One of the particular pleasures of racing in the CRCA is doing early morning races in New York City's Central Park. But how do you prepare to race all out as early as 5:30 AM? Longtime CRCA member and cat. 3 racer for Setanta, Marc Mauceri, asked several longtime members of the CRCA for their tips on how they get ready to do early morning CRCA races: Mihael Ginghina, Alejandro Guzman, Ken Harris, Dave Jordan, John Loehner, Ann Marie Miller and David Taylor. This first article is a synthesis of some of their tips. The subsequent parts of this series will feature a few of their replies in full. First tip: train early! Since most people are physically optimal in the late afternoon, it takes some adjustment for the body to get used to early morning hard efforts.
Alejandro Guzman, a cat. 1 racer with the Foundation sub-team, says "If you can train in the morning to acclimate your body to racing during the early morning hours…which CRCA is famous for… it seems to help...Planning to ride and train with teammates makes it easier to wake-up on a regular basis." In addition, as CRCA coach, Ann Marie Miller points out, sometimes you can get harder efforts in early in the morning, "because you aren’t bombarded with that little voice that gives you excuses at 5:00pm 'ooh, I’m too tired for LT intervals', 'oooh, it’s been a tough day; I just can’t do hill repeats repeats today.'”
Second tip: don't eat heaps of food before the race. Former Jim
Boyd winnter and Cat. 2 racer for the Champion Systems p/b Stan’s No-Tubes Team, Ken Harris, says, "Given that the races are pretty short, and there's not much time to really digest food beforehand, I don't eat before morning races." Coach and Cat. 1 racer for the Fuoriclasse/Eumaeus Asset Management Team, David Taylor, has a cup of tea. John Loehner, a cat. 1 racer for the Stan’s No Tubes/AXA Equitable cycling team, just has a banana or energy bar. Several others have a coffee pot that they can set to have coffee ready when they wake up. According to Ann Marie Miller, 250-400 of mostly carb calories is sufficient.
Third tip: plan to have something to eat on the bike going to the race and in the race. Coach and Cat. 1 racer for the Fuoriclasse/Eumaeus Asset Management Team, David Taylor, eats "an energy bar and maybe a gel as I ride to the race and warm up. I read somewhere that your metabolism speeds up when you start riding and this makes it easier for your body to absorb the food." Especially since your body fasts overnight you need to fuel during the race with something like a sports drink with electrolytes and carbs for energy. Alejandro Guzman suggests "experimenting with different foods/drinks -- you should try these during your training rides, so you know what works best for you."
Fourth tip: do pay attention to what you eat the day or two before the race, especially the day before. For Ken Harris, this mainly means remembering "not to eat anything unusual the night before." David Taylor starts "with a good lunch the day before the race and then eat a light dinner the night before." According to John Loehner, you should pay "attention to your diet a few days before."
Fifth tip: prepare your bike two or three days before the race.
As Loehner points out, "Putting on that new chain, replacing a cassette, using new cleats/pedals, etc is a bad idea the day/evening prior to the race. More often than not, you create more problems than you solve." This means making sure everything works well, including putting race wheels on 2 days before the race (if you have race wheels) and making sure that they are straight and secure, the shifting is accurate, tires are good. This is important all year, but especially at the start of the season when it's more likely that something on your bike will need attention after an off-season of training.
Sixth tip: pin your number and leave out all the stuff you need the night before the race. Mihael Ginghina, a cat. 3 racer for the Targettraining team, who started racing in the CRCA when races started at 7AM, says, "I check the weather, bike, lay out my gear the night before and set two alarms." Other things to have ready include: your completed race release form, racing license, money for the race (if you're not a CRCA dinosaur), food for the race and any post-race snack, all your racing clothes (including needed arm and/or leg warmers, gloves, etc.) and prepped bike with helmet. This way "your morning goes smoothly and efficiently," says John Loehner. "The last minute panic when you realize that something is forgotten or missing can undercut all of your hard training during the week."
Seventh tip: go to bed early enough to get a decent sleep. David Taylor tries to eat dinner early enough and otherwise plan to get to bed by 10 PM. This is not easy. As Loehner points out, "Sleeping well the night before a race can be a challenge for most people and prior to most races. The effects of poor sleep can be amplified when the alarm is set for 5am and you roll out to push your body on 2-3 hours of light sleep." Ken Harris adds 15 minutes of prep time for every hour of sleep lost from getting up early.
Eighth tip: do a bit of warm up (or not). Actually there was some disagreement on this point. Even getting up that much early, Harris often find himself running late, so he does not get a warm up aside from the ride to the race. Yet he also says, "the best
advice I can give a new racer is to leave enough time to warm up and make a checklist." Dave Jordan suggests that you "Start with a full body stretch and deep breathing exercises. Then get on the bike and begin with easy gears and gentle rpms, progress to medium gears, maintain your rpms over 100, or up to the limit where you start bouncing on the saddle.Try a few sprints or uphill efforts to complete the warm up." John Loehner just tries to get a good 30minutes of consistent pedaling in before the race. And don't forget to use the day before the race to prime your body. David Taylor acknowledges that the pre-race ride is something that varies by individual and experience level, but says that "most riders have a pre-race day workout which is typically a few short hard efforts of up to 3 minutes as part of a short ride."
Ninth tip: de-stress the registration process. This involves arriving early. As David Taylor puts it, "I try to get to registration early to avoid having to stand in line for 15 minutes with some slightly manic over caffeinated individual for company." Arriving early also gives you a chance to roll around a few minutes before the race to keep your legs loose. Also, be sure you have everything out and ready at registration so that it goes smoothly: money, license, signed release form. Finally, pick your company. Ann Marie Miller suggests that you "steer clear of friends or teammates who are 'high-maintenance'; you know who they are – everything is a drama and they are always on the edge of a crisis."
Tenth tip: the final pointer comes from David Taylor. "if you've gone to trouble to do all of the above don't just sit in the pack and ride around in circles for 4 laps. Try to use park races to experiment tactically and push your physical limits. If you get through a season without experiencing some type of spacial disorientation or nausea then you're not trying hard enough." And before you throw up, you can follow Ann Marie Miller's advice and "acknowledge how it is pretty cool to be racing at a time when others are just staggering home."
The idea and content for this article came from Marc Mauceri. Initial picture of morning racing courtesy of Andy Shen. Written by David M. Carr. Communications[at]crca.net welcomes other article ideas and help in compiling content for them. In addition, feel free to send to the same email address advice for new racers on how to make the most of their racing in CRCA (a topic for a future story).