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She's the consummate professional and she embodies the Coeur values of being supportive and encouraging. Today, Coeur Pro Sarah Jarvis shares her thoughts on race preparation.
Race Preparation: What to Worry about and When
by Sarah Jarvis
Having competed over every distance in this sport in the last 20 years, I’ve had the chance to see and hang out with quite a few friends in the days leading up to and right before a race. Some are calm and collected, some seem to be at the brink of having a nervous breakdown, and most fall somewhere in between. While it’s part of the game to have the proverbial butterflies in your stomach on race morning, you really shouldn’t have to worry about much at this point. I have come up with a little timeline of when you should worry about what in the weeks and months leading up to the event so that you can enjoy race day to the fullest. After all, the actual race should be the cherry on top of your training and preparation!
3-6 months before the race
It’s best to sign up for an event a few months in advance. Races sell out and registration fees increase. This will give you a chance to train effectively, which should be your main concern right now. Start putting in the time and effort now so that by the time you toe that starting line you know that the work has been done and you have no regrets.
1 month before the race
You should be in the thick of training right now while being careful not to over-train. Hopefully by now you will have access to course maps and elevation profiles. This will help you fine-tune your workouts. Now is a good time to think about nutrition during the race. How are you going to fuel your body during the race? Figure out what and how much works for you by trying out different things during training. You may also want to think about what outfit you will be wearing on race day. That way you have plenty of time to figure out what works for you and what doesn’t. Because, believe me, the last thing you want to be worried about during the race is your clothes.
1-2 weeks before the race
The bulk of your training has been completed and you should be able to enjoy tapering, knowing that you are well prepared. Your reduced training volume should give you time to give your bike a tune-up, master changing a flat tire, practice fast transitions, and focus on the mental side of racing which plays a significant role in your performance and is often neglected. This article by the Chrissie Wellington, the queen of mental toughness, is a good start: "Chrissie Wellington's Mind Over Body Battle"
Have a look at the weather forecast for race day. Don’t get worried if you see something you might not like. Just prepare for all of the possible conditions. Worrying isn’t going to change anything, so you might as well make peace with it now. If you feel the need to find out who your competition will be, then I suggest you have a look at the start list now and then get back to focusing on your own race. Come up with your very own race plan. Most of us just want to make it to the finish line as fast as possible which is best achieved by staying within ourselves rather than worrying about what others are doing.
Day before the race
You made it! Race day is almost here and there are only a few things left to worry about. You may want to check out the race course if you aren’t already familiar with it. You could drive the bike course or bike the run course. Sometimes it helps to know what to expect, sometimes it adds to the nervousness, so choose wisely. One thing you do want to be very familiar with is the transition area. Make sure you know which way to enter and exit and how to get to your spot. Now is the time to get all your gear and nutrition ready to go. This is somewhat stressful but should be manageable considering that you have had months to figure out what you need, what works and what doesn’t.
This is NOT the time to worry about racing weight, weather conditions, or training. Trust your training. Believe in yourself. Even if preparations weren’t flawless, worrying at this point doesn’t do any good. It will just keep you up at night and rob you of precious hours of sleep, so try to reason with yourself and think positive.
Finally! Try to embrace the nerves and the excitement because this is what makes racing so special and what helps you to get the best out of yourself today. Don’t worry! Let go. You want to save every ounce of energy to propel you to the finish. Just follow the plan you laid out weeks ago to the best of your abilities. If things don’t go as planned, keep calm and carry on. It’s quite simple. But definitely not easy.
Now go and have fun! Enjoy the party!