Bikepacking in Cambodia and motorpacing in Nepal: How Cory Wallace is preparing for the Samarathon Epic

Canadian's preparations for early season Israeli stage race are as much of an adventure as the race itself

February 5th, 2019 by | Posted in MTB | Tags: ,

by Cory Wallace

The Samarathon Epic is an early season four day UCI stage race across the deserts of Southern Israel. Generally we don’t start racing until April-May in Canada so it will take some special preparation to be ready for a high level race this early on in the calendar year.

Samarathon 2018
2018 Samarathon Epic stage race. Photo: Shaxaf Haber / Samarathon Epic

To kickoff training for this year I did a easy paced 10 day bike packing trip around Nepal with a friend. This was a good way to get the legs spinning again after taking most of December off. Much of December was spent trekking around at high altitude which should provide a good base and hopefully it boosted the red blood cells from the lack of oxygen up there.

Following the 10-day, 700 km, bike tour in Nepal I took off to Laos and Cambodia for a 2,500 km bike packing trip over the course of three weeks. This bike tour was full of six-plus hour days as I did my best to lay a solid riding foundation for the season. Most of the riding was at a steady endurance tempo. Through Laos, I pushed hard through the mountains to get in some threshold work on the climbs. After two weeks in the rolling terrain of Laos it was a welcome relief to hit the generally flat lands of Cambodia as the body was starting to get tired.

The riding in Cambodia was pretty hot so I would start early in the mornings to get in some big miles before the heat of the day kicked in. I assume Israeli desert riding will be pretty hot as well so I welcomed the high temperatures and used it as part of the acclimatization process before the Israel deserts.

Samarathon 2018
2018 Samarathon Epic stage race winds up through Israeli desert formations. Photo: Shaxaf Haber / Samarathon Epic

Over the course of the three weeks on tour I rode over 100 hours on my bike. It was an entertaining way to do base miles as ever day the geography was new and there were lots of surprises in store. At the same time it comes with its challenges as it was sometimes tough to find proper ride food and the accommodation was different every night. Some nights I slept great while other nights there were bed bugs, barking dogs and roosters that made sleep tough to come by. On the days I felt good, I would try motor pacing scooters and slow moving vehicles as this would put a bit of speed in the legs. I’ve found in the past if I do all the base work at the same level that the body kinda gets stuck into one speed. This ends up making it difficult to transfer into race speed later on. Over the 22-day trip I was satisfied with how the training went but it left the body pretty tired. Once I arrived back in Nepal I took five days off the bike to let all the training settle in.

I’m now set up in Nepal’s adventure capital of Pokhara. It is the countries second largest city, lying in the foothills of the grand Himalayas. I’ll have 10 days here to get the engine fired back up into race pace. This is being attempted by doing double interval days (morning & evening sessions) followed by a recovery or easy endurance day. The first few intervals felt very hard as the body is still stuck in Diesel mode!

In the past I’ve had some of my best races about 2 weeks after completing a 24-hour race. During these times I would take the first four to five days after the 24 really easy and then tie in a few intervals before the next race. I’m hoping this big training block will work the same way and that the body will show some signs of super compensation once it has a chance to bounce back from this large training block.

Yesterday’s second interval session, I hired a local Nepal motor biker for 1.5 hours to motor pace myself down one of the quiet highways around here. This was great for the leg speed and had me suffering quite alot as the body hit race pace for the first time since the Yak Attack here in Nepal this past November. I’m hoping to get in another one of these sessions before I head to Israel as it’s the best I can do for a race simulation at the moment.

No matter what, I think the first stage of the Samarathon Desert is going to be really tough. There is nothing like racing, except for racing itself. Luckily the race is four days long so I have my fingers crossed the body will be able to adapt quickly for the coming stages. My teammate for Samarathon, Soren Nissen from Luxembourg, has already been racing lots this year so I will have my work cut out to try and keep up with him.

For now it’s back to a recovery day on the lakeside here in Pokhara as I let the past 3 days of intense training set in. Tomorrow I’ll start a 4 day block in which I’ll try to get in 4 separate interval sessions. Saturday I’ll be headed to Israel. Sunday will be a easy 2-3 hour spin to get the jet lag out of the system. Monday will be the travel day to the race site. Tuesday, my teammate Soren and I will do 1.5 hours with some intensity to get fired up for the race. Wednesday-Saturday = Game on!