Planning and preparing for race season is part of a cyclist’s yearly ritual. Looking forward to focused training and racing is what keeps most coming back season after season. However, a common misconception is that all of an athlete’s time needs to be devoted to the bike when race preparation begins. Not true. Having the right pre season mindset can be a game changer for performance and satisfaction.
Set Goals – Everyone has different goals. For some, races are just about getting harder efforts in and saddle time. For others, it’s making the podium. For most cyclist, it’s about achieving personal bests. The most important aspect of having a goals it that it can help reduce pre race anxiety and also help you better evaluate your performance post race. Identify what you want to accomplish with early season races – whether it be a targeted heart rate or power zone, a solid nutrition plan, or attacking certain areas on the race course.
Pre Race Bike Preparations – While you may have been training on your road bike or mountain bike, race conditions may require more from your bike. Before you head for the start line, you should conduct a bike maintenance and safety check. Know which bikes, bike parts, cycling accessories, and cycling apparel are appropriate for the trail or road route you will be racing. Remember, because it’s early season, the weather fluctuates, so consider variable weather conditions and the bike tools and bike parts you may require under different conditions. Preparation eliminates the frustration of experiencing a mechanical; so while bike maintenance may not always be fun, it’s worthwhile.
Establish Race Day Rituals – Most likely it’s been a while since your last race; so remembering what your routines and rituals that worked last season may be absent for this seasons first races. Designing and refining a pre-event routine is an important part of building a successful race season. Does having a checklist of race day activities help structure your preparation to the start line? Include items such as nutrition, hydration, clothes, gear, extra bike parts and basic bike tools. Consider having a timer count down so you don’t loose track of time. This way, you won’t forget anything as you prepare for your start. Use each early season race to build on race day rituals that have helped you in the past and also enhance your support for your next race.
Start Line Mental State – Your thoughts, emotions, and pre race behaviors are components of your mental state. With that in mind, take inventory of your mental state and align them with your goals. It’s easy to compare your training and fitness to others. This is where having your race plan and goals specific to this event comes in handy.
Mid Race Mental Toughness – Generally at some point during the race, something is going to go wrong – or at least, not quite as ideal as expected. Either you suffer from a mechanical issue or your race day nutrition is off or you just feel the suffering from a hard effort. This is the time to dig deep and exercise mental toughness. As described in the post, Developing Mental Toughness: Are you Tough Enough?, “mental toughness is your ability to persevere in the face of challenges, to keep going even when things get hard, and to have an unrelenting commitment to your goals. When you develop your mental toughness, obstacles are only temporary and one bad performance doesn’t shake your belief in your ability.” Your “stick to it” attitude during early season races prepares you for the bigger challenges you will face later in the race year.
Post Race Evaluation – Evaluate your results based on your goals. What worked? What didn’t? What can you do next race to get a better result? Be objective and explore how your mental and physical training helped prepare you for this event.
A winning mindset isn’t a set it and forget it type of thing. Consistency and flexibility are crucial elements in the ongoing approach to your races as the season unfolds. Be consistent in your preparations yet build upon what you have learned to fire up the engine and get out there and race better with each race!