There are a lot of things happening on race day. There are distractions everywhere. There will be obstacles that you can anticipate and things that you cannot. You will have to adapt. You will have to put the blinders up and focus on yourself. It can be all too easy to be caught like a deer in the headlights with everything and everyone moving quickly around you, it can always be easy to catch whiplash as you look back and forth and all around try to copy others’ successes.
One of the best things you can do for yourself is develop a routine. The routine is fluid, you may need to change it because you find something better, or you may need to change it as you grow and improve as a rider, but those changes happen in hindsight and in training. Next time you line up for a race, commit to a routine and stick with it. Then, go back after and assess what worked and what didn’t.
Race Day Equipment
One of the first things you can consider for race day is how you will manage your equipment. Do you need to take your bike in for a tune up at the shop? If so, your preparation probably starts a few days out as you schedule that with your local shop.
If you’re a good mechanic, then it may be a simple as always scheduling an hour or two, one or two days before your race that you go through your bike and make sure that everything is good to go.
Beyond your actual bicycle, bike races involve a lot of other equipment. When do you plan to pack your race day bag? I recommend packing your bag at minimum the evening before your race so that you have time to look for your lost sock or run to the store if you find you’re fresh out of Gus. This time is also good to reset your brain a little bit from the day to day stressors of life and remember that it’s time to race.
Here are a few items always in my pre-race bag:
- Julbo Glasses (2 Options)
- Race Kit
- Podium Kit (Be positive!)
- Change of Clothes
- Gus + Bottles/Hydration
- Recovery Mix/Post Race Meal
- Bike Shoes + Regular Shoes
- Co2 + Dyna Plug
- Notes of Encouragement
Race Day Meal
Depending on what race you are doing, your pre-race meal may vary. As a general rule of thumb, you probably want to eat your pre-race meal 3-4 hours before the race to allow yourself plenty of time to digest, without being hungry when you line up. Aim to eat something high in carbohydrates, but easy on the stomach. Some common and good options are pancakes or waffle, PB&J Sandwich, or Instant Oatmeal.
After your pre-race breakfast, you may find that you need a little something to ‘top-off’ your stores right before you race. Try to avoid eating something 15-60 minutes before you start warming up to avoid any feeling of being lethargic. Then feel free to eat a few more bites of breakfast or some Gu produces as you warm up or right before you line up to race.
Make sure you sip on some water and hydration mix as you prepare for the race. Especially for early morning races it’s all too easy to line up without having anything other than coffee.
Race Day Stimulus
How do you tend to feel race day morning? Are you overly nervous? Are you a little slow to get moving? Do you generally need to calm down or hype up? Everyone fall in a little different place on the stress performance curve, but we all want to find ourselves at the peak when we line up.
The stress-performance curve is an inverted U. If you are too calm then you won’t perform well, if you are too nervous then you won’t perform well. The perfect amount of energy or stimulus will provide you with the right performance advantage.
Depending on where you find yourself on this curve, is how you will mentally prepare for your event.
If you find yourself overly nervous try these: Journaling, Quiet Time, Calming Music, Relaxed Conversation, Prayer, Meditation
If you find yourself too calm try these: Dance, Pump-Up Music, Motivational Speeches
Race Day Schedule
In order to ensure a proper timeline, consider making a race day schedule and share it with anyone that will be with you on race day. In order to plan your perfect schedule, work backwards. If the race starts at 8 am, then get to the start line at 7:50, then you’ll want a bathroom stop around 7:45, start warming up at 7:15, get to the venue around 7, kit up around 6:45, eat breakfast around 5 am. Everyone’s plan will be different, so knowing your plan will help you make sure nothing is missed.
Race Day Warm Up
Try having a warm up that you always use for hard workouts and race days. You can try a build technique, some high cadence spin ups, or just a couple hard efforts. A race day warm up will typically last about 20-30 minutes.
Race Day Final Markers
Finally, consider having just a few things that you do right before you race. This could be reading a motivation quote, a couple of basic dynamic stretches, a prayer, a mantra that you say, etc. This final thing that you do is a signal to your brain that it is race time! If you do it enough times and before enough races, your brain and your body will start to associate that action with racing and prepare accordingly!
Try it Out!
Don’t be afraid to try new things. Every training ride is a chance to try out a new race day routine!