If you have a race on Saturday, your pre-race preparation starts on Friday as well the week before.
Using a check list lay out your equipment (clothing that you will use before your race, race clothing, after race clothing, goggles, shoes, hat, gloves, pump, glasses, bike,……….) Have a written checklist will help to not leave something at home, which could be disastrous. Also prepare any fluid or energy sources that you will need. The three categories are Before ,During ,and After your race. These items may include (real food, gels, bars, fluid replacement, recovery drinks, and energy drinks.)
Next on your pre-race checklist is mental preparation. Mentally rehearse the events of the day- (warm up and the race). Visualize the course and rehearse different race scenarios. Warming up on the course is very helpful to your mental preparation. You can look at a map and you can draw your own map with important details ( downhills, uphills, mile marks, and any specific landmarks).Using a car or bike you can preview the course before your race. Watching an inspirational movie the night before the race will help you get focused and inspired ( Chariots of Fire, Running Brave, Breaking Away, Jericho Mile, American Flyer ,Four Minutes, Fire on the Track- Steve Prefontaine Story,1989 Tour de France, 16 Days of Glory, Olympic highlights………….).
When a race is later in the day, you have plenty of time for your metabolism to activate. But for an early morning race, your body is coming out of being in a sleep mode. With a 8 or 9 AM race start, it would be advantageous to some light exercise at least 3 hours before race time. This will help jump start your metabolism and ready when the gun goes off. On my college swim team at USC we called it “Dawn Parade”. You also need to eat and have time for digestion of a pre-race meal. It may be cold and dark that early in the morning, but your competitors may be in bed sleeping while you are getting your mind and body ready to race.
How do you tell your body that it is time to race? Low heart rate exercise does increase blood flow, but it doesn’t prepare your heart to climb comfortably to race levels. Openers the day before the race and the day of the race gets your body ready for a hard race effort. An opener is a hard effort that gets your heart rate to race effort levels. For a 5K running race, you could run four Fast 200 meter sprints with 1-2 minutes of recovery. Do these openers after 20 minutes or more of easy jogging. Finish your openers 30-40 minutes before your race. Openers the day before a race need to be 2 minutes at race level heart rates. Be careful not to overdo it and harm your race.
Historically best performances come from a relaxed state of mind. Reading, prayer, meditation, soothing music can all help you to relax and be calm. You can also relax your mind and body in a hot tub, sauna, steam room, a hot shower, or having a massage. You can use these a week before, the day before, and the morning of your event. Be careful not to overdo it.
Having a training log allows you look at past performances and training that will help you to develop goals, and a race strategy. Your race strategy will determine your race pace and how you will react to the changes in the course and competition. Your goal may be to beat your best time from 2 or 3 years ago.
Having an organized pre-race organizational plan will help maximize your performance. Great champions spend a lot of time on their pre-race preparation. When it comes to warming up for an event, most people do not warm up enough. In the Tour de France, riders spend a lot of time warming up for a time trial. Remember to have fun and enjoy the competition.
Author: Gerry Geraghty
Coach Endurance Fellowship