Before a race, how do you prepare mentally?
Or do you?
The first few races I just tried to keep my mind blank so I wouldn't think about anything negative (aka crashing)...now I'm some what over that and I really just veg out until the beginning.
I should gameplan during it; everytime I've gone into a race without any real plan its never worked out well.
I mean more about psyching yourself up for the race, not really planning. Both are important though!
I always try to visualize the end of the race, and how I want it to play out. Go around that manhole cover, over that bump, then sprint, etc.
I used to get sweaty palms when even thinking about my favorite Seattle crit as a 3. These days I don't get as nervous easily before the race, but I do find it useful to visualize the last lap or coming out of the last corner - gets me excited for the race.
Some people don't seem to want or need to "get ready" for the race, they just show up and see what happens. I like to think about the details of that last lap, that's what gets me excited to race.
For road races though, I just show up and hope I can hang on.
My psych up approach has changed a bit as I've gone through various stages of racing evolution.
When I first started, it was all about controlling the butterflies in the stomach. Convincing myself I could hang in and sprint for a finish at the same time reminding myself to be safe. I guess this was more about convincing myself I'd survive more than anything.
Once I moved up to the 4s, I felt a bit more comfortable, but intimidated as I was with a new group of racers and most had more experience, skill, and fitness than I had. This period was dominated by visualizing doing well, finishing near the front of the pack, and thinking how great it'd be to be on the podium. I think I may have over pressed a bit and was getting too psyched. Over psyched was met with disappointment when the results didn't match expectation.
After I got comfortable in the 4's and seeing those I knew around me collecting points or starting to upgrade, I developed a greater sense of urgency to do well. At the same time, I had a greater level of confidence because I was able to move around in the pack at my choosing and could actually implement a plan to some degree. So, I guess this was a period less dominated by traditional psych up and more internal reinforcing my confidence. Kind of a "you know what to do, you know how to do it, now go do it" mindset. This lasted me through getting points to move out of 4s.
With my recent upgrade to 3, I'm back in a "wtf is going on" mindset I had when I first move to 4's. New people, longer and faster races, and racers that know a lot more than I do (I can't just sprint away from these guys, wtf??). So, pre-race has kind of gone back to visualizing a good result, getting on the podium, etc.
Last edited by hack; 07-03-14 at 02:51 PM.
Cat 2 upgrade status: never
How much, and in what form?
I tried that "prerace" stuff prior to a crit once, got cramps.. who knows if that was why, but I never get cramps. Also it made me feel like a meth addict or something.
These days I usually just down two Clif gel shots (the x2 caffeinated ones, 100 or 200mg each). I drink so much coffee though that I'm not really sure it does much.
no-doz tabs and gels w/ caffeine during
after years of competition, I'm pretty lethargic when it comes to getting mentally "up"
so f' it, do what you gotta do
For crits I'm always a bit nervous for no reason. Circuit races I'm psyched that I stand a chance in hell. Road races I'm nervous about the long grueling pain lol.
Plan drive, parking and go over the course and weather forecast once more the night before. Nervous when I wake up - wanting to hit snooze for 2 hours and at the same time imagining racing my bike produces intense mental conflict. I relax and imagine racing the course on the drive (or if I'm running late I prepare by racing my car to the course). By the time I get there I know how the drill works (and I'm actually awake) so I'm not as nervous. I always imagine all the corners, how I might take them, how the wind might affect things, pros and cons of aggressive vs. passive racing, and all sorts of things I might do to place well, which is never how things end up haha. I might vary between trying not to think about how much pain I'm about to be in, or focus on how much pain the other guys will be in. Either way I try to psych myself up for the final minutes and remind myself that it's ok if I am in a stupid amount of pain for those few short minutes. By the time I park, I often just go through the motions until they blow the whistle. Too much thinking that close to a race makes me nervous.
Technical crits are easier mentally, maybe because they are so fun.
Interesting...never really used much caffeine before a race. I think I've had a red bull once, but that was because it was like 7AM and I was late getting up. I'm not a coffee or soda drinker either, so it may have a substantial affect on me(could be good or bad).
Cat 2 upgrade status: never
Porta Potty for me. I have to get everything out of my system. Then I'm good to go.
I only race track these days so I mentally prepare myself to ride through the suffering knowing that though its really intense it's also quite short lived.
Porta Potty for mental preparation? No wonder the lines are so long sometimes.
So what I gather here is...take drugs, preferably ones the UCI allows.
No way caffeine other than what is in a Clif shot.
I visualize, breathe, pray, clip in and go. Once I'm rolling everything is fine.
I used to get really amped before races. If there's something at stake (GC at Bethel for example) then I still have a hard time sleeping. The thing is that I can't visualize the race because there's too many things that could happen in a crit, and often the only races where I get so amped is Bethel and I have a lot of work/etc to do. So I just do the work.
I do get a bit uncertain when I go to a course that I've never done before, even more so when it's in an area I've never raced in. Not knowing a crit course isn't a big deal - you learn after a lap or three. Not knowing the competition is a bit trickier, although I tend to be able to pick out the ones that are better than not. When I raced in Michigan it was like that, no real idea of the course (no elevation info, no Google, just map view), absolutely no idea of the competition, and that was 22? years ago. Worse was after the first few races I was theoretically in reach of earning a GC position (top 20 got money, I was like 22nd or something). So then the races started counting a bit more and I got progressively more nervous. I raced in a state of fear/shock/zen in the last race of that Tour of Michigan, pouring rain, Birmingham crit, I remember it was an 8 corner 1/2 mile course, crashes everywhere, GC leader dropped to 3rd, and I ended up something like 21st or 22nd or something. When I raced in SoCal it was the same, tough course for me, really tough competition, and I was coming off of a massive block of training. That was 2010-2011.
When I first started racing I got nervous but I don't know what I thought about, how I thought about it, etc. I don't remember and my training log entries, although I put all sorts of info in it, don't trigger any memories on what I thought about.
Nowadays, meaning for probably 15-20 years, it's more just getting to the line. It's very casual, no nervousness at all. I let the excitement of racing through corners etc rev me up. Then it's focus on the game.
I used to play video games a lot. I don't think it's very different from that in the sense that I didn't get nervous before playing, it was just playing. When things got dicey then it got interesting (first person shooter online so against other people). It's just that to move up in a bike race I actually have to do something, not just press a lever or button. I have a much more limited tool kit than the other riders/players so I have to use it well.
I hate to say it but pinning my number is probably a relaxing thing for me, as is pumping up my tires.
I usually want some sugar before a race, caffeine also, but sugar. A regular non-energy bar is fine if I have water with it. No electrolytes, not anymore, I tend to cramp badly when I have electrolyte drinks. For cold races I want my coffee before, maybe a sweet muffin.
"...during the Lance years, being fit became the No. 1 thing. Totally the only thing. It’s a big part of what we do, but fitness is not the only thing. There’s skills, there’s tactics … there’s all kinds of stuff..." Tim Johnson
It always amazes me that caffeine is the one drug where it's not only OK to brag about your addiction, it's almost uncool not to brag about it.
I had to quit coffee a few years ago because of a minor heart condition. Even before that, I consciously dialed down my caffeine intake before races, because I hate being jittery and overcaffeinated. It's really important for me to race within myself, and stimulants mess that up.
My mental preparation is all about visualization and timing my day prior to the event. I race I really care about, I will visualize for literally months beforehand.
Then I try to get to the event at least 1.5 hours early (and preferably more), which is plenty of time to find everything, pin on numbers, and get in a relaxing warmup. Less time than that, and I get stressed and discombobulated. My crappiest results ever have come when hurrying to get to the line in time.
For me, the most important mental aspect of racing is maintaining focus throughout the entire race. Maintaining focus is what racing is all about, it's why racing is appealing and interesting to me. It's one of the few opportunities in life to really bring all of your mental and physical energies to bear for hours at a time. At the risk of sounding corny or new agey, it's that raw expression of self that makes racing unique. So a lot of my mental preparation is psyching myself up to hold that focus, reminding myself that losing focus is in a way cowardly, because it's choosing a safe and familiar path rather than a risky and rewarding one.
^ Maintaining focus, thats an important one.
Caffeine, in the morning for breakfast, that is enough. Amping up before the start means energy loss.
I always tried to make it simple. Everything prepared the night before, a visual check in the parking area, hydrate, not too much. Breathing calmly is primary. Going over the course mentally is key, checking out who is here and who are the wheels to follow in case it explodes from the start.
I'll then just sit in the car until staging, if it's cool heated seats are on, if hot and humid then I'll acclimate while relaxing. Being in AC before the start on a 90F+ day is not good. ( I've tried this AC approach in Tennis Competition on a hard court, which means @ 90F, the court surface is about 115F. I suffocated and lost the 1st couple of games. )
As for pre start jitters, chatting with friends/teammates is best. You cannot predict what the start of the race will be. But you can be prepared by being ready and relaxed. Not too relaxed but also not trying to burst out of a straitjacket.
The 10 minutes of pre-race and the first 10 minutes from the start are the most important. Best time to observe and pick out the flow.
Then just do what is necessary to stay in it until the 1st lull..
Last edited by Moyene Corniche; 07-04-14 at 03:39 PM.
Ah.... Voila les Cannon ... !!
Piss, I'll give you that.