SURVIVING CYCLING MARATHON
Cycling in a large group of cyclists, what marathons are all about, requires certain skills and a little practice of riding in a group in advance. With more than a thousand riders starting a marathon, it is essential that we remain tolerant and respectful to others. As visibility is limited due to large groups, always try to signal all dangerous parts and potential hazards on the road to the cyclists behind you. Either by saying it out loud or by using hand signals. In a large group things don’t always go our way, so try to remain calm and patient. To allow yourself enough time to get ready, arrive at the start early and try to register in advance to avoid crowds. This will allow you to focus on your ride and prepare all the essentials you need to take along on a longer cycling ride. Last minute haste will only cause nervousness and make you forget a thing or two you might need later on the road.
Before you attach your start number, please make sure you fill in all the fields on the reverse side. Cycling, as all activities, is unfortunately not accident- free. Such data will be of great help to medical personnel in the unfortunate case of injury or accident.
When on the road, remain attentive. Observe your perimeter; see what is going on hundred metersv in front of you, so you are prepared. Try not to force your way in a group, if it isn’t safe. It is a long ride and surely you will get many chances to safely overtake slower cyclists that may be blocking you at the start. Special attention should be paid to drafting. Normally the distance between cyclists’ wheels should be no more than 40 to 50 centimeters to be effective. Distance should be much longer in a large group ride, since there is enough draft anyways. It will also be much safer as you will have a broader view of your perimeter.
There are refreshment points along the route of every marathon. Use them to remain well hydrated and fuelled. It is essential that we signal to others in the group when we decide to stop. Especially when the speed of the group is high and not everyone intends to stop for refreshment. There will be a notice-board well in advance of every refreshment stop, allowing you to place yourself on the outside of the group and prepare to stop. In case you miss the notice-board and are unprepared for a stop, try not to make any sudden position changes in the group. Such actions may jeopardize you and other riders in a group.
Ride the marathon in accordance with your fitness level. By doing so, it will surely be a good experience.
STAYING HYDRATED AND FUELLED
Eating and drinking becomes very important on longer rides. Experienced cyclists are able to do it while they ride. If you are not comfortable with hands free riding, it might be a better idea to stop at the refreshment points for a snack and drink. On longer rides it is advisable to drink electrolyte beverages (such as isotonics) regularly. On a warm day, we advise to drink between 500 to 600 mL of fluids. Try to avoid water as it lacks electrolytes that you inadvertently lose with sweat. While on the bike, air cools us down and makes sweat evaporate rapidly, so dehydration is very common. Thirst is a non reliable sign of dehydration, as it appears when we have already lost more than 1% of body water. When we lose 3-4% of body water, consequences may be severe as our performance drops rapidly. In addition neurological disturbances may occur due to lack of electrolytes. Dehydration can turn a pleasant ride into a dreadful experience, so remember to drink. You will find salty crackers on refreshment points- don’t hesitate to eat them. They will replace salt (electrolytes) you lost with sweat.
As far as food goes, carbohydrates are the right choice. Chose between cookies or energy bars and gels supplied on refreshment points. Don’t wait for hunger to strike as it will be too late. Best way to keep well fuelled is to eat small amounts at regular intervals. This way you will avoid the feeling of fullness that may cause an upset stomach and gastrointestinal troubles. For the same reason, don’t overload your stomach with food. Try to avoid fruits (such as bananas) during the ride as they take too long to process and may cause an upset stomach. Oranges and citruses are safe. Take your time at the refreshment points; there is no need to hurry.
It is important to top off your energy depots with the right food the day before the marathon. There is not much you can do in the last 6 hours before the race, so lunch and dinner the day before should be right. Try to eat carbohydrate rich foods, such as pasta, potatoes, rice and corn with some low fat meat. Dinner should consist of pasta or rice with tomato sauce, fresh salad and some grilled low fat red meat or poultry. Apple pie or fruits are recommended for dessert. Make sure you drink enough. On the day of the marathon, make sure you eat well in advance (at least 3 to 4 hours) of the start. Starting with a full stomach will cause many problems. Professional cyclists usually eat pasta with a dab of olive oil and a teaspoon of parmesan cheese in the morning before the race. Pre-start meal shouldn’t contain very sweet foods as they cause rise in insulin, which lowers blood sugar, making us sleepy and unfit to ride. Sweet food also draws lots of water, making us feel bloated.
Please, respect nature and don’t litter energy bar packaging and water bottles along the route! Foil packaging can be dangerous to other cyclists as it is very slippery if ridden onto.