Endurance Training Tips – An Interview With Topeak-Ergon Team Riders

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If there’s one team that focuses on all-day or multi-day endurance events, it’s the Topeak-Ergon mountain bike team.

Given the increasing popularity and options for 6-, 12- and 24 hour races and multi-day stage races, and my own forthcoming participation in the 2010 Breck Epic, I figured I’d have a little chat with a few of the U.S. T-E riders. What follows are some training tips and other nuggets of wisdom for those racing in (or just thinking about) an ultra endurance race.

I interviewed Jeff Kerkove (32, Fort Collins, CO) and Eddie and Namrita O’Dea (34 and 33, Atlanta, GA). Between the three of them, they’ve done it all, and in many cases done it more times in a year than you or I will in several trips around the sun.

Jump on past the break to see what it takes to be competitive over the long haul…

Jeff Kerkove at the 2009 Breck Epic. Photo by Eddie Clark.

Jeff Kerkove at the 2009 Breck Epic. Photo by Eddie Clark.

BIKERUMOR: What’s the longest race you’ve finished?
Jeff Kerkove: My first ever 24 hour race. It was the 24 Hours of 9 Mile in Wisconsin back in 2004, I believe. I was racing solo, and complete 277 miles. Finished in 2nd place…1 lap down to Tinker. From that event on, I was hooked!
Namrita O’Dea: 30 hour adventure race, several 24 hour solo mountain bike races.
Eddie O’Dea: 24 hours – 16 of them.

BIKERUMOR: What’s the most common distance / duration event you compete in?
JK: Right now, my most common distance is 50-75 miles.
NO: 12-24 hour, 50-100 miles.
EO: Anything 6 to 24 hours.

BIKERUMOR: What’s your basic weekly training schedule during the off season?
JK: About 90% of my training is on a road bike with a power meter during the entire year.
Monday: Off the bike, Yoga/core workout
Tuesday: Core workout, 2 hrs of bike time
Wednesday: Core workout, 2 hrs of bike time
Thursday: Core workout, 2 hrs of bike time
Friday: Core workout, 1 hrs of bike time
Saturday: 4-5 hrs on the road or mtb
Sunday: 4-5 hrs on the road or mtb
NO: Running, strength training, and a mix of indoor and outdoor cycling.
EO: 3-4 days a week on the bike for 2-4 hours each day. 3-4 days a week in the gym.

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Namrita O'Dea at the 12 Hours of Santos in Florida. Photo by Art North.

BIKERUMOR: What changes do you make for early season training and preparation?
JK: Closer to the season, the intensity starts to pick up. Early season workouts are more endurance tempos. When the season gets closer, the efforts get harder and more intense. Also, I start to incorporate fast pace road group rides. I even show up to road group rides on my mtb.
NO: I do some mountain-bike-specific strength training, and most of the riding is tempo/endurance stuff with a lot of focus on neuromuscular training and technique.
EO: I will cut back on the gym work and do more mountain bike specific work.

BIKERUMOR: What changes do you make mid-season training?
JK: The weekly hours decrease….and the focus is more on racing every other weekend and recovery. By this time, your system is at its fittest. It is just a matter of maintaining what you have worked so hard for.
NO: Less hours, more specific intervals for the races I am targeting.
EO: This year I’m racing longer durations toward the end of the year, so I will increase the duration of the training sessions and decrease the intensity (some).

BIKERUMOR: When and how do you taper down your training before a major race?
JK: Most tapers are about 1 to 1.5 weeks. Depends on the event and distance. I am still riding, but the rides are short with a few hard efforts thrown it to keep the system ‘sharp’. My longest ride might be 2 hours…most rides being 1 to 1.5 hrs long.
NO: I usually start a taper about a week before. This would include a day or two off, which gives me time to pack and prep for the race, some light hours on the bike, and a day of openers or short intervals.
EO: 5-10 days depending on the duration. 10 days for a 24 hour.

Eddie O'Dea on one of the big berms at the 2010 BURN 24 Hour Challenge. Photo by Chris Hines.

Eddie O'Dea on one of the big berms at the 2010 BURN 24 Hour Challenge. Photo by Chris Hines.

BIKERUMOR: What changes do you make mid-season training?
JK: The weekly hours decrease….and the focus is more on racing every other weekend and recovery. By this time, your system is at its fittest. It is just a matter of maintaining what you have worked so hard for.
NO: Less hours, more specific intervals for the races I am targeting.
EO: This year I’m racing longer durations toward the end of the year, so I will increase the duration of the training sessions and decrease the intensity (some).

BIKERUMOR: When and how do you taper down your training before a major race?
JK: Most tapers are about 1 to 1.5 weeks. Depends on the event and distance. I am still riding, but the rides are short with a few hard efforts thrown it to keep the system ‘sharp’. My longest ride might be 2 hours…most rides being 1 to 1.5 hrs long.
NO: I usually start a taper about a week before. This would include a day or two off, which gives me time to pack and prep for the race, some light hours on the bike, and a day of openers or short intervals.
EO: 5-10 days depending on the duration. 10 days for a 24 hour.

BIKERUMOR: How many major events do you peak for in a year?
JK: About 2 or 3….maybe more if the events are shorter. Less if they are longer. All depends on how my body adapts to the recovery process.
NO: Usually about two.
EO: Two to three.

BIKERUMOR: If you had to recommend just ONE workout for someone looking to do well at endurance events or stage races, what would it be?
JK: Most people just want the experience of these long races. To enjoy the experience make sure you get out there and log some rides that come close to the event you are racing in. For example, if you are doing a 24 hour solo….get out there and do a 12 hour solo early in the year. If you are competing in a race that will take 6 hours to complete…get out on a weekend and log a 6 hr day. Also use these training rides to test nutrition and equipment. Also, don’t neglect recovery. 1-2 days a week off is good…and it will make you faster.
EO: Over-under intervals: 3-5 minutes at endurance pace, followed by 1minute at xc race pace, back to endurance for 3-5 min, then xc pace for 1 min, finish with endurance pace for 3-5 min. These are great for simulating true endurance racing efforts.

Kerkove at Dave Wien's Original Growler Mountain Bike Race.

Kerkove at Dave Wien's Original Growler Mountain Bike Race.

BIKERUMOR: For 6- to 24 hour events, what sort of gear do you carry with you on each lap?
JK: The basic stuff: tube, multi-tool, CO2, gels/sports nutrition, 1 water bottle since these are lap races.
NO: A Topeak Mini 20-Pro, a Topeak CO2-Bra, a spare tube, PowerGels, and PowerGel Blasts.
EO: Topeak Mini 20 Pro, one Conti Tube, Topeak Co2-Bra Race Pod and one SRAM Powerlink

BIKERUMOR: For all-day or multi-day events, like stage races or point to point events, what type of gear do you carry with you?
JK: 1-2 tubes, multi-tool, CO2, gels/sports nutrition, 2 water bottles on the bike….maybe 3 bottles if the time between aids is long. Might carry a hydration pack if needed.
EO: Topeak Mini 20 Pro, one Conti Tube (2 for the more back country events), Topeak Co2-Bra Race Pod, One SRAM Powerlink and Topeak Race Rocket Pump (only for the back country events).

BIKERUMOR: What sort of sports drinks, supplements or foods do you typically consume during the races?
JK: PowerGels mixed into 2-3 flasks and thinned with water, PowerBar Endurance drink in 1 bottle, plain water in another bottle to wash down the PowerGels, ELETE tablytes.
NO: Some combination of nuun, PowerBar Endurance, PowerGel, and PowerGel blasts.
EO: Powerbar Endurance drink mix, Gel-Blasts and PowerGels. During the 24s I’ll add some PB&Js & FRS Healthy Energy Drinks.

BIKERUMOR: What’s the hardest thing about racing endurance and multi-day events?
JK: The competitive level now days is insane. Guys are going XC pace for like 4-6 hours. To compete, you not only have to be able to ride for those long hours…but you have to do it super fast.
NO: The mental aspect. And, being flexible when the race isn’t necessarily going the way you planned.
EO: Not over doing it with all the great events out there.

Namrita at the 2010 BURN 24 Hour, where she had the fastest female day lap and night lap. Photo by Chris Hines.

Namrita at the 2010 BURN 24 Hour, where she had the fastest female day lap and night lap. Photo by Chris Hines.

BIKERUMOR: What advice would you give someone doing their first solo endurance race?
JK: Start easier that you think you should. A lot of people do not ride well at long events because you use all their gas in the first ½ of the event. You need to pace….and pick up the pace as the event draws to and end. This is especially true when racing at altitude.
NO: Stay on top of your nutrition. Take in small amounts of calories and fluid with electrolytes every 20 minutes. Also—make sure your bike is set up properly as small aches and pains that may be present in short rides will become much worse when you try to do an ultra-endurance race. Make sure your equipment is fresh! Leave the worn out parts on your training bike.
EO: Visit one of the Topeak-Ergon endurance klinics & ask a lot of questions.

BIKERUMOR: What advice would you give someone doing their first multi-day stage race?
JK: Two things. Recovery and Equipment. Make sure you have the equipment that can withstand a week of hard riding. Also know how to maintain it. As far as recovery goes, start the process the second you finish a stage. This is key to how you will feel on and off the bike in the stages to come. This process is as simple as having a recovery drink at the finish line….to eating recovery based food that also might be at the finish line. I saw this at the Breck Epic this past July. Guys would finish and go to the table with food on it and start shoving stuff down their holes.
NO: Don’t neglect a solid nutrition plan that emphasizes rapid recovery. Many folks spend a lot of time following a training plan, but a nutrition plan is equally important. A good Sports Dietitian will be able to help with this, and will be able to coordinate it with your coach’s training and race plan.
EO: I’ll let you know after I do one.

BIKERUMOR: What’s your favorite endurance event and why do you like it?
JK: My favorite event is the Vapor Trail 125. It is a single 125 mile loop through the Colorado backcountry. Super hard, super remote, super epic! It takes about 15 hours to complete and starts at 10 PM. If you are lucky, you finish the next day around 3-4 PM. This single event is about 80% of the reason I moved to CO from IA. The experience is out of this world!
NO: Gunnison Growler, BURN 24 hour Race. These are two very different events but have the following in common: Fun race course, affordable entry fees, great volunteer and SAG support, and race promoters that really understand what the racers want. Also, the Snake Creek Gap Time Trial Series is one race every mountain biker should do!
EO: 24 Hours of 9 Mile in WI – I’ve achieved some my best 24 hour results while the 24 hour nationals were held there. The course is well suited to my strengths: short climbs and technical single track coupled with rolling open double track that can be ridden like a TT.

BIKERUMOR: If you haven’t mentioned it above, do you do any weight training or upper body exercises and training to combat the fatigue that comes from long distance and duration events?
EO: Yes. This year I worked with an athletic trainer (Continuum Sports Solutions) to build a strength training program to address these issues and build more power while in the saddle. It’s paying dividends so far.

Comments

Whatever - 06/10/10 - 6:03pm

Eddie and Namrita are middle of the pack fodder at best. They shouldn’t be sponsored, much less giving out advice. JK seems the real deal, although he hasn’t has stink for results this year.

[...] Endurance Training Tips – An Interview With Topeak-Ergon Team Riders [...]

Dave - 12/27/10 - 1:47pm

In response to Mr./Mrs. Whatever:

And just who the hell are you? Next time you critisize someone else’s achievements, at least post your name! It’s easy to hide behind your keyboard and spit out useless crap. When we see you being interviewed and placing at events, then maybe we’ll listen to ‘whatever’ crap you have to say. No matter who it is, ALL sponsored and professional athletes are competing under a HUGE amount of pressure. But that’s probably not something you’ve experienced since you were cut from the middle school basketball team. Just shut up and train instead of talking smack about people you don’t even know and who’s bikes you’re not even qualified to clean.
-end of rant :)

Wayne Goodman - 10/04/12 - 9:56am

I have had the pleasure of many rides from youth in the South growing up in Atl. At 50 years old I made a appointment with Eddie to get a fit kit and then a follow up. I learned more in two hours from Eddie and have been smiling ever since. Pedaling (spinning) and breathing have never been better. If you can not sing or carry a conversation with another biker up the steepest of hills get help. Hint Hint Feel free to use my name if my singing …… .

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