In 19 days I will be once again on the start line of the infamous ABSA Cape Epic with my team mate, an 8 time veteran of the event, Hannele Steyn. EIGHT times she has completed this gruelling event, that makes Hannele a member of a very exclusive group of riders who have raced in every single ACE since its inception some 8 years ago. I have a feeling this year, my 4th year, I will be educated on how to do this race the rights way! Although I have joined the Subaru-MarathonMTB Team for 2012, this partnership was forged back in 2011 – but you will still be able to read updates from our race here on MarathonMTB.com
In the few weeks that are remaining there is still much preparation as this is not an event that should be taken lightly. It is somewhat reassuring to have raced ACE before and therefore have some idea of what is expected on a day by day basis. This is not an event for the poorly organized or the ill prepared as South Africa is a country much like Australia, remote, rough and with many hidden dangers. To be race fit is only the beginning!
Traveling from Australia there is the little issue of baggage allowance so you have to pack smart, a little tip involves maxing out your cabin luggage allowance to minimize your checked baggage. This maybe as extreme as carrying on your shoes and helmet with pedals tucked neatly inside your shoes. The x-ray guys are ok with shoes, pedals and helmets as carry on but not chains, tools or tires (or so I have heard). I have recently discovered that my Camelbak is the maximum dimensional requirement of Jetstar’s cabin baggage, and when packed weighs 10kg… perfect! I tend to pack all my race nutrition in my cabin bag as I believe, next to your bike, it is the most important item you will pack. Do not assume you can buy race food when you arrive, and it is crazy to try and race on something you haven’t tried (Exhibit A: my 2011 team mate with gastro stage 1 due to gluten).
With respect to clothing: kits, helmet, gloves, sox, ADIDAS eyewear and a waterproof jacket are mandatory. To wear around the camp pack some Linebreak compression gear, shoes, t-shirt and shorts. To wear to bed ear plugs and an eye mask. Anything else can be bought or borrowed and will cost you weight.
With respect to your bike: Tubeless tires are mandatory with Sludge milk, a working cycle computer with GPS on off (GPS on = DQ) and know the ins and outs of fixing a flat and repairing a broken chain (under all conditions). PLEASE get a qualified mechanic to check your bike before you leave! The best chain lube for the event is Squirt and it comes in neat pocket size bottles to be carried during the race.
With respect to the conditions: The climate is generally temperate and favorable but it maybe cold and wet or stinking hot and either way you are to spend in excess on 5 hours on the bike most days. Make sure you know exactly how many bottles you need between feed stations (usually 30km apart). If N=more bottles than you bike can carry do not just wing it, take a Camelbak! No time to be a hero! My 2010 team mate who underestimated the temperature and spent 3 days in ICU after collapsing across the finish on stage 1.
Some other tips: Say yes to the race nutrition service and don’t forget to pay your transponder deposit on time.
About the race: Do not be late for the start chute as it will close without you (even if this means skipping your warm up), Do not be late for breakfast and remember it is best to eat 2 h before you start (even if you are not hungry, you must eat for tomorrow), Do not be late for dinner and go to bed early. There is a cheap laundry service that is worth seeking out if you are not a fan of washing your own kits. You will be camping in a tent, unless otherwise organized and good tent selection is important to a good night sleep (avoid lights and generators and seek shade as the afternoon is hot and tent snacks tend to melt/ congeal). When you finish head straight for the shower to avoid the que then directly to sign up for massage. If your bike has an issue take it immediately to the mechanics and they like beer bribes. It is amazing how quickly the afternoon will pass so do not leave things for ‘later’.
If you are organized you will have a great time but if you are for ever running around trying to get your shit together you will probably not have such a great time.
So in the next 19 days I will be listening to my supercoach (Nikoli), I will be test running any new nutrition stuff (SIS), I will be resting a lot as prescribed and staying crash free and healthy.