Do not read this if you are a pro athlete, or someone that trains to the detriment of their day job, parental responsibilities or love life. What follows is Enduroman for Dummies: people who are very uninformed, have very limited time to train, or those who left everything a little too late. This is what to do if your fitness and technique in regards to swimming, off-road biking and running is very questionable, with Enduroman SA waiting to chew you up in 9 weeks. A 2,5 Km swim, an 80 Km mountain bike leg and a 21 Km trail run can be like dismantling the fuse of a time-bomb: if you do it wrong you’ll have to deal with more pain than you would like.
2,5 Km SWIM.
Good swimmers can rely on a solid technique that has been entrenched over years of stroke perfection. If you fall outside of that category, the swim leg is by default a fearsome event. The situation can be so bad that your main aim might simply be to finish the swim. Going for a specific time is no priority. This calls for the Mississippi steamboat approach. The essence is to be able to maintain a continuous arm rotation until you hit terra firma again. The dam will be very cold, sub 20 degrees by all realistic estimates, which means that you will be in a wetsuit. As long as your arms keep rotating, you’ll be going forward, supported by the buoyancy of the wetsuit. So, if you decide on a pace of 2 minutes per 100 meters, you need to make sure you can sustain arm rotation for 50 minutes, and much like a Mississippi steamboat, you’ll get to your destination.
Three sessions a week of 50 minutes is more than enough for you to deliver optimum performance on race day if you just want to do the distance. Actually, once you are confident about the distance, you can add 20 minutes of drills to two sessions per week. In all truth, drills won’t compromise your hard earned arm rotation fitness. It will actually make you faster. Many a swim coach will tell you that this turns the entire way of becoming a good swimmer the wrong way round (Drills should come first!). In this specific case, you need the mental reassurance that you will be able to cover a pre-determined distance. So get that in the bag!
One last word of caution, many people have fallen victim to disabling panic attacks in extremely cold water, so don’t let your warm gym pool lure you into a false comfort zone. Get into some bone-chilling, sinus-cramping cold water. Get used to the feeling. You don’t want a race-killing surprise.
80 Km MOUNTAIN BIKE.
This race might just be about the bike. You will be climbing to the tune of 2200 meters over the 80 kilometers and the terrain definitely presents you with technical sections that could end your race. The key will be overall mountain bike fitness. You should be able to top out on the climbs with enough upper body fitness to be in control of the descents right away. In mountain biking, upper body fatigue causes many crashes. Also, after the arduous bike leg, weak upper body form will impact negatively on your running.
With 80 Km at 20 Km/h average, you are in for 4 hours of biking. However, at the recent Bastille MTB race which comprised half the distance of that route, only the top 20 out of 170 finishers averaged 20 Km/h or faster. The winner, elite cyclist Jurgens Uys, finished the course of 43 Km in 1:53 at an average of about 22,5. So where do you fit in over 80 km’s? I averaged 19 Km/h and with a time of 2:18, finished 25th overall. That leaves me with a projected 5 hour ride, if all goes well. That’s just short of the time required for a 180 Km Ironman bike leg. The crux of the matter is, your bike leg will be proportionally the longest by far in relation to the rest of the disciplines. And the run will be waiting!
What is needed? Get off the indoor trainer, let the road bike collect even more cobwebs, and let your granny gear do the talking. Make 75% of your biking non-technical riding with serious climbing. For every 50 Km you ride, notch up between 1300 and 1500 meters of climbing. On race day your confidence and fitness will be where it should be.
As far as technical fitness goes, don’t lull yourself into another false comfort zone by training on exhilarating sweeping single track through pine forests. Get to semi-rocky and some very rocky single track with loose-ish fist-size rocks under the wheel, the kind that make the bike dance around and forces you to negotiate a surgical riding line. The course is not as “non-technical” as rumours might have it. You won’t be nodding off in TT bars on this day. It is on this extreme opposite of the spectrum.
For an emergency plan, try to get five, 4-5 hour rides done in the remaining weeks, with shorter tempo rides of up to 2 hours in between. When doing the long rides, try to simulate the race as far as continuity is concerned. That means no cheese cake and coffee stops. Keep going till it is done. That way you can determine your real staying power and the efficiency of your nutrition plan. Figure out how long you can last on one bottle in the belly and two on the bike, with additional gels and bars. One long ride plus 2 shorter tempo rides per week should be enough. As simplistic as this may sound, it will get you through race day. If you want detailed training plans with watts-statistics and calorie breakdowns, a coach can do that for you.
Lastly, I have to remind you to do 4 runs of 3-5 km’s off the bike. It is not about fitness, it is about getting your body and mind familiar with engaging a different muscle group for another serious beating. It is like jumping from the frying pan into the fire, and knowing what it’s going to feel like.
21 Km TRAIL RUN
Once you get to the run, three 7 Km laps with 243 meters of climbing per lap will be waiting. That means 730 over the 21 km course. This needs no explanation, it will be extremely tough. Your quads and achilles tendons will be under unusual stress, as well as the rest of your body! Short and sweet: try to squeeze in 4 to 5 steady half marathon distance runs to bump up your aerobic fitness. But if you want to prepare your body well, and more so, your mind, find a run loop of 7 km’s with 250 meters elevation and do tempo runs on it. That means running to the tune where you can hardly talk. This will get the applicable muscles fit, and on race day you will know what to expect and adjust your effort according to what you have left in the tank. If you do two tempo runs of up to 7-10 km’s per week, plus 21’s spaced 7-10 days apart, you will be in super shape on race day.
In the last two weeks before race day you can’t get fitter, only more fatigued. From then on all you need to do is tick over. Drop your hours by 25%, do some fast but short interval swim, bike and run sessions with lots of easy in between. The last week should feel like a holiday, so you can be on the startline as rested as possible, fresh as a daisy!
Soos oorlede oupa gesê het: “Vat hom Flaffie!”
Please follow Frank Smuts while training for Enduroman SA as EnduroHub ambassador.
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