Your Pre-Race Checklist

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With cycling events, like other endurance races, it’s important to have a pre-race checklist to get the most of your training and prepare your body for peak performance. At this point, the bike will be properly fitted and is mechanically sound. You’ve selected clothing based on race-day temperatures and possible changes. You’ve arrived at the venue in plenty of time to perform your pre-race ritual. Showing up with little time to spare will add stress, possibly causing you to skip or forget important pre-race items, and derail your performance.

Here are three key components of your pre-race checklist:

Practice Movement Preparation.

Cyclists tend to do a great job preparing their equipment and warming up with a pre-race ride, either on the course or on a trainer. But they don’t always get their bodies ready for the upcoming movement.

That’s a mistake, says Darcy Norman, a performance specialist for Athletes’ Performance, since your body is not in optimal position after driving a car to the event. Plus, Movement Prep boosts heart rate, blood flow to the muscles, and core temperature. It also improves the function of the nervous system and gives you a significant improvement in mobility, flexibility, and stability, on top of an increase of speed and power output.

“You’re going to be driving all of your power in the push,” Norman says. “As we fatigue, we’re going to get more flexed over the bars. So it’s important to work on opening up the chest, which will improve lung capacity and take stress off the neck. The cervical spine doesn’t have to work as hard.”

A pre-race Movement Prep routine should include the Glute Bridge, a 90-90 stretch, and the World’s Greatest Stretch. Physioball Ys and Ts, with or without a ball, also will open up your rib cage.

Spend some time on the bike.

It’s important to spend some time on the bike, whether on the actual course or on a trainer. This is simply to get the legs moving and raise your core temperature. You’ll also get a feel for the course and be able to spot any last-minute mechanical issues that need to be addressed.

This part of the pre-race checklist often goes overlooked among triathletes, who during the pre-race period have a lengthy to-do list and tend to focus on their first order of business: the swim. Since cycling is not allowed in transition areas, make it a point to go on a short ride before reporting to transition. Bring lights for your bike since it likely will be dark.

If you’re racing only the cycling leg of a triathlon as part of a relay team, this warm-up is especially important. Unlike someone doing the full race who is warmed up from the swim, you’ve had to stand around for a while. In addition to warming up on the bike before the race, make it a point to do some additional Movement Prep while waiting for your relay partner to arrive from the water.

Eat a pre-race meal and hydrate.

Nutrition and hydration play a crucial role during cycling events and pre-race is when you top off your tank. During long events, or when you haven’t eaten in some time, blood glucose levels fall, zapping your energy, concentration and mood. Low blood sugar during a long ride can hinder performance dramatically. Think of your pre-race nutrition in terms of a pre-race meal and what you consume shortly before the race.

The pre-event meal serves two purposes: It prevents you from feeling hungry and provides adequate glucose to your muscles, blood, and liver. The pre-event meal, consumed 2 to 4 hours prior to the race, should be high in carbs (1 to 2 g of carbs per pound of body weight), though not exclusively carbs.

Carbs digest and absorb quickly into the bloodstream, enabling you to work without the proverbial brick of food sitting in the stomach. An empty stomach is less prone to indigestion and nausea.

Think in terms of grains (rice, breads, bagels, pasta and cereal), fruits (apples, oranges, and bananas), and animal sources (low-fat milk, low-fat yogurt, turkey, chicken breast, lean red meat, or low-fat cheese). Beware of foods that are high in fat and fiber in these pre-event meals. Foods high in fiber can cause unexpected pit stops and high-fat foods can cause nausea or vomiting during events.

Top off your gas tank roughly an hour before the race, which according to several studies can boost performance by more than 10 percent. Consume between 15 and 75 grams of carbs in the hour before an event. Examples include a gel or GU (25 to 28 g), a small banana (21 g), or an 8-ounce sports drink (15 g).

Be sure to practice with snacks during training sessions to determine your tolerance for different foods. Never try an unfamiliar product before or during competition.

With hydration, make sure you have enough fluid in your bottle(s) before the race. For events lasting more than 60 minutes, drink 17 to 20 ounces of water 2 hours before the race. Consume 7 to 10 ounces of a sports drink 10 to 20 minutes before the race.

It’s crucial to stay hydrated and fueled during endurance events, which are brutal wars of attrition. By maintaining fuel stores during competition you can perform at a higher level throughout the race and maintain energy reserves for a strong finish. Performing a simple pre-race checklist is a simple way to make sure that happens.

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