Talking about extreme adventures, sports and racing in particular, there’s always a lot of talk about preparation. But how do you prepare for the unknown? Here’s how Markus Stitz around-the-world biker prepared for “definitely the hardest race” and “most challenging race” he was just in – he is reminiscing while he is waiting for the feeling in his toes to return …
We are proud that Markus counts on SOURCE Hydration products for many years now. Find out more about his experience with the Widepac Filtering Hydration in the latest bike race in this post.
Markus, is it even possible to prepare for a race like this?
I don’t think it’s possible to fully prepare for a race like the Silk Road Mountain Race. 1700km and 30,000m of climbing mainly off-road are bound to have surprises in them, and they did for sure. However, this was a race that was really high up on my agenda and I have finished all bikepacking races I entered so far, so I did my best to be prepared.
I hate bailing!
First I made sure I travel to Kyrgyzstan with the bike in very good working order. I am lucky enough to work in a shared office next to a bike shop, so Walter from Velow Bikeworks in Edinburgh helped me fitting new parts and getting the bike in a great state. I fitted new tires, using special sealant, replaced rotors and pads and changed the wheels, as I needed a dynamo hub on the front for being self-sufficient during the race.
I work with a number of brands who support me, and it was super helpful at least getting their opinion on the right kit, and new parts and kit as well, specifically for the needs of the SRMR. When I use new kit, I always have the final say, as I need to live with consequences if things go wrong, but thankfully my bike and kit was up for the job.
For hydration I found the Source bladder very useful that is used in the Hipster bag, as it is cut vertically unlike all other bladders, and the Saywer filter which is integrated in the hose solved the problem of finding clean water. For the final adjustments on the bike I trusted my friend Dougie, who is the best mechanic in the UK I can imagine. He helped with fine tuning the bike, before it went into the box for flying.
In Kyrgyzstan I used my 10 day trip before the race to settle into the country, understand the dos and do nots and the culture of the country. I speak some Russian, so it was good I remembered a few phrases when I touched down. More importantly, I acclimatised to the altitude.
I gradually went higher each day, making sure that my body has the chance to adapt slowly. With the temperatures sometimes soaring above 40 in those days, I got used to the heat as well. Hydration was key here, and I was super glad that I went for the Source Tube Kit with Sawyer filter, as I could simply refill my bladder in streams and drink the water straight away. The only thing I didn’t experience during my prep trip was the extreme cold we had during the race.
I also tested the various scenarios that would potentially occur during the race: Cycling long distances with very little calorie intake, weathering out a spout of diarrhoea, climbing a mountain with cycling shoes (testing their hike-a-bike capabilities) and camping at high altitude in low temperatures. With all of that in mind, I went to the start line with the good feeling that I can finish this race.
Along the way, was there anything you WISH you had packed…?
I didn’t take a stove – which was a big mistake. I had underestimated how much of a difference being able to have a fresh cup of coffee and preparing my own food made, especially when I was sick. Relying on stale bread and cheese for 14 days was not the best solution, but in the end it worked. Other than that I was happy with the kit I had.
You posted at one point that you lost the hydration tube to your Widepac – so sorry we didn’t offer you a backup from the start! Can you tell us the story?
The joy of cycling with such a minimal setup is that there’s no room for spares and errors. The added challenge in Kyrgyzstan is that outside Bishkek, the capital, there are hardly any outdoor or cycling shops on the route, unlike on other races I have done, like the Highland Trail 550.
I was knackered from the Tuz Ashuu pass before descending to Song Kul lake, and needed to put in a picnic on the lake 40km before checkpoint 1. For a reason I still don’t know I detached the top tube from the sawyer filter, and it was hanging loose and eventually fell off about a kilometre after I had stopped.
The joy about the race is, that instead of having a flat run along the lakeside, the track was climbing and descending all the time, so by the time I realized my problem, I had done three more hills already.
The good news was that I found the tube, otherwise this would have been the end of my race, as drinking is essential!
What an adventure! Read on with more stories about his trip: “Brutal And Beautiful” Silk Road Mountain Race – Silk Road Mountain Race With SOURCE Widepac Filtering Hydration