New to racing? Been racing forever, but looking for an edge? Follow along for some tips and tricks...
1. Snacks & Electrolytes - You can have all the skills to pay the bills, but if you miss on race day nutrition, you might not even make it to the next stage!
I generally look to replace half my calories expended every hour while racing and bring food accordingly. I prefer to do so via Whole Foods whenever possible, with a heavy lean on the fast and light program - I usually err on the side of baby food (sugar!), banana, and nut bars. I always have a bottle of electrolyte on me as well to offset sweat loss. My favorite is 1st Phorm citrus hydration sticks - they even come in little packets! The way to avoid the "bonk" is to stay ahead of it nutritionally - eat every hour whether you are hungry or not. Sip your electrolytes whether you are thirsty or not. Depending on daytime temperature also take a salt tab.
2. Bike Maintenance - Ideally you're able to get your bike some love before race day - new cable for your derailleur, brake bleed, new brake pads, the works. If you have a wireless derailleur, make sure to put on new batteries race day morning, and bring a spare, just in case. Put on a new set of tires for race day - mount them the day before, pump them up about 10-15 psi higher than you typically run and leave them overnight to help stretch the casing a bit and and ensure a proper bead. Why put all the time, energy and money into training to race with clapped out tires. New tires = better traction! Pay attention to tread compound as well as tread pattern relative to rolling resistance as well as punctures. Lots of sharp rocks? Consider a tire with a heavier casing and beefier tread pattern...
3. Tools - Bring all the tools you need, however, resist the temptation to bring the whole toolbox. Focus on the basics - multitool, tube, CO2, plug tool, master link & derailleur hanger. Take into consideration the kind of terrain and tracks you are racing - are there extra technical tracks with sharp rocks? If yes, be sure to bring an extra plug or two. These are small parts/tools that pack small and can save your race.
Where you can, put tools on your bike - pack a tube, plug tool, multitool & CO2 on your frame. Fold zip ties in half and put them in your bottom bracket/cranks from the non-drive side.
4. Plan ahead! Know what your day looks like - total miles and elevation profile. Know where your support/aide stations are for water refills. Make a nutrition plan - when and where are you going to snack. Look at the weather - is it going to rain? Is it 90 degrees? Do I need to bring a jacket or extra electrolytes? Know your stages as intimately as you can, both via practice for line choice, as well as to reduce the likelihood of any surprises, including going the wrong way on a transfer. The more variables you can control the better!
Most importantly, develop a pre-race routine - this will help you maintain focus and be more relaxed prior to the race. With the right routine, you'll start the day with far less stress as you have provided yourself time and space to ensure you have all the necessary equipment, nutrition bits and more. None of this last minute stuff....
5. Practice, but don't over practice - Practice obviously gives you the opportunity to ride race stages, and session various place on track, however, be careful not to over practice and overdo it for race day. Give yourself time to recover, get your bike setup for the next day, eat a proper dinner and plenty of sleep for race day.
Pro Tip: If you didn't hit a line in practice, don't try a new line on race day, especially one you're nervous about.
6. Come racing day, ride your race, your pace, not theirs - While the race atmosphere is infectious, ride your own race. If you prefer to stop and linger a bit between stages, do so. If you prefer to keep moving, keep moving. Personally, I like to keep moving - my muscles stay warm, my focus stays clear and I'm less distracted by what other people are doing.
Got some tips of your own? Share them below!
Til' Next Time,
You never know until you try! That's what they say at least.
Photo: Heather Carter Photography
It'd been over three years since I've been between the tape (thanks COVID) and I wasn't sure what to expect - would I have race day jitters? Would I be able to handle my nutrition properly? Can I still start well? What about my pre- race ritual?
While I had considered myself more or less "retired" from racing after three years off, I tossed my name in the hat, got on the waitlist for the first round of Cascadia Dirt Cup 2023 (CDC Hood River Enduro) and said to myself if I get in I will race. Well, I got in!
If you're not familiar with enduro racing, here's the low down - generally speaking there are 3-6 timed race "stages" each day - these stages can be anywhere from 1 minutes to 25 minutes long, pinned, descending as fast as you can. Events may be 1 day or two day and at times more (5!). When you finish one "stage" you "transfer" to the next. Depending on the series, you may have a start time at the next stage, meaning you have to hustle even the untimed section. Other events you can take your time as you start the next stage when you get there. Most enduros total 20-40 miles/day with between 2000 and 6000ft of climbing in total for the day. It's a unique format as you have to have the power to sprint and skill to descend, but also have the endurance to make it through the entire day. Imagine yourself racing a 25 minutes stage after you've raced 4 stages already, climbed 5000ft and ridden 30 miles. You're beat, but it's time to race. It's so very fun and challenging at the same time.
Race day eventually came, and it's like I'd never left. There were no race day jitters - just focused, almost moving slower through my old routines. The day went as planned, albeit my starts could use a little bit of work - I managed the win by 40 seconds, and was proud to stand on the top of the podium amidst some folks I used to race against three years ago.
Note to self: Anything is possible if you want it bad enough, just do the work, and never be afraid to try!
But, where do I start?
They say preparation is the key to success - one of my most important pre-race habits is prehydration! Starting the day before, I make sure to pre-hydrate with plenty of water. I usually aim for my body weight + 20oz daily, so will typically aim for an additional 20-40oz prior to race day. I then take a preworkout the morning of about a half hour before the race - my favorite is 1st Phorm Endura-formance - a stimulant free pre-workout containing creatine and beta alanine, supporting optimal ATP energy regeneration, while fighting off muscle fatigue via reduction in lactic acid. You can expect improved muscular endurance and overall anaerobic power. I've been using this formulation during training rides over the winter and can tell a pretty big difference in how I feel on the bike, as well as overall strength - I am generally able to ride harder and longer than when I do not take it before rides. If you haven't tried it, you should. It's all natural, comes in a whole bunch of different flavors and tastes DELICIOUS! Check it out!
Stay tuned for more race day tips & tricks!