Are you ready for your first race?
Make sure you have completed all your training workouts. Your training plan should have been constructed to get you ready for race day. The week before your race should be a taper week with workouts of reduced intensity and distance.
If possible, try riding similar courses to what you’ll be riding in your first race. If the course is within a reasonable driving distance (less than an hour away), actually ride it a couple of time as a rehearsal several weeks before race day. If it is not within reasonable driving distance, see if you can find a virtual version of the course online. I was able to do this a couple of years ago. I linked my power trainer to one of the popular race course repository websites and experienced the rolling hills of an upcoming race course as if I was actually there.
DAY BEFORE RACE DAY
Make sure your bike maintenance is complete at this point and don’t leave anything untested. Clean your chain and wipe your bike down with baby wipes. A clean bike is a fast bike.
What are you supposed to eat the day before a race? Nothing different than you’d usually eat the day before a ride. Don’t go and eat a mountain of pasta the night before if you’re not used to it. Your first time trial will only last about 30-60 minutes. You have enough energy in your legs to last that long without needing to eat anything extra.
Make sure you have all your water bottles filled, your energy foods organized, and your equipment laid out or packed. Get absolutely everything ready the night before so that you’re not stressing about it on race day.
What do you eat and drink while racing? For a 20 kilometer time trial, nothing to eat or drink. For a 40 kilometer time trial, nothing to eat and a mouthful of energy drink every 15 minutes or so. Most time trial bikes only have frame space for a single bottle anyway. You are also trying to reduce weight to increase your power-to-weight ratio. A full 12 ounce bottle weighs almost a pound.
Don’t take a day off the bike on the day immediately before a race. Do a tapering workout, as specified in your training plan. It will not be stressful, but contributes to any remaining recovery in your leg muscles.
Drink plenty of water so that you’re fully hydrated, especially if the weather will be hot and humid.
Print out the start times, directions, and maps for the race. Know where the start line is and be there on time, ready to race. If you are late for your start time, it is the official’s discretion whether you will be allowed to race or not.
RACE DAY GEAR CHECKLIST
You probably won’t need all of this gear, but it is prudent to pack it for an unforeseen change in the weather or an equipment malfunction. I once had to fix a flat tire on my race bike less than an hour before my start time. I had the right tools and a tire pump.
The big day has finally arrived. Since this is your first race, make sure you got a full night’s sleep two days before. Print out this page so you can use it as a checklist before you head to the race site. Race promoters will usually post the start times upwards of 24 hours in advance.
Have a light breakfast about 3 hours before the race start, if possible. Eat either some toast, oatmeal, or muesli, along with some fruit or juice. Eat a small amount of protein (maybe an egg, yogurt, or some peanut butter on your toast). The protein will slow down the absorption of sugars into your bloodstream. Nothing too massive or out of your ordinary routine.
Before the leave the house, make sure you have your race license if it is a USA Cycling-permitted event. Double and triple check this! You won’t be able to race without it.
Arrive at the race site two hours before your start time. Use the provided toilet facilities. Then head for registration. Get signed in and pick up your bib number. Pin your bib number on the left or right side of your jersey/skinsuit, as directed.
Roughly an hour before your start time, begin your pre-race warmup. You want to get to the start line with a light sweat started.
Try to drink one 12-16 oz bottle of fluid every hour. This can be water or an energy drink mix.
Expect to be passed during the race. Most promoters arrange each age-group’s starting order alphabetically. There will be faster and slower competitors all around you. Remember, a time trial is a race against the clock. Even if you pass the competitor who started 30 seconds ahead of you, the eventual winner may start many minutes behind you. You’ll never see him/her during the course of your race.
The goal of your first race is to learn and to gain the experience you need to eventually win.
How did your first race go?
Did you meet your expectations? What worked and what didn’t work? Let’s see what we can do to make you a faster and smarter competitor for your next race.