You might be starting to fret or worry over small and large details such as your training, tire size, bike selection, nutrition, etc… My best advice to you is to stop worrying so much and go with what you know works for you, even if someone else says there’s a better way. More comfortable on your mountain bike than your drop bar bike? Ride it. Got a 38c tire and think that 40c would be better? It’s only 2mm don’t mess with it (pull out a ruler and look at 2mm). Been using Product A for nutrition but Product B has 50 more calories per serving, but you’ve never even tasted it? Stick with Product A.
Keep the last-minute changes and adjustments to a minimum unless you have a big issue you’re trying to resolve. Trust me, I know the feeling of a big race looming on the horizon. The first time I did DK200 I had never ridden nearly that far and had no idea what I was in for. I knew that I needed plenty of food/hydration and some repair items. I rode my cyclocross race bike with 32c tires, a couple bottles and a camelback with snacks. Was it ideal? Heck no! Did I finish and have a good time just the same? Sure did. I’ve certainly learned and changed a lot since then.
We’re fortunate to have 8,000 different gravel tires in 47 different compounds and casings now, and there’s more gear to strap to your bike than stars in the sky. Use what you’ve tested and if you’ve got what you need with you on the ride then you’ll be fine. Trust your prep work.
Some things to think about:
- Don’t mess with your bike! Like I said, any huge glaring issues aside like a cracked frame, bent wheel or otherwise just leave it be. That 1-degree saddle angle change is a bad idea (seen too many riders not properly tighten their seat and the whole thing comes loose and falls off during a race). If you absolutely must have something done, then take it to a mechanic if you’re not one yourself!
- Test your preferred navigation choice. Plan to use a Garmin with the Strava route? Load that route on there and make sure you can find it and use it. The best would be to actually test ride part of the route to see how the turn by turn or GPX track works. Another way to test your setup would be to make a simple route near your home and try following the navigation. Planning to use cue sheets? Have a good system to mounting and swapping them. Speaking of cue sheets, EVERYONE should have a copy on their person during the event!!! I had a Garmin lockup on me at DK200 a few years ago around mile 180 and had to rely on cues for the last 20 something miles. If I didn’t have those on me I would have been up a creek. Put them in a nice Ziploc bag or laminate them in case of rain or sweat. We’ve put a lot of work into those cue sheets for accuracy and clarity, we even navigated the whole course just using them. Cue sheets and route tracks are on their respective Route pages on the race site.
- When you’re using a GPS device like a Garmin or Wahoo keep in mind that it’s a man-made device trying to stay connected to a satellite in space. When you enter heavy tree coverage your track may slightly differ than what the route on the screen shows and your GPS device might beep at you. Stay calm and look at the map. As long as you’re close to the screen route and following the same general track then you’re fine. Deep in the woods such as a national Forest you will probably experience this, just take a second and verify you’re following along and don’t panic. The cue sheets have lots of info to reference as a backup. We are planning to put some markings down on the tricky two-track intersections and areas with no signage. We’ll post on race week about the course markings and what to expect.
- Find some folks to ride with that match YOUR pace. If there’s any headwind it’s nice to have a group to share the work with. Riding in a draft can save you 20% or more energy versus being solo. It can also be nice to have someone to chat with during the many hours that it takes to ride 100 or 200 miles. When it comes to drafting, if you’re not familiar or have done it before, google “bicycle etiquette” for the sake of your fellow riders (e.g. don’t draft in your aero bars, smooth and steady pulls, etc…). If you’re with a group and the pace is too much you’re better off riding where you need to be than burying yourself. Many times during races I’ve been with a group that was “too hot” and had to let it go, and a few hours later I start catching all the riders in that group who were riding above their pace. It’s always better mentally to catch other riders than to be caught.
The checkpoints are MANDATORY!! We need you to physically meet up with the checkpoint tent and the volunteer in said tent to get checked-in at each location (there are 3 as you cross the state, and 1 at halfway for coast loop). If we don’t get you checked in, then we will assume you did not follow the course and it will result in a DQ/DNF. Don’t fly through the checkpoint at 20mph and assume the volunteer caught your number plate flapping in the wind. It only takes a few seconds; say hello, thank them for helping and verify they saw your number. More important than your finish result is making sure that you’re not lost out in the massive Manistee National Forest on some two-track at night. We use these checkpoints to track riders and determine who is left on the course.
- Speaking of checking in, if you decide you can no longer continue and must drop out of the event please contact us via the phone number provided and let us know that you are dropping out. Don’t just have your buddy pick you up and hit Wendy’s on the way home without letting us know please! Your safety is our number one concern and we don’t want to have the local search and rescue squad deployed while you’re napping at home on your couch.
- Eat and drink lots during the event! Try to always keep a steady stream of fluid and food coming into your body even when you’re feeling energized. Don’t go riding for the first 3 hours without a sip of water or a snack just because you feel good. Once you go into a deficit or bonk it’s a deep hole to dig out of. For 100-mile events I find that I can get away with just “bike nutrition” such as gels, drink mixes, bars, etc… For 200 miles not so much. Try to get some real food at the checkpoints to keep the slow burn going while you supplement with gels/drinks/chews. There are convenience stores all along the course (see the Rider’s Guide). Find some pasta salad, a slice of pizza, potato chips, trail mix, etc… You’ll be happy you ate real food come mile 170. You’re better off taking 5 minutes to eat some food than sitting on the side of the road for 30 trying to get your body going again. Google each checkpoint city, click Nearby and then Restaurants if you need something more than convenience store food.
- Read the Rider’s Guide!!!! Yes, it’s a long document, but it’s got quite literally everything you need to know for both the 100 and 200 in one convenient document. Need to know the start address? Riders guide has that. Need to know the rules on lights? Riders guide has that. Need your crew to know where to go? Well, you get the idea. We are going to be VERY busy the week of the race so don’t be surprised if we don’t reply to your facebook message asking us what mile checkpoint 2 is at. Everything you need to know is in the Rider’s Guide and the Race Updates via email and also on the website.
- Rules, nobody really likes them but unfortunately we need them. Please be familiar with the rules and follow them. Make sure to carry required equipment, proper lights, etc… The last thing we want to do is DQ someone for doing something they didn’t know they weren’t supposed to do. It’s no fun for us to police this stuff but the vast majority are for your safety!
- You’re never going to feel perfect before a race like this one. In my experience there’s always something I would consider less than ideal or lacking. You’re going to always think you could have ridden more, picked a better bike, ridden better tires, etc… Push all those thoughts out of your head and just look forward to the ride. Over-obsessing about the event will just ruin the ride for you. Remember we do these events for fun and to enjoy the rider and camaraderie!
- Drop the expectations. Often times placing expectations on an event leads us to disappointment or a feeling of “failure”. Got a planned finishing time or placing in your category? Forget about those “plans” and go out there and push yourself the best you can. A lot can happen in 100 or 200 miles, and honestly trying to ride that far is more of an adventure than a race! Come into the event planning to have a grand adventure and see some awesome terrain and you surely won’t be disappointed.
- Keep a positive attitude! More important than fitness is your mental attitude for a race of this length. I’ve seen lots of really fit riders crack and just up and quit during events like these. Stay upbeat and encourage those around you. Fostering a positive vibe will help everyone on their journey. If you have bad thoughts or negative things to say just KEEP THEM TO YOURSELF. We all go through dark times during these really hard events and it’s enough to know that they will pass eventually. If you decide you need to drop from the event, encourage those near you to keep going and finish. Many times just a few kind words and support can make all the difference in someone finishing or not.
Well, that’s about all I’ve got for now. Don’t get yourself all worked up between now and the race. The route is absolutely beautiful and the feeling of crossing the state from one freshwater ocean to another is unlike anything else. For the Coast Loop riders, you have the most time spent in the Manistee National Forest so enjoy every mile of the ride! Whether you’re riding 200 or 100 you’ll get to finish in Ludington right on the beach! We’re beyond excited to see everyone and greet you at the finish line!