Monday, February 21, 2011

Race Ready

     There is something cathartic about preparing for a race.  It is the perfect foil to the adrenaline-fueled insanity of bike racing.  Race preparation, from training to nutrition to the pre-race ritual, is constant, predetermined, and ritualistic.  For our new racers, I thought I would document my race-prep leading up to yesterday's ACCC foray.

The Race Bag
     A rider's race bag can prove to be the key to success on race weekend.  You want to be prepared for every contingency.  The last thing you want is to end up scrambling for arm warmers or begging long-fingered gloves from teammates as you're trying to finish your warm-up.  I like having a bag with several compartments so that I can keep things organized.  For this weekend my bag had three sections.
    The large pocket of my bag contained clothing I was planning on racing in: skinsuit, arm warmers, knee warmers, fingerless gloves, helmet and shoes (these are shockingly easy to forget), base layers, socks, and sunglasses.  
   The second pocket included contingency clothes: wind vest, winter jacket, long-fingered gloves, extra base layers, booties, tights, a neck warmer, and an extra kit, just in case.  
   The third pocket on my bag includes little things that I'll most likely end up using during race weekend: a multi-tool, chain lube, a rag for cleaning bike parts, DZNuts, extra tubes, tire levers, and GU.  

This Week is Slightly Special...
     Getting pro.  This winter was, according to my neighbors and other long time New Haveners, the worst in decades.  In the fall I decided that, instead of buying another pair of expensive tights,  I would let nature's base-layer grow back in.  Along with padding my masculinity, a nice layer of leg fur also proved to be excellent winter insulation.  But, alas, race season is here and, for a million reasons I will not delve into, I am a devoted leg-shaver.  This week it was time to get pro.

     Saying Goodbye to an Old Friend.  Thanks to Matt, Mitch, and everyone else at The Devil's Gear, I'll be lining up at Rutgers with an amazing new bike.  This is bitter sweet for me.  I've been riding my Trek 2300 for the past 8 years.  Its been to countless races and survived tens of thousands of miles all around the country.  For its last race, I decided my faithful steed deserved a good cleaning and a fond farewell.

Getting Out The Door
     Waking up at 6am in a hotel room chalk full of cyclists can be disorienting.  I try to pack up before going to bed, so that I can roll out of bed, scrub my teeth, and be ready to rock.  Bag and bike make it out and into the car and we're ready to roll.  This weekend we were spoiled by late start times, allowing time for breakfast at a delightful local pancake house.  Normally, I'd keep a bagel and peanut butter or a jar or oatmeal on hand so that I could get some breakfast into my body during the drive to the race.  A bottle of water or gatorade is good to have around.  Fueling properly is the key to peak performance.  

Setting up Camp and Getting Down to Business
     If you're driving to the race, there is no greater accomplishment than finding a parking spot near the bathroom facilities.  Clutch.  Almost automatically, we pile out of the car and find the reg table.  We sign in, collect our numbers, pay our fees, chat with other racers in line.  Next we set up camp: unpack the tent, set up the tables, mark start times on the white board, set up trainers, lay out bikes and spare wheels, check tire pressures.  45 minutes before race time its time to jump on the trainer.  Spin your legs out, get in a few solid efforts to open up your lungs and accustom your legs to the sensation.  During this time, I like to put on my headphones and put myself in race mode.  Run through the course in your mind, consider tactical options.  With 10 to go, its time to tighten your shoes, put on your helmet and glasses and get to the start.  The race before the race is where technical crits are won.  Be ready for staging, take a practice lap if the officials allow, and take a few deep breaths.  

The Start Line
     There is sometimes an uncomfortable silence on the start line.  Anxiety runs high, as racers prepare for the madness that is about to ensue.  I'm uncomfortable with awkward silence, so I usually use this time to make a lame joke, or heckle other riders.  The official will come to the front and give you race instructions.  These normally include the race distance, field size, and any special instructions (yellow line rules, feed zones, etc.).  They step back and the whistle blows...

Check back later this week for a race report!

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