Pete’s Epic Israel Diary: Part one – Back to School

This October Pete will attempt Epic Israel – a 3 days stage race in Israel covering up to 110KM a day.

We’re going to follow Pete’s prep as he clicks up the gears for the biggest challenge of his wee life!

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Pete’s first trip to Israel was all about sun, sand and shredding single track. Alon Ron photo.

As soon as my feet had touched down on UK soil after visiting Israel last April, I had yearned to find a reasonable excuse to return to the Holy Land. Just over a year later, our master organiser from the previous trip, Nimi Cohen, beamed me an email looking for potential ‘media savvy’ riders for the 2015 edition of the ‘Hot Epic Israel’. My reaction? “I want to go to Israel and do that race!” of course.

Hot Epic Israel is a 3-day cross country marathon stage race that covers between 75 and 110km a day”

Hot Epic Israel is a 3-day cross country marathon stage race that covers between 75 and 110km a day with around 2,000m of climbing per day along Northern Israel’s finest singletrack. It’s also a team event. A 2-man (or woman) event at that. Seeing as the furthest I have raced off-road before in a single hit is the 72km Tour de Ben Nevis it was pretty clear that I’m was going to need to get very fit, very quickly; and find a suitable team mate.

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Dirt School’s Rab Wardell. The man with Pete’s plan.

Within hours of receiving the race invitation, a plan was afoot. My good friend Rab Wardell needs little introduction to anyone who has frequented any major cross country or cyclocross race scenes over the last decade. Rab is a full time coach at Tweed Valley-based outfit Dirt School.

On top of being a superb coach, Rab also has a massive amount of experience to help turn me from a relatively fit, competent off-road rider, into a cross country marathon whippet. As a champion cyclocross racer, former World Cup cross country rider and Cape Epic competitor, Rab is a beast when it comes to smashing out the miles. He was the perfect choice of coach and team mate.

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First things first, some time on the trails to weed out some old habits.

With the race just under 4 months away I knew I had to move fast and I headed straight down to Glentress to meet Rab.  The first part of my consultation covered riding a trail efficiently. This sounds fairly straightforward, but even a rider and racer of 15 years like myself can learn new tricks. Often we get stuck in our own ways and need to look at our riding objectively to change.

“With the race just under 4 months away I knew I had to move fast”

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I know that, at 51kg, a fast, easy trail is never going to be my strong point, but I never felt I struggled on the fast, swooping turns of trails like ‘Berm, Baby, Berm.’ The emphasis was to get as low as possible on the bike to give as much room to resist the trail as possible while trying to find a long consistent arc around each turn, rather than trying to get the gravel airborne like most of us do. Within a couple of runs and Rab’s demonstrations, I was getting the hang of it.

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Rab’s teaching had Pete going faster in no time.

Once we’d finished on the trails we headed indoors where the real game plan started to come together. Rab’s massive experience in cross country racing really started to show. While I am an experienced mountain biker, a cross country marathon is something I have never considered.

“reams of paper were used to set my sights on the end goal of completing the Epic Israel.”

Rab explained that it was important to get down on paper everything I would need to do, or have, before the 8th of October. No stone was left unturned and reams of paper were used to set my sights on the end goal of completing the Epic Israel.

We covered everything from the ‘specification’ of the event, namely what it is and how I can best prepare, my strengths and weaknesses as a rider, how I stack up against the likely competition, what our goals are (both end and process goals), and finally, what I need in order to complete the race.

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Rab’s racing experience turned into a plan for Pete.

After that, we discussed a 3-stage, 3 month training plan of gradually increasing intensity that should put me in good stead come October. The ‘Getting Stared’ training plan will sit amongst my regular riding for three days a week for the first month, covering base fitness and core skills.

The second two months will be covered by Dirt School’s ‘Trail Fit‘ and ‘Race Fit‘ plans respectively. A gradual turning of the screw, intensity-wise should see me whipped into shape over the coming months, all with the help of the Dirt School app that will help me manage my progress.

Stay tuned to Wideopenmag to witness Dirt School forge Pete into a man of steel!

You can read more of Pete’s work here

Meet Pete’s 2016 Saracen Mantra carbon Epic Israel bike here

And you can check out Dirt School here