It is Sunday evening and I have not brushed my teeth since Saturday morning. Louise took the toothpaste for her race trip to Belgium. I too, had a race today and couldn’t quite shake that “I haven’t brushed my teeth for a day and a half” feeling.
This was not the only thing that went wrong today when trying to get to the start line of my race. Firstly, we got lost on route and arrived with only 45 mins to race start. When I rode my bike to sign on I noticed a large bulge in the front tyre (signs of tampering with my bike the evening before). I had not pre-attached the numbers to my jersey or timing chip to my bike – more faffing with zip clips and finding a tool to cut them. To top it all off I needed a toilet (the male cyclist practise of doing it up a tree would not get me many fans for my exact needs) just 15 minutes before the start and there wasn’t one in sight. After cycling part way down a dual carriageway and into the dungy basement of a service station I could finally relieve myself, before speeding back to the start line (jumping a junction and almost getting run over in the process) with 2 minutes to spare.
It’s not hard to see where I went wrong today but the key question is “what are the key preparation steps to get ready for a road race and when should we do them?” Here are a few rules that I normally try to stick by and failed miserably with today.
- Register for the race in good time. As soon as you know you are racing, get it done. Putting it off is only another thing to remember and risks disappointment.
- Check out the course as soon as it is available – what is the distance, altitude climbed, any potential pinch points/ danger spots? Given your strengths where might be the best place for you to attack, or like me, hang on for dear life?! Ideally pre-ride of the course some days before. Since this is a luxury for so few people you can also use Google maps street view to check out the main points of interest and Strava for time estimates.
- Sort out transport to and from the race, meeting points, times, who is bringing what (example foot pump, tools). Confirm the address of the HQ and make sure you know the best route to it.
- Your bike. If you have a bike that you only race on you can have it set up days before the event. If like me you race and train on the same machine, get it set up as early as possible the day before. Start with the essentials – brakes, then gearing and wheels/tyres. Never race on worn tyres. Pump your tyres up to race pressure the day before and check for punctures. Avoid any tampering the evening before. As a final touch (and maybe I am being picky) I like to turn up on race day with a clean and polished bike.
- Race food including gels, bars and bananas can all be packed the evening before. If you are travelling a long way you may need pre-prepped food for the journey there or back. As a general rule eat 3 hours before the race even if that means getting up early.
- Pin numbers to jersey and timing chip to bike evening before. It’s lovely and therapeutic.
- I believe in at least 8 hours of sleep before a race and ideally more. Set a few alarms just in case.
- Toilet trips. There are cyclists that go once and those that go twice before a race. Either way, one effort should be done in the house before leaving (a morning coffee helps). Then at the HQ plenty of time should be left to join the orderly queue for #2.
- Arrive at the race at least an hour before the start, ideally 1.5-2hrs. This gives time for sign on, changing and a half an hour warm up. Going into a race with cold legs makes for a nasty start to the race if it is go from the off.
- Smile, relax and enjoy. The most important preparation of all!
Time for me to go and buy some toothpaste.