BaseCamper Anneke Prins shared her experience at the 2023 Vittoria Mountain Bike Marathon in East Sussex.
Sometimes it's good (and proper) to DNF. Yesterday I destroyed myself by trying to ride along with the racers of the MTB marathon national champs (in the "fun" category set off 15 minutes after the racers). In an incomparable illustration of the "do race-specific training" principle, I prepared by riding enormous amounts of zone 2 (preparing for my ultra in Finland) and doing the odd enduro race (the only timed bits are at most 3 minute downhill runs). This was, I must reiterate, not specific to a 50-mile marathon (with ~6,600 ft of elevation gain). The laps were enormous 12-mile affairs, with 2 feed stations (one at 4.5 miles in and the other at mile 12) - the race was 4 laps in total. The course was roughly a figure of 8 with the feed stations running distance from each other close to where the course crossed itself (helpful husband was there to keep me fed and watered).
I had about enough after lap 3, which was a death-march affair, including having to tell myself that crying isn't an option and wouldn't help in any case. So I called it a day after rolling extremely slowly into the feed zone after lap 3, my legs like lead (my average power on the last lap was zone 1 - just empty, empty, empty). On the upside, I caught a load of people on the gnarly downhill stretches, so the tech skills from enduro did come in handily to some degree! In the end I was in great company - in the fun category only 15 riders finished and 17 DNFed. There were loads of DNFs across the board, and some people took over 2 hours to do a single lap. The only sad thing is that if I had rolled around one last painful, powerless time, I would've been the only woman to finish in my category (and the only one entered, which seems to be a theme with me this year...). But I still believe I did the right thing. Forcing myself to wreck my body that much was pointless. (And I strongly believe I got my nutrition wrong.)
As an aside, we had a few pros showing up, including Isla Short, who won the race, and Anna Kay, who came in second. Isla gave me a brief "well done" as she shot past me, which was a highlight! On the men's side, we had a Trinity rider win the race (Tom Pidcock's old team) and a Groupama-FDJ La Conti rider come in 5th.