Tips for a successful marathon

1. August 2022

Foto: Iron Bike Race

The MTB marathon season is really kicking off. Here’s the most important tips.

1. Think in sections

An altitude difference of 1000 metres in one go - to many bikers that sounds more like a threat than a wellness holiday. It can take athletes 50 to 90 minutes to toil up the ascent, depending on their level of fitness. And if they are not armed with the right mental munition, they will quickly find themselves in a crisis of purpose. It’s therefore advisable to think in sections. Bikers with an altimeter set an altitude difference of 200 metres as a benchmark and try to achieve a target time. In this way they mentally forget about the almost endlessly high summit and battle their way up the mountain, one 200-metre mini-goal at a time. The advantage: You can motivate yourself again and again and won't overdo it at the beginning. Therefore: check the profile very carefully before the race and determine a line of approach for the rate of ascent.

2. Frequency counts

Cycle at as high a cadence as possible, even on ascents, and protect your fast-twitch muscle fibres, which tire much earlier than slow-twitch endurance fibres. Fast-twitch fibres generate large impulses, slow ones small ones. Due to the high frequency, you lower the torque and thus fall back on your slow-twitch fibres. As a result, you can still give it your all, especially in the last third of a race. Therefore: Do your basic training at 95 to 100 rpm so you get tired more slowly. Give yourself four to six weeks to adapt.

3. The right meal timing

Your muscles only work when there is enough in the tank. If you don't constantly recharge, your heart rate will rise after two hours at the latest and your performance will plummet. What happens: When your glycogen stores (form in which carbohydrates are stored in the body) get low, your body starts to use to fats, which require more oxygen for metabolisation. This means a higher heart rate and less power during the race. So how much should you eat and drink? If you want to play it safe, consume 80 to 90 grams of carbohydrates and 750 millilitres of fluids per hour. Ideally, you will cover most of your carbohydrate requirements with drinks.

Foto: Iron Bike Race

4. Slipstream 

It's not something that only happens in the Tour de France. You save up to 40 percent in power in the drag of the cyclist in front of you. That's the difference between cycling at your limit and your basic speed. So, use all the slipstream you can get. On long flat stretches in particular, you will thus save important energy for the next ascent. Try to cycle as close to the other person's rear wheel as possible. In larger groups, you should always be among the top ten, as this means you have to compete less (accordion effect after cornering). If you are the lead cyclist, make yourself as small as possible.

5. The last meal

Too much of a good thing: If you stuff yourself an hour before the start of the race, you'll be like a sack of rice on the ascent. Time your breakfast so you eat it three hours beforehand. Ideally, it should consist of simple carbohydrates (no wholegrain muesli). What about rice, semolina porridge or cooked oat flakes? A cup of coffee stimulates the body. By the way: Eating a gel or bar just before the start of the race is counterproductive, because without a load, your blood sugar level will plummet again.