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Lessons Learned At My First Stage Race (Part 2)

Updated: Aug 27, 2021

If you haven't get read "10 Things I learned at My First Stage Race (Part 1)", you can find it here.

#5 - If you want the enduro wins then plan ahead and speak up -

Each day at Tran-Sylvania Epic there is an enduro section. This is a mostly downhill, often technical section of the course that is timed independently from the main race. Like the stage race as a whole, your times are added up as you go along. This is a fun opportunity for racers who love to go downhill fast to excel. I went into this race expecting to do well in the enduro even if I couldn't keep up with the female pros in the general classification. It took me until day 4 to finally win my first enduro stage because I made two critical errors. Firstly I had no idea where these sections were. Even just knowing the approximate mile mark would have helped me enormously. And secondly, I should have spoken up when I saw people blocking the trail ahead. Most people will happily give you the trail if you ask for it and it took me until day 4 to see that someone was off their bike on the enduro section (these could be pretty gnarly and technical) and call out to them so that they'd move aside to let me through.

#6 - Prepare nutrition and hydration is advance - Next time around, I’d have a written plan for hydration and nutrition during the race. It’s amazing what you can forget as you get progressively more tired.

For one of the stages I totally forgot to take any nutrition with me, and as each day went on, it got harder to make sure I had exactly what I needed. This is where a checklist and pre-measured nutrition for each stage would have been golden.

#7 - Prepare your food in advance - There’s no question that your stage race will be easier if you plan out and prepare your food and meals ahead of time. At this particular race there was the option to pay for meals and although it wasn’t an option we took I can definitely see the appeal if you are someone who is easy to feed. The problem with not having all meals prepped ahead of time or even planned out was that as the five days went on, our food choices got lazier and lazier. Being that recovery is so critical, having nutritious food is important. Prepping meals ahead of time would have been a great way to ensure we were eating exactly what we needed.

#8 - Plan to do nothing but ride and rest - You need to be prepared to only do the absolute minimum if you want to do well. In part one I talked about the importance of maintaining your bike and this would be an ideal task for a trusted friend, family or team member so that you can do less. If you are able to plan to only ride and recover then you'll be ahead of most. This could mean doing the prep discussed in #6, but it can also mean being realistic about other activities. Most days you should be finished racing by early to mid afternoon and so it would appear that you have an afternoon to fill with other things. Those things should be resting, so if you can bring a non-racer to assist then it will likely be for the better.

#9 - You'll ride with some of the same people each day - One of the really fun things about a stage race is that as the days go on, you find yourself with some of the same people. I found myself riding with Pat Carey on several days, a local coach who was great company and super positive. These friendships that you establish help to make those tough days a little easier. Just make sure you're buddying up with the right people, there's nothing worse than being stuck with a negative nelly. So make (fast) friends, use them to help the time pass on hard days and push you to go a little harder than you would otherwise.

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