“There’s no secret to better performance, just a better way”
It’s the week before the big race and you have a million things going through your mind. You’re assessing the training you’ve done up to this point and questioning whether or not one more day of intensity will help. You’re going over and over in your mind, race day nutrition, feed zone logistics, bike functionality, tire choice etc. You’re a mess. Guess what? You’re not alone. Chances are, nearly everyone else participating in the event has just as many, if not more thoughts just like this, running through their head.
Let’s take a step back. A big one. Back to when you began training for this specific event. First off, let’s hope you made some goals or expectations to help keep you motivated along the way. Let’s face it… As much as I love competing, often times the training can get overwhelming and a bit stressful. That’s why setting a simple goal or even small milestones along the way, can be a huge help to keep you from feeling tired and burnt out the morning of the event. Ideally, you want to go into the event feeling fresh and excited.
Along the way, as you laid out some sort of formal or even informal training plan, or simply tried to ride with a bit more consistency, you probably tried various nutritional products. If not, maybe it’s because you already have your go-to drink mix or energy bar dialed in. If so, great! That’s one less thing you should be stressing about. If by chance you’re still thinking about what to use and researching the internet for the end all be all nectar of the gods; let me let you in on a little secret. There is no such thing as magic water or some snack that elite cyclists ride with that’s going to make you win. “There’s no secret to better performance, just a better way” I love this statement, because it’s as true as it gets. It can be applied to everything we do as athletes. From training, to resting; nutrition to the way we maintain our equipment.
So back to our road of preparation. Hopefully, somewhere along the way, you found a drink mix, an energy gel, blocks or bar that really work for you. I feel like I’ve tried everything under the sun and for the most part, have my nutrition pretty figured out. But, I’ve also fallen into the pre-race stress mess, where a few days before a particular event, I’m questioning my options, or thinking about trying something new. So here’s my advice. Don’t do it. It’s never a good idea to hit the races with something new in the bottle or back pocket. Once in a while, I’ve done that and it’s worked out ok, but if for some reason it goes south due to taste or stomach irritability, you’re going to be in a world of hurt. Stay with food and drink that you’ve used before and are comfortable with. Your initial instinct is usually always the better choice.
The week before the race is always a great time to double check all your equipment. Don’t just wash your bike, lube the chain and call it good. Double check everything. Tires and their ability to hold pressure. If it’s been a few months since you last installed sealant in your tubeless tires, pull them off and get some in there. While there off, check the tires for any damage that could cause you mechanical issues during the event. Check your chain. make sure it’s clean, lubed and in good shape. Quickly check all the major bolts on your bike. Stem, handlebar, seat and water bottle cage bolts. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen bottle cages dangling from frames, or totally ripped off bikes.
Make a list of things that could go wrong and next to it, notes on how you’re going to resolve the issue. Do you have a nice multi tool? An extra chain link or master link? Spare tubes and C02’s. I like to wrap a layer of Gorilla Tape around my seat post, as it can be used to fix a number of things.
Now lets talk about your training. Do you find yourself questioning the amount of time you were able to spend on the bike. Trolling Strava to see what others have been doing and comparing it to your efforts? If so, STOP. Especially the week before. At this point, there’s nothing you can do that will increase your fitness or give you an edge on the competition, other than rest. Yes REST. It’s the most important part of any training plan and possibly the most overlooked. So many of us have beaten ourselves up for one more day of intervals, or one last hard ride, when we could be taking the day off the bike, or simply spinning the legs out, nice and easy. The best way to go into a race is well rested and fresh. When in doubt, sit it out. Especially, the week before. During your training, weeks or months before the event, feel free to push yourself a bit then, as you can find time for proper recovery.
Stick with your original plan. Follow your first instinct when it comes to nutrition and show up motivated and excited. Chance those goals and beat em into the ground because you trusted yourself. JUST BE AWESOME.