It’s 24 hours before an important race, the hay is in the barn, but there are still some details that can make or break your race.
- Don’t sabotage your race with that final workout or pre-ride. With XTERRA it is important to be familiar with the race course but not at the expense of your race performance. Typically we don’t recommend riding much more than an hour, so consider riding just a portion of the course at easy to moderate intensities. If your race week is on track and you have arrived tapered, you may benefit from some potentiation reps the day before the race, which consist of just a few short efforts at race intensity (but hold back, not all out!). Beware not to try to ride with your strong buddy the day before. Let him go and do your thing!
- Although there will be a lot of variation here, there are some things to keep in mind the day before the race. In a hot/humid environment, hydration is important and should have started in the days before. However, we are not just talking about water, make sure that you drink consistently throughout the day and include some electrolytes in your drink and/or in your food. Stick with familiar foods and search for a variety of carbohydrate sources with each meal to top off your muscle and liver glycogen. This will be your primary fuel source during the race and compared to a low carb diet, someone in a carbo-loaded state can store almost twice as much carbohydrate which can double your time to exhaustion at race intensity.
- Bike set up. The day before your race is not the time to take your bike in for a full tune up, but you should go through and double check that all nuts and bolts are tight. Because XTERRA athletes are always out pre-riding the course, there often is last minute maintenance that needs to be done. Learn to do some basic maintenance yourself, and always figure out where the closest bike shop is so that you can make a last second visit if needed. Be patient and bring them a coffee the next time you stop in. They will remember you!
- Mental imagery. Setting aside time to visualize what you plan to do is often an overlooked aspect of racing. Go through the entire race, including transitions. Visualize how you want your race to go, and be specific. Throw a couple scenarios in there that could occur. How will you handle them? I like to use association as a mental strategy rather than disassociation. This means that I visualize the feelings and sensations that I will feel during the race including the discomfort. The focus is on your own physical state so that you are not surprised when you get into the race and it feels hard.
- Race plan. We often hear athletes say that they don’t like to go into a race with a plan because every race is different and can be hard to predict. It can be hard to establish clear goals since XTERRA racing depends a lot on other people and times are less relevant, but you can still put together some goals for pacing and nutrition. Plan your effort and plan your nutrition either based on time or distance.
- Race morning. Again, stick with familiar pre-race foods that you know you can digest. For a 9:00 start try to consume your pre-race “meal” around 6:00-6:30am. Avoid high fat or high protein foods, but it is ok to include some to help lower the glycemic index of your meal and give it some staying power. The goal is just to top off your glycogen stores. The same goes for fluids---you don’t need to guzzle down large amounts of water, but fill up a bottle when you wake up and sip on it up until the race. Finally, a strategy that can work well for races lasting over 90 minutes is to take a carbohydrate gel 15 minutes before the start. The theory is that you won’t have time for the insulin response and the calories will be used as they are assimilated so you are not pulling from your glycogen stores.
- Transition bag checklist. Use a checklist! Athletes often run around the night before a race and race morning with no focus. They start setting up their transition and then get distracted and start doing something else. Use your checklist to ensure you have everything and try to pack it in the same place each time. This repetition will make race morning much less stressful and your significant other will also appreciate it.
|Goggles, spare goggles|
|Nutrition (energy drink, gels, recovery drink)|
|Duct tape/ electrical tape|
|Timing chip, race numbers|
Josiah Middaugh is the reigning XTERRA World Champion. He has a master’s degree in kinesiology and has been a certified personal trainer for 15 years (NSCA-CSCS). His brother Yaro also has a master’s degree and has been an active USAT certified coach for a decade. Learn more about the two and their coaching programs at www.middaughcoaching.com.