Tips for Race Day
- Get your &*#! together the day before.
- Put your regular bike pump in your car.
- Pack your helmet — and your bike.
- Smile and thank all of the volunteers!
- Zip-tie yourself into your kit.
- Forget your bibs.
- Try out a new saddle on race day.
- Don’t do #2 and #3 together
In case you are wondering, I’ve done all four on the “Don’t” list.
At the 2021 Borealis Fat Bike World Championships I wore a sparkly cowgirl vest over my kit and zip-tied the front together to keep it from flapping in the wind. Halfway through the race I was hot and had no way to shed layers. But I looked cool.
At the Rattlesnake Rally Gravel Grinder in Wyoming I forgot my bibs so I borrowed Studd’s. He wears a men’s large and I wear a women’s medium. I also put a new saddle on my bike the day before. I was begging for a sufferfest, which is what I got. It was raining, muddy and cold. But, the volunteers were amaaaazing, they were handing out bouquets of bacon to racers.
I’m no expert and I race simply for the camaraderie and fun of it so take my advice with a grain of salt. Also, I don’t dive into fueling or race strategy here. (My strategy is to keep turning the cranks and not fall too much.)
For perspective, the races that I’ve done so far have ranged from 14 miles to 25 miles in the snow and 30 to 70 on dirt single track. Most of these tips pertain to snow/cold weather racing but keep in mind that I’m not an endurance winter athlete by any means.
Here’s my system:
Get your stuff together the DAY before, not the night before. You want to relax the night before.
Safeway grocery bag:
Put exactly what you plan to wear in a Safeway grocery bag (or any hard-bottomed reusable grocery bag). The grocery bag with an open top allows you to quickly recheck that you have everything.
Make sure that you’ve tested your kit in similar weather conditions and stick to it. You don’t want to be digging through your dirty laundry for your favorite Sid and Nancy t-shirt the morning of the race.
Put extra hats, gloves, buffs, chamois, etc. in a duffel bag. It’s good to have extras in case something blows out of your car while getting ding dongs at the gas station. Throw in safety pins and zip ties for good measure.
Plan to wear your big puffy over your kit while checking in and waiting for the race start.
Depending on the length of the race, weather, and race location you will likely want to stash your puffy in your frame bag or carry some sort of outer layer.
I try to do my bike maintenance the weekend before the race so I can take care of any last minute changes during the week. This last race I decided to put a tube back in my front tire because I didn’t trust the seal to hold on my clown shoe rims. I also changed out what gear I wanted to run on my single speed Surly Moonlander.
Clean and lube your drive train. If you run tubeless make sure that your valve stems aren’t clogged and consider adding fresh sealant in your tires. Also consider getting new valve stems for good measure.
Plan your fueling strategy and test it the weekend before. Decide what bike bag(s) you want on your bike for your snacks and extra layers.
Pre-ride the course:
If you are nervous or have never done a race before, it might be helpful to pre-ride the course if you can, or ride a portion of it.
FUELING AND POOPING
Eat what you usually do for breakfast. Now is not the time for the huevos rancheros!
Don’t worry if you get the pre-race poops, it happens to everyone. Your nerves will settle after a few minutes into the race.
WARM UP and PSI
Riding for 10-20 minutes before the race will warm up your muscles and also help you determine your starting psi for the race. Don’t be afraid to ask more experienced athletes and squeeze their tires. Promise, they won’t think you are being fresh.
You got to the starting line, nice work! You are a winner over those suckers at home warming their backsides on the couch!
Start where you feel most comfortable. If its a mass start you might feel more comfortable near the back of the pack. I ‘race’ at a leisurely pace on my single speed so this is where I roll.
Say “howdy” and introduce yourself to the racers around you while you wait for the start. These might be your compadres on the trail. This is what I love about these races — it’s like meeting up with friends that you didn’t know you had.
Cheer others on.
Be polite when passing and give a friendly holler “on your left.” Be mindful of others coming up fast from behind and let them pass.
If you find yourself getting frustrated, take a minute to stop and look around. Enjoy the beauty and remind yourself why you are out there in the first place.
Make the most of your falls. Take a moment to enjoy the deep blue of the winter sky and catch your breath. Make a snow angel.
Remember that you can do more than you think you can!
Thank the volunteers.
And most of all, remember what a bad-ass you are for being out there and have fun!!!!