Pacing yourself, a relaxed attitude and conserving your energy are all very important for your first ever enduro event, and these are also handy skills to develop too for your everyday dirt riding. While there is an emphasis on enduro races, many of these tips will apply to your first race in any form of motorcycle racing.
RACE PACE - LASTING THE DISTANCE
Long distance athletes train themselves to know how to pace themselves. For example, they may last three minutes at 90% effort, twenty minutes at 80% but an hour at 70%. You probably won't know how to pace yourself as your everyday riding probably involves stops at corners and regular breaks. If you consciously decide to ride at a medium pace for an hour without a break you will probably find yourself exhausted for sooner than expected. Try riding non-stop for one to three hour lengths and at different speeds to learn how to pace yourself.
STARTS - THE HARE VS THE TORTOISE
For a longer race, the best advice I ever got as a beginner was don't scream off at the start. It's common for inexperienced racers to get very tense at the start as their body floods with adrenaline and scream away from the start. Usually within minutes they are wrapped around a tree, pulled over and gasping for breath, or riding badly as the arm pump kicks in. Ignore the other riders, stick to the pace you know will get through to the end, and give your muscles a chance to warm up.
In your first race it can even be a good idea to let the others get ahead so you can focus on your own race. A coach once told me how many of top European riders in the six day events take off. They'll start their bike, rev it a bit, check then goggles, and after a few seconds calmly put it into gear and gently potter off... they are deliberately fighting off the adrenaline rush that can bugger up their race pace and strategy.
ATTITUDE - JUST CHILL, DUDE
That adrenaline rush at the start is part of what makes racing exciting, but too much in your system quickly leads to fatigue, arm pump, and bad riding technique. At the start and throughout the race, remind yourself to stay calm and breathe - it's funny how often fatigue can be from riders holding their breath when they give in to that adrenaline rush! A lot of coaches and experienced racers say you need to remind yourself that racing is meant to be fun. Keep saying this to yourself and you will ride better, avoid arm pump and ride well. It also develops your mental resilience as you won't have your confidence shattered if and when you do crash and make mistakes.
CONSERVE ENERGY & CHOOSE YOUR LINES
With a relaxed attitude and a good race pace, you will already be conserving a lot of energy. While you have more control in most situations standing on a dirt bike, in a longer race it helps to sit more often when you get to smoother sections. If you watch the top extreme Enduro riders at the four day Romaniacs event you'll see them sitting as much as they can. When they come to tough obstacles you'll also see they don't rush in, but will even stop sometimes to look for alternative lines through. Always take the time to check first, it could save minutes of energy-sapping wrestling with your bike in a nasty section.
This article is more about mental preparation for your first race but a few notes on fitness. As already mentioned, you'll be surprised how quickly fatigue sets in with non-stop riding. If it's a one hour event, practice riding non-stop for an hour to find the pace that suits you. Most riders agree that the best fitness training is simply to ride your bike as much as possible. Enduro has short moments of intense exertion along with longer periods of stamina needed, so an exercise routine should reflect that.
Hopefully these tips will make your first ever race an enjoyable one and be the first of many!
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