I think the biggest difference between my first race results (12th) and my last (5th) was not fitness. It was being far smarter with my energy expenditure.
It's easy to think that I'll remember what worked and what didn't when next year rolls around. But I know myself better than that. So here's the stuff I picked up over the last few weeks/months of training & racing.
- Clean & fix bike the weekend before.
I really noticed that the drive train was happier after I cleaned & lubed the bike. (Not surprising.)
This is also when I'd address any problems that arose during the previous race. (Derailleur adjustments, wheel truing, etc.)
- Monday shake-out ride
This gives me a chance to shake out any fixes I did on the weekend, and confirm that nothing is loose or misaligned after the weekend cleaning & tweaking.
I've found that the legs felt much snappier & performed better when I get a little low-volume intensity the day before. Climbing Coachwhip seemed perfect. (~10 minutes climbing at 165+bpm.)
- Pre-Race Checklist
- number plate
- water bottles (2)
- drink mix
- protein shake in thermos
- floor pump
- chamois butter
- Arrive by 4:45 PM
That's enough time to:
- mount number plate
- get my leg marked
- check the course map
- pre-ride the course
- Things to note on the pre-ride:
- first bottleneck
- first climb
- last top-out
- setup to final corner
- final corner
- Ditch the saddle bag.
My trail repair kit weighs ~570g. That's a nice chunk to leave behind for race day, and the start/finish area is always within walking distance.
- Line up at the front.
First or second row. Behind the known fast riders is fine, as they'll start fast & clean. Not behind unknowns.
- Start fast, start clean.
A 45-minute race is no place to dilly-dally at the starting line. The leaders line up in front & get away quick. If I want to be anywhere near them, I gotta do likewise.
- Grab a wheel on the flats.
The flat section along the lake is ~2:30. Get on someone's wheel & recover or gain speed.
- Brake less, coast more.
I consciously stayed off the brakes as much as possible, which let me carry more speed.
And on every downhill I'd resist the temptation to keep pedaling, and instead I'd get into a low hinge and takea few deep breaths & try to recover a bit.
- Look behind you.
Through the middle of the race, I found it really helpful to be aware of who was following me. (Shocking, I know.) Getting a gap was encouraging, and knowing I had not gapped my competitor(s) was helpful in deciding how to ride the lead-in to the flats.
- From the top of the last rise, push hard to the finish line.
Near the top of the final rise before the finish, get a sense of who's behind me. Push over the top, close the door & keep it closed.
- Protein shake immediately post-race
A shake with ~300cal & 30g of protein immediately after the race noticeably improved recovery.
- Stretch & Sudafed/NyQuil the night after the race.
I found that I had some trouble sleeping after the race. It took me some time to wind down. And once I did, I could really feel the fatigue in my legs. I was consistently too warm to sleep.
This wasn't consistently a problem, but happened a couple of times, and when it did, it killed my recovery.