• Posted Aug 9, 2004

It Is All About The Saddle Sores!

Jeff Kerkove, our resident 24-hour racing geek has been getting quite a bit of attention in the media lately. 

His hometown rag, the Waterloo Courier did an in-depth survey into abnormal psychology and pronounced him a certifiable 'Bike Geek with a G5'.

Check out the whole article at or surf below for the pirate version ;)

Aside from that, Captain 'Cateye' Kerkove has some advice for aspiring participants of the upcoming Iowa 24-Hour Mountain Bike Championship at Seven Oaks in Boone the first weekend in September.

Check out his blog at



A Newbie's Guide to 24hour Racing

by Jeff Kerkove, Cateye Enduro


Pretty much everything that I am going to list below holds true for Solo riders and Team Riders. Use what you need to be successful, and have a blast doing it!

A very common question for newcomers to the sport of 24 hour racing is, "What kind of training do I need to do to be ready for this event?" I'd like to provide some thoughts on several factors that you should consider, and some suggestions on ways to fit the necessary training into your busy life.

First recognize that implicit in any training regimen is a set of goals for the event. Are you a first timer, trying to finish and have a good time doing it, or are you serious about your placing? If you are serious about placing & winning these events, you probably have down the basics that I will cover in the article. In fact if you are truly serious, you probably have a personal coach who will give you much better advice than I can do in this broadly targeted article. There is no substitute for 1-on-1 coaching when trying to reach ambitious goals.

The foundation of all training regimens is the basic stress-recovery cycle. Stress is applied to the athlete (the complete athlete - mind + body!) and during recovery periods the athlete adapts to this stress, thereby developing the ability to take on higher stress levels at the next cycle. Many athletes, especially the type who are likely looking at this web page, are good at the stress part - going hard is what we do. Remember to focus on the recovery just as conscientiously as the stress. When fitting training into your busy life, look at how much time you have for training - then divide it up between stress and recovery. This division will vary as you go through different periods but at all times you must allocate some amount of your training time to each.

I'll comment on what I have found to be the most important areas in training for ultra endurance events. All of these are geared for the solo competitor, although many of the ideas can apply to team competitors as well.


This one is simple - you want to be able to keep riding. But what kind of training miles do you need to get ready? From my own experience, I would say that if you can do back to back (i.e., Saturday and Sunday)100 mile hilly road rides, or 7 hour mountain bike rides, then you are definitely ready to take on your first 24 hour race. Obviously the nature of the course will influence the amount of training you need, but if your longest ride has been only 3 or 4 hours you are not going to have enough experience to go on.

Putting in seven hour days also ensures that you have the hydration and calorie intake nailed down - you can get away with a few nutritional indiscretions for only three or even sometimes four hours, but at the 6-7 hour mark you really need to have this aspect of riding figured out. Some great training races are the Wisconsin Endurance Mountain Bike Series races. You can either do team or solo, and you have the option of racing for 3, 6, or 12 hours.


How do you get the body ready for so many hours of just being on the bike? There are several factors to consider. First is flexibility - if you cannot sit on the floor with your legs out straight & touch your toes, get to work. Your back, neck, & hamstrings will thank me.

There are other aspects of flexibility that are important, but this simple exercise is, in my experience, the most likely one to be a concern. Make stretching part of your daily ride routine. It is amazing what a good stretch you can get waiting at a long red light. Secondly, long hours in the saddle put a premium on balance & "core" muscle strength. Many times the lower back will give out long before the legs do.



Many of us have very regimented lives - work, family, and other obligations form a set of boundaries that dictate when we get on the bike each day. It is important that in preparing for your first 24 hour race you find ways to mix it up, and get the body accustomed to riding at different times. Part of this can be accomplished by doing some night rides to get comfortable with your lighting system (probably the most important equipment related testing you need to accomplish before race day). Another great way to fit this into your schedule is to bike commute - it helps fit riding into your routine twice a day instead of once, and gives you a chance to extend the ride home well into the evening, or start really early in the morning, for some extra practice with the lights. Finally, bike commuting is good for the environment!


Not only do your legs need to be in shape, but your digestive system does as well. Your legs won't keep going if your stomach doesn't have the ability to keep them supplied with nutrients. Make sure that you are not skimping on calories in training, and you are following EXACTLY the fueling regimen that you plan to use for the race.


1. Ramen Noodles

2. Ensure

3. Clif Bars

4. Balance Bars

5. Flour Totilla filled with PB, honey, and a banana

6. Coffee, a.k.a The Black Goodness

7. Red Bull

8. Kellogs Krave bar

9. PB and Jelly Sandwich

10. Cookies

11. Chicken Noodle soup

12. boiled potatos

13. Pasta and olive oil

14. Gummy Bears

This is just a short list of the "normal" foods I eat during longer races. I also use a wide variety of Hammer / E-Cap products.



This is where champions are made and races are won and lost. How do you build the mental toughness to be ready for a long event? Simple - just like you build the physical toughness. You must go through in training the stress-recovery cycles to build your mental toughness. If you are training hard then you should encounter these cycles naturally. Here are a few suggestions based on my own experiences and many years of watching fellow competitors deal with race-day stress:

1) Things will go wrong. Once you accept that mishaps and misfortune are inevitable, it is a lot easier to deal with them in a constructive way. Don't waste time asking why the universe is conspiring against you or why you had to have a flat at the worst possible time. The universe is completely oblivious to your race.

2) When challenges arise, remember that there are two responses - the emotional, and the actual. You can take action in the direst of situations while maintaining a completely cheerful outlook. An interesting thought experiment is to consider how people who are drunk maintain their jovial attitude regardless of what happens. Granted, they are getting some chemical assist to keep their positive outlook in the face of some rotten event, but why can't you do the same when sober? You can if you try, but you have to train yourself to keep a positive attitude. Just because you must change a flat in the rain, does not mean that you must be upset about it. Just fix it & get on with riding.

3) Use humor to your advantage. Paint your finger nails, tape a funny picture to your stem, etc. Don't take it too seriously.



Vicious cycle: Kerkove pushes himself to limit

By JIM NELSON, Courier Sports Writer

CEDAR FALLS - His co-workers at Europa Cycle & Ski call him certified abnormal.

Is Jeff Kerkove abnormal?


Is his form of recreational activity different from that of the average Joe?


Not many people would call riding a mountain bike 24 hours straight a lot of fun or normal.

Add obstacles, rough terrain and pit stops lasting only 30 seconds, and it sounds a lot crazier.

Kerkove is definitely not crazy, but the Enduro Mountain Bike racer loves to push his body and mind to limits unknown.

"The challenge of it I guess is what grabs me," said Kerkove. "I've never found anything else that makes you push your body so hard. You realize what you can put your body through and push yourself to do."

Kerkove feels he's something of a kindred spirit to the marathoners of the world.

Enduro Mountain Bike racing consists of 12- to 24-hour races over courses ranging from six miles to as long as 15-mile laps. The winner is whoever traverses the most laps.

Kerkove's personal 24-hour best is 266 miles.

"It depends on where you are racing," he said. "If it is in the Midwest, where it is somewhat flat, you are looking at 15-25 laps in a 24-hour period. Out west, if you can pull in 10 to 15 laps you are lucky because of all the climbing and stuff.

"I figure in terms of mileage, on the average you accumulate 180 to the most I've done is 266 miles in a 24-hour race."

During a competition, Kerkove will burn anywhere from 18,000 to a personal high of 27,000 calories.

He trains seven days a week anywhere from 2-5 hours a day.

"Maybe once a week I will do something in the eight-hour range," said Kerkove.

Twice a week Kerkove rides with a group of cycling enthusiasts and occasionally takes his bikes to the Decorah area or Sugar Bottom near Iowa City to train.

"The training by any means is not insane or what I would call insane," he said. "Pretty much the only way to get good training for an Enduro race is actually to compete in an Enduro event.

"A lot of people think it has to do a lot with fitness, but fitness is probably only a quarter of it. Fitness is important, but the mental part is huge. The right equipment and a good pit crew is also important."

Kerkove was already racing mountain bikes when he graduated from Algona High School in 1996. Those races usually consisted of a set number of laps over a similar course to the Enduro races.

After he graduated from the University of Northern Iowa, he gravitated toward the Enduro type of racing.

"I really think Enduro racing is where mountain bike racing is headed toward," said Kerkove. "It's getting to the point now where they are starting to limit fields. When I first started doing it, they never limited the fields.

"Out west, where the mountain biking culture is a lot thicker, races fill up quick. It hasn't quite caught on as much here in the Midwest."

Kerkove had a lot of initial success in Enduro racing. He finished second in his first race and later 18th overall in the 2002 World Championships held in British Columbia.

At many of the Midwest races, he is one of the marked men.

After being sponsored by Giant Bicycles last year, Kerkove landed with the four-member CatEye Enduro team this season. CatEye is a leading manufacturer of cycle computers, lights and reflectors and provides Kerkove with two Giant mountain bikes worth more than $7,000 combined, along with other gear, lights, clothing and some travel costs.

One of his teammates lives in Spokane, Wash., and the other two live in the San Francisco Bay area.

Kerkove is having a solid season so far, winning the 24 Hours of Ratelje near Billings, Montana.

In his last competition, in Duluth, Minn., he was second in his age group and third overall at the 12 Hours of Green, which is considered a national championship-type event for the 12-hour races.

Kerkove is currently training for the World Championships in Whisler, British Columbia, on Sept. 4-5 where he will compete in the elite men's division -- the best of the best.

"The worlds are pretty neat," said Kerkove. "The guy who pitted next to me two years ago was from Austria. The guy across the way was from Germany.

"This year will be the first time I've competed in the elite division. But I know I can ride with these guys because I've raced against some of them in other events."

Prior to the World Championships, Kerkove is scheduled to race in Moab, Utah. He has scheduled 14 races this season, but says he probably won't compete in all of them because of recovery time.

His next competition is Aug. 14-15 at the 24 Hours of 9-Mile in Wausau, Wisconsin.


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