Having spent an agonizing 10 minutes in front of an internet connected device, waiting for the magical time of 10:00 am, you click on “Enter Here”. The web page goes blank for a few seconds, but it feels like eternity. Thank you, we have received your entry, is displayed, but now you await the confirmation email. With the same anticipation that is normally reserved for the birth of your first child, you stare at your inbox. Congratulations, your entry has been successful. You sigh in relief, knowing that your participation has been secured, but that is shortly followed by a moan, head in the hands and a mumbling of, “What the hell did I just get myself into?”
If that sounds familiar, then you have just joined the multitude of cyclists who sign up every year for the NEDBANK Desert Dash. A race through the desert across Namibia, from the central highlands, down to the coast. A distance of about 370 km which needs to be completed within 24 hours.
If you are a newbie, or someone looking for some additional advice, then here are a few tips to help prepare you for the longest single stage MTB event in the world.
1. Rest – Rest is just as important as exercise, as this is the time your body uses to repair muscle damage. During strength training you will tear muscle fibers, and it only through rest that your immune system can repair the damaged fibers. Your performance will only decrease after 2 weeks of no exercise, so fear not, 2-5 days of rest, will not set you back.
2. Sleep – during your deepest stages of sleep, is where your growth hormones are released and when Cortisol is regulated. Cortisol levels directly impact our bodies ability to digest glucose, so this is extremely important for endurance events, like the NEDBANK Desert Dash. I can not stress this enough, that a good 7-9 hours sleep is required every night, during an extensive training program.
3. Nutrition – when your body does not receive sufficient nutrients, your immune system weakens. This reduces the ability of your body to effect muscle damage, and thus increases time to recover. So rest and nutrition, go hand in hand to effectively aid fast recovery.
4. Quality, not quantity – I have always shaken my head, when I hear an amateur athlete boasting about his 14 hour training week, and 200 km training ride, when I know he was beaten in last years Dash by an athlete with an 8-10 hour training week, and a longest training ride of 130 km. This is because I am a strong believer in quality over quantity training. We all require a good base, but once this is achieved after winter, a good training program should include short powerful intervals. If you have never had the urge to vomit during an interval session, then you have not pushed yourself hard enough.
The biggest reality of exercise, is that we do not progress, or jump a level, unless we recover in full. This leads us to the fact that we need to listen to our bodies, and when we feel tired and drained, then skip that training day, rather recover fully, and once you feel energized again, hop on your bike and enjoy that endorphin rush that so many of us crave. Happy cycling, and see you all at the CYMOT and Gondwana Collection half way points in the desert.
Author: Brendan Dickerson