Racing is like many other endeavors in life which tend to go more smoothly with a solid plan in place. This is especially true with adventure races or multi-sport competitions which typically feature multiple transitions throughout the race and extensive gear lists. The following tips are based on over 25 years of multi-sport racing and my fair share of less than desirable outcomes (read, “disasters.”) This is especially true of the first race of the season in which you may have forgotten some of the techniques you used the season prior.
As a general rule you cannot be too organized—your friends may make fun of you leading up to the race, but will thank you in the end when the competition is over and you have not forgotten half your gear. Create a folder for organization, and email updates to all team members. An even better solution would be to have a web based “work space” in which the entire team can access the newest information on schedules, gear lists, training and practice. The team leader should create a schedule and provide briefings and updates to the team members to keep them informed. O.K., now that you’ve stopped laughing, I must confess that my rule of thumb is to try to over-communicate.
Getting to the race, and climatic conditions
It seems there is a universal rule of racing that you will get lost in route to the competition start, especially if your departure time is “cutting it close.” To avoid this pitfall, use your favorite mapping program (http://www.mapblast.com for example) to map the route to the race; but be prepared for inaccuracies. Preferably, if you have a long way to drive (two or more hours), you can find local lodging the night prior to the event. Use http://www.weather.com to check race day conditions and the type of gear you may require. Visualization and
Depending on the race format you may have a course map sent to you or posted on the race web site. I use the Topo maps on CD and course maps to visualize the route and transitions. Topo and other mapping programs will allow you to plot way points and then create an elevation profile which is helpful in determining your overall racing strategy.
Beyond visualizing the transitions from one event to the next, physically practice entering the transition zone and identifying geographic markers (or terrain trigger) for where your gear is located. Clearly, this must be done before the race begins. Sometimes it is helpful to place a distinctive piece of clothing or other easily identified object to help guide you in when you are under the stress of competition. If support personnel are permitted in the transition area, then they can help guide you to your gear, and provide ever-helpful moral support. It is also helpful to identify exit and entry points for the different legs of the race, as they can be different, and race guides may be sparse.
Train as you will compete
It is a good practice to locate similar terrain as the competition or actually train where the competition will be held if at all possible. For example, if you live in or around Colorado Springs, CO area then you have the advantage of being able to train on Barr Trail and practice the segments of the Ascent and/or Pikes Peak Marathon. This includes the proper training at the proper altitude and completing training runs in the 12,000 to 14,000 foot range. The same hold true for the kayak discipline and locating a river with similar dynamics as the race you intend to compete in.
My general rule is to try to get a good night’s sleep (8 hours) the night prior to the eve before the race. I typically do not sleep too deeply the nights before a race, but find it does not matter as much if I get solid sleep 2 nights prior.
I do not always adhere to the concept of tapering (it is against my nature), but I intellectually understand the importance. You will not make significant gains in conditioning the last week prior to the event, but you can certainly over-train, or worse, injure yourself. Tapering allows the body to fully recover and prepare for an optimal performance race day.
Check the functioning of all your gear and use a list—check it twice—for packing. Ensure your bike is in excellent working condition a couple weeks out from the competition to allow for repair time and break-in. New cables need to have time to stretch and it is a good practice to have a few hard rides on any major repair work prior to the competition. Do not make major adjustments in the sizing (seat post, and stem) of your bike immediate prior to the competition. Carry repairs for 24 hour or longer races—duct tape can fix anything!
Eat complex carbohydrates prior to the race to ensure muscle glycogen is toped off. I use a combination of water, electrolyte replacement drink, and energy gels on short races up to 6 hours. For longer races I use energy bars, peanut butter sandwiches, and jerky. Basically, you need to determine what foods you can race on during training sessions and then use the same food during competition; during the race is neither the time nor the place to try a new food.