Lynda Wallenfels is a
USA Cycling Cat 1 certified cycling coach and pro mountain bike racer. She is
owner of LWCoaching.com.
long do you need to recover from an ultra-endurance race? How many can I plan
into my race schedule in one season?
The USA Cycling Rule Book http://www.usacycling.org/forms/USAC_rulebook.pdf defines ultra-endurance events as:
Ultra-Endurance Events: A term used to describe the following types of events
lasting more than 4 hours: Marathon, ultra-marathon, 6/ 12/ 24 (etc) hour
The first thing to note is that recovery from a 4 hour race
is significantly faster than from a 24 hour solo race.
Race duration or distance is one of numerous variables
affecting recovery speed. Many of these variables are under the control of an
How rested you were at
the start of the race
How well prepared you
were for the specific race effort
How well you fueled
and hydrated during the event
How much sleep
deprivation you accumulated
How deep you dug
during the race: Did you pace to finish comfortably or did you empty the tank
for a personal record time?
How diligent you were
with post race recovery practices: recovery nutrition, sleep, stress
management, time to rest, massage.
Two variables are not under the control of the athlete.
Age. Recovery slows as
we age. A 25 year old will recover faster than a 55 year old given equal
Some athletes have a phenomenal recovery rate and some simply do not. The athletes
on the slower end of the recovery bell curve should be more careful about how
closely they space ultra-endurance races on their race schedule.
As a generalization, given the impact of the above
variables, here are the recovery times an athlete can expect after an
ultra-endurance mountain bike event:
Mountain bike races
lasting 6 or less hours take 1-2 weeks for recovery and can be scheduled twice
100 mile mountain bike
races last anywhere from 7-13 hours and take 2-3 weeks for full recovery. 12
hour solo races are in the same recovery zone. Scheduling one per month is
Recovery speed from a
24 hour solo race depends largely on how well an athlete executed the race. A
personal record (PR) level 24-hour solo, perfectly executed, non-stop 24 hours
on the gas with no sleep that an athlete started well tapered, peaked and
rested will take 4-5 weeks to fully recover.
- PR level 24 hour solo mountain bike
races take a lot of real estate in an athlete’s race schedule with 3 weeks to
taper for, and 4-5 weeks for recovery. Scheduling one 24-PR level solo per
season is ideal.
24-hour solo races
paced at a finisher level effort where an athlete stops for rests, meals and
sleep during the race will take 1-3 weeks for recovery. 24 hour solo races
executed on this level can be scheduled 3-4 times per season.
Mountain bike stage
races such as Trans Rockies, BC bike race and Breck Epic are similar to 24-hour
solo races in that recovery rate is highly dependent on the manner in which the
athlete raced. Generally, 7 day stage races fall in the 3 week recovery time
frame. Scheduling 1-2 stage races per season is reasonable for most athletes.
At the top end of the
ultra-endurance racing category are the multi-day, self-supported events such
as Colorado Trail Race, Arizona Trail Race and Tour Divide. The clock runs on
these races non-stop, day and night, start to end. These events can take 4-40
days to finish.
Full recovery from these races can take 2-6 months! Volume of sleep deprivation
is a large part of the fatigue accumulated. A loose rule of thumb is to start
with 2-4 weeks for recovery then add one additional day to recovery time for
every hour of sleep missed during the event.
Sc Scheduling one multi-day
self-supported race per season is reasonable. Racing more than one of these
events per season puts you in the manic category ;-) I do know a few of those