Last weekend I took part in the Relentless 24 hour mountain bike race in Fort William. This involves doing as many laps as possible on a hilly, technical soul destroying lap of 12k in 24 hours. Being at this time of year, it also involves riding through 13 hours of darkness. I did a lot of preparation for this race involving long rides up to 10 hours and riding during the night. I ended up completing 21 laps which involved 240k and over 6700m of climbing.
Here are some of my thoughts and reflections from doing the race and can help anyone else thinking of doing it-
- Pacing is key from the very beginning. It is very easy to go a little too hard in the first 5 hours when you are feeling fresh and strong. What feels like a slow first lap will most likely turn out to be one of your fastest!
- For the majority, you are surviving the race, rather than racing it.
- Making sure you take on constant nutrition and hydration throughout. Not always easy to manage but it is key to long term success. My strategy was to take on 1 500ml bottle per lap alternating diluting juice & hydration tabs. I aimed to break the first 8 hours into 2 sections where I would stop after 4 hours and take on more food. But every lap I was nibbling on something. This was personal to me but can still act as good advive.
- Have a well drilled pit crew and make sure you brief them well before the race. This is easier once you have done the race and reflect for the next time you do this type of race again.
- During the long night section- Just take it one lap at a time and don’t stop for too long after each lap. I took on a little bit of hot soup and coffee on most laps and that really seemed to help.
- Strike up conversation with other competitors to pass the time, especially during the night. I was lucky to do this for a couple of laps and it really helped take my mind off how I was feeling.
- Remember that everyone is hurting. You have to be mentally very strong to get through this race.
- Have no negativity during the long dark hours of the night. I was lucky to have none of that from my support crew during the race that kept me getting back on the bike.
- You will have highs and lows and know that you will come through them. Keep positive and remember why you are doing it. This was really important for me and really was a battle against myself rather than anyone else.
- Think of the feeling of accomplishment after finishing. That was really important to me.
- Enjoy the race, and remember to respect the race.