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Endurance Training Tips – Interview with Topeak-Ergon Riders, Part 2

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It’s about that time when you’re either celebrating a solid race season or wondering what ta hell went wrong. Either way, at some point soon, you’re going to start planning some “winter base training” and so forth and so on such that you can defend (or regain) your honor at the finish lines of 2011.  And if you’re like most of us, you’re probably planning an epic or two, something like the Breck Epic, Shenendoah 100 or the Leadville Trail 100 just to see what you’re made of.

This summer we posted Part One of our interview with several of the Topeak-Ergon riders (Eddie, Nam and Jeff), all of whom seem to thrive on the long, multi-day type racing that can pummel many riders into the ground (myself included). Somehow, two of the interviews got lost in the abyss of our inbox. Here, finally, are the interviews with Sonya Looney and Yuki Saito. Combined, there are plenty of tips and ideas for getting yourself in shape…and we’re going to start posting regular features from various athletes with their favorite workouts, just so you can keep things fresh.

Jump past the break and get your winter training underway…

sonya looney racing the breck epic with jeff kerkove provides endurance mountain bike training advice in this interview
Sonya Looney sets the pace with teammate Jeff Kerkove at the 2010 Breck Epic stage race. They finished first in the coed duo category.

First, a few recent results just to state their bona fides:

Yuki Saito – 30 – Hometown: Tokyo, Japan
– 11th, 2010 Leadville 100
– 3rd, Mellow Johnny’s 6 Hr Race
– 6th, Original Growler
– 1st, Firecracker 50 (non-National Championship race)

Sonya Looney – 27 – Albuquerque, NM
– 2010 USA Marathon Worlds Team member
– 1st, Breck-Epic Stage Race, co-ed duo
– 2nd, Cascade Cream Puff 100
– 1st, Bailey Hundo 100
– 3rd, Claro Brasil Ride Stage Race, co-ed duo

Now, on to the interview…

BIKERUMOR: What’s the longest race you’ve finished?
YUKI: 24 Hours of Moab, Solo
SONYA: One day event: 100+ mile mountain bike race , 24 hour race as a duo. Or longest stage race: 360 miles on the mountain bike in 6 days

BIKERUMOR: What’s the most common distance / duration event you compete in?
YUKI: 50milers/3-6hrs
SONYA: 50-100 miles… I love singletrack and lots of climbing and descending.

BIKERUMOR: What’s your basic weekly training schedule during the off season?
SONYA: My off season is only about a month long. I like to go camping and hiking, running, yoga, go skiing, spend time with my friends, and go to the brewery! My off-season bike training usually involves 20-25 hours a week of base miles.
YUKI: It is hard ride outside here in Colorado during the winter, so I try to put lots of miles in at moderate pace like zone 2-3 when it is dry. I also do lots of cross training like running, core training and plyometrics in the gym. I trained for Miami half marathon last winter. I do skills ride once or twice weekly not to lose technical/handling skills.

team topeak ergon rider yuki saito finishes the leadville trail 100 mountain bike race and provides training advice in this interview.
Yuki gets the finishers buckle at the Leadville Trail 100.

BIKERUMOR: What changes do you make for early season training and preparation?
YUKI: Training volume decreases, but the intensity increases.
SONYA: I spend most hours on the bike during the winter training season, but also incorporate cross training. I’d say I spend on average of 20-25 hour/week on the bike during the winter months, and mix in running, yoga, hiking, and skiing. I love doing other things, so I make sure I get it all in! It’s also good for the body and mind to be multi-faceted.

BIKERUMOR: What changes do you make mid-season training?
SONYA: I tend to pick up the speed a little bit, do more long climbs on dirt roads, and start backing off on the cross training, but not eliminating it. I will also ride more like 15-17 hours a week, and sometimes as little as 10-12 hours depending on what’s on my plate. Mid-season also means the snow is melting so I am always chomping at the bit to get out on singletrack!
YUKI: I go back to base and do long mountain bike rides since I usually have big endurance races later in the season such as Leadville 100 and Breck Epic.

BIKERUMOR: When and how do you taper down your training before a major race?
YUKI: I usually start tapering 2 weeks before a major race. I still do short high intensity rides 2-3 times a week. Rests of the rides are either recovery rides or day off.
SONYA: I usually start tapering down about 4-5 days beforehand, keeping my rides short (1-2 hours) and being careful with my diet, I make sleep more of a priority. Before the race, I’ll do some openers on my pre-ride (pretty standard).

BIKERUMOR: How many major events do you peak for in a year?
YUKI: I peak 1-2 XC races and 2-3 endurance races.
SONYA: Usually three.

BIKERUMOR: If you had to recommend just ONE workout for someone looking to do well at endurance events or stage races, what would it be?
SONYA: 3 or 4 ten minute zone 4 intervals uphill!
YUKI: Recovery. People tend to train too hard and overlook recovery. You get strong when you are recovering. Knowing when to rest/recover is very important during training.

BIKERUMOR: For 6- to 24 hour events, what sort of gear do you carry with you on each lap?
YUKI: Tube, CO2, Tire lever, multi-tool with chain tool.
SONYA: Pop-tarts, beef jerky, starbucks double shot, Paydays. If it’s back country, I usually bring a space blanket, rain jacket, and a spare light.

BIKERUMOR: For all-day or multi-day events, like stage races or point to point events, what type of gear do you carry with you?
YUKI: It depends on the event, but I usually carry two bottles on the bike and one bottle in my back pocket if I need to, multi-tool with chain tool, two tubes, a tire lever, two CO2s, two gel flasks, and one energy bar or pack of energy chews just in case.
SONYA: Water bottles, multi-tool, pump, CO2, 2 tubes, all my food(power bar) for the race, rain jacket, ipod, my diginity! If I had to spend the night, I’d have a lightweight sleeping bag and clothing that is packable, food other than sports nutrition products, a small camp stove (and fit it in my Ergon pack!)

BIKERUMOR: What sort of sports drinks, supplements or foods do you typically consume during the races?
SONYA: I like PowerBar Performance bars, PowerBar Endurance or Cytomax drink mix, Power Gels (they have a great amount of sodium), Elete tablytes for electrolytes, water, and whatever else looks delicious at the aide stations!
YUKI: Flavor is my priority since I need to drink and eat a lot during the endurance race. I like Cytomax and Cliff for sports drink and Honey Stinger for energy gels, bars and chews. Additionally I take electrolyte tablets such as Salt sticks or Endurolytes from Hammer Nutrition to prevent muscle cramps.

BIKERUMOR: What’s the hardest thing about racing endurance and multi-day events?
YUKI: I think it is tough mentally because you go through many “This is too hard” moments during the race. However you can overcome them if you believe in yourself.
SONYA: Keeping your head on straight if it’s not going your way and being able to mentally push through the pain

Yuki during his 3rd place run at the 2010 Mellow Johnny’s 6 Hour. Photos: Kasin Photography and Yamamoto.

BIKERUMOR: What advice would you give someone doing their first solo endurance race?
SONYA: HAVE FUN and don’t give up. You WILL go through times in the race where you don’t feel your best, but you will come back around.
YUKI: Know your pace, eat and drink properly, and enjoy!

BIKERUMOR: What advice would you give someone doing their first multi-day stage race?
YUKI: Recovery after each stage is the key. You want to be fresh as much as you can for the next stage. I took as much calories as I could, ice-bath and slept 8-9 hours every day during the Breck Epic 6day stage race. It worked well for me. Race hard and recover harder!
SONYA: Recovery is key. Elevate your legs, make sure you eat pretty quickly after each stage, take ice baths! For a month or so leading up to the race, experiment with supplements, self massage, and other ideas to see if it helps you recovery faster. I like FRS, glutamine, and Acid Zapper. It’s going to be hard. There are going to be days that you won’t want to get out of bed, days you want to quit, but I promise you’ll get through it if you just keep pedaling!

BIKERUMOR: What’s your favorite endurance event and why do you like it?
YUKI: Breck Epic. The race courses are incredibly fun and it was very organized.
SONYA: I love the Breck 100 because the Colorado Trail is one of my favorite places to ride. The race is epic, you don’t ride the same section twice, it’s high altitude, and the views are amazing.

BIKERUMOR: If you haven’t mentioned it above, do you do any weight training or upper body exercises and training to combat the fatigue that comes from long distance and duration events?
YUKI: Yes. I do lots of core training and plyometrics besides basic weight training in the gym especially during the off season. They help me increase my overall fitness and prevent from getting injuries.
SONYA: I do yoga and corework, but I do not lift weights at the gym because I used to be a meathead in high school and got burnt out!

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