Making the most of your training on event/race day when it matters most!
When you look at your final time, result or placing after your goal event or race you can be overwhelmed with satisfaction and joy or left disappointed and wanting more. The outcome of all your training, sacrifice and time is in large degree up to what you do leading up to event/race day. With many events appearing back on the schedule we put together some tips to help you execute like a pro leading up to and on event/race day and make it as stress free as possible.
- Planning Phase- Your event date is circled on the calendar, and the training has begun.
• We know that most travel will depend on your ability to get time off or away from work or home responsibilities but in most cases arriving at a race or event venue 5 days before is optimal. Travel is a stress on the body, and you will need time to acclimate to a new environment, conditions and in some cases, time zone. Take the time to plan with your work and family to be sure you will have the time you need to maximize your performance. Many athletes are stressed and rushed trying to get everything done before they depart, and this will cause residual fatigue that will need time to be absorbed and before you can feel fresh again and ready to race.
• Do your best to find an accommodation location that will limit or eliminate as much stress as possible on event/race day. If you can stay at a hotel that is close to the start and eliminate driving or maybe staying in an accommodation rental so you can make your own meals and have a quieter environment. Sometimes staying at the event/race hotel can be overwhelming both the senses and mentally. You need a quiet place to decompress and process your pre-race needs. Be sure to book your accommodation in plenty of time so the choices will be plentiful. It might seem fun to be in the middle of all the action, but it can also be a huge distraction and keep your focus from YOU, YOUR event/race prep and take mental energy that is needed for execution.
• Plan for your travel days. Plan more time than you think you need and to get out and stretch or even do a quick spin or run each day on your travels. Do not forget to hydrate and keep up the fueling as you travel as this will impact your body and performance upon arrival. Pack snacks that you can have at quick reach during travel, packed in a bag out of reach will make continued fueling cumbersome. As a rule, do your best to never arrive at a event/race the day before. The added stress on the body accompanied with changes in routine and nutrition will most likely have a negative effect on event/race day.
• Sleep is especially important and cannot be “banked” so getting enough rest is a priority. Your sleep 2-3 nights before is just as important, if not more important than the night before your event.
Cheating on your sleep time or quality to get ready for the trip or staying up when you arrive will still affect you on race day. If you need to take your own pillow, a sleep aid, such as a fan, white noise, ear plugs or mask, be sure to add these to your travel plans. Always remember to limit screen time before bed for better complete rest.
• Plan to have all your equipment ready and in working order at least 2 weeks before your goal event/race. If you need to get any new equipment or maintenance done this should be sourced and scheduled a month out. You should avoid ever trying to fix or change anything event/race week. Plan for shipping delays right now as timelines seem to be a bit longer than normal due to Covid.
• Plan to be as self sufficient as possible during your stay and race/event. We will chat about this in a bit, but you should always have your nutrition strategies worked out in advance and have practiced them during training. Finding what works and does not work for you is not a good strategy for event/race day. Know what and when you are going to take in your nutrition during your event and bring everything you will need with you. Most races/events state they will provide nutrition at aid stations/rest stops provided but you cannot depend on the quantities and if there are items available that you have not had experience with and how they will affect your performance. Another variable you can eliminate if you bring your own nutrition and know exactly how your body will react. Yes I get it, this may mean taking another large bag with you!
• Plan your event/race day. In the weeks before your race/event make up a mock event/race day timeline counting back from your start time. Include your time to get to the start, warm up, travel and set up time (including registration, bike check equipment check off needs) pre-race meal and “on board” nutrition. Having everything written down will take stress out of your race morning and give you a nice pit sheet to use as reference on race/event day.
• Plan your training. Your training needs to be developed to fit your goals and always remember that your recovery weeks are extremely valuable to your success. Take advantage of a Wahoo SUF Training Plan or a Customized Wahoo SUF Training Plan tailored to your specific needs and goals. Know if a 2/1 or 3/1 training to recovery cycle works best for you and be sure to replicate your event/race effort in training, including training at the same time as your event start time. This is not to say you will be completing the same durations or distances. You also need to incorporate strength, yoga and mental training into your overall plan. Schedule any massage and body work into your plan and make necessary appointments early!
- The “No New Things on Event/Race Day” Rule-
Maybe you have read a great article or watched a video or even saw something new and shiny at your local bike/tri shop and thought a change would make you faster or more efficient on event/race day. I cannot tell you how many athletes I hear say they have raced on a new saddle, with new shoes or tried a new hydration mix they have never tested or trained with before their event only to be left with a less than stellar result or even worse, injury! Right before your event/race is never the time to make an adjustment to your bike fit. Your fit should be set and your training should always take place on the fit you will be racing on. Your body becomes accustomed to your fit and the muscle memory associated with the fit, so changing your fit close to race day can not only effect performance, but cause injury. If you have not trained with “it” for an extended period, and don’t know how it will work for you, why would you leave your event/race day up to the unknown? Another variable you can eliminate on event/race day. Tried and true equipment, nutrition and a feasible timeline that meet your specific needs are all keys to your event/race day success.
• New shoes, saddles or equipment should be at least 3 months old and have been used during training.
• Any changes to your nutrition strategy should be tested during training and recovery weeks to see how it will impact your body and performance.
• Clothing, including socks should be worn and tested during training and simulated conditions for up to 3 months ahead of time.
• If something doesn’t work, you want to have time to make a change and test again during training. Practicing your nutrition and using your equipment with adequate time beforehand gives you this flexibility.
• Avoid making any changes to your equipment or bike fit 6 weeks out from your event/race. Your body takes time to adjust and you can’t just jump in and train with intensity or race on new equipment or a new fit and expect a stellar result.
• Plan and practice your mental game. Focusing, visualizing and the mental processes during hard efforts or long stretches that you will use on event/race day. Just like your nutrition and equipment, your mental training should be practiced and not a new line of thinking on event/race day.
- Race/Event Week Prep-
Training is complete and now it’s event/race week. This is when your planning really will pay off and make for a stress free event/race day.
• Know the conditions- We all know that Mother Nature has a mind of her own sometimes, but do your best to know the weather conditions on event/race day. This includes wind direction, wind speed and temperatures at your start time. Pack for all conditions, even if not predicted.
• Know the roads or venue like a local. We spoke about this before but when you arrive at your event is crucial. Give yourself enough time to recon courses, get acclimated to conditions and recover from travel. Your surroundings should feel comfortable by event/race day. Practice the time it takes to travel to your event venue or starting location, keeping in mind road closures on event/race day will all pay off when it counts.
• Know when to say “NO” to protect your performance. Although many events/races are held in beautiful places that would be fun to explore remember, you are there as an athlete and not a tourist. It is tempting to get out and explore, but you really need to keep a mindset of performance. Also, be incredibly careful to stay out of the sun or extreme conditions as much as possible. If you travel with friends and family, you can have time to explore after the event/race. It is always a good idea to let everyone go explore and you can use that time for a nap before event/race day. Naps add recovery, promote hemoglobin production and stress decompression, and should happen as often as possible. Be very mindful of trying local cuisine that you have not had before. This is not the time to try new food and how your body will react to the processing of new foods. Be sure to limit alcohol consumption. Everything in due season and with moderation, but alcohol can be dehydrating and have effects on performance. Let’s save the celebrating for after your event/race.
• Know the rules and regulations of your event/race. It is your responsibility to know the rules and have reviewed them in adequate time before your event/race. If there are technical meetings be sure to attend in person or virtually and do not be afraid to ask questions. Note all arrival and road closure cut off times and parking availability.
• Know the schedule of events. If your event/race requires equipment checks be sure to take advantage of the earliest available time to have your equipment checked so you will have adequate time to make adjustments, if required. Even if you have checked your equipment and it meets the requirements previously, every jig, etc. is different and you just need to be sure your equipment is checked in adequate time for adjustments to be made. Again, knowing the requirements ahead of time is your responsibility and should be reviewed in the planning phase of your event/race plan.
• Know the Course- like the rules, this is your responsibility. Be sure to arrive with time to adequately recon the course or courses. You can also use tools such as Google Earth, Strava, Ride w GPS to review the courses before you arrive. If possible, drive and video the course and make notes on road conditions, hazards, hills and key sections. Recon will also give you the opportunity to work out the best spots for nutrition intake. After your initial recon of the course. You should do a secondary recon and swim, bike, run, etc. on the course. Most event/races will have a “closed course” training day but if not, be sure to obey traffic laws and be careful when out on course. The important thing is to get out there, get a feel for the best lines, execution and areas for exertion and conservation of energy and focus points.
• Know your competition- there is difference between knowing your competition and focusing on them. You should always train purposefully and with a goal so knowing a time, place or result to aim for will make your training more purposed. This will also help you set realistic goals. When you consider your competition and/or the standard at which you are aiming be sure to also use comparables such as workload, age, years of experience, etc. Realistic goals are an especially important part of your execution success. To continue to focus or compare yourself to your competitors will only take mental energy and focus away from your preparation.
• Know where your going to burn your matches and exert power- After recon break each course down into sections where you can create a plan for execution. Plan where to exert and conserve energy. You can even make targets for each section and position this information taped on your top tube, stem or written on your forearm. Planning your exertion will keep you from going out too hard too soon or burning out towards the end of your event/race. When the event/race starts, sometimes the nerves or the mind can get the best of us and the tendency to go harder overcomes us. Having parameters can take the guesswork and nerves out and give you more mental confidence and rest.
• Know what your body needs before race day. Nutrition for your event/race is your job as much as training. Glycogen stores take more than 2 days to top up so the myth of “Carb Loading” the night before a race will not be effective on event/race day. Hydration needs to be closely monitored, the use of supplements such as extra salt or magnesium should be started during training but are especially important event/race week. Knowing when to take in nutrition is just as important as knowing what works best. Remember to fuel your training and racing. Just like a race car, your body cannot function at a high level without fuel if conditions require, try extra salt with meals or dried apricots to help prevent cramping. The following article may help on your developing your nutrition strategy and event/race execution:
• Know how to train event/race week. You do not want to overreach in the days before your event/race even if you feel great. You want to keep the body sharp and ready but while limiting stress or fatigue. You should never try to make up missed training days and this is especially true during event/race week. Everyone responds to training stimulus differently. Know what works for you! Doing some form of openers is a good plan the day before the event in order to get your muscles firing in the correct patterns. You will not gain any fitness or performance from training hard the week before your event/race.
- Event/Race Day-
• First things first, after a great night’s sleep, eat your pre-event/race meal at least 2 hours before your start time. If you need to eat and hydrate then go back to sleep for a bit, that is okay. Pre-event/race nutrition is all about being sure your body has time to process that last meal and your blood volume used in digestion to return to be used for your effort.
• All clothes and equipment should be laid out no later than the night before and checked to be in good working order. Place all numbers given on clothing and equipment. Your nutrition and recovery should also be sorted and ready. Always take more nutrition than is needed. Take your recovery with you, if possible, so you can get it in you within the recovery window. Recovery is especially important if you are doing an event/race with back-to-back days.
• Remember your event/race timeline you created in the planning phase, it should now be updated with specifics to follow and take the guesswork out of race day. Use it, take it with you and let it be your guide!
• Continue your hydration and fueling throughout the preparation phase and warm up. Don’t get so busy you neglect your fueling.
• Don’t forget to allow time for toilet breaks. It happens to all of us and it does take time out of your prep schedule.
• Practice your diaphragmatic breathing. Lower heartrate, better oxygen intake and less stress will be an added benefit to this practice.
You have done the training and put in the work. Knowing and doing are two entirely different things! Put feet to your goals and do what you know- Well!!
Let us know what works for you!