This probably isn’t breaking news that many races are won or lost before the start. This post is about the tips to set you up for success on the course and mentally! See, other mountain bike competitors need to have just as much focus and dedication that I do to win except for one thing… worrying about blood glucose (sugar). More on that in a minute.
To be competitive in the mountain bike racing scene, even if it’s a weekend warrior type category, it takes training and quite a bit of it. Three years ago I dipped my toes in racing thinking, “it’s a beginner category, how hard can it be”? Well, let me tell you it blew my mind how fast and competitive guys were at these races. What drew me into racing was when I would ride alone using Strava or MapMyRide and try to constantly beat my previous time. I am super competitive, mostly with myself. After starting racing, what’s kept my interest is the conditioning, exercise, health benefits and fact that there are ZERO shortcuts. To compete you have to put in blood, sweat, tears and time. period. Only my wife knows this, but I was really down on myself driving home after my first race and she didn’t understand why. All I could muster up was, I gave it everything I had and it wasn’t even close to good enough. I was Hooked!
5 Tips for Success
1) Visualization – You have to prepare your mind for suffering. You need to prepare and visualize the course and obstacles. By visualizing how you’re going to race, how you’re going to tackle the MONSTER climb half way in the course and how you are going to manage your energy can make all the difference. Personally, one motivator for me is how excited and happy my kids are when I bring home a medal, trophy or they see the podium picture.
2) Strategy – There’s always a strategy or should be one. A few races back, there was a daunting climb at the end of the course… or so it looked. After a few laps and almost 20 miles of digging deep that last climb seemed overwhelming. As I pre rode the course with my coach (unofficial) we came up with the strategy to attack the last climb… HARD. See, what is difficult to see at the bottom was the plateau half way up that gave some relief. I saved just enough energy to smash the first part of the climb, passing two competitors and nailed the second climb, never looking back. Strategy also plays a big part in training. I use to just ride as much as I could and as fast as I could sustain. As I gained more knowledge I’ve learned better approaches that are more effective on the body and mind.
3) Hydration – If you start thinking about hydration a few hours before the race or event starts, you’ve already lost. Proper hydration is probably my #1 tip for success being an athlete and absolutely for endurance. Nutrition is right up there with hydration. Flash back about 4-5 years ago and a day didn’t go by that I wasn’t drinking diet soda or downing an energy drink. I wondered why my heels were cracking and splitting… Those days are long behind me, but I still need to think about and plan for proper hydration. It’s much easier with hydration specific products by Skratch Labs and their Exercise, Daily, Rescue and Recovery formulas. Living in Arizona, hydration is not something I take lightly and make sure it doesn’t derail my race performance.
4) Blood Glucose Management – This won’t be applicable to most, but being a type 1 diabetic, it’s critical to me and could be fatal. The challenge with diabetes is that too high a blood sugar and my performance will suffer. If my blood sugar goes too low… well simply put, I die. Cycling burns a lot of energy and can move the blood sugar dial quickly. A perfect balance is always challenging, but my normal. I wear an insulin pump to deliver and manage the flow of insulin and a continuous glucose monitor that displays my blood sugar constantly. These two things are literally life savers. When my blood sugar starts dropping too quick, I grab some fruit chews. If it starts climbing because my adrenaline is pumping and my heart rate is maxed, I can increase the insulin. I could write a book on this one, but I’ll keep it short.
5) Learning – Step back after an event and assess, what worked and led to the podium or what didn’t and needs focus for the next race. Sports and being an athlete is about constantly learning, improving, trial and error and being the best you can. The only way to learn is to do it and try.
Many people like to post just the wins or podium pictures, but it’s the things you never see or hear about like the list above that can make all the difference. That said, podium pictures are pretty cool too because they are earned.