What's Cool In Road Cycling

Toolbox: Stuck In A Rut

We at Toolbox always attempt to think of new topics to explore in our weekly articles to help make our readers better bike racers. Most of the time, we are writing about some physical or mental aspect of training, which of course is necessary and important. This time, we wanted to explore something a little more “off the beaten path” but which should be routine.

The Importance of Routine
A couple weekends ago, the traditional opening race took place here in Northern California. Cherry Pie, as it is so fondly called, drew about 1000 racers. Yes, you read that correctly, about 1000 racers in early February. Where most of the country is entering the coldest month of the year, we are already hitting race participant totals that may very well be one of the highest all year. Recession? Not at this bike race! Cycling is very popular in Northern California! As a side note, if you want some great early season races, check out our district calendar and come on out and visit (www.ncnca.org/road).

When I go to a bike race, I am always seeing things as a coach. In order to be successful in any sport, athletes need to do a lot of the little things that do not directly relate to riding stronger or smarter on the bike, but if they are not done well, you might as well have stayed at home. As I walked around the area all day, the words that kept popping up in my mind were “routines and checklists.” Are all these racers following a routine or checklist to prepare for the race or are they just winging it as they go along?

My dictionary defines these words as:

routine – noun – a sequence of events regularly followed; a fixed program.

checklist – noun – a list of items required, things to be done, or points to be considered, used as a reminder.

When I think of athletes and routine, the first image that pops into my mind are professional golfers. Every one of them has a pre-shot routine that is identical and fixed in stone. Whether the shot is to win the Masters or to salvage a double-bogey, their routines are exactly the same. I don’t hang out at professional golf tournaments (although I did as a kid), but I would assume that a longer routine (and checklist) starts long before they appear at the golf course.

One big advantage of being a top-level pro is that you have team support, such as mechanics, soigneurs, and directeur sportifs, whose primary jobs are to ensure that you have nothing to worry about except for riding and racing. So, for bike racers, most whom have jobs, kids, and are super busy during the week, establishing a pre-weekend, pre-travel or pre-race routine and checklist can be very important. It’s one of those things that if followed, will indirectly contribute to your success and will, at minimum, relieve the inevitable stress that comes before a race.

There is nothing worse than getting to a race and forgetting your helmet or shoes that having (and following) a checklist would have prevented. I think the most important thing it does is relax your mind and allows you to be in a focused mode where you can concentrate on the race itself.

So, let’s explore three different routines and the importance of recognizing and defining them. Remember, there is no right or wrong. Having a routine and refining it over time is the right thing to do.

Day before routine
The day before your race is when you ensure you have your packing list out and ready to be used. A detailed and trustworthy packing list is one of the simplest things you can do to assure you do not forget any major item. Keep a standard list on your computer for single day and multi-day events and print them off as needed. Pack everything and check it off! If possible, keep some things (e.g. tools, license, sunscreen) in your travel bag so that it is there at all times rather than rummaging around your house each trip. Here are some major categories you can use to start your own personalized list:

• Clothing – summer and winter, on and off the bike
• Equipment – bike, spare wheels, helmet, shoes, etc.
• Pre and post race items like towels, sunscreen,
• Miscellaneous items like license, tools, directions, maps, etc.

Try to do as many things the day before as possible. Anything you can do before the morning of the drive, like filling up the gas tank and packing the car, will make things run much smoother. Organization is a great thing!

Day of race routine
With most races starting early in the morning or far enough away that you need to leave early to get the race location, having a routine based on a timeline can be very effective. It’s pretty simple in that you can start at race time and work backwards to the time you have to get up in the morning to get it all started. Of course, you know that you have all your equipment and clothing because you went through your checklist in the previous step. Let’s say the race starts at 9:00AM:
• 9:00 – Race start
• 8:55 – Arrive at race start – make sure I am with the right group. Look at number sequences
• 8:45 – finish warm up
• 8:15 – begin warm up (warm up is defined)
• 8:00 – return to car after registration
• 7:40 – registration – allow for amount of time on how big or popular the race is
• 7:30 – arrive at race
• 6:00 – Leave for race – have maps and estimated time, including time for possible stops
• 5:00 – Wake up, get dressed, finish packing small items, breakfast.

Post-race routine
Not to be forgotten, the post-race routine can be just as important. Making sure you have everything available for use after the race can help to begin the physical side of recovery. It can also be utilized to estimate with some accuracy what time to tell your spouse you will be home :
• Noon – race ends
• 12:10 – finish changing clothes if necessary, get recovery food and fluid (you did pack this, right?) and begin warm down.
• 12:40 – Warm down complete. Warm down can also be used for debriefing of race with teammates.
• 1:10 – Change to normal clothes complete, car packed and ready to go home (after of course, picking up your prize).

Routines and checklists are not rocket science. They are not difficult to create, but can be extremely important to the success of your season. Of course, you will define your own routines and be able to coordinate things with teammates and friends that go to the races with you. Keep them handy and always be willing to fine tune them. Over time, they will become habit and a good one to have, as they will allow you to do what you do best, and that is race your bike!

Ride safe, ride strong,

About Bruce
Bruce Hendler created AthletiCamps to provide cycling specific coaching and training to athletes and cyclists of all levels. Find out more at www.athleticamps.com and check out the AthletiCamps Blog.

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