IPWR Q&A

While I gather my thoughts on the IPWR, I thought I would share some interesting questions about my IPWR ride posed to me by a friend and avid dot watcher Justin B.

I am also planning three articles on my IPWR adventure and another one on my tips and tricks for the IPWR. So stay tuned, more to come.

Physical

What preparation/training did you wish you’d done more of? Equally, was there any area that you felt you wouldn’t focus on next time?
Overall I felt my physical preparation for the event was about right. Over and above my regular training which consists of approximately 270 – 300k a week, I conducted a couple 700 – 800k weekend training rides and a couple of Audax rides. These rides were completed with a full load so I could test what worked and didn’t work. The improvement to this would be to do a 3-day ride because by the third day your body starts adapting more to requirements of ultra-distance cycling. I would have also spent more time sleeping rough and getting used to how to handle it.

What surprised you most in terms of how your body felt/responded as the ride progressed?
I suppose it was the lack muscle soreness. After the first day my muscles were quite sore like you would get from a typical day’s riding but quickly your riding style adjusts, and the muscle soreness goes away. Of course, this was replaced with knee, tendon and Achilles soreness.

What issues/injuries/niggles did you encounter and how did you manage them? Did typical issues like Achilles and knee issues present themselves? Was there ever a point where you had concerns about doing some permanent damage as you pushed on?
Day 4 was a bad day for me. Up until then I had been travelling well and feeling good. I suffered a muscle spasm in my left quad which just about stopped me, it certainly slowed me down and hurt like hell, not even Panadiene forte would ease the pain. When it happened, I was forced to peddle 20k on much one leg to get to Cocklebiddy. The next day was slow going but it came good. For days after it was sensitive and I couldn’t put much pressure on it, but I was able to ride.

I don’t think I was ever concerned about doing permanent damage. Sure the body was in pain but the nothing that bad to cause me concern. Post ride, however, I am suffering Ulnar Palsy in my hands, it’s worse in the left hand which is still numb, and I have noticeable lack of fine motor skills and strength in both hands.

The oft-non-discussed saddle sores?
On this, Bepanthen is your friend, applied early and often, and saddle soreness was never an issue. I also used a “touring saddle” as opposed to a flat racing saddle which increased the comfort, in my case, it was a Brooks C13 Cambium saddle. That said, in the first few days there was some mild discomfort while the body adjusted but after that, it was never a concern.

Do you think that end-of-day leg compression helped with recovery and would you do anything different next time in terms of end-of-day recovery routine (such as stretching, timing of food intake etc.)?
I would tentatively say yes to this even if it was mainly psychological. I will say on the nights I slept rough I didn’t bother putting on compression leggings and still seemed to perform at the same level, so I guess the jury is out on whether they actually did anything but like I say, mentally it made me feel better.

The biggest thing for me at the end of the day was to get a least of a litre of milk into me post ride. Both for hydration and the proteins contained in milk to aid my recovery. Because time off the bike is limited, I wasn’t doing any stretches but then I’ve never been one for post ride stretching. Likewise, there was no specific timing for food. It sort of depended on where you were. For instance, in small country towns, you pretty much knew where you would sleep so you could eat then work out where you would sleep. In bigger places like Geelong or Port Augusta finding a safe location was the priority then you would eat.

Aside from the last 25 hours, what was the most challenging segment of the ride?
Without a shadow of a doubt, Day 16, the climb over the Snowy mountains. Since leaving Melbourne, there had been a lot of climbing, and I had a lousy start to day 16. By the time I reached Adaminaby I was smashed physically and mentally if I wasn’t so close to the finish, I may have pulled the pin. By the end of the day, I really hated the bike. I will say it was the spirit of competition that kept me going, which is a nice way of saying I wasn’t going to let Callum beat me 🙂

Do you think your body composition changed much from start to finish (overall weight and lean body mass)?
I was curious about this one myself, thanks to my Garmin smart scales I can report no real change in my overall weight and my body fat went from 14.2% to 13.8%.

How much sleep do you think you were averaging? Did this change much from start to finish?
On average I was getting 4-6 hours sleep a night, and this remained pretty constant throughout the event. After day 2, I stopped using my alarm, I figured I would just let my body wake up when it was ready, as it turned out, this was about 4-6 hours and at around 0230 -0300h in the morning. On some occasions when I had a bad night’s sleep, I would also have a 15 -30 minutes power nap mid-morning.

What if anything would you change in your race plan? That is, would you start harder/easier next time, now that you know how your body will react over the totality of the ride.
Not much, my mantra was always not to over extend myself and stay in control. So while my start may have seemed a bit slow, it paid dividends in the second half of the race. While others were struggling, I was still feeling strong. 

Nutrition

What was the food plan?
We all start with lofty ideals of eating well, but the realities of roadhouse cuisine soon smash this. Even what I would consider basics, such as muesli bars and pre-package fruit can be hard to come by. From Merridan to Port Augusta it was a case of buying what ever food you can get your hands on that will keep you going, Pizza shapes and lollies such as snakes or frogs became a big staple in my diet. That said, some of the things I tried to stick by, as previously mentioned, I was big on milk post ride and in the mornings. Eventually, I developed a liking for about a litre of UpnGo and a tin of fruit as my first breakfast. I found this worked well because you could buy it the night before and carry it for as long you needed and this was enough to get me through to second breakfast.

Did you have any issues managing glucose/energy peaks and troughs?
Constantly and I was a bit of a slow leaner in this respect. It wasn’t until after Adelaide when I had awful morning I gained an appreciation of how much food I needed to be eating. It was always worse in the mornings until I started having the UpnGo and fruit in the morning.

How did the caffeine intake work out? How did you balance the need/timing to ingest caffeine with making sure you weren’t too wired when you needed to sleep?
I was relatively conscience of my caffeine intake; I pretty much stopped my caffeine intake around midday except for a couple of cokes in the afternoon. My primary source of caffeine was No-doz tablets, I just found it convenient, and it was easy to measure my intake. That said, I still found getting to sleep problematic, which you wouldn’t think would be the case after the early start and long miles each day.

How happy were you with your ability to carry enough food and especially water between the multiple 190km distances between services in the first half of the race?
Completely happy, that said,  given this was a primary concern of mine before the race I had put a lot of time testing my set-up. Besides the standard two frame mounted bidons I had two modified cages on the forks which were capable of carrying 1.5l bottles of water, plus I could carry up to 3 one litres bottles in my jersey or back-sack, so that gave me a total capacity of 8 litres.  As it turns out, that was more than enough. Likewise, the back-sack proved a good way of carrying extra food those long stints.

Did you ever reach a point expecting to find water/food only to find this was unavailable? How much emergency reserves did you carry?
No, but came close, sometimes you just need to be a little creative. Racing over the Easter break certainly made things harder as many shops had reduced trading hours. When I say creative, there was one instance when I arrived in Noojee to find all the shops closed and the pub didn’t start food service another hour. This would mean giving up an hour day light to wait for food when I still had another ~60k to ride for the day. Filling up on bar snacks like chips and ice cream wasn’t going to cut it given I was already hungry.  Then I noticed the kitchen hand preparing what I can only guess was to be rice puddings but at this stage was just tubs of rice. So after some surprised looks from the bar staff when I asked to buy some of the tubs, I managed to secure 3 tubs of rice for dinner. It was rather basic but did the job and was better than waiting around for service to start.

As for reserves, I did the start the race with some extra protein bars and zip-lock bags of oats and sugar, which did prove useful across the Nullarbor but after Port Augusta there was enough towns and shops, that with a bit of forward planning would ensure you didn’t run out of food.

Bike and Equipment more generally

What (if anything) would you change with your bike setup?
Not much, overall the set-up worked well. Naturally, there would be some tweaks to the set-up, but I’ll cover this in greater detail in a separate article on my set-up.

Was there any piece of equipment you wish you had/didn’t need and would consider leaving home next time?
No, about the only thing I didn’t use was a small travel towel and a spare tyre. I was always aiming to travel light, so I had put a lot of thought into what I needed. In regards to clothing, instead of carrying bulky warm weather gear I relied on the principle of layering a number of light layers to cover me from cool to cold conditions.

Would you take a bike lock next time, of could you get away without one?
I actually took a lock with me for this ride, and yes I would take it again. It’s like insurance, sure you might not need it, but it does offer peace of mind when you are in a populated area. Not to cast dispersions on Geelong, but for instance, when I went to the Woolworths in Geelong at 2100h, I was sure glad I could lock my bike up.

Navigation

Any issues with navigating the course? Did you have a hard-copy of the route with you in case your electronics failed?
No real issues, I did take a few wrong turns, but this was more due to me not paying enough attention to my nav system, rather than the system itself. I didn’t carry a hard-copy backup and must admit almost came unstuck because of it. Would I carry a hard-copy? Probably not, I would probably look at how I could carry a backup navigation device.

Any part of the course/towns that were more challenging in terms of food/water resupply?
The first half was challenging because of the obvious distances involved, but at least the supply was predicable. The second half was made challenging because of the unpredictable trading hours of the Easter break, which probably more challenging.