Hello! Reid here, getting back from the eastern Supertours in Lake Placid, NY and Craftsbury, VT.
One thing I have learned a lot more about this year and gotten better at is how I prepare for a ski race. Beyond the hours of training and prep you do all year long, there are a lot of small, but important things that can maximize your success for race day in the week before or even minutes before you cross the start line. If overlooked, it can mean all the time and prep you have done all year long means nothing. This is something I have especially put a lot of emphasis on this year as I felt like I was not great on it in the past. I honestly didn’t have a consistent race day warm-up routine or plan for how I was going to prep. This year with help from coaches and teammates, I have really dialed it in and have a plan for what I am going to do the week before and morning of race-day.
Trying to keep my hands warm in the cold at Lake Placid
Before I get started on pre-race warm-up, there are a lot of other things off the skis you can do to optimize performance. In my opinion one of the most important things is sleep. Obviously, the ideal athlete would always be on top of their sleep schedule and be fully rested every day, but this just isn’t a reality with everyday stresses and things such as travel. One habit I try to very hard to do is even when I do not have any races coming up anytime soon, I still don’t let myself change my ideal sleep schedule I would use before races, such as thinking “I can stay up late for these few nights”. As we all know it is easy to throw off our schedule, making it hard to get good rest when the time comes that it is very important. The most common major disruption to my sleep is travel. I think it is smart to always expect a travel day (especially air travel) to be many hours longer than planned with potentially little to no good sleep. Although this is a bummer, I have gotten good at never being stressed about this since if you take advantage of sleeping well when you can (such as the week leading up to travel), you can afford that one bad day. This is the exact same for the night before a race. Whether it’s because you’re in a new bed, anxious for a race and just can’t sleep. The rest you have gotten leading up to that is way more important than that one night and you shouldn’t even have to worry about it on race morning! Sleep and rest are incredibly important, but never something to stress about if you are consistent and smart about.
The other major thing you can do off-skis to optimize performance is food and hydration. Beyond just eating pasta the night before a race (a skiers favorite meal), it is important, like sleep, to be fueling your body well the week before a race. It is actually proven that the meal two nights before your race is even more important, so don’t just focus on that night before meal. I also like to make sure I always eat a snack right after every workout I do as soon as possible, even if it is cheap and small (I bring a banana to almost every workout). Getting back to the night before the race, my coach Andy Newell always urges us to eat a protein loaded snack before we go to bed. His favorite is a bowl of cereal. Hydration goes along the same lines, it’s not just what you do on race day, the days before are just important.
Classic Pursuit in Craftsbury. Photo by Flyingpointroad
When it comes to actually putting the skis on there are many things to consider for pre-race. As a general guideline one should do some sort of intensity workout a day or two before race day to make sure the body is awake, but what you do and when you do it can change. My preference is usually to do intensity the day before the race. For this, a standard pre race I would do is 3-4min L2/L3, then 3-4min L3, and then another 3-4min L4, with plenty of rest in-between where I fully recover. Sometimes for a variety of reasons, such as conditions and timing, I may do intervals two days before. I like to make this interval set a little longer since I’ll have an easier day between this and my race. I usually do 2x8min L3, 2x3min L4, and 5x30sec speeds, focusing on some technical parts of the course. I’ll then keep the next day easy and maybe throw in a few quick speeds. Again, this is what I like to do and everyone is different so it is good to experiment around with something like this and find what works for you.
On race morning, as you know it is super vital to get in a good warm-up. For something like a sprint race I actually do a longer warm up and get in a decent amount of L4 so I am ready to go as fast as I can for the qualifier. An example would be at least 20min easy skiing and then 5min L2/L3, 5min L3, then 2x4min L4, with full recovery in-between these sets. I try to get this done with 15min left before the start and then I’ll do some short sprints in the starting pen on my feet and fire my muscles up with things like squats, jumping, pushups, etc. For a distance race, my warm-up is very similar, but I’ll do a little more L3 (such as 2x8min L3), then some shorter L4 intervals (such as 2-3x2min). Of course, it is important to realize that race morning doesn’t always go as planned and I often must change this routine if I am running short on time or races get delayed. Another thing I always do for races is take some caffeine about 30min before the start, my favorite is Science in Sport’s isotonic caffeine gel packs.
Next up for me is the Birkie, so I’ll definitely be focusing on my race prep these next couple weeks!