Many people at one point in their life have done a race. Perhaps it was a 100 yard dash in kindergarten, a 3 legged race at a party, maybe even a 5k when you were an adult. We all know that every race, regardless of length or discipline, requires some kind of preparation. What many people don't realize though, is that if you intend to compete, if you want to be in the mix, to get the absolute best result, then your preparation is just as important as your time racing. The Hilly Billy Roubaix is this weekend. Its a 72 mile race on gravel, dirt and paved roads, which is a bit unorthodox from what I typically do. Given the length of the race, preparation is even more important than usual. Here is what a typical week for me looks like leading into a big event. Fueling is paramount. If you don't make it to the start line because you ate something funky the night before, what have you been training for? If you get half-way through the race and run out of steam, again, what's the point? Racing fast for a long time requires days of preparation. Some believe in "carbo loading" the night before a race. Truthfully, you need to start much sooner than that. This week, I am making sure I am taking in lots of water every day and eating plenty. When I am four hours into this race, I don't want to feel empty or dehydrated. I need my body to be ready to give 110%.
Nutrition during the race is equally as important. Any race over 90 minutes is going to dip into your reserves. To limit that, fueling while moving is important. Hydration is obviously a big piece of that. But finding big calories that your stomach can handle while moving is also important. This is a good lesson for anyone really. Before I understood this concept, I used to work out in the yard all day and hit the wall in the afternoon because I hadn't been eating foods that gave me the right energy. Discovering what your body can handle is exceptionally important when you want to perform at your best. For me, that's using Infinit's Go Far drink. It gives me a ton of calories that keep me moving.
Visualizing what you will need at any given point during the day is something I try to do to stave off disaster. I will study the course, read about past conditions and what to expect. Then the selection begins. I look at the gear that I have and begin to determine what will be the absolute fastest things to use on the day. It will be hot at the end of the race, but cooler in the beginning which means I should be able to get away with shorts and short sleeves and be comfortable. Gravel, some dirt, and pavement: that will merit a fast rolling wheel with little flat protection. Steep downhills, hmm, I'm going to want good brakes. Steep uphills: light bike with low gears. Add that up, and I'll be taking my Specialized S-Works Stumpjumper mountain bike and running Specialized Renegade tires.
Before any event, the easiest way to do well, is to make sure your equipment is working as it should. There is nothing like getting into the middle of a race and having a cable break or tire go flat when you could've avoided it. After I make my selection, I like to make sure my bike is 100% at least 2 days out. Then, I am very serious about not changing anything before the race. Air up the tires, put in extra sealant, adjust the shifters, lube up the chain and make sure everything is perfect, and then don't touch it!
Your mental state while racing is more vital than your physical condition. When someone is beaten, they lose mentally first. One way to stay positive longer, is to know the course you're racing. Every climb, each section. You can become demoralized very quickly on a 6 mile climb if you thought it was only 3 miles. If you're thinking the race is 45 miles but it is really 48 miles, those last 3 miles will be torture. I try to avoid these by knowing exactly what I should expect so that if one of my competitors is cracking, I'll have a slight upper hand.
During the weak leading into the race, letting your body recover is essential. However, you can do too little, which leads to feeling sluggish on race day. Depending on the length of the race, I'll do things a bit differently. For a longer race such as Hilly Billy Roubaix, I do the following. My last hard and substantial ride will be one week before the race. After that, I'll rest for a few days, 2 or so and not ride at all. This is designed to get the body to repair itself fully. Tuesday I'll do a slow and easy ride to get the muscles awake for Wednesday which will be a longer but still easy ride. I want to feel fresh come the weekend, so any efforts are kept short. Thursday will either be completely off or very very easy. This is the key day for everything. By getting the body more rest 2 days out, it can almost come to full readiness, having been active the day before but rested enough, I find that it sets me up well for Saturday. Friday will be short and easy with a few efforts called "Openers" thrown in to make sure the legs are ready to go hard. Saturday, the prep has been done, time to leave it all out there.
Setting yourself up to be competitive is not easy, but if you carefully prepare your fueling, gear, mind and body, you can truly manipulate yourself into getting the best result possible. I'm really looking forward to Hilly Billy Roubaix. We'll see what my prep translates to on race day!