By Dave Wiens
Just as I’ve done the past two years, I’m getting ready to jump into the first Leadville Race Series event of 2015, the Austin Rattler MTB, in the Lone Star State on March 28. The Rattler field is filled with riders from Texas and other temperate states, but riders also show up from the Rocky Mountain region, the Midwest, the mid Atlantic and New England areas. There’s something about seizing the first opportunity of the year to earn a spot in the big race in August. Escaping winter’s icy grip is certainly another draw, along with taking in the amazing experience that is Austin, Texas.
Lining up for a late winter or early spring race or two can be a great way to jumpstart your fitness and your season, not to mention it can possibly punch your ticket into the 2015 Leadville Trail 100 MTB. Depending on where you live, racing in the early months of the year can be intimidating. Your fitness may not be anywhere near where it will be later in the year, and you know you’ll be going toe to toe with riders who may be much fitter.
Throughout my career, I’ve used races in Arizona and Texas as early season training opportunities and have been thoroughly schooled by the locals. This is part of venturing out of your own cold backyard and into someone else’s nice, warm one. There are going to be some very fit riders, many of whom are locals with home-course advantage.
So why should you put yourself in this situation? Because it promises to make you a better, fitter, faster, more versatile and confident bike rider. And, you’ll have a blast!
Here’s how I suggest you make the most of it:
Race conservatively. Don’t chase the front of the race or try to stick with riders if you’re going too hard. If you haven’t done any intensity – and many of us won’t have this time of year – your body likely will rebel and punish you for punishing it. I did this at the Rattler in 2013 and absolutely blew sky high. Not pretty.
Fuel carefully. You should always do this anyway, but when you haven’t been training, it’s that much more important. Have your nutrition and hydration strategy 100 percent dialed, including your meals the day before, your breakfast on race morning and your on-the-bike food and drink.
Remain cautious. Continue to ride conservatively until you can nearly smell the finish line. You can blow so fast and lose so much time limping in blown that it’s important not to get carried away and start punching it at the halfway point or even three quarters of the way through.
Enjoy the ride!