Newcrest Orange Challenge
Karmea Founder & Head Coach
Meet Sarah Anne
Originally from the UK, Sarah Anne now calls Australia home, splitting her time with a toe dipped in the ocean of Sydney’s northern beaches, and her heart grounded in the breath-taking scenery of the Snowy Mountains. As a qualified Cycling Australia and Triathlon Australia coach, she is the founder and head coach of endurance training company, Karmea, working to support athletes in their sporting adventures.
Sarah Anne is an accomplished endurance athlete that laps up mental and physical challenges, the longer the better! Her triathlon and duathlon career success, has seen her podium across all distances from sprint to Ironman, and race at both the European and World Championship events.
Cycling quickly became her passion and strength. Sarah Anne built up her racing experience by racing as part of a women’s team in her first cycling season, competing in multi stage races, time trials and 250km grand fondos. Sarah Anne is part of the record breaking women’s endurance cycling team The Veloroos, who won the Race around Ireland in 2017, smashing the course record by 20 hours and placing 4th overall.
Equally at home on the trails as on the road, she has completed 100km ultra trail marathons, 100km and 24 hour mountain bike races, 24 hour adventure racing, and represented Australia at the Xterra World Championships in Maui.
Preparation is everything
Taking on a long distance cycling event like the Newcrest Orange Challenge is no small undertaking, but we promise it’s hugely rewarding. Alongside the distance and elevation you will cover on the day, the nature of the rural roads will take its toll on you mentally and physically. Preparation is everything. Entering the event is your first stage but how do you go about tackling 170kms in the saddle?
Building a strong foundation with a focused preparation phase in your training program is essential. This phase is key to preparing you mentally and physically for the training load your event requires. As exciting as it is to have a training goal, many athletes ramp up too quickly and this can lead to burn out and injury.
Athletes that are new to this distance or this type of event will need a longer prep phase to allow their bodies to adapt to the new physiological implications of training. Experienced athletes require a shorter but still focused prep phase to encourage the body back into rhythmic training after the ‘off season’ or in transition time between key events.
Planning your preparation phase – What sort of sessions should you be including?
Look at specific technique work for the event and its unique challenges. Do you need to work on your bunch riding skills, your hill climbing? Or back to basics like gear selection and cornering? Work with a coach, use video feedback, attend workshops. Add in key sessions that are purely focused around form. There is no magic pill for this stuff, practice does indeed make perfect!
Strength work is an often overlooked aspect of many cyclist’s training. We aren’t talking lifting heavy here, this is specific strength work to increase power and performance on the bike. Executed correctly, strength sessions will help build foundational strength, increase endurance, prevent injury and improve muscle balance and recruitment.
Work on key muscle groups both in focused isolated movements, and also in dynamic functional movement patterns that simulate cycling. Squats are great for strength, but cycling uses alternating legs for power, so look to bring elements that promote this pattern.
Yep, that old chestnut! It just won’t go away will it…and for good reason. We’ve seen athletes improve their performance just by building a greater range of motion into their bodies. Chances are you already know where your tightness and problem areas are, so during this prep phase, take time to pay them all some additional attention.
Stretch every day, working on a different specific area on different days. Make friends with your foam roller! Start to build in a regular stretch routine now so that when you step up training, it’s part of what you do.
Your prep phase is the time to NAIL any existing injuries. We are always surprised at how many athletes up their distance and enter training programmes when they are still nursing injuries from previous races. The load on your body is not going to get any lighter once you start training, so get those niggles addressed during your prep phase. We use one key rule of thumb, always treat your injury even when you don’t feel pain. There is a clear imbalance in your body and this can take many years to address. It can rear its head again once you up the training.
Start dialling in your training, adding in sessions at low to moderate intensity and distance. Remember we are getting the body ready to start training, it can take some convincing!
Be patient, don’t go hard or fast too soon as this will risk burn out later down the road. Let go of holding pace, and chasing Strava segments, learn to just feel into each session.
Nutrition & Hydration
Work on getting back into a good rhythm with your food, eating before training when required, during sessions if the duration is sufficient enough, and getting your recovery nutrition and hydration on the go after each workout.
Remember the quality of output from your body is affected by the quality of everything you put into it. That includes not only your physical training, but also the quality food and hydration you refuel with.
So, if you are ready to step up to a very amazing 170kms of cycling, consider the preparation phase in your training before you start to layer on too much intensity. Think about this as the important planning phase of a great adventure. How well you prepare in this leg will determine the outcome on race day.
Nutrition – the key to success
There’s nothing worse than training your heart out for an event to have it to all fall apart on the day due to poorly planned nutrition. It’s something we see all too often. The kilometres are in the bank, the hills have been climbed, your bike is tuned, and you have a race plan. But how well have you planned your fuel?
Nutrition isn’t something you should just think about for race day. Training for a long-distance event like the Newcrest Orange Challenge requires multiple training sessions a week, along with big bike rides at the weekends. How you fuel before, during and after training will decide the quality of your training, your recovery from sessions, and ultimately how well you perform on event day.
Our bodies are built to move, and this requires us to eat regularly. Add training for a 170kms bike ride, and suddenly the grocery bills start to increase! As your exercise levels rise, the energy you burn also increases. Being prepared is key as you will reach for the closest thing to hand if you are hungry, and often make poor food choices which won’t aid your recovery from sessions.
Keep your food choices clean, as unprocessed as possible and low in refined sugars. Your plate should have a good mix of clean carbs, simple protein and good fats.
Key things to keep in mind are:
- Carbohydrates are essential for energy output.
- Protein is essential for recovery and cell regeneration.
- Fat is essential for transportation of nutrients around the body.
Breakfast is a key component on heavy training days and race day. On a morning when you have a session of 60 minutes or less, you can get away with having a small amount of carbs pre-training such as a banana or slice of toast. Longer sessions require something more substantial.
Pre-race you should eat a normal breakfast 2 hours prior to your start time. You can also top up on electrolytes prior to the race. 15 – 20mins before your race, add in 20-30 grams of carbs – a banana or sports bar are good options.
The week prior to your event, you will decrease your training load. Eat normally as this naturally starts to build your glycogen/energy stores ready for race day.
Get used to eating on the bike, solid foods are essential. Aim to get your body weight in kgs in grams of carbs per hour, i.e. 70kgs = 70g per hour. If you only like water when you train, then all your carbs need to come from food.
Carbs can be in the form of sports drink, bars, bananas, chews, gels etc. Test out what works for you in training and stick with it. Don’t leave it until race day. Find out the nutrition that will be provided at the event and buy some to try.
Break things down into robotic eating. Set an alarm to bleep on your sports watch every 10 mins to remind you to eat. Alternate food and water together, sports drink on its own so you don’t overload your stomach. Play with one hour on liquid nutrition (gels, water, sports drink), one hour on solids (bars, chew, water).
If you feel sick, then just miss that 10min feed and take on some water. You can also add salt tablets into your racing and longer sessions. This will take care of electrolytes which are essential to your body’s ability to stay hydrated. Dehydration greater than 2% will have a detrimental effect on your body to perform during sport.
Recovery is a key part of your training. Hitting the café post ride is great, but make sure that latte is accompanied by some solid food. Aim for your body weight kgs in grams of carbs within 45mins of stopping exercise. This meal should be a good balance of proteins, carbs and fat.
The larger in volume and intensity the session, the more important your post training fuel becomes. Protein is a key component of recovery, so whatever you eat, make sure it contains a protein source. Supplement this if needed with a good quality protein powder which you can have in a shake with some berries, banana, oats etc as soon as you get back from training.
Continue to drink water throughout the day post training, adding in a bottle of electrolytes if you have sweated heavily. If you feel sluggish a few hours after training it can be dehydration.
As with any event, adapting to the conditions on the day are essential. If it’s hot you will sweat more, meaning the intake of fluid needs to be increased. Cold may cause you to sweat less but we can still loose substantial moisture as we wear more.
Bad weather conditions on the day could see you out on the road for longer than planned. Think about this when you look at the forecast for your race. Pack that extra sports bar!
If you have to stop to fix a mechanical, remember to eat. We’ve seen athletes stop for 10mins by the side of the road and miss a window for fuel, then try to ‘make up’ time on the bike by riding harder. Disaster strikes soon after.
Every athlete we work with is slightly different, nutrition is a very personal thing. Find out what works for you by testing it during training. Be prepared for the challenges that face you on race day both from a physical and a nutritional perspective. With any endurance event, be ready to adapt and adjust your sails as the race unfolds.
This article is meant as a general guide only. If you have any concerns over your fuel during training and racing, we recommend you contact a qualified sports nutritionist who can work with you on your personal requirements.
How to stay hydrated - before and during
Hydrating adequately for training sessions and your event day are a key component to successful outcomes. This includes what you drink the day before, during your event, after all the hard work is done and on a day-to-day basis.
An excessive loss of fluid (dehydration) impairs performance and has an adverse effect on your health. Not taking on enough fluid, causes your blood volume to decrease and your body temperature to rise. This places additional strain on your heart and lungs, causing your heart to work harder to pump blood around the body to your quickly fatiguing muscles.
Eventually the strain on your body’s systems becomes too much and your performance will drop. Recognising the signs of dehydration early on are key.
A loss of just 2% in body weight will have a detrimental effect on your body’s ability to perform during your ride. Your aerobic capacity falls by a huge 10-20%.
A loss of 4% will bring on nausea, vomiting and upset your bowels. 5% will cause on a 30% drop in your performance output, while an 8% drop will start to bring on dizziness, confusion and can lead to more serious consequences.
If you continue to exercise without adequately replenishing fluids and minerals, you will eventually stop sweating and spiral quickly towards heat stroke. Scary stuff!
The good news is that this is all very easily avoided if you plan your hydration as well as you do your training.
1. Work out how much you sweat
This is an important thing to know, especially if you are someone that perspires a lot. Here’s a simple sweat test that you can do at home:
Wake up, DO NOT DRINK anything, visit the bathroom as needed. Weigh yourself. Complete a 60 minute training ride (indoors is a good option) or run. Come home and jump on the scales again.
The amount you lose in weight is the amount you lose in water. i.e weigh in 1 = 60.2kgs. Weigh in 2 = 59.8kgs. Equalling a 400gm loss in weight or a 400ml loss in fluid. If you drink during your training session or when you wake, then you must measure it add this back into the equation. Try to do your sweat test in conditions similar to that which you will race in.
2. Know what to drink
If your session is over an hour long, drinking water alone is not enough. When you sweat you lose essential minerals and it is important these are replaced. This can be done in several ways.
- Sports drink: minerals and carbohydrates – fuel and hydration
- Electrolyte drink: minerals – hydration only, fuel needs to be consumed in addition
- Salt tablets: minerals – minerals only, fuel and fluid needs to be consumed in addition
Every athlete is different, some of us sweat more than others, so it’s important to find out what works for you and what your body needs.
3. Hydrate well even when not training.
What you should drink on a daily basis is easily calculated. Multiply your bodyweight by 0.033 and this will give you what you need to drink in litres. i.e. 60kgs x 0.033 = 1.98litres of fluid.
This should be water, or electrolytes. Fruit juices, coffees and alcohol don’t count. If you are exercising, then add another litre per hour of training. Going into training sessions dehydrated is very common so ensure you are drinking enough during the day.
When you finish your training session, keep drinking throughout the day. Often athletes are very good at getting fluids in when training, but stop when the get off their bike. If you start to feel tired in the afternoon post long bike ride, it might be the intensity of the session, but add a glass of rehydration drink in and see if your energy picks up.
4. Drink enough, but not too much when training.
Water intoxication or hyponatreamia is more common that you might think. As you drink more and more water to cool down, you increase the water content of your blood and dilute the salt content. Consequently, if salt is not available it can lead to issues with heart, brain and muscle function. Symptoms are confusingly very similar to dehydration; dizziness, nausea, bloating or swelling etc.
You should be aiming for around a litre of fluid an hour when riding, this may decrease in cold conditions or increase in warm. Ensure that adequate electroytes are added to combat over hydration.
5. How do I know if I’m dehydrated?
One of the easiest ways to tell if you’re dehydrated on a day-to-day basis is to look at the colour of your urine.
If it’s clear or very very pale, then you are over hydrated, if it’s dark or had a smell to it, then you’re dehydrated.
Every one of us will experience dehydration in some form when training to a greater or lesser degree. The key thing is to know the signs and pre-empt it from happening. Prevention is always better than cure. A good hydration plan is key for the success of your event and how you recover from training on a day to day basis.
Training in the last month
The Newcrest Orange Challenge is drawing closer, and the excitement and nerves are starting to build. Your training should have been building nicely over the past five months. If you skipped a couple of sessions, don’t sweat it! The main thing to focus on now is what you can do in the remaining time before the big day.
Focus on continuing to build your long rides. Don’t avoid hills, embrace them! Be sensible on hot days, but don’t avoid riding in the heat as it’s likely to be warm on event day. Adapt your speed, effort and nutrition for the conditions.
The elevation on your long rides should resemble the event elevation. So, if you’ve been riding flatter terrain, it’s time to step up the climbing!
Make sure you keep up strength and intensity work on the bike. Shorter sharper sessions with a specific focus are important. They also help with the monotony that can often set in when you are training for longer distances.
If you plan to ride the event with a group of friends, then make sure you have trained with them. Know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Orange can be windy and exposed, so working together and sharing the work on the front is key.
Also, make sure you have chatted about what happens if one of you is struggling and needs to slow down. You may need to make the call that the group splits or strong riders go on ahead. Communication is key when riding as a group.
In the last run into the line, stretching and rolling are all important. Book that massage you’ve been promising yourself. Become best buddies with your foam roller. Focus on your key areas of tightness and stress between now and the start line.
By now, you should know what you are going to eat and drink on the event from both an amount and from a brand point of view. Plan it out, make sure you can fit it in your jersey pockets. Know which rest stops you plan to stop at and which you can bypass.
For every training ride you should carry exactly what you need for the 170km event. There are refill stations on the route, but it’s good to plan your stops on your training rides around the times of the rest stops on event if possible. That coffee stop you put halfway through your ride? Time to stop that! There aren’t any coffee stops on route. Save that until the finish line and get used to riding with efficient stops as you will on event day.
As always, the above needs to be adapted to the conditions on the day. Increased heat means allowing for more frequent stops.
All your long rides should be completed in the kit you plan to wear for the event. If those bib shorts get uncomfortable after 100 kilometres, or you can’t fit your food in your jersey pockets, now is the time to change them.
Check your cleats to see if they need changing.
Make sure you bike is serviced, and any niggles or worries are sorted out. Check your tyres for cuts and bald patches, do you need to renew them?
Make sure you have your spares all squared away and that you know how to carry them, either in your jersey or saddle bag.
The route for the Newcrest Orange Challenge takes in some of the best scenery the region has to offer. The terrain is challenging, and the nature of the rural roads can take its toll on your muscles.
Studying the route is a great way to get your mind in the game. If you live close to Orange then you have the added bonus of being able to train on the route!
You’ve achieved so much in training so far, it’s now time to knuckle down and enjoy the last weeks of riding until you line up in Orange. The better prepared you are, the more successful the outcome. Take charge, take ownership and nail the next seven weeks.
Putting it all together
Well, here it is, the start line of the Newcrest Orange Challenge is nearly upon us. All the training has been done, your bike is serviced and ready to go. You have your kit nailed right down to your socks, and your nutrition plan is in place.
It’s time to reap the rewards for all that sacrifice and dedication and execute the perfect ride. Here are some tips from the top to keep in mind on the big day.
The night before
Lay your kit out, pin on your number. Ensure you don’t pin the pockets of your jersey closed! It has happened. Check the weather and see if you need to make any adjustments.
Get your nutrition ready, count it out and fill your bidons, put what you need in your pockets and onto your bike.
Ensure your tyres are pumped, your spares are on your bike. If you’ve transported your bike in your car, then it’s always a good idea to go for a little spin to check it’s all in working order. Give it one last charge if you are on electronic shifting.
You should stay off your feet as much as possible the day before a big event. Head out for a little pre-event spin down, adding in a few lifts and sprints to clear the pipes and then it’s complete rest for the remainder of the day.
Get up early
On the morning of the event, leave yourself plenty of time to have breakfast, stretch, check your tyres and do any last minute tweaking.
Eat your breakfast two hours before your wave start so that you start with a nicely digested meal. Don’t change anything, eat the same thing you’ve tested during training.
Get to the start line in good time so you can place yourself in the holding areas for your wave.
Stick to your plan
Your ride plan is a very important part of your day. You’ve trained hard for this, now the only person that can spoil the day is… well… you!
Try not to get isolated for large sections of the race. If it’s windy you will end up working hard and burning your matches. Sit up and wait for the next group. If you find yourself isolated or in a small bunch of 2-3 riders, recruit other riders as you pass them, or they pass you. You are stronger together, work as a bunch.
The aim is to ride with a bunch for the duration of the event. Working as one fluid group to forge forward, sharing the load, and communicating. If there are riders tagging along at the back of your group, let them. Chances are they are tired and aren’t able to help at the front, let them recover and then they can do some work.
Don’t let yourself get caught up with a bunch going too fast. A good guide is can you talk, or can you eat? If you can’t get fluids down due to going to hard and you are only 50kms into the day, this is not the bunch for you. Drop back, find the next bunch.
Listen to the safety briefing and pay attention on race day so that you can keep yourself and those around you safe.
The roads may be closed but you should still stick to the rules of the road at all times.
Do not cross the white line in the middle of the road. Remember that emergency vehicles and race support vehicles will be present on the course. Stay on the left side of the road at all times.
Ride to your ability. Be aware of others around you. Communicate your intentions verbally if you need to pull up and stop.
You’ve nailed this in training. Be robotic. Keep eating and drinking as per your plan. Your nutrition can make or break your race.
Make use of the aid stations as planned. DO NOT allow yourself to run out of water at any time. If you have half a bidon entering a rest stop, leave with a full one.
A good tip is to leave the rest stop with what you’ve thrown away. Three gels wrappers in the bin, pick up three new gels.
Adjust your sails
170kms is a long way to ride, prepare for anything, adaptation will be the key to your success. Be ready to tweak your plan as needed as the event progresses.
The terrain at Orange is challenging, with rolling hills, open country and a few good climbs that will sting the legs. If this was easy, it wouldn’t be a challenge, this is what you’ve trained for.
Most of all, remember all of your training, how hard you’ve worked, and enjoy this great event. I look forward to seeing you on the start line and if you see me suffering on the day, give me a hello and a smile!
A special thanks to Sarah Anne Evans and Karmea
Sarah Anne Evans is the head coach for Karmea. She is an established triathlon and endurance coach with experience helping athletes at all levels achieve their goals, and a background of 15 years of race experience over various distances and disciplines. Sarah Anne founded Karmea based on principles that create a more complete and rounded athlete, capable of achieving anything they set their minds to.
Get a personalised coaching programme tailored to your goals. For more info on Karmea Coaching, visit their website below.Karmea coaching