Prepare for Race Day: Focus on Equipment
By Tom Demerly
This USA Triathlon Multisport Lab article is presented by TriSports.com
Five-time Tour de France winner Bernard Hinault said, “Control everything you can to insure your performance. No detail is too small.” The people who contributed broken equipment and punctured inner tubes to the course neutral support moto in a race never heard that quote from Bernard Hinault. Perhaps they were so busy training they didn’t take time to attend to the mundane details of inspecting their equipment before race day.
You can’t control who shows up on race day in your age category, but human nature dictates you’ll worry about it. Worry costs energy. Spending energy on something you can’t control doesn’t contribute to your performance. Refocusing your energy on controllable factors to insure a good race not only does contribute to your performance, it focuses you on the here and now and gives you a solid mental base of confidence for anxious the moments before your first run on race day. Butterflies don’t like preparation.
Nothing is more controllable than your race equipment: your running shoes, the clothes you wear, your bike helmet and that confounding complexity or components on your bike. When you feel yourself obsessing about who is going to show up on race day, if your second run is fast enough and what the weather will be like it’s time to walk to the garage at see if your bike chain is dirty, your tires have cuts and if your chin strap on the new aero helmet you bought is adjusted correctly.
While bikes have more stuff to break and adjust it’s still amazing how many athletes at last year’s Duathlon National Championship had not even graduated to speed laces for their running shoes. Start here. If you can’t get your shoes on in a handful of seconds in T2 coming off the bike, this is the first place to focus a little attention for big time gains. Your shoes should go on for the second run in 4-7 seconds. Using a different pair of shoes with more cushion and/or motion control for the second run may take the edge off when running hard on tired legs. It’s also easier to find that fresh, second pair of shoes in T2 since you didn’t pull them off quickly and shove them to the side after your first run to don bike shoes.
While this may seem obvious, install stretch speed laces and test them before race day. Your training shoes should have the same speed laces in them as your race shoes so you know how they should be adjusted and how they work. If it’s freezing on race morning you may have to pull your speed laces tight with numb fingers coming off the bike. Start your race equipment efficiency survey with your running shoes and speed laces.
After you have prepared the easy items like a one piece, aerodynamic race suit, speed laces and an aero helmet adjusted for your head (and sunglasses), now it’s time to think about optimizing your bike for race day.
In almost every form of racing that rolls on pneumatic tires it is common sense to install a new set of tires for race day. If you do the math on what you spent to get to your A-race, it is the cheapest insurance you can buy. When you finally stop training long enough to actually inspect your equipment chances are you’ll be astounded by what you see. Cuts, abrasion marks, shards of glass, thorns and bits of stone can all imbed themselves in a small cut and gradually work their way into your inner tube. Make a race day commitment to be on new rubber.
Once you know you are rolling on fresh tires have your mechanic clean your bike and re-lube the drivetrain for the conditions you will be racing in. While you can’t control the weather you can know what it is likely to be and prepare your race day wardrobe and your bike set-up accordingly.
You already know the axiom of “nothing new on race day” so we won’t mention that a new saddle or aerobars the day before race day is an awful idea. Instead we’ll focus on reminding you to have your mechanic check all your fasteners with a torque wrench before race day, with enough time before race day to fix anything that goes “SNAP!” when the torque wrench reaches 5 Newton-meters.
While some bike mechanics, usually ones with something to hide, don’t like to have a client watching them over their shoulder it isn’t a bad idea to ask your mechanic if you can look in on their pre-race inspection and tune-up of your bike. The more knowledge you own, the more confidence you take to the start line.
It’s inevitable that people will have bad luck in a race at some time. But, that same five-time Tour de France winner we discussed a moment ago also said, “In racing, you make your own luck, until the rider in front of your crashes, then you inherit their bad luck…”
But that second part is the topic for our next article.
Tom Demerly of TriSports.com has raced on all seven continents (including Antarctica) and raced triathlons since 1984. He coached for the Bicycling magazine Rider Development Program, USA Cycling and is a four-time USA Cycling Michigan State Champion. Demerly has also coached for the late Doug Stern at his annual Triathlon Training Camps in Curacao in the Dutch Antilles. In 1990 Demerly raced for the Nike/Velo-News/Gatorade Development Team in Liberchie, Belgium. He lives in Tucson, Ariz.