My first mountain bike marathon

Swanson River City Shoot Out

13500148325_1be18c70bd_zA few weeks ago I raced my first mountain bike marathon. The race was Psycowpath’s Swanson River City Shoot Out  in Bellevue Nebraska.  I was quite nervous about the race first. The first time that I was on my mountain bike this year was the night before the race and secondly because I have never done a marathon.  I was pleasantly surprised how many people showed up for the race.  There were 192 people pre registered for the race and lot more that registered that day of.  This year Psycowpath added a trail run category to the race. It was nice being able to be there to support my running and cycling friends.    

Nutrition and Hydration

 XLLB1000One of the things that I was very nervous about was managing my nutrition and hydration on the bike. One of the downsides of having a very small frame is that I don’t have a water bottle cage on by bike. I am forced to use a Camelbak. At times, it is very convenient to have a Camelbak.  It is nice being able to reach down and quickly grab the straw and get a swig of water without having to worry about having your hands off of the bars for a long time.  The disadvantage though is that you have to commit to one drink.   On longer rides, I prefer to have one bottle for water and another bottle with Skratch Labs. Scratch Labs is my favorite sports drink mix to replace electrolytes without being overly sweet (available at the Trek Bicycle Store of Omaha).  I knew with a 4 hour ride I would want to replace electrolytes to avoid cramping. I decided to fill my Camelbak up with water and put a bottle of Skratch Labs in my cooler.

During marathon races you place a cooler in a designated place along the course so you can stop and rehydrate and refuel. I wasn’t sure what kind of food I wanted to put in my cooler.  I wanted a good balance between easy to digest and a mix of slow and fast burning carbohydrates. One of my favorite on the bike snacks is a snickers bar so had to include that in the spread. I had no idea how I was going to be feeling while riding and what I would want so I just packed everything I thought I might need. I found a recipe in the Runner’s world cookbook for banana oat energy bars. The bars are pretty nutrient dense at 300 calories per bar. They are made with oats, raw sugar, bananas oil and gluten free flour, nuts and dried cranberries.  In the past year or so I haven’t been able to use energy gels. I feel that the gels give me a quick burning shot of energy but then my energy level plummets. I have found that real food seems to sit better with me. I also packed Honey Stinger Waffles. I like the waffles because they are tasty, organic and are chews-fruitsmoothie-webrelatively fast burning source of sugar when you need a quick pick me up.  I tried to put Honey Stinger energy chews in the pocket on my Camelbak so I could eat those while riding. Unfortunately with gloves on I wasn’t able to get them out of my pocket while I was riding.

The Race

I was really nervous about pacing during the race. The longest road ride I have done this year was just shy of four hours at a relatively easy pace. I was nervous that if I started out too hard that my legs would be trashed by the end of the race. I decided to start the race at a relatively easy pace and increase intensity depending on how I felt. The bad part about that strategy was that because I wasn’t aggressive the the beginning I had to spend more time trying to pass people during the first lap. I felt really good for the first 2 hours of race and rode 20 miles. The next two hours though my pace decreased and I ended up with 14 miles in the second half of the race.

1947365_10103015930602777_1209598827_nI ended up finishing 3rd in the women’s marathon category. Overall I did enjoy the race. I had to dig deep in the last hour or so but I would definitely do another marathon. I still need to figure out pacing. I think I could have pushed myself harder in this race. I also need to work out a better system for refueling. I only took in about 400 calories during the race and burned around 1,300 calories. Not replenishing calories may have been a part of my fatigue at the end of the race.

The Next Race

I am planning on racing the Lewis and Clark Crusher on April 26th. Lewis and Clark is a fairly hard trail for me. I have come out of there bloody a number of times. The trail has some punchy climbs that I get about half of the way up and then stall out. I went out on Sunday to the trail to see if my handling skill have improved any since last season. The good news is that I didn’t crash once which was a huge success. I did have to bail several times and walk up  a few hills.  On the plus side though I did get up one of the hills that I struggled with last year so that gives me hope!

Whether you are running or riding I hope to see you out at the race.


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