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Megavalanche: Diary of a desk jockey

Megavalanche: Diary of a desk jockey

Billy Thackray Billy Thackray

Paul Haysom sits at a desk selling adverts for FactoryMedia Monday to Friday. But he has a dream. And that dream is to race the Megavalanche in France next year…and finish in the top 100.

Top 100 in the Mega is quite an ambition. But you’ve got to dream haven’t you? Where would we be without dreams? Probably craving cheese. Has Paul been eating too much cheese? Will cheese be part of his diet and training plan? Edam, Gouda, Wensleydale? Surely not Baby Belle?

Here’s what Paul says:

The Megavalanche race has been on my mind (as I’m sure it’s the same for a lot of you) for a long time, since I was a young teenager in fact. I’ve really wanted to do a ‘big life thing’ and was struggling to choose which to go for, that was until I popped Earthed 3 into the DVD player for a bit of nostalgia.

Well, the main reason I was watching the DVD was to nurse the all weekend hangover that had just kicked me square in the balls. Having just come off a stag do with 18 other lads, my blood alcohol level was returning to more of a healthy concentration, the need to get fitter entered my mind and after not much self-discussion I knew that I needed to sort myself out.

I needed a goal, something to work to with a deadline that if I didn’t reach it would punish me for not doing so. I’ve always gone on fitness trips but with nothing to shoot for my interest always disappears.

I am of course not the only person in the world that’s had this sudden epiphany, I’d put a guess that easily 50% of you are reading this while crying out, ‘Hallelujah! The man speaks the truth!’ It’s so easy to settle in to the 9-5 routine and forget why you used to get up at 6am on a Sunday and go riding all day until it was time for dinner. I fit in to this category and with an out of breath wheeze and splutter I have decided to do something about it.

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So when the movie hit the Mega section and after Jonesy’s comments with all the other interviews, I was inspired to get my ass in to gear and figure out what I need to do to get there.

Thankfully I am one of the original Facebook generation and all my riding buddies are within easy reach, Dom was conveniently online (a Mega veteran). He didn’t need much convincing and the event was created, so far we have 10 or so of us on board. With the group sorted, I needed to look at myself in the mirror and figure out how I can get to any sort of level to get down the mountain – in my eyes it really is that sorry of a situation.

The best thing is (in a way) that I’m a completely average rider, so I get to go on this journey right from the beginning. I get to choose the kit, everything from bike to protection, and have the ultimate drive to accomplish something that not everyone in the world has achieved (well….a lot of people have already but that’s not important right now).

So with this I will be documenting all of my training activities, the gear that I will be using, the types of training activities and how I’m getting on – my aim is to get down the mountain in a respectable position (top 100), perhaps inspire one or two others too and try everything along the way. This is the part you guys come in, if you have anything to recommend for training drop it in the comments section below and over the next two weeks I will endeavour to complete a selection of them.

So it’s time to lay off the ale, chow down on some lean turkey and start hitting the fitness high road and nail this race. I’m feeling pretty good about it now… ask me again in a month!
Check out what I’ve been doing so far, it’s time to dig (also done a bit of running).

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  1. dirt dodger

    don’t do what i did and party hard until 5am knowing full well you have to be on the lift @ 6 am, it seems like a mint idea to go out for a “few” and promise yourself you will be home by 12 knowing full well you won’t, if like me you are a sucker for strong and lots of expensive alcohol, too many cigarettes and women this will make Sunday harder than it needs be, that’s if you are fast enough to race Sunday and not Saturday with all the other little girls out there – you know who you are. I managed a good result but doing that on a dh rig in such a state is not reccomended especially when the snow section was about 4 miles long – summer of 2010 check it out, advising you on the above “not to do” is a bit silly really as i will probably end up doing the exact same thing again this year albeit on a better suited ride, if you see some idiotic bastard with a skinhead throwing up and stinking of ale while overtaking and undercutting the euro’s and screaming in a very aggresive manner its probabably me so say hi !

  2. gregb

    I rode the mega for the first time this year and was amazing. But I didn’t put any training in and I really suffered because of it. I think the best way of training would be to blast around your local trail centre non stop a couple of times of week.

  3. dirt dodger

    on a more serious note, dont take it too serious – its fun, its not as hard as its made out to be either so ignore that nonsense, if you can ride the rougher trail centres (coed-y-brenin etc) you will be more than fine. take a good size camelback, have a good breakfast, have more than a t-shirt on at the top as its bloody cold @ 6am standing round waiting for the start for 3 hours, expect a mechanical (although i had zero), start aggresive as possible as that is very important, remember to relax on the descents and recoup as much energy as poss for the ups and the field crossing which is a bitch. there are many lines – look for them, dont follow the herd. Have fun, or did i say that already.

  4. Gerry

    This too is a dream of mine but will be more costly to pull off as I’m located in the US. I would suggest putting in a lot of long rides to build up the stamina to ride hard for long stretches of time. Do interval work like “gregb” suggested. If you have no issues blasting downhill you are one step ahead of the rest.

  5. robin

    I used to race dh and after a few years out did the mega last year for the first time. I was unlucky mechanicaly but will be back next year as i loved the format. The one thing that i think is very important is get some good miles in on a road bike including, nothing will give you fittnes like that, maybe if you can do a bit of gym work for upper body and core strength. However any trainning you do make sure you have clear goals and try and enjoy it, each session as its own individual challange so you dont get bored with it and start avoiding the odd session here and there.
    Whatever the case im sure you will love the race and may see you there.

  6. dom

    berm ended up looking like this : http://www.pinkbike.com/photo/7384530/

    bmx tracks and endless laps on pedally peaslake singletrack should be next on the training agenda.

  7. Felix

    I did the Mega back in 2007. Get the miles in for fitness but also I would suggest:
    1. Practice those switchbacks, switchbacks, switchbacks, switchbacks …
    2. Find some super steep technical terrain and get used to attacking it with confidence.
    3. Riding on snow, no idea, spent most of that bit flat on my face!

  8. Dave

    Pump track shredding. As many laps as you can and then as fast a lap as you can for a few tries. After riding pumptracks a bunch you will flow anything.

  9. jonzo

    You can’t do enough cardiovascular training as the altitude is just a killer.

  10. Tom_

    The problem of a top 100 mega is not the race itself, but the qualifier. To get into Wave 1 (with the pros), you need to be better than ~35th out of 200 in your qualifier. If you get a spot in the last lines – luck of the draw really, that’s a daunting task if your last name is not Absalon.

  11. Tom_

    But good luck anyways, see you at the start line … I’m out training! 😉

  12. cristian

    TRAIN. the only guy fit is the guy who wins !

    You cant be fit enough. I done it four times, the first three were hell, the last was a 33rd finish. (not the main event!) & i suffered !

    Apart from the right bike (lapierre spicey!), fitness ect. Its getting the right tyres that helped a lot. Maxxis highroller rear 2.35 dual ply 60a, maxxis swampthing front 2.35 dual ply 42a ! the at 40psi the front at 35psi.

    & dont drink during the week if ya wana stay proper hydrated ! :) do it after you have made it to the finish ! (if ..)

  13. Bishop

    Race lots of XC through early season, use DH tyres. Try to log up some results to put on your entry (or make some up!) to give you the best shot of a better placing in your qualifier, this is essential if you want to make the main final! Good luck.

  14. Rab

    My training this year as consisted of a bit of core strength training mixed up with a bit of interval training.

    Firstly do a go warm up and then its a 60sec sprint on the turbo, imediately followed by a 60sec kettle bell excerise, imediately followed by another 60sec sprint on the turbo. I keep continuting to do this for a total of 20sets.

    typical kettle bell routine I use is:-
    -two handed swing
    -right handed swing
    -left handed swing
    -right handed press
    -left handed press
    -right handed high pull
    -left handed high pull
    -right handed snatch press
    -left handed snatch press
    -weighted row

    Its only a 20min workout but its an intense one. You will feel it badly after the first season but it gets easier to more you do it.

    I try to do it twice a week along with 2 or 3 Enduro type rides and it has bought me on loads.

    Give it a go!!

  15. Williams

    As others have said you need a good qualifying position, at least the front 2 lines, two choices: 1: Enter the race second the entries go online 16th Jan at 15:00 frenchtime 2: Lie about your previous results or enter as a journalist.
    Training: Loads of base miles xc through winter 100-150miles per week, interval training Feb onwards.
    If you “Racing” it for position DO NOT overpractice the mega course, Practice the Qualifying course as that is where the main race is won and lost.
    Above all good luck
    ps: Eat a Fishermans friend just before the start to staive off racers lung afterwards.

  16. chris

    get good forks and brakes, not ruined pikes and poorly bled hopes or the arm pump will make you cry before you get off the snow, beleive me!!! as others have said, you need to have a lot of aggression near the top to get ahead, especially in the first few corners and on the fire road above the lift station in the qualifier. good luck and see you there.

  17. dirt dodger

    HAHAAA all a bit serious for some of you isn’t it? train, train, train lalalaa – luck plays a massive part in this race and anybody who has done it knows it. You dont have to be superfit either, its nonsense, a lot of your time will be spent around people who may be slower but you just cannot pass due to the terrain – at this point regardless how fit you are it becomes painfully obvious that taking chances is the only way forward, being fit will help out but balls will count for more. I AM CURIOUS about the fishermans friend tip above though, what’s racers lung?

  18. chris

    but realistically, all the over taking that really gets done is on the short sprints on the fire road, i dont think balls count for much there. i overtook about one hundred people at the top of the qualifer by out pedalling them. fitness is vital if you want to do well.

  19. Joe

    DD – I disagree, if you have the fitness, then you will have the legs (and maybe with the altitude) the lungs to be able to make passing opportunities as you will be alert and sharp rather than hanging on for dear life like a 8″ travel roadblockon the singletrack when there is passing to be done through the rockfields!

    I’ll keep on with the 2xnight rides, 2 x circuits 2 x turbo intervals + climbing and DH at the weekends myself. But at the end of the day – fuck it, I have more fun if I know im dead fit, and if you’re chill cruising on the DH bike then good on ya. A broad church this MTB lark and all the better for it!

    F*** me I#m stoked already!

  20. Joe

    ^ Chris, boulder fields after / over the glacier are referesingly Frenchman free!

  21. Frederico

    I’ve done the mega track several times though have yet to do the race. My recommendations are to get fit while you are in the UK and ideally go over to Alpe d’huez a week or 2 before the race. This will allow you time to get used to the altitude (no amount of training will help in that department unless you train at altitude) and allow you to get used to the terrain. An before the qualifying and the race take a day or two off to recover. This will get you in perfect shape for the race. Then when doing the race keep in mind that it is +30km so dont kill yourself in the beginning. First part is wide track and everyone will be racing to get ahead before hitting the singletrack but there will be plenty of places to overtake throughout the race. Best place to over take is on the uphills and the flat section near Alpe d’huez before you hit the forest that takes you down to Oz. The it’s more amazing singletrack all the way down to Allemont.
    After doing 2 seasons in Deux Alpes (other ski resort next to Alpe d’Huez) I can say that the mega track is one of my favorite tracks ever!

  22. Felix

    Another tip: once your qualifier is called don’t noodle about chatting to your mate who’s in the next heat. A couple of minutes doing that can put you a row back, which means an extra 25 or more nutters to try and pass.

  23. Paul@Dirt

    Cheers for all the advice! What I want to do is use all your training tips for the next edit – new one will be up in a couple of weeks. What about food? What do you recommend eating?

  24. craig

    paul all this bollocks about gym’s n weights road bikes and runnin. just get on the exact bike you will do the mega on and kit. try as best u can to ride a technical lung busting both up and down 1 hour 10min circuit including dh runs as many times a week as possible and also have a full day Downhilling. also get your mind in a very aggressive state. take no prisoners and get big balls. your gonna have to pedal like fuk on the snow and stay on to get a top100
    good luck

  25. Joe

    ^ Bullshit.

    You think the top boys aren’t putting in the turbo time AND riding DH? You need to be fit to do it, but it doesn’t exactly make you fit!

  26. Joe

    AS much racing as possible too, be it XC BMX 4X or DH- gas gas gas, cos racing is a state of mind.

  27. craig

    ^ joe dont forget elastic band stretching for ya finger muscles.

  28. jony.pirata

    1999 was my 1.MEGA,after 10 megas still addicted, BEST RACE OF THE YEAR…START agressive,go w flow on the single trails,attack on up hills,use bombproof tires like minion 2.35,chainguides w 36t etc…..make winter train in sunny algarve-portugal FREERIDE PORTUGAL.COM

  29. chris

    After breaking my wrist last year, and my collar bone this year, I’m packing in the Mega (for a while at least!) but nothing compares to the feeling when THAT music starts, and the chopper takes off…

  30. Fordy

    Mate i did all the cardio i could fit in and also weight training and core work. This all helped with the week of wicked riding that you’ll do before the race weekend. I also was doing loads of press ups as the steep sections put alot of strain on your shoulders. I also used a powerball and moto grip trainer to strengthen my hands and grip. Might not be necceasary if you do alot of manual work but if not the better condiioned your hands shoulders and arms are the better. Also the buffer you get the better you’ll shrug off the inevitable crashes. Oh yeah and do loads of squats as you’ll be out of the saddle for most of it. hope this is of some help.


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