Tasha Krug, an engineer at Honda, spends nearly six months each year modifying a Honda Ridgeline pickup to prepare for the grueling eight-day run Rebelle Rally.
The All-Women Off-Road Navigation Competition covers 1,500 miles of unforgiving desert in California and Nevada. The catch? No GPS or cell phones are allowed. Participants must find their way using only maps and a compass. (And for Krug, it’s a hobby; something she does in her spare time.)
“You get caught up in it,” she says. “You feel battle-bound with your teammates and competitors.”
Jeff Proctor, on the other hand, is a professional driver and team leader for Honda Factory’s off-road racing team. He relies on high-tech fitness trackers, biometrics and data to gain an edge. Transparent preparation is how he stays laser-focused enough to race for, say, nine hours straight on high-speed dirt roads, rocky terrain and high altitudes.
He also trains with a triathlon coach so that he can push his body to “the absolute limits”. Last November, Proctor’s team won the Baja 1000, the most demanding and dangerous off-road race in North America.
What connects Krug and Proctor, apart from the love of the open (field) road? A focus on training their mind and body to achieve incredible achievements. So whether you’re looking for a new PR or just trying to get through a tough week, take a few tips from these endurance riders.
Listen to your body.
Proctor uses a WHOOP fitness tracker to monitor his heart rate, sleep and recovery: “It just supports how you feel.” Then, before the race day, make sure he is well rested and not overtraining.
Try functional training.
When Krug and her co-driver modified their Honda Ridgeline truck to be time-ready, they discovered that their new 55-pound wheels and tires were difficult to lift. So Krug, a soccer player, started exercising weight with dumbbells and straps lying around in her garage. First, she lifted the tires from the bucket off the truck and then installed and removed them five times in a row.
Proctor does core-focused biometric workouts to keep him grounded during racing. “Your core gets the biggest workout in those trucks,” he says. “You have nothing else to grab or support yourself with. It’s all core stability.” The former motocross rider regularly records 40 to 50 miles of road bike rides to mentally prepare himself to endure long distances behind the wheel.
Recreate the conditions.
The first year Krug did the Rebels Rally, she figured out the source of her neck pain and headache during the competition: Her helmet. “You wear it for 10 to 12 hours, eight days in a row,” she recalls. And when you navigate, you look at a map most of the time.
Now she always wears a helmet during practice runs or while mapping sham navigation problems. And before a race, she will wear her helmet in the house to get used to carrying the extra weight.
Adjust your sleep schedule.
Because no phones are allowed at Rebelle Rally, competitors wake up the old-fashioned way: with someone ringing a cake bell at 5 p.m. wake up in the dark. After that, she makes a point of getting out of bed and staying awake for at least ten minutes.
Simply go with nutrition on race day.
When you are pushed to catch big air during jumps, the last thing you need is an angry stomach. Proctor therefore sticks to a protein shake, peanut butter and a banana or a hard-boiled egg for breakfast before a race.
For Tasha, 10 or 12-hour days in a car means there is no time to stop for lunch. So she and her co-manager eat a big breakfast and dinner at the camp, and then pack lots of energy bars and snacks to graze during the day.
Focus on hydration.
“You have to be physically fit to race, but hydration and mental focus are much more important,” says Proctor. “That’s the key.”
Behind the wheel he drinks his calories. Proctor worked with a nutrition lab to create a unique beverage blend formulated for his body. His racing suit monitors his sweat levels and automatically releases the electrolyte-packed drink from a tube into his helmet when his hydration levels drop.
Learn from your mistakes – and keep going.
Tasha’s persevered through windstorms, white-out conditions and the inevitable accident during rallies. Once, she miscalculated the height of a fall and eventually dived the truck straight into the ground. “It was the most heartbreaking moment ever because it destroys your confidence,” she recalls.
But with the clock ticking, she and her partner jumped into engineering mode again to get the truck back on track. “You have to accept that it happened and move on,” she says. “You sit out with nothing. You find out what caused the problem. You find out how you can get out of it. And then you execute it.”
Make time for recovery.
Proctor shifts gears with his right hand more than a thousand times during a race. To relieve abdominal pain, the driver schedules regular sports massages and cryotherapy, and red light therapy to keep inflammation low.
“I use alternative therapies to stay prepared and ready for nine hours in the middle of nowhere,” says Proctor. “I live and die by cryopreparation.”
After eight days without modern technology, Tasha has learned that she needs a few days to relax herself back into life.
“You’re not connected to the world at all,” she says, joking that it takes a minute to remember all her passwords when she returns. “You do not check email. You do not catch up on social media. You do not send text messages to anyone.”
But once she has rested for a few days, she is ready to start all over again.
“It is mentally and physically challenging and exhausting, but at the same time it is an extremely rewarding competition,” she says. “You learn a lot about yourself and your navigator. And you become more one with nature. You are just more in tune with yourself and generally have a much greater appreciation for life.”
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