The big day is here! The day you’ve been training for, waiting for, and focused on… ok: maybe that’s over-dramatizing. Regardless, any competitive event comes with a certain amount of nervousness and proper preparation is vital. I will be the first to admit that I’m not extremely focused on ‘race day’ training per se. It sounds too much like work.
I train for life. A life of full of cycling. Because I love to ride, racing is like icing on the cake and it must be enjoyable (as much as anyone can enjoy slamming your legs to the limit). In order to ensure that I enjoy racing, I try to apply a bit of ‘smarts’ when it comes making sure I’m fit for a competitive event. If you haven’t read my blog on Top Tips to Prep for a Race – please do so… it’s “Step 1” in all this!
So: it’s the Big Race Day … chances are, there’s a million things zooming through your mind! A tip that might work for you is to make a checklist of items that you need to take so you don’t have to remember everything while your brain is bouncing around like a kid on a sugar high. Also: pack most of what you need the evening before!
Here’s a handy list of items to consider:
Breakfast: make sure you have one, even if your stomach is a bit iffy from nerves. Eat between 2-3 hours before an event. Stick with what your body is used to – DO NOT go ‘out of the box’ today and try something new! Greasy foods, too much protein, or heavy dairy products in the morning could spell certain doom. If that’s your usual breakfast, (1) rethink your morning fuel moving forward, and (2) you might want to opt for oatmeal or sweet potato pancakes on race day morning.
Coffee? YES! Coffee is a great race day value-add! Curious about why – read all about it HERE. However, it not recommended to have more than your usual intake as it can make you jittery, spacey, and overly anxious. These are not good things in a competitive event where a wrong move can lead to missing skin and a trip to the doc.
Hydrate – Again. Especially if you are drinking coffee; drink at least one large glass of water before an early morning event. Plan to need to visit the bathroom prior to the race. It’s just good practice to empty the bladder before committing to the saddle for almost 2 hours or more. Discomfort usually leads to performance loss.
Add those Electrolytes! Prep your race day water bottles with your favorite electrolyte additive. During competitive events, drinking enough is a struggle, so you definitely want to make sure you have the proper electrolytes. Lessons learned: do not listen to anyone else’s advice on how much water to carry during a race. I’ve run out of water during a competitive event and that is not a happy place to be. Water = weight, but if you dehydrate you can’t race and/or you get to visit the doc later on. Your choice.
Get there EARLY. My top tip of all time is get there at least 1 hour if not earlier before your race time. I try to get there an hour and half early if I have to pin a new number on. I despise a last-minute rush before a race. Leave time to find parking, check in, pin your number, pull on your shoes, helmet, warm up, and so on.
Warm Up. Very key to good performance during the event is making sure your muscles are nice and ready to jump when they say “Go!”. If not: you will probably be fighting what probably feels like a wall of lactic acid wall for at least a quarter of the race. Not helpful if someone attacks in the first 5 miles… and that does happen, usually by people who probably drank too much coffee earlier.
You’ve Finished – Yes!
Congrats! Now go Warm Down. Nope, it’s not over yet. Every bit as important as the warm up, a good warm down at a nice easy spin for about 20-30 minutes will make post-race recovery so much quicker. If you are like me and do more than one race a week, this is extremely key to good performance in the coming days.
Roll it Out! I highly recommend introducing a foam roller routine into your cycling life. I used to hate, loathe, and despise the foam roller. I would roll my eyes and groan when my kickboxing instructor would bring out the awful things after our workout. It hurt – which is the point! A foam roller will break up all that lactic acid and reduce the restrictions in your ligaments, muscles, and tendons. Now, my foam roller is my buddy and goes with me everywhere I race! Garmin-Sharp has published video on a few cycling-specific foam roller techniques: HERE.
Plan a Recovery Ride. If you want to make absolutely sure your post-race recovery goes awesomely – plan that Zone 2 recovery ride for at least 20 miles. No 80 + mile day though! That won’t help you if you are racing again that week. If you don’t have an event scheduled: go for it if you got the energy! However, plan some off-bike time if you do a long ride as your body needs time to rebuild and restore.
I hope all this helps you in ensuring your top performance before, during, and after a race!
Get your Race On!