SPENGLE’s Head of Marketing, Martin Cox, is a life-long cyclist but relatively recent convert to the endurance world. There is a whole calendar of long-distance events including unsupported races and this year Martin has put his name down to enter the Silk Road Mountain Race (SRMR). Here, he discusses how he goes about training for an event so gruelling.
I’ve done my fair share of long-distance riding and racing having entered the Transcontinental Race a few years’ back, but my next challenge takes me off the beaten track and into remote wilderness of Kyrgyzstan this September. This gnarly race will have me wandering around some of the least populated places on the planet over a total of 1672km. There’s very little like it on this planet of ours and unlike events like Race Across America, the SRMR is wholly unsupported, meaning that riders have to take care of themselves, exercising self-sufficiency in all aspects.
So how do you prepare? Where do you start?
First off, some maths
Each day has 24 hours, each hour has 60 minutes, therefore each rider will have 1440 minutes to use each and every day. This is key, crucial in fact, because the clock never stops as soon as riders cross the start line. Even if a rider stops to sleep, it’ll be counting the seconds ticking rather than sheep as they get their heads down.
Get rid of the TV
….or at the very least limit how much time you spend watching TV, films or browsing (wasting time) on the internet. Every minute spent doing these things are minutes you could spend on the bike, at the gym or planning your next training session.
Get to bed early
The old adage of “early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, happy and wise” wasn’t said in jest. Sleep aids recovery, both body and mind, allowing for better performance and more focused efforts (this is good for work as well).
Set the alarm for an early start. During the SRMR, time is miles; the more time sleeping you have, the less time there is for riding. Every ten minutes of time not riding equates to a mile that someone else has ridden. The aim is to get to the finish line (ideally with an admirable position among fellow competitors) and you won’t do that if you are spending too much time asleep, relaxing or scrolling through Instagram (if you even have reception out there!).
I aim for a 6am ride start during normal days, especially as SRMR gets closer. I will set the alarm gradually earlier as well going all the way back to 4am. I’ll mix up my pre-dawn training between road and MTB to get a good balance of technical skills and a solid cardio workout. If you have an accommodating workplace speak to them. Can you shower there? Can you start at 10 perhaps, and get in an extra hour on rough stuff before you start?
Recovery is vital: eat well, rest well, live appropriately
If my sole goal this year is to finish the SRMR race in August, then it’s not wise to be moving furniture the week before. I’ll be doing my best to remain injury and illness free around a month out from the race.
I broke a collarbone and rib just at the peak of my base training one year, which meant no riding for 10 weeks. The damage it did to me physically and psychologically was tremendous. I lost huge amounts of fitness and strength. To make matters worse, I hadn’t recovered my descending confidence by the time my event came around. Descending the Finestre in Italy, I lost over an hour over some of my competitors due to my timidness. Staying healthy is super important.
Ride your bike
Ride as much as you can. The winner of the Transcontinental Race took time off work for 3 months to ride around Asia before sitting at the top of the podium after 4000km. Whilst it’s not officially training, it certainly gave him a massive amount of base mileage.
Commute, in all weathers!
Of course, we can’t all afford to take a block of time like that away from work and family, but we can commute by bike more, take the long way home and prioritise training so that we’re in better shape come race day. Mix up base fitness work with power efforts. There will be mountains – over 26,000m. Be strong: the stronger you are the easier you will find it to get over them.
Practice being tired, how do you cope?
It’s not a good idea to practise sleep deprivation to the point of hallucination, but ride tired, work on a strategy to keep focused. Ride long double days over a weekend to get your legs used to riding weary. How will you keep your speed up? Music? What works best?
This is awesome! As the days get longer and the race gets closer, take a day off work, and make for a long weekend of riding. I rode from Nottingham down towards Lands End and back to test my bike and kit one year to find out what worked and what didn’t. Don’t be afraid to make changes and test them out.
The bike is a tool, you are the engine
While the bike I ride will have some obvious features that others won’t, the same can be said for each and every setup. Some will ride steel bikes, some aluminium or carbon. It doesn’t matter. Ride what works for you, it’s far more important to be fit and comfortable on the bike than worry whether you’ve made the right bike choice.
We’ll be checking in with Martin throughout the course of his training and keeping you up to date. Sign up to the SPENGLE newsletter to be the first to find out where his journey takes him.