A Fun-Filled Weekend At The Mulungushi MTB Race

For the 8th year in a row, a hundred racers lined up at the picturesque Mulungushi Dam startline to experience the challenge and beauty of riding through the Zambian bush.

Though Zambia’s mountain bike scene has grown to include several unforgettable races, the Mulungushi MTB still stands out as a uniquely fun and family-oriented weekend.

Children playing at the Mulungushi Boat Club
Children playing in the pool at the Mulungushi Boat Club

The race is held at the Mulungushi Boat Club, near Kabwe. Most people come for the entire weekend and bring their family and friends along. Though the main event is the race on Sunday, the Mulungushi experience actually resides in the countless other activities in and around the dam.

Boating is a very popular pastime, and throughout the weekend people can be seen speeding, sailing, and fishing.

Sunset on a speedboat at Mulungushi Dam
Sunset on a speedboat at Mulungushi Dam

For the adrenaline junkies, there is a cliff jumping spot within walking distance of the club.

People hanging out at the cliff jumping area for a post-race dip in the water

There are many places to explore, like the bat cave that cuts from ones side of a hill through to the other; the spillway that has rock pools and a waterfall; and many lesser-known rock pools and waterfalls that can be discovered through obtaining local knowledge and exploration.

Having a picnic at some rock pools after the race

The race its self is on singletrack and jeep track. The terrain varies from flowy flatland to rocky hills, and you can choose to do the 20 km, 40km, or 70 km route. The 20 km route is for beginner riders, so the terrain is non-technical. The 40- and 70 km are for more advanced riders seeking a challenge.

All racers are rewarded with beautiful scenery through forests, villages, and rivers.

A quiet sunset moment above the dam.

Proceeds from the Mulungushi MTB Challenge go to Sunflower Orphanage, aiding in building and maintaining its facilities.

Children receiving their prizes for the kid’s 4km race

This year’s winners were: Sarah Jackman in the 20km women (also 4th overall), Dylan Vaughn in the 20 km men, Nora Richards in the 40 km women, Lance Vaughn in the 40km men, and Bedias Tunkanya in the 70 km.

See below for Mulungushi MTB 2018 results, and follow Mulungushi MTB and on Facebook for current news.


Ride Science: The White Powder That Gets Rid Of Leg Burn

Ride Science: The White Powder That Gets Rid Of Leg Burn

Sodium Bicarbonate is a substance that we naturally produce and store in our bodies. It’s a buffer: helping to offset the acidifying effects of intense physical activity. Here’s how it works, and how drinking a small amount of it before training might make your cycling experience more pleasurable.

In Theory

When you jump on your bike and go charging up a mountain, your body burns sugars to generate that energy. I won’t put you through the same pain I experienced in trying to understand all the chemistry that goes on, but the long and the short of it is that you end up with lots of hydrogen ions floating about in your blood, and hydrogen ions are bad. They’re acidic, and they make your legs burn. To stop your legs burning, your body has to bind these hydrogen ions to bicarbonate ions.

The trouble is that, though your mind knows that you’re about to go charging up a mountain, your body doesn’t. So your body can’t prepare itself. This is where sodium bicarbonate comes in.

Taking a teaspoon of sodium bicarbonate in a glass of water one hour before you go riding will ensure that, when you hit that hill, your body has plenty of extra bicarbonate ions hanging around, and is therefore in an abnormally alkaline state. Normally, pushing your body’s pH around might not be the smartest idea, but by alkalising your body right before you do a bunch of acidifying exercise, you’re actually helping your body to stay neutral.

In Real Life

In real life, what happens is this. You put a teaspoon of sodium bicarbonate in a glass of water and stir it so it dissolves. It tastes like piss. You force it down.

For about 40 minutes, you don’t quite feel normal. Perhaps a little tired, and slightly nauseous. After an hour, that goes away and you get on your bike. At first it all feels normal. Until you get to a climb.

Here’s what I notice on the climbs:

– My maximum sustainable power isn’t any different.
– My perceived level of pain and discomfort is MUCH lower.

And here’s the bonus:

– On the way back down the hill, I feel incredible. My bike handling is spot on, and I hardly feel the effects of the effort I’ve just done.

What’s Going On?

What’s going on is that the extra bicarbonate ions in your blood are acting as a vehicle, quickly neutralising hydrogen ions and transporting them to your lungs, to be exhaled. This doesn’t allow your muscles to produce more power, but it does make the work less painful. It may also improve your ability to repeat physical efforts.

Another thing that’s going on is that your nervous system is functioning better. Nerve cells transport messages more efficiently when our bodies are slightly alkaline. To the average person: when your body is acidic, you may feel drowsy; when your body is alkaline, you may feel very conscious and alert.


Remember, folks, I’m not a doctor. The quantities of sodium bicarbonate I’ve recommended (one teaspoon, one hour before a ride) are small, and are unlikely to have any major side effects. Consuming sodium bicarbonate in larger quantities or in very high concentrations may have uncomfortable, or even dangerous side effects.


Should I Follow My Training Program to a “T”?

Nora Richards

Should I Follow My Training Program to a “T”?

Something that I’ve learned on my journey to becoming a pro athlete is that I, personally, do not train well without a coach. If I have coach that I trust, I follow my training program exactly as its given to me, no questions asked. However, this mentally can become a unhealthy compulsion that leads to overtraining.

After training with my coach obsessively for nine months, I fell sick and was forced to take two weeks off. Afterwards, I suddenly had a TON of energy, more strength than I remembered I could have, and I was happier. I realized that I had been severely, chronically fatigued for a long time, and had continued training simply because my training program told me to. My race results had suffered, my mental state had suffered, and my fitness had suffered, simply because I had followed my training to a ‘T.”

This balance between following your training program and following your instincts is something that many athletes struggle with, and one that both rider and coach need to address in their correspondences. Most coaches agree that only the rider herself really knows what’s going on with her body, and yet we hire coaches so that we don’t have to think about that. The compromise, usually, is that the rider should tell the coach exactly how they feel, in as much detail as possible, and the coach will analyze and rewrite their program from there.

There’s one issue with this though: pride and social expectation. Many are unable to distance themselves from the information that they give to their coaches. With me, for example, I feel like I’m whining and making excuses if I say “I feel tired,” too often. By saying “I feel tired,” you put pressure on the coach to make compromises for that. Good coaches should probably be able to say when you should just deal with it an push through, and when you should rest. Nonetheless, the social pressure to fulfill both people’s expectations and needs is there.

The conclusion, thus, is this: you need to do what feels right to you, and what works best for you. If following your program verbatim makes you feel less guilty and more optimistic about your progress, as it does to me, you should follow the program verbatim and just do your best to communicate with your coach. If you’re following an online training program or feel like your instincts are better than what a coach can give you, do what you feel is best for you.