Following is some useful advice from Santi Mozos on how to prepare for a 450K, specifically, the bike ride route joining Madrid and San Sebastian and now, the new u51pro shop in Madrid with the original namesake shop located in San Sebastian. Subjects to be addressed include: bicycle, clothes, visibility factor, route and diet.
First of all, I’d like to talk about the machine itself, my loyal mate, the bicycle. The bike that I use for this kind of workout is the same one I use for competition. I’m seeking comfortable geometry, one suitable for the many hours I will spend on my bike. The position I seek is always one of comfort, for me this is more important than the aerodynamic factor. To this end, I bring along triathlon-style fittings to ease the pressure on the palms of my hands, which tend to present problems from the 600-kilometer point on. The bike has three resting points which we should balance when it comes to long distances and these are: the soles of your feet, one’s bottom and the palms of your hands. There should exist a good symbiosis among the three so we can continue pedaling for many hours, though this is a subject a bio-mechanic would be more qualified to speak about than me. I favor 53×38 plates and 12-27 pinions. These are ideal for maintaining satisfactory cadence when the legs begin to tire. On the other hand, the types of wheel I use are: a profile-less front wheel and a 50-millimeter rear wheel. I love this combination when the weather is unpredictable because one obtains more “push” in the rear wheel and the front wheel does not tend to brake when there is a cross wind. Another factor to especially keep in mind when the roads are not the best is the width of the bike tire’s inner belt. For these types of workouts, I use a width of 25 millimeter because it affords you greater comfort while absorbing irregularities in the terrain. This small detail, with the accumulation of kilometers becomes accentuated and the additional comfort is welcomed.
Secondly and no less important, are the clothes you will wear, one of the biggest headaches for these long-distance workouts, where the differences in temperature between day and night can be huge. After trying and testing all the possible combinations, I have reached the conclusion that it is best to simplify. The choice for me is quality technical bike wear. By this I mean, versatile sportswear (appropriate for cold, heat, rain, wind, day or night use) versus piles and piles of clothing layers. My winter workouts this year in the mountains, in rain, sleet, snow and cold, have altered my way of thinking regarding the kind of clothes one should wear in inclement weather. My choice for extended workouts is: thermic jersey and jacket Thermic Jersey & Jacket and Long Salopette L1 Cycling Culotte (brand preference: Q36,5); right, so off we go. These clothes cover all the possible winter scenarios perfectly (and that includes rain), so it is no longer necessary to wear a raincoat, vest, or arm and leg sleeves. The most simple complement and, at the same time, essential one for me is a hanky-neck warmer to protect your ears and throat.
By visibility elements, I refer to anything and everything that will make us more visible at night and improve our ability to see where we are going. Firstly, there is the main headlight. Bring along a headlight with 900 lumens. I do not recommend a more potent headlight for the road because more one of greater power requires a more powerful battery and that affects one’s autonomy. I usually keep this headlight on at 30% of its power capacity, which usually lasts around 24 hours, and provides me with enough illumination to see and be seen. The second visibility element is the position-indicating rear light (the red one); it is key for indicating our position to cars behind us. This light should be on in a continuous manner and should not be of the blinking variety. Other essential elements are one’s reflectors, as important as one’s lights for being seen when riding at night. One should at the very least be wearing a reflective vest, mainly for visibility to others, but also so you do not get stopped by the police, are fined and not allowed to continue your route. Concerning the preparation of your route, the most common device for long-distance rides is to use a GPS, though I must confess that on this point I tend to be more traditional. I use a printed road map due to the fact that high technology has disappointed me in the past. With just this and an Internet-connected mobile phone I am able to pray to Saint Google Maps.
Okay, let’s move on to diet, food supplies. The obvious question is: What do I take along for a bike ride of this distance? What do I need to bring? Well, let’s start from the fact that what you eat is a personal thing. Eating and drinking when you are on a body-punishing trial of this kind is something you learn and get better at with practice. It is during my long workouts that I have acquired know-how and found out just what my body demands food-wise (it was not easy!). The nutrition one requires for these types of workouts is light years from that one would need for a cycling tour.
Before delving into the diet subject further, I would like to comment on what can be done so that we arrive at a work-out or race in tip top condition. The week before attempting such an intense workout, we can do several things to maximize our body’s reserves. First of all, it is important, for instance, to load up on carbohydrates during the two days prior to such an undertaking. This will enhance our reserves of muscular and hepatic glycogen so we arrive to the start with a tank full of gas. Secondly, we should not forget to reduce the intensity and volume of our training so that the effect of over-compensation will be evident (one should feel rested and well-nourished). Thirdly, it is necessary to increase one’s level of hydration in the days before. The idea would be to increase your liquid intake by a liter or liter and a half over your usual amount. It is worth remembering that if we are drinking coffee, tea or caffeine- containing drinks, we should increase our water intake even more.
Following this preparation, we are now ready to discuss food intake for the route. Our objective should always be to boost stomach functioning so that it is working at full capacity. To achieve this, it is necessary to maintain a balance between our meals, hydration and salt intake. In my opinion, any miscues will only generate problems. Once these problems take over, it can only get worse if you don’t take care beforehand. You should always eat before you get hungry and drink before you get thirsty. This should be the axiom to follow for one’s workout. Okay, let’s begin with food. Let me make one clear right now: Don’t expect to take along a backpack full of goodies with you, though you should always have something on you (read: energy bars, something in gel form, cookies, bananas …). Your main meal will be that which you encounter at bars or food shops along the way. Listen to your body’s demands and remember to eat normally. As a pleasure-ride cycling tourist, perhaps you wouldn’t follow the routine of having a ham sandwich, a potato omelet and the like along the way; on this kind of trip, however, you’d best be advised to! Regarding hydration and salt intake, it is important not to lose sight of the body’s need to have an ample amount of both water and salt. Be very careful with isotonic drinks; they may cause gastrointestinal problems. On a personal level, what works best for me is drinking water and taking salt capsules. I prefer capsules to powdered salt or effervescent tablets because when you take a capsule, it is not necessary to drink half a liter of water and they just work better for me overall. A small trick so I don’t forget to take them is setting your kilometer-counter to ring its alarm every so often, especially when I’ve been riding for several hours and fatigue is taking its toll. One thing to keep in mind, no matter how much food we ingest, we will not replace the calories burnt. However, if we keep our eye on our eating habits during workouts, we should have no problem pedaling on and on and on.
That pretty much sums it up. Based on my experience that covers what I would do if I were preparing a workout like the U-51Pro San Sebastián challenge. I hope this has been of some help to you. The most important advice I can share is: Enjoy yourself. Also, keep in mind that U-51 Pro (in the heart of San Sebastián) has the finest brands: Assos for cycling, Arc´teryx for climbing, 2XU, Saucony, Brooks for running and Naffta for fitness. Lastly, some words of wisdom for all:
“The difference between the impossible and the possible, rests in the determination of each human being.”