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Top 11 Tips for 24 Hour MTB Relay Racing

Here is an email sent to a couple of teams preparing to do one of the (former) Trilife 24 Hours of Adrenalin races. Some of these tips were specific to the Trilife races, and to the particular venue, so we updated it in 2009 to be more generic.

 Dear teammates,

Since some of you guys haven't done much 24 hour racing before, I thought I would throw out a few suggestions for how to plan for the event. My idea is to reduce stress and have more fun, so just take this for what it is worth. Y'all chime in with other ideas and suggestions, or to tell me you think I'm missing something. By the way, my list goes to 11.

 So, here goes with my top 11 list:

  1. Relax. This whole thing is about having fun, so don't stress out about going fast, or "letting down" your buddies, or anything else. If you have a mechanical breakdown (or physical or mental, etc.) don't worry. It happens all the time, it will probably happen to us, and it doesn't really matter. If your legs are toast and you have to granny-gear the flats and walk the hills, then so be it. Chat up other riders on the course. Cheer on the solo riders when you pass them (and you will!). Encourage riders who are struggling to make it up a hill. Help someone fix a flat. You'll get back much more than those grim-faced skinny guys who you will see pacing around in the timing tent, cursing about how slow their teammate's lap is.

  2. Eat and drink well. It sounds obvious, but this is actually the hardest thing for me. You will have much more fun if you keep a steady flow of high-carb, high-calorie food going in. If you don't have a helper cooking for you, then make sure you have lots of zero-prep food available. As the day (and night) wears on, the idea of preparing food, and cleaning up after yourself gets to be too much to bear. You need to have PB&J, fruit, pasta salad, or whatever appeals to you ready to eat or you will bonk. That's when the fun stops.

  3. Bring lots of clothes. This isn't mandatory (right Jeff?), but it is really nice to have dry stuff to put on before each lap. The weather has ranged from 100+ to the mid 20s; from sunny, to foggy and rainy. Make sure you have some warm, dry camping clothes to get into as soon as you get back from your lap. I don't sleep much, so I have to make sure I have some warm things for lounging around the campfire between laps.

  4. Baby wipes. Enough said.

  5. Get your gear ready. Bring lots of tubes, brake pads, extra tires (and wheels, if you have them), and your old reject parts box from the garage. Whatever part you leave sitting on the work bench will be the thing that breaks. Check the torque (gently) all the oddball stuff on your bike you never think about, like water bottle bolts, seat post bolts, brake bosses, cleat bolts (!!!).

  6. Change control. Don't do any big projects on your bike right before the race. Just get it clean and lubed, and be prepared to clean and lube the drive train between each lap. You will be doing about a week's worth of riding, so your drive train will not treat you well if you ignore it for the whole event.

  7. Bring some tools. We can coordinate on tools between our teams, so everyone doesn't have to bring everything. But you should bring a small kit for the trail. You should consider carrying a multi-tool (drivers), a couple of tire levers, a couple of tubes, a pump or CO2 inflator, some quick-patches, a chain tool and quck-link, a little bit of duct tape, a couple of zip ties, and a spoke wrench. It is also a good idea to carry a little-bitty flashlight so you don't have to run down your main lights while you are sitting in the dark, cussing at your chain (or tire, or whatever).

  8. Speaking of lights, bring-em! Although it is not mandatory, we highly recommend running both handlebar and helmet lights, both for overall lighting quality, and also for safety, in case one light fails. The more paranoid of us routinely turn off one or the other light on the climbs, to stretch battery life, and that practice has paid off on a few occasions. There is usually a "neutral" charging station set up at the venue; that is a bunch of power strips that you can use to charge your battery, but some of us prefer to bring an inverter that will produce AC power from the car's accessory outlet. You have to calculate your battery life and charge time to make sure you can keep you lights running, and if you plan on doing multiple night laps you must do the math to make sure you have enough juice. See if this makes sense:

·        Each team will have to do between 10 and 12 laps with lights on. Each lap will take about 1 hour.

·        On a 4-person team, each rider should be prepared to ride about 3 or 4 hours in the dark, just in case someone has to skip a lap.

So if you need to, try to borrow lights and/or batteries from friends so you don't run out of juice. Doing the last 5 miles of the course in the dark is an adventure.

  1. Don't just ride. Most of the time you won't be riding. So, plan on spending lots of time hanging around and getting to know each other, feeding the fire, hiking out on the course to take pictures, or playing with the kids. I hope you don't mind kids. Around our campsite there are usually LOTS of 'em--in sizes ranging from about 2.5 feet to about 5.5 feet. BTW, they usually get it right; they run around and make lots of noise and get dirty and have fun. It takes grown-ups to turn a bike ride into a stress-fest.

  2. Plan for shelter. Make sure you have a tent, or can share a tent or camper or something. You'll need somewhere to change, and to lay down to rest or nap between laps. And if you need to lay down in the fetal position and sob it is a good idea to have some privacy.

  3. Arrive at the venue early, if you can. Some of us usually take off work on Friday and go up for one last ride around the course. Just coordinate with your team so you know when everyone is arriving and have someone there to register and sign up for any volunteer shifts that you might be responsible for. If you wait and come up Saturday morning, come early because a big traffic jam frequently forms getting into the campground.

And now, some comments from another teammate…

Great list and great advice.  And I thought the baby wipes were my secret weapon.  ;-)

 Here are few more thoughts. 

  1. Don't be intimidated by the faster riders.  For the most part everyone is very cool, but last year I was being too nice and made it my responsibility to get out of their way by taking the sketchy line.  In doing so I wadded it up really good.  Don't try to block them, but make it their responsibility to get around you and take the hard line.

  2.  Let me reiterate the part about warm dry clothes.  Plan for the temperature -20 degrees because as soon as you get off that bike, even if you get into dry clothes, you start getting very cold.  I spent most of [my first two] races in my car with the heater on full blast because jeans a long sleeve t-shirt and fleece lined ski parka wasn't enough. Conversely don't over do the layers when you go back out on the bike because you'll just have to stop and strip everything off at the top of the first climb.

  3.  Buy an DC to AC inverter so you don't have to use the shared power and risk losing your gear. They're 50 bucks and are nice to keep in your car.  They don't pull much power and will keep you your batteries topped off. And lastly, for fun - Don't be surprised to find Shane washing his bike at 3am.