How to train for a 24 hour race.


Our own Chris Hall has given some tips on how to prepare for 24 hour races, such as Revolve24.

Chunking and chomping:

For a long-distance race or TT, break down the distance in your head. Racing for 50 miles, 100 miles, 12 hours or 24 hours, or even further, is as much a mental battle as it is a physical one. When I have done 24 hour races and TTs, I break it down into manageable time chunks. For example, in my head I will think that every hour I need to drink a bottle. I swap from water to an energy drink, continually alternating so I don't end up having something really sugary. Every 20 minutes I need to eat something small. As before, this will be a mix of sweet and savoury. I've found that roast potatoes wrapped in foil in your pocket not only keep you a bit warmer in winter months, but are perfect as a savoury option. During a 24-hour race I know that roughly every 5 hours I'm going to get something hot to eat and usually a coffee. That hot food is often what is available or easy to make with lots of calories. Those breaks every 5 hours are short, but perfect to help when you may be feeling a bit empty. Make sure that you practice your eating.

Support crew:

Surround yourself with a fantastic support team and team mates. Now this is easier said than done, but I would say it's probably the most important. I have an amazing group of friends who I always rely on to support. One happens to be a fantastic coach, Ken who I have worked with for years and he knows me inside out, another is a nutritionist, Will who helps to advise on what I should be eating on certain challenges and races. You need people who can keep your spirits high and are there looking out for your best interest. People who can read when you are having a bad day, but are ok or can see you are genuinely putting yourself into a world of pain and

potentially risking your life. I had a situation last year where this was so important. I entered the National 24-hour time trial, which is based close to Wales. On paper, it should have been a perfect weekend, with good weather and fine roads, but unfortunately it wasn't. The weather was absolutely torrential and along the A-Roads, there was spray everywhere and it was progressively getting colder and colder. I ran out of spare dry kit and was at the point of not making much sense. Jimmi, who supported me, could tell I was taking a real dip for the worse and refused to let me continue. My head may have wanted to continue, but my body was way past it's limits. Moments like that are where you need to have someone who can stand up to you and force you to stop. 

Preparation and recovery:

Make sure you warm up and cool down properly. I am notorious for warming up properly and then being so pumped with adrenaline that I ruin my cool down. Doing these things properly mean you will start better and will feel fresher the next day. Another massive no no is doing races on consecutive days. This is another piece of advice I probably don't listen to especially in the winter when I'll do a crit race on the Saturday and a cyclocross race on the Sunday. Normally the legs are ruined enough from just one of them! Leading on from this, make sure you recover with some food. A recovery shake or something like malt loaf or granola bars are my normal go-to snacks for post-race cravings.

Train smart:

It sounds simple, but to see improvements during races, doing junk miles isn't going to help you. You need to practice sprinting, attacking, putting in big long solo efforts etc. I train using an InfoCrank power meter and heart rate monitor paired to my Wahoo Element. This means I can see all the data in front of me when I do certain efforts in a structured training plan. For 24-hour races it’s important to know which zones are the most sustainable. These are generally your power zone 1 and 2. Zone 2 is known as your ‘fat burning’ zone, which enables your body to keep going, as long as it is fuelled. Zone 3 is a good zone to be in when you go up any climbs, which if you are doing Revolve24 at Brands Hatch, there are a lot of. Be in zone 3 or higher sparingly.

Bike maintenance:

Look after your bike and it will look after you. A clean well maintained bike is a happy bike. It will run more efficiently and have less chance of mechanical issues during your race. Also, who wants to turn up to a race with a dirty bike?! It will do you wonders for your own confidence on the start line knowing that you have done everything possible to make sure your bike is working perfectly. 

Be alert:

In a race its hyper important to make sure you are sharp and aware of what is going on around you, especially if you are new to it. A can of energy drink will invigorate you and keep you sharp. Then it's worth having a gel towards the end of the race to make sure you are ready for the sprint. Personally, I’m not a big fan of gels, but I think sometimes the placebo effect of them works. You need to be so aware of what’s going on around you, whether it be a crit or a 24-hour race. Who looks strong? Who looks like they are sandbagging? Which attack is worth following? Who looks a bit nervous on corners? Often enough a crash isn't your fault. So be alert and ready to take action.

Be kind to yourself:

I think one of the most important pieces of advice I have been given is, remember you are only human. You can't win everything. You will have days that you are unwell or don't feel like training. It's perfectly acceptable to have a bad day. When I was younger, I used to suffer from depression if I thought I was missing out on something or I thought I could do better. Depression is prevalent in men. We like to be perceived as strong, but it's important to talk about your problems and how you are feeling. Use that support team to help you when you are having a tough time. I know I do.

Comfort is key:

Make sure you are comfortable when you ride. I think it’s important to make sure your bike fits you well to ensure that you are as efficient as possible on the bike. It’s natural to have some aches and pains in a 24-hour race, but the longer you can put these off, the better.

Endurance is the foundation:

For me something that is important is building on and helping improve your zone 2 endurance. Long distance, 24-hour races are all about stamina and keeping moving. Long (4+ hour) Z2 rides may seem dull to some people, but they are the best way to help improve endurance. I would suggest breaking up long rides by ramping up from low to mid to high zone 2 then easing back down to a mid and a low Z2 over the hour. Changing the power over an hour or so helps to break things up a bit better.

Sleep deprivation training:

It’s really good to do a few night rides. I think that the London to Brighton route is a good one to do through the dark hours. It helps you mentally get more comfortable riding in the dark and to properly test equipment. Another tip is to do what I call ‘low sleep sessions’. These are rides done late in the evening and then the same ride early in the morning to allow your body to get used to dealing with the dark hours and minimal sleep.

The most important thing is to have fun. A 24-hour ride should be a challenge, but try and make it fun whilst you push yourself to the limit!