot and humid 1.5-2 bottles per hour is a good goal. I usually aim for about 220 calories per hour.
Me: It’s a long day on the bike, do you eat a “lunch” or continually fuel throughout the day?
Danielle: I start fueling from the get-go. Personally I keep it really simple for 100 milers. I use Hydrapaks because that way I can ensure I am drinking enough and don’t have to worry about taking my hands off the handlebars (I tend to hit trees when I do that). Because I put my drink mix in my hydrapak I also ride with a bottle filled with just water. I depend of gels for my other source of calories (besides my drink mix) and put them in a soft flask. This way I don’t have to worry about fumbling around with gel packets. Fueling continually throughout the day makes it easier to keep track of calorie intake. Trying to eat a full “lunch” could create stomach issues.
Me: For someone that has only ever done XC races (2 hours), I’m concerned about pacing. How does pacing for an XC race different from an endurance race?
Danielle: Hopefully you have done some long endurance rides and have an idea of what sort of pace you can handle for a long period of time. Just remember that you can’t win the race in the first hour but you can certainly lose it. It’s really easy to get caught up in the start when everyone is hammering away. However, I promise that a lot of those people will come back to you if you keep a consistent pace. If you feel like your eyeballs are going to start bleeding you are probably going too fast. If you still feel great at the 50 mile mark then start to push it to the end.
Me: Anything I should I know about the LJ100 course?
Danielle: It’s fun but challenging. Because the climbs are relatively short, the downhills offer very little recovery. Also, it can get sandy in sections and after a while everything starts to look the same. Luckily the promoter, Rick Plite, does a great job marking the trail so you never have to worry about getting lost.
Me: What’s the one thing you wish you knew before you did your first endurance race?
Danielle: Where the finish line was. This won’t be a problem at Lumberjack