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How to ride and not to ride your first MTB Marathon - tips from Hielke Elferink

23 Aug 2017 By: Marit Huisman 0 comments
How to ride and not to ride your first MTB Marathon - tips from Hielke Elferink

"We are going to ride a MTB marathon Sunday"

“Can I join?” I asked without thinking

"Yeah of course" ………… and this is how I signed up for my first MTB marathon with Loes Gunnewijk and Loes Markerink (ex pro’s). We started a little bit unprepared but came home with plenty of lessons and experiences. To save you for making the same mistakes as I did I asked Dutch Champion MTB Hielke Elferink the 5 most important tips when riding a marathon.

Tip 1. Knowledge of the course

Hielke Elferink good :

  •         Ask the organisation about the course and make sure you’re not in for any surprises
  •         Check the route book to find out what type of course it is; is it flat, hilly or mountainous so you can train in advance correctly
  •         Write down the most important moments on tape and stick this to your frame. Example; 20km top of first climb, 25km feed zone. Work with symbols!

Marit Huisman wrong:

We didn't know the course so it was quite a surprise that there were climbs in it, which made it even tougher. Luckily it was 2 laps so the second lap we knew exactly what kind of monsters (another word for hills) were coming

Tip 2. Nutrition

Hielke Elferink good :

Take enough food and drink with you. If possible take 2 bottles or a camelback. You need to eat every hour (bar/banana) and drink one bottle. There will be feed zones to fuel up but if they running out or if you don't eat any of that you will have a problem

Marit Huisman wrong:

We brought food with us and used the feed zones so enough food! However we were a bit disappointed as they didn’t have stroopwafels (typical dutch cookie) the second time we passed the feed zone. So some advice from me, take double of whatever you like the first time!

Tip 3. Equipment

Hielke Elferink good:

Give your bike a good check before a marathon: gears and tyres are the most important parts. Make sure the tyres have the right pressure. Bring a inner tube, leavers and a pump during the race in case you puncture and practice this before hand

Marit Huisman wrong

Didn’t bring anything during the race (didn’t think about it) and worst case scenario I assumed a nice guy would just help me out! Luckily I didn’t puncture but you can also not count on those nice guys as everybody is very focused and concentrated. Next time I will aim for being independent and bring some stuff with me.

Tip 4. Energy Levels/Divide your race

Hielke Elferink good:

A marathon is a long race and you need to sit for hours in the saddle. You are not as fast as on the road. Don’t blow yourself up and set off with a pace you feel comfortable with. Don’t follow other competitors who are going too fast. Save your energy for the last part of the race so you are still able to keep up the pace. Consistency is key to success!

Marit Huisman very wrong

We agreed to start slow as I knew I would blow up if I started too fast (I am an engine and need a proper hour to get started). However we all have a big ego and as soon as we started we were overtaking people and going full speed (to be honest Loes G went fast and we were just hanging on for dear life). It was such a high speed and high octane lap I considered stopping to sort out my life insurance papers! Luckily though we slowed down and we were riding a normal pace but I didn’t feel fresh anymore and couldn’t accelerate at the end or finish properly! So my advice to everybody is don’t ride with other girls with a big ego and just go your own pace (although it is quite fun so I might do it the next time again).

Tip 5. Risks

Hielke Elferink good:

Calculate what you can and can’t handle, especially the technical parts. A crash with the risk of an injury or broken bike doesn’t bring you over the finish line. Sometimes it is better to step off your bike and walk/run for a bit

Marit Huisman wrong

I am also not very good at this as I always take risks and overestimate myself.  Apart of a few mistakes I stayed on the bike but normally I crash a couple of times. So will take this into account and go easy and not take risks unless absolutely necessary.


Although I made a few mistakes we had a fabulous time riding the marathon and I can recommend it to everybody. You can push your limits but also enjoy the beautiful nature around you and have fun with your friends. And the reward; a cold beer afterwards with some good company is heaven on earth. My next marathon will be the houffamarathon (oef) who is going to join or do another marathon?

Keep riding! Be #Strongher



About Marit Huisman

Marit used to race when she was younger. Since stopping racing she has devoted her time to developing women’s cycling and creating projects and initiatives to get women on the bike. Her best moments on the bike are riding with friends through beautiful areas and challenging each other. In her spare time she likes to play guitar and really hopes that she can play in a band one day!

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