DNF - 5 Things I'll Do Differently For My Next Multi-Day Bike Race

DNF - 5 Things I'll Do Differently For My Next Multi-Day Bike Race

D.N.F. - It's an acronym that stands for "Did Not Finish". It's a tough call that almost every endurance athlete has to make at one point in his or her race career. For me, it was this past weekend at the Enduro World Series Qualifier in Dunedin, New Zealand.

Signal Hill lookout || Photo: Dan Harmon


The week kicked off in incredible form. The local Yeti Bikes tribe at Bike Otago was full of friendly advice and high fives. We set out each day exploring the awesome local trail networks.

When day one of the race kicked off I was brimming with stoke. The event was huge: 3 giant climbs and 3 of the 4 stages were blind. Mentally and physically I was spent. It was glorious. Below is a short video of the course my Suunto watch generated at the end of the day:

When I woke up for day 2, my body was stiff, cramping and mentally I just couldn't muster up the energy to withstand another dozen "accidental brushes with trees" or "over-the-bars" crashes. I limped around our hotel room until I finally made the call not to race. To be totally honest, I felt ashamed and embarrassed. But I put my ego aside and signed up to volunteer marshal with Dan instead. I had plenty of quiet time on the way home to figure out where I went wrong. Here are five things I'll pay special attention to, in order to avoid a future DNF during a multi-day race:

St Kilda Beach || Photo: Nina Arnold

1. Physical: More stretching and rest. Leading up to the event I rode local trails nearly every day. My logic was ride slowly and it wouldn't set me back too much but it did. If there are two rest days in my taper week, I'll stick with that next time. 

Signal Hill || Photo: Nina Arnold  

2. Nutrition: Cook at home. Dan and I wanted to treat ourselves after a big effort to a meal out. We chose Indian and asked for spicy. You can imagine how well that played out. Next time we'll prepare all of our meals at home with the right recovery foods.  

3. Comfort: Have clean racing kit ready to go. I was exhausted after day one and neglected to wash my gear. In a perfect world I'd have a second jersey, shammy and shorts ready to go, but at the moment I only had one. In hindsight, I'd get my racing gear clean as soon as I was fed and showered (before that awesome nap) so I had something fresh and warm to wear the next day. It gets a bit tricky at a hotel, but having a plan is key.  

Fixing my bike during practice || Photo: Dan Harmon

4. Tech Support: Give the Yeti another bike check. My tires and suspension were caked in fresh Dunedin mud and my bike needed a once-over after a few crashes on day one. Sometime after meeting my recovery food and shower needs and before having a snooze, giving the bike a wash and bolt tighten would have been stellar. 

5. Mental: Quiet reflection and low stimulus. There was so much activity leading up to and mid-race that I forgot to take time to close my eyes, visualize a successful weekend ahead and relax. On some level, I may have subconsciously already written off Sunday before the day began. This may be one of my most important take-aways. The more I experiment with nutrition and training, the more I am discovering that the mental aspect of training is wildly important.

I've found a cool article on Sport Psychology Today that has been keeping me occupied: "The Power of Visualization".  

After writing down my thoughts, the negative feelings quickly dissolved. There is something special about those trails. The community of riders, trail builders, and racers that make up Dunedin are so warm and welcoming. Many thanks to Bike Otago, Kashi, Kane and the Yeti New Zealand Team, Mountain Biking Otago and the rad ladies that shared there trails with me. I can't wait to get back down to shred that awesome part of the South Island again.   

Rad little rainbow after the storm ||     Photo: Dan Harmon

Rad little rainbow after the storm || Photo: Dan Harmon