Even as unstructured as I tend to be in regards to race training, there are a few things that I do my best to adhere to when it comes to the days before a competitive event. I do not ride with a heart-rate monitor yakking at me or a Garmin to tell me where to go (unless I’m in unknown territory), or a power meter to let me know all sorts of electronic goodies. I’m a bit old-fashioned and I don’t have a coach telling me when I should do what. Anything on a bike has to be fun, including training and racing… and this subject is a whole other blog waiting to happen.
Regardless of my unconventional approach: there are some common sense guidelines to make sure I have a good chance of performing at my best and enjoying myself.
Don’t Blow Yourself Up in Advance. In other words: up to two days in advance, it’s not a great idea to go hard on any rides. Keep any riding in Zone 2 with very few efforts into Zone 3 (ideally: none). The point is to have fresh legs during competition. You don’t want to feel like you are cycling through a mud of lactic acid in your muscles! Some recommend some easy leg-openers the day before the race. Not a bad idea, but stay away from lactic-acid inducing intervals.
Chill Out. I try my best not to ride the day before a race. At the most, an easy spin. This is challenging for someone who loves to cycle! However, I have learned the hard way that be very best thing to do 24 hours in advance of a competitive even is to chill out. I include restorative yoga, foam rolling, and stretching to get the muscles nice and loose. Avoid alternate workouts that will break down muscle, require intense efforts, or dehydrate you – like strength training or hot yoga.
Eat Right! It’s very important to fuel correctly up to 72 hours prior to a race. Most important is the last 48 hours where a good balanced diet and plenty of hydration is critical – especially for longer events. Don’t be fooled into carb-loading prior to a race. Carbs are a good source of energy, but in moderation. The best energy source you can put in your body is healthy fats and low-glycemic carbs, such as sweet potatoes. Healthy fats include coconut oil, avocados, and salmon. Proteins are great as well, especially if you have done some intense efforts earlier in the week: your body will need proteins to build back muscle.
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. I touched on this earlier: but this has been a major FAIL point of mine. I always underestimate how much water I will need. Plus, since I’m almost always working out, I am in constant restore mode with fluids. Make sure you include electrolytes in your beverages and stay away from sugary drinks and sodas. Remember, you can over-hydrate, so monitor your intake to about 2.7 liters / day for women (3.7 for men).
Get Your Beauty Sleep! Proper rest and restoration is critical for optimum performance so plan to get enough Z’s the night before. Don’t drink coffee after noon the day before the race, go to bed early, and minimize distractions for a good night’s sleep. I do not recommend over-the-counter sleep aids as they can make you groggy the next day. There are plenty of all-natural remedies for those that struggle with a solid night’s sleep. Our body’s primary restoration period is around 11:00pm – 1:00am, so ideally you will want to take advantage of this!
Do a Mechanical Check. The day of the race is not a good time to find out that your bike isn’t shifting properly or to find that you need a new chain, brakes, etc. Racing puts stress on your body as well as your bike. Do yourself a favor and double-check that your race bike is in top form several days before the race even if you have a regular bike maintenance schedule. Take it for a spin, check the chain, brakes, and ensure that all is working well between the gears. Don’t forget cleats on clip-in shoes and pedal maintenance. [Tip Credit to local racer, Clare Gardner]
If you do not have a regular bike maintenance schedule: this is a good idea to include in your regular routine. “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it” could cost you a race, hours of inconvenience on a training ride, more money than necessary, or even be a hazard to your life. Note: cheap chains, changed frequently, cost less than a new cassette. Click HERE for a few basic maintenance tips!
Stay tuned for more info on how to prep properly on THE Race Day!