5 things you need to know before entering your first MTB marathon

Tempted to enter a mountain bike marathon this year? Read this first…

We’ve just (naively) signed up for our first MTB marathon. It’s an endurance event of 75km, almost entirely off-road, and as we’re not very experienced, SCOTT Contessa Syncros Team pro Caroline Goward kindly met Team OAG at Swinley Forest MTB centre in Berkshire to pass on her top tips for endurance racing.

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1. Bike set up.
Make sure your position on the bike is set up to be comfortable for the hours ahead. Lock out the suspension if you’re banging along metalled roads; otherwise use the mid-setting to keep just the rear suspension softer. It gives you good traction off-road. Use full suspension if you’re descending something really technical.

2. Hydration and food.
Make sure you drink and eat at least every half an hour. Gels, energy drink tablets and chew bars are good, but try to take some savoury things too, as well as plain water in your bottle. You’ll get sick of too much sweet stuff. Grab whatever’s on offer at the feeding stations – you’ll need it.

3. Gear.
It’s all about layers. Take a lightweight waterproof to be safe, and if the start’s cold wear arm warmers you can pack away later. Wear a lightweight hydration backpack and put your electrolyte tablets in the bladder. Pack your spare tyre, Allen keys, chain tool and pump in the pack, and make sure your bike is working smoothly on race day.

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4. Tactics.
Go steady – every mile off-road is twice as hard as on-road, so stay within your aerobic threshold. A heart rate monitor is the best way to keep tabs on how hard you’re actually working.

5. Training.
Get some miles in your legs, but don’t do anything long and testing less than three days before the event. Don’t forget to train your core and keep stretching, as supple muscles work far better. If you’re riding in pairs, train together at a pace that works for both of you.