Monday 23 September 2013

Pre-race rituals; what not to do

There is tons of information out there on what you should do leading up to a race - taper, but not too much! Carb load - again, not too much! Get more sleep, do pickups, stay off your feet, practice visualisation - the list goes on, and it's all pretty confusing.

However there is not much info on what not to do.

Yet this is a topic on which I'm well qualified to speak on; I don't always handle nerves well and often freak out int the lead up to a race.

For example, on race morning in Kona, a friend asked me if I was ok. He said he had never seen anyone so nervous at the start of any race ever.

On another occasion, during the start of an ironman, I had a panic attack in the water because I was so nervous. It was not cool; it ended up being my worst swim ever.

I almost threw up, not at the end, but the start of my first marathon because I was so nervous.

More recently, I couldn't sleep for a week before a race I had coming up. The race was a 5km race, and there weren't even any prizes!

What follows is how to avoid getting yourself into the above-mentioned (and worse) situations;

1. Don't google;
This is pretty much the only advice I'd also give a new mother. Don't google what you should have done, what you could have done, what race plan you should stick to, how the new workout in vogue is a 20 mile run with 12 miles hard in the middle, while wearing a plastic garbage back. Chances are you won't have done it, and knowing what everyone else has (or has not done) will only stress you out because by now, it's too late.
Try instead to have faith in your own training and your own race plan.

2. Don't get drunk the night before;
One year, before I was running competitively, I had about 6 drinks before Sydney's City to Surf. Suffice to say, I was in major pain during the race.
Similarly, a brother of mine, before his first marathon, eased his nerves by consuming quite a bit of alcohol. He survived, but he suffered. Not recommended.
In fact, I would recommend not getting drunk as much as two nights before (a tough ask, I know); I'm a bit ashamed to admit that I did so during the lead up to both my first Olympic distance tri, and also 1/2 ironman. Not only can you still feel it in your legs, but you will likely be the only one at race check-in with a hangover. It's really not a good feeling.
Before my first Olympic Distance Tri; I've had better days

3. Don't forget to check the weather forecast;
I woke up the morning of my last marathon to see snow bucketing from the sky. By breakfast time, there was about 8 inches of it, and it snowed all through the race. In the lead-up, I'd checked the average temperatures, but not the forecast for that day. Idiot! I got soaked and froze my butt off. By 18km, I was not happy. It's not rocket science, but be prepared for all weather types.

4. Don't eat crazy amounts of anything;
It used to be thought that you should carb load in the lead-up to the race. This idea, though not discredited, has been called into question a little. Whatever you do, don't change your diet dramatically in the name of carb-laoding or anything else. I had a friend who told me she once ate two loaves of pumpernickel bread the day before a race. Let's just say the bathroom stops may have slowed her down a little.

5. Look cute on race day, but not too cute; 
I'm all about the idea that if you look good, you feel good on race day. But before one race, I spent so much time doing my hair that I made my friend and I late and we almost missed the start. Somewhat embarrassing!
And while it's great to get cute, new race gear, make sure you've tested your fancy new kit; think about your finisher's photo - blood stains in the nipple region are not a good look on anyone.

6. Pack your own race gear;
In another half-ironman race I did, I had the guys at the bike-shop pack my bike up for me into my bike bag.
When I arrived at my race destination, I had only one wheel.
Luckily the guys were able to ring around and get someone to lend me another wheel.
Still, while I didn't have to do the 90kms on a unicycle, my bike looked pretty silly - only one Zipp wheel, and it was on the front. Though I just pretended it was the "new thing" in time-trial bikes. (Triathletes will believe anything.)

Gold Coast 1/2 ironman; notice the single Zipp wheel on the front

7. Prepare you race kit properly;
I was a little inexperienced doing my first Olympic Distance tri.
Because I didn't usually get flat tyres in training, so I didn't really think I'd get a flat on race day.
Think again!
I got out of the water in 2nd place! This was pretty crazy as I was just hoping not to be the last person out of the lake.
Of course, literally within 3km, I had a flat tyre. I had a spare inner tube, but no pump, or tyre levers. What was I thinking?
A kind lady lent me her pump, but having never changed a tyre before, (practice this before! It's not difficult, but there are tricks to it) I could not get the tyre off the rim of the wheel.
In the end, I used my teeth to rip the tyre from the rim of the wheel. Perhaps not the best idea.
My teeth are now fine, but given tyre levers and CO2 canisters are rather small and fit easily into a pocket nor saddle bag, I'd say you are better off changing your tyre the conventional way.

In summary; do what I say, not what I do. Be prepared and don't freak out!

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