Race Routine

It’s great when you can travel from home to a race, you have all the support and kit there to help set you up for a great day on the bike. But more often than not you have to travel, and as the adage goes, failing to prepare is preparing to fail, sorry, Boy Scout.

Preparing for a race covers a whole host of elements, from physical training and mental preparation, bike prep, nutrition through to travel and accomodation logistics to name but a few. In this post I’m going to cover the week running up to a big race, what I do to prepare and when, as well as outlining my race day routine running up to the start line.


7 Days to go

With 7 days to race day, chances are it is the weekend, you might want to get one last big training ride in before resting up over the coming week. Conveniently the weekend also gives you plenty of time to get your bike race ready, a good place to start is with my earlier post on race Bike prep.

Hopefully your bike received the all clear, however if anything has been flagged up as needing replaced then you have the time to order any new parts to get your steed back to full health before the race weekend.

On a side note, try not to stack it in the week running up to a race, just a suggestion.

Other things to do are to ensure any travel and accommodation arrangements are made and you know how to get there, you don’t want a stressful drive to ruin to start of your race experience, after all its meant to be fun!


3 Days to go

With 3 days to go your training should be in full taper mode, so instead of lounging on the sofa its time to pack your race kit. This is a basic list and should only be used as a starting point. It is always better to pack something and leave it in the car than have to scrounge around the carpark for a bottom bracket tool 30 minutes before the start of the race!

  • Bike (obviously)
  • Helmet
  • Knee pads and armour if it is a gravity race
  • Shoes
  • Socks
  • Gloves
  • Sunglasses
  • Jersey
  • Shorts and Bib if you are so inclined
  • Winter/rain clothes (being caught off-guard can make for a miserable race) including base layer, arm/leg warmers, etc.
  • Post-race, warm change of clothes (change out of chamois as soon as you can)
  • Back pack (if using one)
  • Bottles, use N+1 to work out how many you need
  • Heart rate strap (if you use one)
  • Race food
  • Post-race recovery drink/snack
  • Post race beer (if not driving)
  • Electrolyte drink or tabs
  • Plenty of water
  • Spare wheels ready to race
  • Cycling computer (if you use one)
  • Bike floor pump
  • Tools: Ensure you have tools for all parts of your bike, bare minimum take, Allen key multi-tool, flathead & Phillips screwdrivers, electrical tape
  • Spare tubes, tire levers & CO2

With your race kit packed its time to give the bike one last check. This is especially important if you needed to order any parts for your race bike after its thorough going over earlier in the week.


Night before

So you’ve traveled to the race venue and got your self settled into your dig’s, tomorrows the big race and its time for the race routine to kick in. Not staying at the race venue and traveling the morning of the race? No problem just just do the final count down at home.

10 under the ben campsite
Mountain Bikestock

If at the venue and its possible, go check out the course, if its a downhill, go walk the track, if its a XC race go walk or ride a lap.

carb loading
Two Teas McGhee

Time to eat, carb load like crazy, pasta and a lean protein like chicken or tuna is a great place to start. Don’t over do it and don’t eat anything that your not familiar with the last thing you need is stomach issues from a dodgy curry, keep simple and carb filled. Lay you race day kit out, pack your back pack if you are using one, set your bottles or hydration pack out, you know it’s all fine as you checked it when you packed it on day three but peace of mind leads to a good sleep and rest is important.


Race Day

Breakfast time! this meal sets you up for your race so make it count! A balanced mix of slow release carbs and some protein for the win. So a big bowl of porridge followed by a fruit salad with some greek yoghurt and coffee for me. Some people like eggs as well, but I’m not an egg guy.

Hydration before your race is just as important as during your race, make sure you include electrolyte drinks in your pre-race hydration especially if its a warm day.

Get to the race venue good and early with at least an hour to spare, as soon as you arrive get yourself registered and collect your race number.

Run through the final check list

  • Number pinned
  • Tires pumped and pressure checked
  • Computer on bike and HR monitor on
  • Full bottles
  • All the food you need
  • All multi tools and spares needed packed

Allow time for a proper warm up, stretch up slowly working through all the major muscle groups, a quality warm up should take at least 30 minutes. Do some sprints as well as some climbing where possible, the more intense the race is from the gun the more intense the warm up should be.

The hour before your start time have a final snack, a banana or a gel with caffeine is ideal.

Get yourself to the start line early and get a good position if its a mass start, if the race has a staggered start then be early for your start time.

And finally, have a good race.

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Things are different in the Dark

The summers sun still shines, but the post work ride will soon need some additional lumens as our northern skies darken.

With night riding comes a new sense of your surroundings, the trail becomes a tunnel, peripheral distractions are obscured by the velvet night. Trail features are held in sharp contrast, the head torch both helping and hiding what rolls beneath our tyres. This sharper focus has led me to some PB’s that have taken years in the daylight to topple.

I am comfortable in the dark, I spent years walking my labrador as a teenager in the kind of night that only those in the true countryside can enjoy. I walked in the dark for a few reasons, I realised my night vision quickly adapted to the woodland and I could see perfectly. I didn’t interrupt the natural flow of the woodland by disturbing the fauna with artificial light. And finally the cost of batteries would of eaten away the meagre pay packet from my weekend jobs.

That being said, once accustomed to the low light, you do see some strange things in the night.

On clear nights I saw on regular occasion pinpricks of light amongst the stars moving in controlled ways. Satellites move in a constant arc across the heavens, shooting stars burn a line of brilliant, but soon fading light. I also saw dots of light move then stop, then move in a different direction. Once I saw two lights move toward each other then make 90 degree turns to avoid colliding and then glide away from each other.

Lights in the Sky and big cats on the ground

In the dark your eyes and mind can play tricks, your black and white night vision is in the periphery of your field of view, the centre of your vision has more colour receptors and therefore needs more light to see clearly. Easy to think that there is something in the corner of your eye that disappears when you turn to get a better look. The mind interrupts the eye with what the mind wants to see.

I Want to Believe

But sometimes there is no mistaking what you saw.

On a night ride on terrain I ride on a nearly weekly basis I had an encounter with what you could probably call an apex predator. That is, if you are one of those people who know our hills and woods are home to such animals.

Having climbed a farm track I was pushing across a field to access a fire road and some single track on the other side. The L shaped field was usually full of sheep and I thought that it was funny that all the sheep had gathered in the furthest corner from me. Literally as this thought dawned on me I turned the corner in the field, looked up and was met by two pairs of feline eyes glowing back at me from the light of my head torch.

One pair was significantly higher off the ground than the other, we paused. As I took a step tentatively forward the eyes turned and bounded high over Broom and Gorse bushes, over the boundary fence and sat on the fire road behind the field. Turning, they stopped and watched me. Not processing what sort of animal I could have disturbed I kept light in their direction and watched the eyes and carried on walking forwards. The hairs on the back of my neck were fully on end when I found the object of their interest.

A full grown ewe lay dead on the ground, drag marks showed where it had been pulled from concealment from under the Gorse and Broom. The front quarters were untouched, no puncture marks or goring around the neck. The hind haunches where a different matter, a scalpel like precision had removed the skin, organs and a lot of the muscle tissue leaving the open cavity of this poor animal. Now realising that most likely the taller eyes had taken down the sheep, cleaned part of the kill and hidden it, before returning with the shorter eyes that were presumably her young. The adrenaline started to seep into my system.

The eyes  stood still, both pairs unmoving, watching me with their kill.

I decided, rightly or wrongly that turning my back on an ambush predator was a mistake, so for some unknown reason, I carried on walking towards them. I didn’t get far before they turned and slunk into the dense under story, I still kept walking towards them, struggled through the Broom and climbed the fence.

The adrenaline was really starting to hit now and I finally decided that a mother cat with young was not something I wanted to disturb. Flight had finally won out over fight, I have never pedalled so hard, for so long in my life. it was only a few kilometers to a road but but it felt like a full length time trial.

Maybe they were pine martins, possibly wild or feral cats. I don’t know, all I know is the size of the gorse and the steep of verge they jump in two bounds whilst clearing the fence means that it was unlikely to be either of those. Things are different in the dark but one thing is certain, something took down that ewe.

This post has been shamelessly inspired by a Mike Levy article on Pink Bike.


Scroll down for a photo of the ewe, don’t scroll down if you don’t want to see a poor dead animal.

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