RACING Guide part 4
Are you ready for your first race?
So, you’ve done the training, entered the races, got your licence (if required) and your first race is fast approaching. But how do you prepare for your first event? Here is my survival guide to getting ready for racing…
1) “No Licence, No Helmet, NO RIDE!”
Those words never fail to fill me with fear – I go into a massive panic and start searching through my bag about five times to check I’ve got both of them. It’s a bit like going on holiday when you’re rushing around at the last minute looking for your passport and tickets. Take it from me – do as I say, not as I do – and get a list together (see below).
Obviously, if you’re riding a time trial you won’t need your British Cycling licence (unless it’s the National Championships), but I keep everything together so that they go everywhere with me – I get too confused otherwise!
2) Packing your bag
So, we’ve got two essential items for your list already – helmet and licence – but what else should you take? Here’s a few more items that you should always have with you when turning up for a race:
§ Cycling kit for racing (if you’re going to get changed when you arrive)
§ Long sleeve jersey to warm up in (sometimes called “track tops”)yc
§ Leg warmers
§ Arm warmers
§ Rain cape (or jacket) – these three items are to help you in inclement weather – I’ve seen far too many people turn up to races in short sleeves and shorts when it is freezing – look after yourself and invest in some arm warmers – you’re worth it!
§ “Start sheet” – if there is one available – print it out off the internet if the organiser doesn’t send you one in the post so that you know where the headquarters are (it does help!)
§ Cycling shoes and socks
§ Track mitts or full gloves (depending on the weather) – you want to ensure your hands are protected in case you come off
§ Safety pins – for the race number that you will be given (trust me, you can never have enough safety pins!)
§ Food for during the race – whether this be energy gels, energy bars or sweets!
§ Drink for during the race
§ Drink and food for AFTER the race – remember you will need to rehydrate and refuel before starting the journey home
§ Hair bobble and a brush (if you have long hair)
§ Towel and toiletries for getting changed post-event
§ Plastic bag for your used kit
§ Clothes for post-race (can be forgotten if you’ve travelled in your cycling kit!)
§ Change for donation box for post-race cake and tea
Whilst I am at it, you may want to have a think about the bag you’re going to use for your kit. I spent 18 months lugging a 90 litre cargo bag to races with me, but I could never find anything as it was all dumped in the one compartment and it was also pretty heavy. In the end, I swapped it for a holdall with wheels (I couldn’t afford a posh one) but it has loads of pockets and now I can find everything!
3) Check out the Race Headquarters in advance
The beauty of living in the 21st century is that you can look at where the race HQ is in advance, using the internet. Some headquarters are better than others and unfortunately, some can be somewhat lacking in space to get changed. So, it can sometimes be worth being at least half ready before you set off to the event, depending on how far you have to travel. Otherwise, be prepared mentally for the concept of having to get changed in a toilet cubicle, or in the car under a towel. Luckily, some places have really good facilities nowadays where that isn’t a problem, but there are still some village halls that are a bit worse for wear.
In addition, if you plan your trip in advance, so that you know where you’re going and how long it will take, that will take a lot of anxiety away so that you can concentrate on getting totally psyched up for the event in question instead.
Finally on this point, and this is especially important if you are riding a time trial – check out how far the HQ is from the circuit! The general rule of thumb is that you must sign on at least an hour before you are due to ride, but if there is a 20 to 30 minute ride from the HQ to the circuit (which can happen a lot in time trials), make sure you factor in that time in addition to the time it will take you to get ready – the last thing you want to do is set off too late and miss your start time (yes, I learn from my mistakes)!
4) Check your equipment in advance
The last thing you want to do is travel all the way to a race, only to find that your gears don’t work/you’ve got a flat tyre, etc. So check your bike works properly in advance. Either pump your tyres up in advance (one of the last jobs before putting the bike in/on the car) or take the track pump with you if you have room in the car and pump them up when you arrive (make sure you have enough time to do this). If you’re using a computer or heart rate monitor which needs to be charged, make sure you charge it in advance and don’t forget your heart rate monitor belt if you are going to use one. Make sure all the lids are on your bottles properly (you do not want half a litre of energy drink spilling over the back of your car, trust me).