In my first race, I went out hard, and then went down hard on the first lap. While I’m told that it was spectacular, had I known what I know now, I could have avoided a little stress, and a whole lot of hip bruising.
Whether this is your first race ever, or just your first of the season, here’re a few tips to make the day more fun and less stress.
For minimum stress, race day prep begins with the night before. Lay out and then pack everything you’re going to need – bike, tools, tire pump, shoes, helmet and anything else you may need, depending on the season/weather. I use the same bag all season, and its contents just grow as the year goes on. Having this ready, and maybe even packed in the car the night before means less last-minute stress.
Via trial and error, I’ve found that I need to eat about three hours before my race start to race comfortably. So, yes, that means 5:00 AM for an 8:00 AM start. What you eat is again individual, but I usually go for some oatmeal with a little fruit.
Since you woke up at 4:30 to eat, it shouldn’t be a problem to get to the venue plenty early to pre-ride the course. One of the few advantages to racing in the first or second race of the day is that you have the run of the course to warm-up and pre-ride. Use this time to familiarize yourself. Try and get two laps in, and go back and repeat any sections you’re unsure of. Are there tricky corners? Potential pinch points? Is it quicker to dismount and run through something tricky, or can you find a line to ride it?
Warming up is personal, but at least take a few hard efforts so you know you’re ready to go out on the whistle.
You’ll also need to keep track of time, and be sure to get through the registration line in plenty of time.
Have fun. Everyone is there because they love the sport, and racing is fun. No matter where you are in the race, enjoy what you’re doing and remember it’s ok to smile.
Easier said than done, but smooth is fast. I just told you crashing will happen, but that doesn’t mean it should happen. Crashing is not fast. Be cautious, be smooth, and try not to force anything. loosen your death grip on your handlebars and keep your body relaxed. This is especially important when going over rough terrain. Use your body as a shock absorber and keep your arms and shoulders calm. Your back will thank you and it will be a way smoother ride.
Try and get something into your system immediately after the race. Actual recovery beverages are great, but really the number one goal right now is to get your glycogen levels up. Some people swear by chocolate milk; I usually have a coke. Whatever sounds appealing at the time is the right choice.
Take care of yourself first, and your bike second. Get dry and warm, change clothes, and hang out. If it’s muddy and there’s a bike wash, go ahead and take advantage, but there are much greater sins than taking a muddy bike home and dealing with it on Monday.
Some of us may be competitive, but it’s a small community, and we’re all here to have fun. Encourage new riders and embrace an awesome community!