Routine. It’s all about routine. Successful business people know their routine breeds efficiency and effectiveness. NBA stars know their routine before every free throw. In the same nature, successful bike racers all have race day routine. This repetitive nature (sometimes completely crazy!!) is the known factor that calms the nerves and sets an athlete for top performance.
It’s taken me a month of cyclocross racing to figure out what my routine should look like. Do I spin in the morning? What time do I get to the course? If the race is at 4:00, when and what do I eat? How does my warm-up flow? When do I pre-ride? How do I figure tire pressure? Do I need to ride both bikes the day of the race?
It all seems like questions I should have the answers to after 8 years of racing professionally on the road and on the track. But, AHHHH!!! Yes, that’s me screaming. It’s not the same. Cyclocross is not the same. I feel like a junior. Wait, I take that back because most the juniors who race cross know how the race days flows! As a quick side note, they don’t need to warm up like I do. Those darn 14 year old legs just don’t care as much as mine! So, I feel like an old pro learning how to handle a race day just like the rookie I am.
My first international track cycling race was as a sprinter at the Pan American Championships in 2009. After coming within 1/100th of national record and setting a Personal Best of 11.1 seconds in the 200m, I learned that I had raced that time trial in my warm-up gear. Was it the mechanics fault? Not really. The rider is always responsible for his or her equipment. Since then, and until my last international track competition last year, I’ve had my routine. From the time I arrive at the velodrome to racing, I check my gearing and chain tension probably 6 times each. Call me crazy but, guess what, never again have I raced in a wrong gear or have any chain problems. Plus, knowing my routine of warm-up, track time, etc., has led to calmness before racing. If you tell me I race at 4:00, I can tell you exactly when I need to arrive at the velodrome. I can even tell you when I need to eat my last gel. No energy wasted on trying to figure out what I should be doing or when I should do it.
Welcome to cyclocross where I don’t know what I don’t know. There’s been some hard knocks on learning my routine: tire pressure checks, double checking about pit bikes/wheels/mechanics, when to pre-ride, ensuring I leave time for a trainer warm-up, and basically just being a professional cyclocross racer.
But, after 3 weekends of throwing myself into the deep end of UCI races, I think I’ve got my routine. Now, I can let the head and body relax and just go out and race my bike! I’m ready to have some luck fall my way and I’m ready to start mixing it up.
Oh, the lessons I’ve learned! Sounds like a title to a Dr. Seuss book but it’s true.