Saturday, September 11 was one of the most painful days of my life. On that day, I competed in the Tahoe Sierra 100, a 100-mile endurance mountain bike race in the wilderness northwest of Lake Tahoe.
Suffering with me were my husband and our friend. We hurt. A lot. I still hurt, but it didn't have to be so bad. Here are five lessons I learned from beating the crap out of myself so you don't have to:
1. Train Hard
Once you think you've completed the most epic training ride of your life, turn your butt around and do it again. It wasn't hard enough. Unless you're a pro or a truly gifted mountain biker, a seven-hour long ride won't cut it. If you're a weekend psycho like me, at least do a weekend of back-to-back long rides to get more time on the saddle. Your quads will thank you later. And if you did an Ironman two years ago and think you're still an endurance superstar, think again.
2. Eat Early and Often
Of course you'll feel great for the first four hours of the race--your training rides were way longer than that. Just because it's cold in the morning and you feel fine doesn't mean you should skip on hydrating or eating at the first few aid stations. You never know what your stomach is going to do after 10 (or more) hours of exercise. It may just up and quit on you. You'll be happy you have energy stores from earlier in the day to get you up the final climb. Don't forget the electrolyte pills.
3. Ride with Friends
You can test yourself mentally and ride alone--many people do. But stir some buddies into the mental mix and it gets a whole lot more interesting. Now you not only have to worry about how you're feeling, but you also have to tell your buddies to suck it up. Plus, when you hear gunshots, you'll feel safer because you're not the only thing moving in the trees.
4. Do Not Pre-Race Brag
So your comparably-skilled training buddy just did Leadville in 11.5 hours. Good for him. Don't tell him you're going to beat his time, because on this course, you won't. The winning time at Leadville this year was 6:37. The winning time at Tahoe Sierra was two hours longer--8:36. Granted, if Levi Leipheimer raced TS, he'd probably go fast, but not as fast as he did at Leadville. Therefore, you will not beat your buddy. You will enjoy far more single track, lonliness and climbing. And a bacon taco station.
5. Do Not Wear Zinc
Yes, old-school colored zinc sunscreen still exists, and it's still awesome, and it'll still protect your schnoz all day long. But this course is full of "moon dust" that will cling to your tricked-out nose and make you look like a veritable brown-noser. It's not pretty. And while we're on the subject of moon dust, unless you're out in front the whole time, you'll be inhaling everyone's kicked-up dirt. Bring a bandana or a surgical mask so you don't cough up puffs of dust for a week.
So you wanna hear how it went? Check out my race report. Now stop being a wuss and sign up for next year--it's going to hurt so good.