Race day can be very stressful, between registration, trying to remember all your equipment and warm-ups, it’s hard to stay focused. This episode details everything you need to help build a solid pre-race routine to make your race day stress free.
4 Steps to a Stress-Free Race Day
We are going to look at tweaking your pre-race routine. Any race day can be stressful, especially if there is something big on the line, your performance on the day is dependent on three factors; your physical and nutritional preparation, your mental preparation and your pre-race warm-up. Putting time into planning your pre-race routine will save vital energy from being sucked away by wasted time and effort. Ultimately it would be great if someone could do this for us, but we are semi-pros, not pros, so we need to take it into our owns hands to ensure our systems are tight. Having a system in place ensures that nothing is left to chance, it also allows us to build habits that protect us from unplanned events. The system below is built on my experience in self-supported races, meaning I’m the person getting everything ready, no soigneurs here.
My main here is to list out all the elements involved so you can get an idea of the level of detail involved in putting together a complete pre-race plan. It’s a comprehensive list so don’t be overwhelmed.
1. Home Base
Shower: Don’t waste energy showering on the day of the race.
Pre-Race Routine Checklist
- Race wheels: Check PSI
- Spare wheels: Check PSI
Tools and Spares:
- Tool kit ready packed
- Floor pump
- Hand pump
- Tire levers
- Ergo or rollers
- Cotton balls and oil
- Breathe right
- Embrocation Cream
- Before/After casual socks, shoes, pants, top and jacket
- Before/After socks, shoes, leg warmers, arm warmers, jacket
- Race: Jersey, Knicks, gloves, helmet, socks & undershirt
Set the following schedule times
- Bed time for optimum sleep.
- Wake up time to eat breakfast on time.
- Breakfast time to leave enough digestion time.
- Leave the house with plenty of time to travel to the race.
- Start/finish warm up time to leave enough time to get to start line.
- Race time so you can plan your warm-up and don’t miss the start.
2. Race Day
- Eat breakfast- 2-4 hours before the race- list of what some pros eat before they race.
- Prepare to leave: Run through checklist again or pack what you could pack last night. Food, drinks etc.
- Confirm start time and set your watch to this time.
- Pin number on race clothes and/or bike.
Prepare your gear
- Set up bike
- Set up warm-up
- Post warm-up food
3. Warm up
It’s the one thing that can most likely break your race if not done right, or at all.
Most days pro road riders hop out of their team bus and roll to the start line without a warm-up, but before the time trials, mountain bike races, crits and ‘cross where it’s necessary to bust out from the gun at peak effort, the riders warm up. I want to take a closer look at warm ups because they are the 80/20 of the pre-race routine. I am going to focus on the elements surrounding your warm-up rather than the warm-up itself. I am saving that for next time because it deserves its own episode.
Here you will find a list of useful ideas and tools for a better warm up. While yes you are going to need a trainer, ergo, rollers, whatever you use, there are some other things that help in certain situations such and hot and cold weather.
Let’s start with the weather: The colder the day, the longer you would want the warm-up to be. You will be wearing layers of clothes, strip these off as you warm up.
- Electric fans
- Warm up legs while keeping their cores cool is very important. Warm up for all out efforts from the gun by wearing an ice vest. Keeping the core cool despite effort gets the muscles primed without overly taxing the cardiovascular system. Cadel, Sylvain Chavanel, Tony Martin all use them. You could use an ice sock or fork up the $250 for an ice vest.
Integrate nutrition as part of the warm-up:
- Finish 1 bidon, and coffee an hour before the start time and keep sipping on another while you warm up.
- This may sound dumb but we all know it, a computer that runs from your rear wheel
- Now have you seen the pros warming up with cotton balls shoved up their noses? Or Chris Froome riding this years tour prologue (by mistake mind you). The warm-up nose plugs are cotton balls soaked in Olbas oil which is used to keep the airways open. It opens the sinuses to help to breathe and that it helped clear stuffy noses. The oil is a decongestion oil made with Cajaput Oil, Clove Oil, Eucalyptus Oil, Juniperberry Oil, Levomenthol, Dementholised Mint Oil and Wintergreen Oil. All these natural ingredients clear the sinuses and airways so you can breathe in the necessary oxygen for a proper performance. The team masseur will prepare the cotton wool with the Olbas Oil when he gives the riders their pre-race massage, then the riders will warm up on the turbo trainers so that they are ready to perform. Why? It’s the oxygen that makes the muscles work so you have to have efficient breathing to keep riding at top speed. There are other similar products that also clear the nostrils, but Olbas Oil is the best known.
While I’m the topic of breathing and noses if you use Breathe Right make sure you put it on before you even break a sweat. It won’t stay on properly otherwise. Also, one other tip, tape your warm-up to your top tube.
The practicality of warm up is an article that is a great place start when planning the system around your warm-up. I have copied their list below.
1. Have a routine that prepares you physically and mentally
2. Set your watch to the “official” race time so you won’t be late.
3. Time your warm-up to finish about ten minutes before your race start.
4. Know where the start is, and how long it will take to get there. Factor this into the warm-up.
5. Give yourself a 5-minute cushion to get to the starting area, make sure you are sweating (but towel off after the warm-up)
6. Sit alone or roll around and focus on the effort, thinking about the desired wattage and heart rates for the effort you are about to put forth
7. Arrive at the line ready to go.
Post warm up:
- Set up the bike: Change wheels after warm-up.
- Toilet and change clothes
- Arrive at start line or staging area
- Stay focused on your race and limit interaction with others.
And you’re away! Like I said at the start there is a lot that goes into your pre-race routine so don’t be overwhelmed at this stage. I am going to put all this information together in a pack so you can really experience stress-free race days!