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It is no surprise to most of us that proper training, recovery and nutrition are the foundation of performance in any sport, but especially in endurance sports.
Without attention to these details, even the fittest and most experienced in the field will suffer the effects of poor preparation.
These elements become even more critical to improving or maintaining performance when participating in events that span the course of several days, or multiple events in the same day.
It is a shame to waste all of that time and effort in getting to our events, only to suffer poor performance and disappointment that could be avoided simply by following some simple guidelines.
The purpose of this article is to help fill in some of the nutritional and training gaps in our approach to multi-day racing so that our efforts are not in vain, and so we can set ourselves up for the greatest possible chances of success each time we participate in an event.
Leading up to Competition
Unless we are in a major training phase, it is critical to come into multi-day events rested: taking an extra day off, doing low-volume and low-intensity rides to stay flexible and open, but not to induce fatigue during the week leading up to a race (USA Cycling Staff, 104--see References below).
We need to do just enough in the middle of the week and the day before the race to keep the blood enzymes active and open up our legs by visiting these energy systems briefly.
Typical tune-up rides consist of one to 1.5 hours total bike time: an easy warm-up, then 3 x 1 minute all-out, 3 x 8 30-second sprints with five minutes rest between efforts, and at most, 1 x 5 minutes at lactate threshold, depending on the event. The midweek ride should be similar.
Plan on eating good, clean, complex carbs and lean proteins leading up to race day and hydrating effectively. Try to keep the fat content moderate to low and from healthy sources leading up to race day (Dunford, 25,).
You want to have easy-to-access, clean-burning energy stored in your liver and muscle cells. You wouldn't put low-octane gasoline in a Ferrari, would you? If this is a big event, you may want to carbohydrate-load.
Talk to your coach or nutritionist about how to do this properly, or check out Optimum Sports Nutrition by Dr. Michael Colgan or Advanced Exercise Nutrition by Marie Dunford for more details.
Your race-day meal should be something that you have dialed in during training leading up to this day. Stick with what works. Just as you would not put on a new saddle the day before a race, try not to make any major changes in your nutrition on race day.
Typically, you want to take in easy-to-digest carbohydrates and just enough protein to keep your blood sugar even, especially if your race is not for three to four hours after you eat (Born, 30).
Once again, keep the fat content low to improve digestion and avoid gastric distress, and keep the carbs complex so not as to spike your insulin and drop you on your face before you even get started (Dunford, 25).
The importance of warming up cannot be understated. Do not let the ignorance or arrogance of others lull you into letting this vital component of performance go by the wayside after all the work you have done.
The shorter the event, the more important your warm-up becomes to your performance.