So you’ve been training all year for this race. You’ve got the skills, you’re fit and you’re fired up. But what’s your plan before you take those first strokes through the starting line? Here are a few top tips to make sure your race day is as smooth as your lines!
Step 1: waking up
Set two alarms and give yourself plenty of time in the morning. There’s nothing worse than sleeping in and rushing to get prepared and grab what you need for the day, so get up early and chill out. But also make sure you get a good night’s sleep the night before, sometimes easier said than done.
Step 2: fuel
Breakfast! Everyone’s different and everyone gets along better with some foods than others, so there’s no right or wrong answer here but you want something that’s going to set you up for the day without being too stodgy and making you feel sluggish. Some form of carbs are a good idea to get that slow releasing energy going throughout your day, ideally around four hours before race time. Make sure you bring snacks so you can graze through the day and between heats – nuts, seeds and sugary fruits (dried fruit) are a winner. You want feel-good foods, not a burger from the van.
Step 3: hydration
There’s a fine line between drinking enough and going to the toilet every ten minutes, a line I’ve messed up on a few times! But whatever you do don’t get dehydrated. By losing just 5% of water weight your performance will dip by 30%, not good! Bring plenty of water and sip throughout the day, you know your body best.
Step 4: supplements
Find what works for you. I’ve experimented with a few supplements over the years and tend to have a combo of beetroot juice and gels. Concentrated beetroot juice has been proven to improve stamina and help your muscles go for longer, it’s also really good for you, so why not? Some gels can go along nicely with your snacks to bring back a few salts you’ve lost on the race course and give you a boost for your next heat. There’s plenty of stuff on the market so it’s a little bit of trial and error to work out what works for you.
Step 5: warm up
Get limbered up! Warming up and stretching is important, your paddling is going to be no good if you’ve just rolled out of bed and are stiff as a board. Warm up whether that’s jogging on the spot or having a chilled paddle before heading to the course. Whatever gets your muscles fired up is spot on. Once you’re warm it’s time to stretch. Basic arm, core, back and neck stretches are great. Chuck in some yoga if you’re that way inclined (it’s awesome). Odds are you’ve learnt some way to limber up over the years. It’s key to making sure your performance is your best.
Step 6: visualisation
Throughout your training, you’ve probably filmed some GoPro footage of yourself on the course. I like to re-watch this over breakfast so all the moves and lines are fresh in my head. If you haven’t got any footage, there’s bound to be something on YouTube. Once at the course, take a minute to close your eyes and visualise a successful run. Some people like to listen to music, whatever helps get you fired up. Seems silly but a lot of this game is in your head.
Step 7: preparation
Be prepared. You don’t want to get to the start queue and realise you’ve forgotten your paddle. Check and double-check that you have everything and get to the start early, it’s better to be waiting around relaxed than running around stressed.
Step 8: go!
Go fast! All these steps have gotten you in your boat, prepared, fuelled and ready to race, all there is to do now is go and smash it. You can only do your best!