Stage Racing: Load Monitoring and Recovery

Recently I completed the Pisgah Stage Race in Brevard, North Carolina. PSR is a 5-day mountain bike stage race within the Pisgah National Forest. Racing consists of mostly technical singletrack and massive climbs ranging any where from 20 minutes to an hour and a half in duration. To win the Pisgah Stage Race you need to be a complete mountain biker and have a very wide variety of skills. From XC fitness for the shorter days to endurance for the longer days, and technical handling skills to successfully navigate the treacherous descents while pegged from the climb up. This year was my 3rd attempt at the Pisgah Stage Race. The past two years I have teamed up with Gordon Wadsworth where we went undefeated in the Duo Men category. This year I raced Open Men by myself. The competition this year was stacked. Record times for stages consistently were beaten, and the competition was deeper than it has ever been in the past. A few rough days and a few good days put me in 8th overall. I was pretty content with my finish. 

This article will piggy back off of the Load Monitoring Series and will give the readers and insight into stage racing; what a typical day looks like, what recovery/sleep/nutrition consists of, and tracking load throughout the week. Let's start with some total numbers from the week. Racing started on Tuesday the 10th. These numbers include warming up/cooling down/commuting to and from stages as well as a short ride on Monday prior. 

  • 17 hours and 11 minutes of ride time (12 hrs and 15 mins of that racing)
  • 204 miles on the mountain bike (140 miles of that racing) 
  • Total TSS of 1201
  • Elevation Gain of 23015 ft
  • Total work 12574 kJs burned

Stage Profile

  • 2 hours 40 minutes and 9 seconds (7th place finish) 
  • 284w Normalized Power (4.5 w/kg) and 160 bpm average heart rate 
  • Peak Power Numbers (all from the first climb of the race) 
    • 5' 390w 
    • 10' 370w 
    • 20' 340w 
    • 30' 320w 
  • After what is clearly a hard start (the 5' and 10' values are close to my max numbers for that duration) I settled into a groove that was more sustainable for the 2nd longest day of the race
  • Power stayed consistent after the initial climb, averaging 290-300w (steady state/tempo power) on the following climbs

Recovery, Sleep, and Nutrition During Stage Racing

  • My best general advice for this is to quickly find yourself a routine. After stages I had the same process as soon as I got back to the house: make lunch, wash the bike, shower, light stretching and then some napping/resting/light snacking until dinner. 
  • I would maximize my sleep since I knew that the strain/load was adding up; sleep is the best way to recover so when I wasn't racing, eating or washing the bike I was typically in bed napping or just simply resting. Make sure to practice good sleep hygiene as well: dark/cool room, no caffeine or alcohol within 2 hrs of bed time, and minimize screen time prior to sleep. 
  • The best strategy regarding nutrition/hydration is to eat and drink as soon as possible post stage. Some days I commuted to and from the stages, so I would grab a quick recovery shake on my way out and make a full meal when I got off the bike at the house. If I was driving to the stage, I would bring some food to accompany that shake to hold me over until I could make lunch. I would typically have a snack or two throughout the day until dinner, but it is important to not overeat as the stages are still relatively short (nothing over 3 hrs). 

Load Monitoring Series: Part 2