Preparing for 420 mile bikepacking race- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Preparing for 420 mile bikepacking race

    Iím racing the Smoke and Fire 400, a 420 mile 45k vert, dirt road and singletrack, unsupported bikepacking race in Idaho, and I could use some advice with how to approach preparing for it.

    Primer:
    I come from a mostly downhill/freeride background and To date the longest bike race Iíve done was only an hour long. I have solid bike handling skills and about am probably about average fitness among amateur XC racers. Iíve done a lot of bikepacking this summer, and am very comfortable riding any terrain on my loaded bike. Iíve got my bikepacking setup dialed, and about as lightweight as it could possibly be while still having the essentials.

    What Iím wondering:
    Whstís the best approach to sleeping? Thereís no way I can just rage through 420 miles, Iím going to have to sleep at some point. Iím guessing itíll take me somewhere around 3-4 days to finish. Should I pass out when the sun goes down, or do I go til Iím falling asleep? How long should I be sleeping for?

    Nutrition: what do? There are quite a few mediocre gas station-esque resupply options along the way, along with a few burger joints and two real grocery store options. What should I be eating, and how often? On my bikepacking trips I typically load up a whole tripís worth of dehydrated Backpacker Pantry meals, along with dehydrated fruits and jerky. Iím thinking I should probably just ditch the stove for the race and go with ready to eat?

    The race starts Sept 5. What should be my general plan the next week or so? My understanding is I shouldnít ride hard the days leading up to a race, right?

    Anything else I should be aware of for a race like this? Iím beyond psyched, and have no concerns about finishing the thing, but I want to have an optimal strategy to get it done fast, and without completely blowing up or hurting myself.

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by MegaStoke View Post
    The race starts Sept 5. What should be my general plan the next week or so?


    I wouldn't worry about riding, I'd spend the week planning and preparing food, water, clothes, bike etc. I think most people who do races like that don't sleep much, if at all but they're crazy.

    Have you ever ridden 100+ mile days? I'd check out previous results and seen how other riders have done on this race. Based on what you wrote if I were in your shoes my goal would probably be to just finish in 4 days and survive.
    I brake for stinkbugs

  3. #3
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    +1 to what J.B. Weld said. But to address your question specifically, if you're not riding to "win" I'd recommend doing your best to enjoy your time out there. Try to get some decent sleep the first night or two and evaluate your progress if you have a strict time limit. perhaps the last night might be a little short if you have to hurry.

    Jeff Kerkove did it last year and he's a great guy who'd give you as much info as you'd like. Message him either here or on bookface.

    I have yet to do a bikepacking "race" but have been on a few multi-day adventures and sleep like ass for the first 2-3 days (99% of the time) and then settle into a routine of getting ~4-5hrs of decent sleep and a lot of rolling around.

    edit to add - whiskey, cbd, melatonin... I've always forgotten to bring my melatonin but a sip or two from the flask can go a ways to take the edge off. But only if you have trouble sleeping. One awesome thing about doing these sort of events is that you figure out what works and doesn't - I also think that's sort of the fun.

  4. #4
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    I did the Arizona trail 300 in 2017. 300 mile bike packing race. My plan was simple. I took all my normal bikepack gear and rode from the start to about 10-11pm. Then up at or before dawn and did it again. 3 days 16 hours to do the entire thing. My biggest concern was water. Both carrying enough and where to get resupply. Of course for a desert race water is a big deal. So most days consisted of 16 hours on the bike and remainder at my camp sleeping. I had a change of kit and separate clothes for sleeping. Good to get out my kit I was in all day and have "fresh" one for the next day.

    My plan was not to win or come close, but really just to finish and hopefully have solid finish. I did not want to be last man out there and I was not. Lot of things to be learned in these events. Little things mostly about gear set-up, stop time and alot of "non riding" stuff. These are NOT easy events and there will be pain out there. Finishing less about riding fast and more about riding smart. Deal with problems on the bike or person right away. The race is too long to "tough it out". Better to stop early fix it and move on otherwise things just tend to get worse.
    Joe
    '18 Specialized Epic 29", Vassago Verhauen SS 29", '13 Santa Cruz Solo 27.5", XC, AM, blah blah blah.. I just ride.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by MegaStoke View Post
    What Iím wondering:
    Whstís the best approach to sleeping? Thereís no way I can just rage through 420 miles, Iím going to have to sleep at some point. Iím guessing itíll take me somewhere around 3-4 days to finish. Should I pass out when the sun goes down, or do I go til Iím falling asleep? How long should I be sleeping for?
    all depends on how much you want to hurt and how much you want to enjoy the thing (sometimes those are one in the same)

    you can probably get away with only a few hours a night and still function enough at the end to ride and move forward......or sleep from sun down to sun up. i did the CTR last month and rode until 2am or 3am each night (basically until i was barely able to stand up), then got up at 5 and kept going. less than 6hrs of sleep in over 100hrs. pretty sure it eliminated a couple weeks off my lifespan doing that though. took me a week and a half before i didn't feel like a zombie and three weeks to get back into the rhythm of training.

    Nutrition: what do? There are quite a few mediocre gas station-esque resupply options along the way, along with a few burger joints and two real grocery store options. What should I be eating, and how often? On my bikepacking trips I typically load up a whole tripís worth of dehydrated Backpacker Pantry meals, along with dehydrated fruits and jerky. Iím thinking I should probably just ditch the stove for the race and go with ready to eat?
    stove will definitely add weight. and it takes time to set up, break down, boil water....etc while everyone else is moving forward. try to find dense calories, and bring a variety of food. it sucks when you've been eating the same kind of bar/sandwich for 2 days, and you have 5 more of exactly the same thing to eat....and you have to keep eating. 300-ish calories per hour of riding. just look at your watch and force yourself to keep eating.

    The race starts Sept 5. What should be my general plan the next week or so? My understanding is I shouldnít ride hard the days leading up to a race, right?
    handful of spins between now and then, maybe one medium length ride the next few days but not hard.

    Anything else I should be aware of for a race like this? Iím beyond psyched, and have no concerns about finishing the thing, but I want to have an optimal strategy to get it done fast, and without completely blowing up or hurting myself.
    i was in a similar position prior to the CTR. had overnight bikepacked a few times, but never raced anything multi-day.

    my advice would be to go out easy but try to never stop moving forward. i think i read advice in a blog somewhere that every stop should have a specific purpose and i definitely agree with that and tried to adhere to it. before you stop you should have a game plan in mind of what you need to accomplish and in what order you're going to do it.
    ie. at the top of the next climb i'm going to get off, grab x-y-z food out of my pack, start eating x while i put y and z in my back pocket....i'm also gonna put a jacket on cause it'll be cold for the descent, and i gotta pee, and try to do all that quickly/efficiently but without being rushed. mentally without a plan it becomes easy to doddle around and hem and haw over what you're going to eat, if you actually need a jacket....etc while you're stopped, and for the stops to get more frequent and more scatter brained.

    then make a commitment to keep going forwards as much as possible. CX mount/dismount on as many hike-a-bike transitions as you can. hike fast when you're forced to hike. eat while on the bike (or while pushing your bike) as much as possible. that sort of thing.

    good luck!

  6. #6
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    I was considering Smoke & Fire (only to finish, not to win) but recently made the call to opt out this year although I might sneak out there to ride part of the course before the snow falls. Please share how the race goes and any tips you have after you finish.

    And I'm sure you're aware of all the wildfire activity in the Pacific NW. I don't know if you're affected by smoke but I've found this dashboard helpful for planning purposes.
    https://www.arcgis.com/apps/MapSerie...3eeb61dcd9fb9d

    It sounds like there are some experienced bikepacking racers on here so I'm curious about a couple things.

    1. Without a dynamo what kind of light setup would you use?

    2. Food...what are your favorites during a race when relying on the small convenience stores in remote areas.

  7. #7
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    Pacing is very important. You need to start out way slower than you think and just keep that pace. Easy to get excited when others are going out hard. If you burn a bunch of matches right off the bat you are probably screwed.

    Also don't neglect you butt. Keep it clean and bring an extra pair of shorts. Baggies are all the rage nowadays but a good quality lycra short is worth its weight in gold. Saddle sores can be a real show stopper.

    Same with shoes. Feet tend to swell during these events so make sure your shoes are not tight. I went away from clipless pedals to flats so I could wear a more comfortable shoe and move my foot around on the pedal.

    I also cover my ears and neck and wear a lightweight long sleeve top.
    My brain went from "you probably shouldn't say that" to WTF!

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by richwolf View Post
    Pacing is very important.



    This. Stay out of the red zone or your race will be a short one.
    "These things are very fancy commuter bikes or really bad dirt bikes, but they are not mountain bikes." - J. Mac

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