Do You Even Strathpuffer Bro? - Preparing For The 'Puffer Part 3
Posted on by Naomi Freireich
Part 3 of our Puffer Preparation Blog Series written by Naomi Freireich - 24 hr endurance MTB specialist, 2016 Puffer Solos and 2017 Mixed Pairs champion and Gore Apparel Ambassador.
Preparing For The Race
You’ve got your fitness dialled so your body can cope - now it's time to get your race preparation and strategy sorted.
This is not a new race. In fact it’s getting pretty long in the tooth, so it’s likely you’ll know someone - or they’ll know someone - who’s ridden it before. Pump them for every bit of information they have. The more the better as different people will have suffered different issues or experienced different weather. It’s all about beta and getting the kit you may need up front before the mad ‘Puffer rush of early January is definitely a good idea. Stockists have run out of ice-spikers and XT brake pads in the past so have a good think in advance of the date and get your Christmas list written early.
Practice. Train beforehand with the fuel you’d like to use. My advice would always be to eat ‘real’ food for as long as you can physically swallow it, and then force it down when you can’t. You may not know until you get there the types of food you can stomach in the moment, so go prepared with a good selection. Gels have their place and in the later stages you’re going to need that quick energy hit of sugar. Just don’t pitch up with an arm full of gels you’ve never tried before and expect it to go smoothly. Work out which gels you tolerate, and for how long. Whatever the food you go for, fuel often. At least every hour, more if you can.
Make sure you drink ideally a bottle a lap, or at least every other lap. Keep your kidneys happy. Endurance effort can cause a lot of muscle wear and the debris in your system can reek havoc in your kidneys if you don’t drink enough. Please don’t take this advice lightly: kidney failure has been known in these events. And absolutely NO NSAIDs, like Ibuprofen, for the same reason. If you really need pain relief, use Paracetamol.
Ideally, don’t. In my experience it’s so much harder to get back up and out again than it is to keep going. That said, if you need to sleep try to do it sitting up, in your kit, and for a maximum of 20 minutes. Beyond that you’re heading into REM territory and you’ll feel worse waking up. This is the voice of experience talking.
Use caffeine wisely, waiting as long as you can without reaching physical collapse before you start. You’ll need to keep it topped up regularly after that and it becomes less effective the more you take. I like flat coke, but coffee or caffeine gels are just as good. Choose your poison.
This is a biggie, and ultimately dependent on the weather. You will need some or most likely all of the following:
A must. Get good ones. You will need to rely on these babies for 17 of the 24 hours so you want to make sure they’re reliable. I use Exposure lights which are a UK brand so built for the weather we get here and they’ve never failed me. You can charge lights at the charging station but don’t rely on that. Bring spare batteries!!
As with your food, make sure you’ve tried your key bits of clothing, especially your chamois! What works for a 2-3 hour ride may tear you to shreds over 24 so make sure you’ve given your chamois time in the saddle too. I love the GORE Windstopper bib longs for the chamois comfort and warmth to keep me going through the coldest weather.
Who knows what the weather is going to be like, so go prepared with a good set of waterproofs. Even if it isn’t raining on the day, there can be a fair bit of water on the course and if so you don’t like rocking mudguards, a good pair of Gore-Tex shorts will keep your rear dry and comfortable, saving time and energy changing out of wet gear. Waterproof jackets are great for really rough weather and also as an extra layer of insulation if the temperatures drop. A quality Gore-Tex shell will breathe so you don’t end up a bit ‘boil-in-the-bag’.
If you’ve got them, Gore-Tex boots. If you don’t, seriously consider the investment. I spent years wearing shoes and overshoe covers, which are warm for sure, but having a boot removed that slight unpredictability that an overshoe presents. If they tear and flap around it’s just another thing to think about and the fewer of these you have the better. If you can’t invest though, then try to go for a neat fitting set of covers that are mountain-bike specific in case you need to walk a bit. That rock garden at the top can be an energy drainer by the end so the chances are high.
Bring them all!! I’ve worn anything from a tough, thin pair of Windstopper gloves to full lobster claws with liners and everything in between. As a Reynauds sufferer, hand warmth for me is paramount as loss of circulation in my hands leads to a dangerous loss of control. As with a lot of kit, preference can be personal, but come prepared with your full glove arsenal! Well, maybe not your track-mits.
If the weather is properly wintery, and it’s likely to be, you’ll want to layer up. Take plenty of base layers and cycle jerseys with you, as a guaranteed way to get cold is spending any time in the pit in wet layers. If you’re stopping for longer than a quick bottle-swap, make it your mission to ensure you stay warm, so change your layers if they’re wet first and foremost.
While I’ve left this until the end, make no mistakes, your support can make or break your race. They’re the unsung heroes of a 24 hour race. If you’re lucky enough to have mates who want to come and help you, grab that offer with both hands. Someone handy with a hex key and a kettle will make the world of difference as the night wears on. Simple tasks like changing a break pad or opening a packet of jelly babies* (*other sweets are available) can seem like a round of the Krypton factor when you’re sleep deprived, and so having that extra pair of hands to help is a godsend. They can also help keep you focussed on that goal you set yourself, on making sure you eat and drink enough and general nighttime morale. And if they do help you make sure you thank them. With beer. Lots of beer.
Hopefully this has answered a lot of your questions and you’re feeling prepared for your first ‘Puffer. The great thing is that this event is a friendly one. There’s an incredible camaraderie forms from like-minded people doing crazy things, so soak it up, speak to other racers, join in the party atmosphere and enjoy. And remember, you may say ‘never again’ on the finish line, but by Monday morning you’ll already be tweaking your strategy and planning for next year. It’s infectious!
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