I’m quite an organised person. It stresses me out if i’m late for an appointment, if i’m lost when trying to get somewhere or if the house is untidy. Therefore it’s an absolute must for me to prepare the day before a race so I know, in my mind, that I’m all set to go. Heck, I can’t rest easy the evening before until it’s all ready. Most mountain bike races are on a Sunday and I normally have to leave quite early to ensure I’m at the course early enough to practice.
I think it’s the worry of forgetting something silly like my helmet or my cycling shoes, in the rush of packing in the morning, that unsettles me.
So preparation is key! A clear mind means more focus for winning the race, hopefully! Here’s a run down of how a prepare for a race…
I give the bike a quick once over, making sure it’s race ready. This includes making sure the nuts and bolts are tight – having your handlebars move halfway through an obstacle is not what you need! I make sure the brakes work and are not rubbing, and of course make sure the tyres have air. Exact tyre pressure will be assessed again in the morning of the race depending on the terrain. Bumpy grass or muddy wet trails for instance will require a lower pressure than a hard, dry and flat surface.
I also make sure I have my race number. If you’re taking part in a series of races you are allocated a number on your first race which you must keep throughout. Failure to do so means a new number and a charge!
Time to pack my big bag of kit. This list will differ depending on time of year. In essence less kit for summer races, lots of extra warm/waterproof kit for winter races. My basic kit bag contains the following:
Cycling shoes with overshoes if the weather is wet or cold
Helmet with buff underneath to cover my ears if its cold or particularly windy
Gloves normally I pack 2 pairs: full fingered and half fingered in the summer and a choice of full fingers thin and full fingered thick in the winter
Glasses (clear or sunglasses – although 90% of the time I race in clear due to a mixture of light levels during the race – wooded areas vs. open areas)
Towel for drying off after a wet race and it’s a useful aid for discretely changing out of your kit after a race too!
Dry clothes for after the race – normally jog bottoms, a t-shirt and a hoody – something warm and comfy. Add a warm coat, scarf, gloves and hat for winter races
Spare socks just in case – I hate wearing wet socks!
It’s abit sad, but my kit prep goes as far as laying out my clothes that I’m going to put on in the morning on the floor ready to go.
Food and energy is key when you’re racing, even for a shorter 1.5 hour race. For this length of race you may only need gels and electrolytes, but for 2+ hrs you may need to consider food also.
Most races I compete in are the shorter variety so I normally pack a gel for each lap (normally 4 or 5). I also pack enough energy drink for half a bottle per lap (drinking is important for me during racing as I often cramp up if I don’t drink enough. A banana comes in handyabout 30 minutes before the start, and a protein recovery drink for afterwards.
Some like to pack food for eating after the race too. I personally skip this bit as my stomach takes a while to settle after a race and I don’t normally feel like eating until at least 3-4 hours after.
I’ve almost finished prep, honest! Once the above is all done I pack everything into the car. Pop the back seats down, slot the front wheel off the bike and it fits in like a dream. I also at this point make sure I have an idea of how long it’ll take me to get the the venue and set my alarms accordingly. I like 3 alarms split 15 minutes apart for getting up in the morning.
Now the last bit – carb loading. Yummy! Now all the above is done I can finally relax into my Saturday evening knowing everything is set to go for the next day. All I need is a good carb loading meal. Pasta is normally my choice with a side of garlic bread, veg and chicken breast.
Now it’s time for a good nights sleep…