Are you race ready?
New shoes, new race wheels, new wetsuit, new outfit.
Athletes are notorious for race week shopping, whether it is online, at local small business stores or at the race expo. I feel there is a nice psychological boost to having new things, so long as they are effective and practical for the race for motivation increases when you have a drive to use something new.
But having new items does not out-weigh the 3 most important tips for being race day ready.
To briefly break down my 3 most important tips for being race day ready, let's start with skills.
Running requires you to move one leg in front of each other, quickly. If you don't want to run, you can walk. Although running requires good form, most people can run without having the proper skills to run. When it comes to swimming and cycling, skills are very important. From skills to keep your body safe in the water and on the road to skills to efficiently use your body on the race day course/terrain. I find that many athletes do the work by training hard and putting in the work but the lack of skills in training is overpowered by zone-training, high heart rates and social workouts. Be sure you put just as much time in your racing skills as you do in training your heart, muscles and lungs.
I love training knowing that I am working toward executing my current level of fitness on race day. Although it is completely normal and fine to have race week/day nerves and to fear the upcoming distance or course, you should never let your fears get the best of you. On the flip side, remind yourself the work that you put in to prepare for the race. Many times during a race (and before) you will have doubts, moments of "is this worth is" and even thoughts of "I can't wait til this is over." More often than not, those thoughts are temporary. Keep in mind that every negative thought comes before or after a positive thought. You just have to keep moving forward to catch those positive thoughts and hang on to them. When you finish a race, every negative thought will disappear and suddenly everything will be worth it, you won't believe it is over and you will be so proud that you did it. Don't let negative thoughts or energy fill your head when you can fill your mind with confidence and beliefs that you can race smart no matter what the day has in store for you.
There are many controllables when it comes to racing and lots of uncontrollables. You can't control your competition, you can't control the weather and you can't change the course. But you can control your race by planing your nutrition, your clothing, your pacing plan and your attitude. Consider these four very important components of putting together an effective, smart race day plan for racing is not about showing up to race day and hoping for a great race but instead, considering how you can be in control of your race day execution and knowing how to deal with situations as they come about (which they will).
A few other tips for racing:
-I am not a fan of racing "stimulants" - avoid the chemical boosters (ex. drinks, pills) for energy and do a race warm-up to get the blood flowing and the body ready for the upcoming effort.
-Do not sabotage your race day by worrying about your weight. There is no reason to restrict, control or stress about food, especially if it real food that has fueled your training or can help you properly taper for your race.
-If you are investing in new race day equipment such as cycling wheels, be sure to practice on them prior to the race (at least 2-3 weeks prior). Racing wheels can be difficult to get use to for many athletes and more often than not, they will make you look fast but if you don't have the right skills, they won't work as intended.
-Do not deviate from what has worked in the place. Athletes often second guess themselves on the days before a race, often trying new things, wondering how to fuel for the race, stressing about what others will think of their race day performance. Remember that you are racing with your current level of fitness so your body will perform how you trained it to perform.
-Race your own race. You will find a way to get to the finish line no matter what but to waste your entire race day pacing plan in the first few miles of a race will make for a very long race. There are no certainties with racing but to only trust yourself and staying within your comfort zone of your skills, nutrition strategy and pacing plan.
-Help out others. There is a special power in cheering on others, especially if you need a boost as well. Thank the volunteers, high-five the spectators and smile at the other athletes. Your worst day may be someone else's best day so if you have it in you or not, remember that everyone has their own reason for racing.
-Don't get stuck on time, paces and rankings. The best race day stories are not told by a piece of paper or online but instead, by YOU the athlete. Consider writing a post race blog report or writing about your day to share with others. Do not let your race day goals keep you from inspiring others.
-Have fun! If you don't love what you are doing, why do it? Unless you are a professional, you should be enjoying the journey of challenging yourself, overcoming obstacles and becoming a stronger, smarter and healthier individual. Whatever your sport may be, it is your lifestyle, not your life. Never stop being grateful for what your body allows you to do and thank your body many times during the race.
-Be prepared for race day. Review the course (or try it out), check the weather, consider outside variables that may affect you. Do not worry about doing something that "isn't cool", being different or unique. Be prepared for your day and don't worry about what others think of you as you are racing your own race and only you, your body and your mind can get you to the finish line.