Racing motocross is not for the faint of heart. Even the “easy” days are gnarly, and when we have a race like the Florida National last week, what’s already extremely demanding because a process of surviving a daunting crucible of heat, exhaustion, and pain. Need proof? Just look at how many riders didn’t finish the second moto, including GEICO Honda’s Chase Sexton, who won the first 250 Class moto! To help combat the adverse effects of these kinds of races, riders often change their training routines.
We spoke with trainers-to-the-stars Blake Savage (Ken Roczen, Chase Sexton, etc) and Gareth Swanepoel (Justin Cooper, Colt Nichols etc.) to learn more about how riders cope with furnace-like conditions.
Racer X: When there’s a race coming up, like the Florida National, that you know is going to be tough and nasty, do you do anything different to prep the riders?
Blake Savage: Before a tough race like Florida, it’s good to lean on the cautious side of riding and training volume for the week. You need to make sure your energy storage is full and ready for the grueling temps and track conditions. There’s nothing necessarily you should change, besides making sure you’re checking off all the boxes on the recovery tools and strategies. But it’s always going to be in balance of making sure you’re exposing yourself to that heat also, to make sure you’re staying acclimated to it.
Gareth Swanepoel: We change the volume and the intensity slightly. Less riding, less gym work, and more things for recovery.
How do you approach eating, drinking, and other things (getting core temperature down and staying hydrated) before, during, and after tough races like Florida?
Savage: That’s going to be the larger focus for the week, making sure hydration levels are keeping up. Making sure the rider is continuing to maintain body weight is a good way to track hydration. Each individual rider is going to have a slightly different sweat-to-salt-loss rate, so knowing what the athlete needs is key. I would just make sure they’re having enough salts and minerals, and enough calories after each riding and training session.
Swanepoel: I try to stay on the guys all the time about hydrating, but for Florida I put even more emphasis on it. I made sure I had them hydrating early in the morning and eating more the day of. I then made sure they had their recovery right after the race and electrolytes straight away. Ryno Power does a great job for us on that. As far as body temperature, we use ice baths right after but it’s hard because we are limited for time.
Other than dehydration, what are some of the other concerns at an extremely hot race, and how do the riders combat them?
Savage: There’s always the fear that you could dig yourself into a hole and be dealing with some fatigue, and recovery issues, which could affect upcoming weeks of riding and training. If you’re exposing yourself to the heat early in the season and having some training days that are going to mimic what you’d be dealing with on a race day, that’s going to be really important. That way it’s not going to come as a surprise on race day.
Swanepoel: Well basically dehydration is the main concern, and then getting so hot they are not “all there,” which could lead to making a mistake and getting hurt. I do feel if they are hydrated and trained correctly the week before, then we’ve limited the chances of that happening.
The weekend definitely took its toll. Chase Sexton won the first 250 Class moto and couldn’t even ride the next. Other than the obvious concern of crashing and getting injured while riding in a delirious state, what would have been the dangers had he continued to race in the second moto?
Savage: I think everyone deals with heat a little differently, just like with elevation. For Chase, he was having symptoms like headache, dizziness, throwing up, flush skin, and confusion. These are all definitely signs of dehydration. He had also noticed that there was no sweat coming off his arms as he attempted to go out for the second moto. I believe this is a result from pounding water too quickly. The water carried out all the salt he had left in him, and not replenishing that with enough salt afterward made it so he could not retain any of the water. It would just pass through his system and he could not rehydrate enough for the second moto.
Swanepoel: I obviously can’t speak for Chase, but from what I heard he had problems with vision and throwing up. So I would assume that he must have felt very weak.
What’s different, recovery-wise, during the week following a race like the Florida National?
Savage: I would start by checking things like resting heat rate, and heart rate variably, to see how the nervous system is recovering from the weekend. Also, continuing to hydrate with water and salt, and getting back to work as soon as the athlete is showing signs of being back to a normal level of readiness.
Swanepoel: Nothing too crazy different . I try to get them to focus on recovery after every National. I personally believe it’s all down to discipline and the riders making sure they hydrate and rest well.
When riders have a tough weekend, how can it affect them the following weekend, especially at a race like Southwick, which has the potential to get gnarly on multiple levels?
Savage: Everyone is going to be able to handle that a little differently, depending on the athlete’s age, fitness level, and how efficient they are at recovering. For a younger rider they may not be able to bounce back as quickly as a seasoned racer. Symptoms from a tough race like Jacksonville can definitely linger for days, weeks, and potentially months if you aren’t careful. If you’re really good at knowing how to manage stress levels and how to properly utilize recovery tools, then you you’ll be able to show up ready to fight another weekend.
Swanepoel: It’s going to be tough for sure. I think it’s just balancing that fine line of working enough but not too much and trusting the work we did before the season. The schedule has been the schedule for a while, so this hard stint is something we have tried to prepare for. It’s the great outdoors. It’s what it’s about.