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What Does Competitive Racing Preparation Look Like?

Let's Break It Down

While I don't encourage leaving it until 3-days out from a race to begin your preparation, let’s assume this is something you have been building into your training plans for a while. Anyway, let's fast forward through all the gruelling work and see what it's like a few days out.

T- 3 Days

My race day checklist (I said checklist, not preparation!) starts 3 days before any race. As a part-time bike mechanic, I always do my own maintenance. 3-days before any race, I’ll always do a quick check over my bike to make sure all is good. As I’m always on the same bike, I tend to notice anything wrong with it quite quickly. A quick service will usually do the job and bring to light any issues that may potentially arise. Aside from the bike, the next important aspect is your diet. From 3 days out from any race I’ll make sure my food intake is healthy and will stay away from anything that may make me feel sluggish. I’ll try to keep my diet as carb-based as possible, high fibre and LOTS of vegetables. 

T- 2 Days

From 2 days out I’ll be sure to really up my water consumption. A real problem for me over the years has been my poor hydration during races. To counteract this for the 2 days before any race I’ll aim to drink at least 3 litres of water evenly throughout both days. Within those 3 litres, I’ll have at least one electrolyte and magnesium table diluted in some water. This is to stop me from cramping up during the race, this is something that has taken me a long time to master. Just because this works for me doesn’t mean it’ll work for everyone. Everyone’s body reacts differently. Planning my nutrition for race day usually takes a step up 2-days before. I always stick to foods I know will work for me. For example, my body reacts well to sweet potato and brown rice but I’ve noticed I don't get the same energy kick from white rice or pasta so this is when I double down on this area. If the race is on a weekend, I will usually plan my race-day supplements and call into my local cycle store to pick these up. This usually takes the form of 2 caffeine gels, 1 packet of energy jellies, an energy bar and I usually drink a 500ml bottle per hour in a race. In this bottle, I would have one electrolyte tablet. All of this is completely scalable depending on the distance of the race. 

T- 24 hours

This is when I get my main race food into me, the day before the race. I’ll aim to have something along the lines of Weetabix for breakfast, spinach, peppers, chicken and brown rice for lunch then sweet potatoes & fish and some homegrown garden vegetables (shout-out to the aul lad and his vegetable patch) for dinner. In the evening I get my bag ready for race day. One thing I like to do is pin my numbers onto my race jersey. I find even a small act like this, gets my head in the zone for the race. I made a checklist below of everything that I pack for the race-day. I also live by the moto it’s better to be looking at it than for it :

  • 2 X Cycling Shorts - Ya never know what might happen(Caffeine+Nerves)
  • Base Layer 
  • Jacket to wear for warm-up
  • Rain cape
  • Helmet
  • Shoes
  • Towel
  • Cycling Ireland License
  • Race food & drinks
  • Bottles
  • Deep Heat
  • Mitts
  • Glasses
  • Track pump
  • Cycling socks
  • Garmin & heart rate strap
  • Towel
  • Change of clothes

The day before any race I always try to stay off my feet as much as possible, as the saying goes, Don't stand when you can sit; don't sit when you can lie down. And I don’t have to be told twice to do that!

T- 3 hours

I aim to have my main pre-race meal 3 hours before the start of the race, this valuable lesson was taught to me by the late great Peter Kay who taught me a lot of what I know today. This meal usually consists of 4 Weetabix, 2 boiled eggs and some brown bread. While it's wise not to overload on your breakfast, it's important to have a meal to avoid any feeling of hunger. Most of your energy stores will have been built up in the days prior to the race should you have kept your diet right. In terms of water, it's good to just sip on a bottle. Again, your hydration levels should be built up in the days prior to the race so there is no need to guzzle it down! I aim to get to the race ideally 1 hour and 15 minutes before the start. I hate rushing around before a race and the extra time gives me time to get my head focused on the race. I get my gear on, rub some deep heat into my legs, then do a light warmup of 8-12km just to get the legs moving. During this, I usually eat an energy bar. After all this, it’s time to put all the training and hard work to use and leave it all on the road and keep it between the ditches.

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