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Author: Justin Morris (AUS)
Justin is founder and coach with Mind Matters Athlete Coaching. A former professional road cyclist with nearly 2 decades of experience in MTB racing. Justin completed the Crocodile Trophy in 2011 and 2012 and currently races for team marathonMTB.com and is competing in the Croc in 2018.

 

After my 19 years of bike racing the Croc Trophy is truly one of the most memorable/ spectacular races I have ever been too. Get ready to be a part of some lifelong memories and create some lifelong friendships!

Preparing for Crocodile Trophy event takes a somewhat novel approach when compared with other cycling events. The race is truly a spectacle and takes you through some unforgettable terrain and scenery that is equally beautiful as it is completely jarring/demanding on the body. I twice completed the Croc in 2011 and 2012, with the former edition comprising predominantly of long, long days of corrugated dirt roads, fire trails and sand pits! This edition was won by former road professional and perennial HARD man Jeroen Boelen whom had to adapt to extraordinary situations of pain including 60km of one stage in 40C+ temperatures with NO WATER. His adaptability, professionalism and years of long, long miles brought him the spoils in 2011 over a highly competitive field of younger racers who could not match his class/ experience. Including riders like myself. This year the Croc returns to more of the elements that made it famous with more long, long days and less shorter, more technical terrain days. In 2011 I finished on the podium in the elite category and learnt a lot about suffering/ pain that would serve me well on a professional road career that followed this race. In 2012 I raced in the midst of a road season, in fact I went straight from the Croc Trophy to the 7 day UCI road race the ‘Tour of Rwanda’ which was what I was paid to prepare for. The differences in preparation as the croc started it’s transition to more technical, shorter stages were evident. I struggled big time this year but still learnt those ‘croc lessons’ that can only be learnt from over a week racing in the Outback.

The most crucial points to focus on in my opinion for those preparing for the Crocodile Trophy are:

1. Climate:

The Croc is HOT! Some heat adaptation will go a long way to accelerating your adjustment to the conditions in Far North Queensland. Many successful northern hemisphere riders who have come straight from colder climates have spent long periods on home trainers with the heater on to prepare the body for performing in hot conditions. One of the unique demands of the croc is that the first 2 stages that climb and traverse the great dividing range of mountains are often in very humid conditions, then the days west of the ‘rain range’ are in very hot and dry conditions. Meaning your body will be put through different climate demands within a matter of days.
The trainer with the heater on, in the bathroom, with the windows closed- sounds silly but there is method to the madness!

2. Dealing with Pain:

Riders with a long pedigree of racing often perform well at the Croc. The race places similar mental challenges on the athlete that come from multi day road racing. In many ways in fact the croc is considerably harder than road stage racing, you are not staying hotels with buffet meals getting a massage each evening you are finishing a stage in the dirt and dust and finding your tent usually in a sand/ dirt pit, if you’re lucky some grass! Dealing with fatigue, discomfort and pain and continuing to push is one of the key elements for success in the croc and in life itself in many ways..
There are ways to bring pain tolerance training into your daily life ‘off the bike’. One tried and true way of doing this- turning the final 30seconds of each of your showers to ICE COLD water, as well as mental benefits this also has physiological benefits for the body.

3. Bulk Mileage:

Being able to back up on the bike day after day for 8 days is much harder than it seems. Many racers will get excited on stage1 and burn a lot of fuel comprimising their ability to hold form for the duration of the race. the best way to prepare for multi day racing is you guessed it… to ride multiple days back to back in training. For a race like the Crocodile Trophy being able to set aside 2 seperate weeks in the 2-6months prior where you have the time to put in 25+hours/week on the bike will help adjust your endurance baseload to deal with the duration of the race. The added benefit of old school bulk mileage training is it prepares your body & mind not just from a fitness aspect but all cycling elements. Think bike fit, hydration & nutrition strategies, clothing choice, saddle sores… All these extra ‘little things’ turn into BIG things in a race like the Croc if not practised and prepared for.

4. Attitude training:

That’s right attitude, NOT altitude. Tempers can flare during such demanding events. I have seen it, even done it myself. Having an appropriate mental approach to the race will help you enjoy the experience, make friends on the journey and achieve your goals results wise. Patience, tolerance and calmness are key traits that will help you in the Croc. Keeping a cool head in times of stress is so beneficial when dealing with the stressors of endurance athletic pursuits and for life itself truth be told. Things will not always go to plan at any multi day race, keeping the ‘tude’ in check ensures you deal with the unexpected with clarity and will help keep the peace among the race community. Don’t sweat the small stuff and at a bicycle race, it’s definitely ALL small stuff!

5. Don´t overthink it, enjoy it!

These 4 points are I believe deserving of attention in your lead up for such a race. There is of course a much longer list of preparation techniques that will ease the pain of racing the spectacle that is The Croc. Incorporating good prep in these 4 domains will help you get the most out of your experience in this. I remember just prior to my first Croc, I was very nervous about the race, I had put a lot of excitement and anticipation into my preparation. The overthinking of the competitive element for me was taking away from what the experience actually is. My mate and Croc legend himself Struan Lamont gave me the best Croc advice before that first race to me- “At the end of the day, it’s a camping trip with mates and you just have to cycle between each campsite”.

After my 19 years of bike racing the Croc Trophy is truly one of the most memorable/ spectacular races I have ever been too. Get ready to be a part of some lifelong memories and create some lifelong friendships!

Good luck and GO HARD!

 

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