The toughest 48hrs in endurance racing ​

Jillian Mooney
August 30, 2017

Team Joe Barr is getting ready for ‘tough’. We are heading back to the US for another world cup round, one I have wanted to do for a long time.

It’s billed as the toughest 48hrs in endurance racing.

Say hello to the SilverState 508.

It starts in Reno, Nevada, Sept 15th. It’s 500+ miles and 22,000 ft of epic climbing. It takes place in a stark, hot desert on lonely, desolate roads.

The kicker – all of this happens at moderate altitude. The race starts at 4500ft and climbs to nearly 7000ft within the first 10 miles. Ouch. After a steep descent there is a long flat, fast section before it climbs again, staying above 6000ft for over 200 miles.

The course is a mirror image – out and back – so that epic climb right at the beginning lies in wait for me at the end, when all resources are low.

Can’t wait. Seriously. Can’t wait.

I love racing in vast, lonely roads with enormous horizons. Even better if it is baking hot.

I also love a race with external factors that challenge my strategic bike-mind.

At altitude the primary impact on performance is from the decreased partial pressure of oxygen in the air meaning my blood will not be able to carry as much oxygen to my muscles. This becomes a problem when I put my muscles under pressure by sustained long periods of climbing under race conditions.

So what am I going to do about that? Good question. I am going to start with – gearing, bike position and hydration.

Gearing – I typically ride a climb in a large gear but that’s not going to work at this altitude. My heart rate and respiration rate will be too high, the red zone will come too quickly and the % of carbohydrate burned for fuel will be pushed upwards of 75%.

So I am changing the gearing on my climbing bike from a 39 inner to a 36 and from a 53 outer to 51. In the rear I am going from a 25 to a 27.

With these gears I am going to be able to better manage my power output, my heart and respiration rate so that the maximum amount of power can be generated within a zone I can live with hour over hour over hour.

Bike position – on both the road bikes I will be lengthening the front reach by increasing the handlebar stem by 1 cm and I will alter my gear shifter downwards by 4mm. The extra front reach will give me better leverage for steep sections and the lower gear levers will make me more aero.

These alterations will make a huge impact considering how long I will be in the saddle, 30+ hours.

Hydration – Jill, Team Joe Barr’s nutritionist, has been working hard on my hydration strategy. At 7000ft, more problems will actually come from dehydration and not directly from altitude. I will lose twice as much fluid through respiration and sweat as I would at sea level which means I will also lose huge amounts of electrolytes too (sodium, calcium, potassium, magnesium, chloride) through my sweat. Add in the extreme desert heat, a potential increase in core body temperature, and you can see the issues it would be easy to cycle headlong into.

Even a 2% body weight loss from dehydration results in a loss of performance. A 3% weight loss and my VO2 max decreases by 5%.

A 5% weight loss can result in extreme weakness and severe cramping.

Game over.

So there you have it folks. Another start line. A gnarly one for sure that depends on the team and I balancing multiple sensitive performance factors over 500 miles.

This is what endurance racing is all about. The team and I – we perform as one.

Interested in going further? Check out The Endurance Workshop