So...you've decided to race your bike.
Congratulations! But be careful-this hobby can take over your life(most of us would agree that it's worth it).
You might be nervous about your new experience(I know I certainly was before my first race), so here are a few tips that might lend some structure to your race week/race day and help focus that energy on pushing the pedals. I've always found that having a plan and sticking to it makes for a less nerve-wracking experience.
-TUESDAY: As you go out to ride today, pay special attention to your bike. Is it shifting well? Brakes working? Are the wheels true? Do you need new tires? Today is the day for making last minute changes/adjustments-not the day before the race, and definitely not the morning before the race. If you have any needs or questions, head to your local shop(ahem) and take care of them. If you just want to make sure that your race rig is ready to go for your own peace of mind, ask a good mechanic for a pre-race 'blessing'.
-3-4 DAYS BEFORE RACE DAY: Avoid the temptation to do too much-"panic training". Where you are now is where you will be on race day, plus or minus proper rest, nutrition and final prep.
-DAY BEFORE RACE DAY: If you have a coach, he/she will likely have you doing openers today-do them; they matter. If you don't have a coach, go out for a 30-45 minute ride, and do 2-3 hard efforts, 3 minutes and under. Don't murder yourself, but do at least one 90% effort.
-Afterwards, clean your bike. Well. It's always better to show up with a clean machine, and the task will help calm your mind. Also-this is the time to take one last look at your bike to make sure that nothing is wrong. And by wrong, I mean wrong-a cut in the tire or, heaven forbid, a crack in the frame-not a saddle that all of a sudden seems too low.
-Put your bike in the car and lay pack your race day bag. If you need to, make a list of everything that needs to go into it. Pack it now so that you won't be running around in the morning wondering if you forgot something. Race day is for relaxing until it's time to go.
-Eat. You don't need to waddle away from the table; odds are you're not doing 250k's tomorrow. But you will need something in your stomach.
-Sleep. The hay is in the barn. You've done everything you can do.
-Wake up early enough to eat at least a few hours before the start of your race.
-Get to the race start at least 90 minutes before the start. You may have a few minutes left over, but better too much than not enough.
-When you get out of the car, you will probably be nervous. That's not only ok, it's perfectly natural. Take a minute to appreciate it-it's pretty rare in life that we do something that's butterfly-inducing. These moments are worth savoring. Also-look around...almost everyone around you is nervous also. Nerves manifest themselves in a variety of ways: loud jokes, constant futzing with bike, snapping at boyfriends/girlfriends; etc. Recognize that for what it is. For me, knowing that everyone else is nervous helps calm me down a bit. RELAX. Keep in mind that a bike race, like any endurance event, is an exercise in conservation and distribution of energy. Don't go throwing yours around before you even get started.
-Go to the bathroom. You probably need to.
-If you haven't already, pick up your race numbers, then go back to the car and set up your bike. Pump tires, fill bottles.
-Pin on your numbers.
-Kit up/warm up. If you have time and need to, do your warm-up on the course. If you can, ride the parts that might be difference-makers. At a minimum, try to ride the finish. If it's not marked, get an idea where the 200 meter mark is-that spot, or just inside, is usually a good spot to start your sprint. And then make a note to remember to zip up your jersey before you sit up and celebrate your win.
-Go line up. Enjoy your race. Welcome to the club.