We would like to introduce you to Marei, a passionate ultra-cycling athlete who not only explores the roads and trails of the world but also continually redefines her own limits. Marei shares her fascinating insights into the world of ultra bikepacking, her motivation behind her adventures, and her proven strategies for recovery after intense races. Recently, Marei achieved impressive success at the Low Mountain Classique, not only finishing in the top 10 overall but also winning the women's category.

Tell me, who are you?

I'm Marei, and I really enjoy cycling, especially covering long distances. I love discovering and experiencing new things and places. When I dive into something, I immerse myself completely. Traveling and cycling are particularly close to my heart.

Is it more about the travel or more about the performance component?

A good question. It started with traveling. I'm a very ambitious person, though not competitive in the traditional sense. I always focus on improving my own performance and challenging myself. Now, I'm gradually embracing the competitive side and finding that I enjoy it too. So, it's definitely about performance as well, but still a lot about exploring and enjoying the journey.

What is your motivation behind it?

Testing my limits is a big part of what I enjoy. It's about pushing boundaries and discovering what's possible. Through these experiences, I learn a lot about myself. For example, overcoming my fear of dogs in the Balkans was a significant personal victory. These challenges in bikepacking allow me to enjoy leisurely rides and coffee breaks, but in racing, it's about diving deeper.

What drives you to seek out these experiences outside everyday life?

In theory, many things can be integrated into daily life, but practice often proves different. These extreme experiences in ultracycling help me practice mindfulness, especially in tough moments like enduring extreme rain without shelter. Everyday situations tend to be less extreme because basic needs are usually met, creating a different dynamic.

What is special about these races that always motivates you?

It's the learning experiences along the way. The emotional highs and lows are more intense compared to normal bikepacking. Sometimes, I feel euphoric during the race and proud when I conquer fears or physical limits. The sense of freedom, traveling far with minimal gear, is also unique. Despite the challenges and occasional pain, I surprisingly find a lot of enjoyment in it.

How do you manage to combine your job or studies with this effort?

I was fortunate to have a lot of time during my clinical rotations in 2022 and later during my doctoral thesis, which was very flexible. Now that I'm working full-time at the clinic starting in June, training will definitely be different. However, cycling is essential for me to relieve stress, so I'll continue even if time is limited.

How do you approach recovery after such races?

Getting adequate rest and proper nutrition are crucial. Physical recovery is manageable, but I find mental recovery more challenging as fatigue sets in. Through meditation and mindfulness, I try to accept and process this phase.

How healthy or unhealthy are such races from a medical perspective?

Ultracycling can be considered quite unhealthy. Lack of sleep and extreme physical stress aren't beneficial for the body. However, when viewed in the context of overall training and lifestyle, it can contribute to health. The race itself is undoubtedly taxing on the body, similar to a marathon where the training is beneficial but the event itself poses challenges.


How did you get into structured training and how does it affect your cycling?

I never really trained before; I just rode my bike. It's only been about three months since I started structured training. Structured training helps me optimize my available time, instead of spending mental energy and time deciding what to ride. I never have to force myself to cycle; on the contrary, I have to force myself not to cycle.

What would you like to read about yourself?

I'm excited to see where this journey takes me. I tend to fully immerse myself in my hobbies. I've enjoyed various hobbies in the past, like coffee and baking sourdough bread. I'm curious to see if cycling will remain a long-term passion and how far I can take it. Physical activity has always been essential in my life.

How do you deal with lethargy after a race?

I'm consciously aware of post-race lethargy and try to accept it through meditation and mindfulness. It's important to understand that feeling sluggish isn't a reflection of who I am as a person; rather, it's my body signalling the need for rest. Managing this lethargy is more challenging than coping with physical fatigue itself.

How does your mindset during a race differ from your normal everyday life?

I've learned a lot about my mindset in my recent races. Initially, I didn't approach races with a competitive mindset, but I've realized that consciously focusing on the race allows me to push my body further. It's about not slowing down when things get tough, but recognizing the competitive environment and continuing to push forward.

How do you take care of your nutrition during a race?

Nutrition during a race is often less than ideal. You eat what's available on the go for quick energy, which may not always be the healthiest choice, but is necessary for maintaining physical performance. After the race, I focus on replenishing my body with nutritious food and replacing lost nutrients.

What are your tools or strategies for mentally preparing for a race?

I prepare mentally for races by practising mindfulness and meditation. These techniques help me stay calm and manage my emotions, especially during challenging moments. During the race, I consciously stay present and avoid getting overwhelmed by negative thoughts.

How do you motivate yourself during a race when things get difficult?

When faced with difficulties during a race, I draw motivation from positive experiences and the potential euphoria of overcoming challenges. The pride I feel when surpassing my limits is also a strong motivator. Music can uplift my spirits and propel me forward during tough stretches.

If you want to continue following Marei, follow her on her Instagram profile .

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