A few events during the 2018 racing season has convinced me to post about how I prepare for race day. I find that there are some who do not seem to think about race preparation with great detail, leading to frustrations for them and those around them. Therefore, I will explain what I do for race preparation which helps with my pre race anxiety, allowing me to focus my energies on the race.
I suppose that racing very locally is easy, and requires less preparation, but with the travel requirements in order to participate in the races that I want to race at, I have to methodically prepare in order to increase my odds of a successful race day. So these are some of the steps that I go through to get ready.
Usually, but not always, I have to be up at 3-3:30 in the morning to get to many of the road races and cyclocross races I want to participate in. This is usually followed by an hour or three of travel. It is now easy to understand why preparation becomes key. When I have to be out the door at four in the morning, I can not be running around the house looking for my race socks, or any other item I suddenly can not find and needed for the race. Therefore, I have adopted a system to try to ensure a smooth racing day.
For me, it all starts with monitoring the weather reports several days out from the event. This will clue me into what kind of clothing I will need. Also, at this time, I will call up Google Maps and route my way to the venue, especially if it is somewhere I have not been to before. Google will suggest an estimated time of travel which I will then use to determine my schedule. To do this, I will set Google Maps to estimate based on an arrival time and date that I can fill in. I will then pad the time depending on other variables, such as if I am picking up teammates or other friends whom might be racing or just tagging along.
Armed with this information, I will now build a schedule based on my race start time and work backwards. Depending on the event, and time to get there, I usually like to be there at the latest an hour before I am due to start my race. This will give me the minimal time needed to use the facilities, finalize registration and number pickup, get pinned up, setup my gear, and warmup. An hour is tight, so I prefer to add a bit more time to my arrival if possible. All these factors will then determine my departure time from my house. On top of that, I usually need an hour from getting out of bed to getting on the road in order to be ready and functional.
Most of the time, the evening before my race is when I will pack all the stuff I will need for the race. For my equipment, I make sure the bicycle has no mechanical issues. This means that I try to ensure it has been cleaned, the chain has been oiled, the brakes work and are properly adjusted, the tyres and wheels are in good shape, with no visible damage, the gears shift properly, and that everything is in good operating order.
I then load my vehicle up with the stuff that I will need for the race. In my case it includes: tool bag (in case I have to fix something for whatever reason.) My bag of cleaners/solvents/degreases/oils/grease/alcohol/etc… Full size floor pump. Spare wheels in wheel bag/s. Some races allow for a pit to swap wheels in case of a flat. And even if there is no pit, if I get a flat minutes from the star of a race I have a quick backup. Once everything has been looked over on the bike, I remove the front wheel and I put it in a wheel bag, since my roof racks require removal of the front wheel. This gets loaded into the car. If this is a mid day track race, I will also load my 10′ x 10′ pop up tent, fold out chairs, and a fold out cart to haul stuff to the track. I will leave my bike locked in the garage overnight.
Next, I will pack my race bag. I tend to wear my bib shorts or skin suit on the way to the venue which makes it easier to be ready. I will load my duffle bag with my shoes, helmet, glasses (with multiple lens choices) socks, gloves, head cover (for under my helmet), jersey, under layer, any warmers, embrocation, skin wash, hand towel, and bike electronics (head unit, heart rate strap, etc). On some very early races I might wear my hear rate monitor strap, under layer, socks, and jersey this way when I get to the venue, all I need are shoes, gloves, and helmet and I’m ready to go, saving considerable amount of time.
I have a container of safety pins to pin my numbers to my jersey. I like to have my own stash with me, since sometimes teammates only grab the four minimum to pin a number, which by my standards is not enough to ensure a flap free number. I also have a bag of street clothes to change into after the race, since getting out of my wet kit post race is a must before the drive home.
After my bag is packed and checked for all that is required, I head over to the kitchen and mix my hydration/energy drink in my water bottles, leaving those in the fridge overnight. I get my soft cooler out, and pack the food that I will need, such as bananas, Taralli, energy bars, or gels, etc… I will include a post race snack as well.
Last, I will set out all my breakfast stuff needed in the morning. Upon waking up, I have to eat a good meal in order to fuel for the race. Once I arrive at the venue, I usually just top off with the snacks I brought along with me. But the concept is to wake up and get my breakfast made with little interruption and as efficiently as I can, while reducing any amount of thinking. This enables me to stay on schedule.
When the race is over, and I have changed into my street clothes, I perform a comprehensive check of all my gear. Usually by now my duffle bag is upside down and backwards, so I re-pack everything back in, and while doing it, I mentally check off all that needs to go in. Especially things that are easy to misplace such as socks, and gloves. In the past I have made some costly mistakes by not doing this, and this helps eliminate such errors.
I try to keep a small number of water bottles and a medical kit in my vehicle for emergency purposes. In the past, I have had to provide water bottles post race to unprepared teammates, or fellow racers, and the medical kit has been used to treat teammates and myself after crashes.
By no means is my method perfect. When something doesn’t go right, I examine the situation and apply corrections or changes to the methods of my madness. I once didn’t have a hydraulic brake piston press tool and it was needed. That evening, after I got home, I ordered one and made sure it found a home in my tool bag.
I hope that by sharing this information, it will help others who have struggled with race preparation. But, in the end, everyone needs to find a system that works for them.