I thought I would write a few tips down for racing, riding and training I have learnt over the last year or so. So relax, enjoy and eat something or make a cuppa.
- For a long distance race or TT, break down the distance in your head. Racing for 50 miles. 100 miles, 12 hours or 24 hours or even further is as much a mental battle as it is a physical one. When I have done 24 hour races and time trials I break it down into manageable times. For example in my head I will think that every hour I need to drink a bottle. I swap from water to an energy drink, continually alternating so I don't end up having something really sugary. Every 20 minutes I need to eat something small. Same thing this will be mixed from sweet to savoury. I've found that roast potatoes in a bit of foil in your pocket not only keep you a bit warmer in winter months but are perfect as a savoury option. Then, for a 24 hour race I know that roughly every 5 hours I'm going to get something hot to eat and usually a coffee. That hot food is often what is available or easy to make with lots of calories.
- Surround yourself with a fantastic support team and team mates. Now this is easier said than done, but I would say it's probably the most important. I have an amazing group of friends who I always rely on to support. One happens to be a fantastic coach, Ken who I have worked with for years and he knows me inside out, another is a nutritionalist, Will who helps to advise on what I should be eating on certain challenges and races. You need people who can keep your spirits high and are there looking out for your best interest. People who can read when you are having a bad day but are ok or can see you are genuinely putting yourself into a world of pain and potentially risking your life. I had a situation last year where this was so important. I entered the National 24 hour time trial which is based close to Wales. On paper it should have been a perfect weekend, with good weather and fine roads but unfortunately it wasn't. The weather was absolutely torrential and along the A-Roads, spray was everywhere and it was progressively getting colder and colder. I got to a point I ran out of spare dry kit and was on the point of not making much sense. Jimmi who supported me could tell I was taking a real dip for the worse and refused to let me continue. My head may have wanted to continue, but my body was way past it's limits. Moments like that is where you need to have some one who can stand up to you and force you to stop.
- Make sure you WARM UP and COOL DOWN properly. I am notorious for warming up properly and then being too pumped with adrenaline I ruin my cool down. To put it simply it means you will start better and will feel fresher the next day. Another massive no no is don't do races on consecutive days. This is another piece of advice I probably don't listen to especially in the winter when I've done a crit race on the Saturday and a cyclocross race on the Sunday. Normally the legs are ruined enough from one of them! Leading on from this make sure you recover with some food. A recovery shake or something like malt loaf or granola bars are my normal go to after race cravings.
- Train smart. It sounds simple but to get improvements in races doing 'junk' miles isn't going to help you. You need to practice sprinting, attacking, putting in big long solo efforts etc. I train using an infocrank power meter and heart rate monitor paired to my Wahoo Element. This means I can see all the data in front of me when I do certain efforts in a structured training plan.
- Look after your bike and it will look after you. A clean well maintained bike is a happy bike. It will run more efficiently and has less chance of having any kind of mechanical during your race. Also who wants to turn up to a race with a dirty bike? It will do you wonders for your own confidence on the start line knowing that you have done everything possible to make sure your bike is working perfect.
- In a race or crit its hyper important to make sure you are sharp and aware of what is going on around you, especially if it's you are new to it.. A can of red bull (genuinely I do this before a crit) makes you alert and keeps you sharp then a gel on the start line. Here in the UK crits tend to be an hour so the red bull and gel at the start makes sure you are switched on. Then it's worth having another gel towards the end of the race to make sure you are ready for the sprint. Sometimes it may just be a placebo effect but it works. You need to be so aware of what is going on around you and read the race. Who looks strong? Who looks like they are sandbagging? Which attack is worth following? Who looks a bit nervous on corners? Often enough a crash isn't your fault. So be alert and ready to take action.
- I think one of the most important pieces of advice I have been told is remember you are only human. You can't win everything, you will have days that you are unwell or don't feel like training. It's perfectly acceptable to have a bad day. When I was younger I used to suffer from getting depressed if I thought I was missing out on something I think I could do better. Depression in men, especially, is high. We like to play it strong but it's important to talk about your problems and how you are feeling. Use that support team to support you when you are having a tough time. I know I do.