An Athlete’s Guide to Race Day Preparation
Skiing well in a race isn’t just a matter of skiing two 45 second runs well. In order to ski down the course in your best form you need to make a lot of things happen ahead of time. Remember that the attention you pay to the small things affects your race day, including how well you do and how much you enjoy it.
On your last training day prior to the race, there are a few things to think about to get ready for race day. You should make a conscious attempt to finish your very last run of the day in very good form, skiing the same types of turns that the next race will bring. Imagine and visualize that racecourse just prior to taking your last run. As you are skiing down, pretend that you are making your turns around the gates in the race. Finish strong.
The Day Before
The day before, a few key things need to happen:
- Check: Go through your gear and make sure everything is in order, and nothing is missing or broken, so that you’re not surprised on race day. Check the weather outlook. Knowing the weather lets you plan the right clothing. If it’s going to be raining or really cold, plan for it by bringing the right clothing.
- Tune: Determine air/snow temperature. Get your skis’ edges done, base prep done, and ideally a couple of coats of the appropriate wax. Wrap your skis.
- Fuel: Have a good, well-balanced dinner, rich in carbohydrates.
- Pack: Get your gear by the door and ready to go. Everything should be packed.
- Rest: Get to bed at least 8 hours before you need to get up. You should wake up refreshed, not fatigued or tired. If you are routinely tired on race day, you are not getting enough sleep. When you don’t get enough sleep your body cannot be fully alert and focused. This reduces reaction time which is very important in ski racing.
Race Day — At the Hill
Two things to avoid: rushing and skipping breakfast. First, being late to the hill and rushing around is not good for your mental preparation for a ski race. You need to be able to focus and concentrate to ski well. It’s very hard to do that when you are worried or stressed that you don’t have enough time to get everything done, can’t find a glove or wonder where you are supposed to meet your coach. Second, when it comes to the importance of breakfast, your parents and teachers are right. If you want to be at your physical best in the racecourse and if you want your muscles to respond they need to be fueled. Your breakfast should be mostly carbohydrates, not fat or protein. If you weren’t able to eat at hotel or in the car, then you absolutely should eat something at the hill.
Interaction with the host hill: Please do your best at all times to ensure you are portraying a positive impression of yourself, your teammates and your hill. We are from Batawa… a hill that most have never heard of but a place many will remember by your actions. Saying thank you to lift operators, gate keepers, volunteers, etc. goes a long way towards that image/impression we want others to have of us.
Race Day — Going up the Lift
Ok, so now you have your bib, are dressed, have fuel in your stomach, have chatted with your coach and are ready to go up the ski lift, which opened just ten minutes ago. What happens between now and the start is important. Breathe slowly and focus on your race routine.
Race Day — Pre Run One
At a minimum, everyone needs to go through their dynamic stretch routine, take two warm-up runs and one good course inspection. Reverse the L & R skis so that you are inspecting on a training edge, not the sharper racing edge.
Race Day – Inspection
First, get a good look at the start ramp. Slide over to its base and look down the course. Imagine those first two skates and see the line into the course. Your course inspection should be to get a general look at the course. Try and see the line in several sections. Close your eyes and visualize the way it will look as you race down it. Do this all the way down the course. Stop several gates above the finish and focus on the fastest line to the finish. Stop and visualize your finish. Know where it gets tight; where it will rut out; where the direction changes are; where the rhythm changes are; etc. Now you have a very good idea about what the course will be like. When you get to the top of the course this time it will likely be covered with ski racers. If you are on the same pair of skis switch to your race edges. You should try for at least one additional warm up run at race speed and type of turns on the same hill-or one beside it -as the race hill. Regroup at the top and get an idea if the race is going to start on time and when you need to be ready. You should not sit around at the top for over half an hour for your run. Take a few casual runs.
Race Day — First Run
Five minutes before you run it’s time to get your warm up clothing off. After you get your warm-up clothing off, run up the hill 5 feet or run on the spot. You need to increase the oxygen in your blood and get it to your legs. Relax and click into your skis. Take your time and make sure that you have clicked in without ice and snow on the bottom of your boot. Make sure your
goggles are free from fog and if it’s a rainy day, keep your goggles somewhere warm and dry until just before your run. Buckle up your boots. They should be very tight but not bone crushingly so. You should not be able to move your foot around. Take the last few minutes to visualize the course and focus on what you want to do. Filter out distractions and other people. Get in the gate and go for it.
After your first run, head back up top to collect your gear/warm-up stuff if someone hasn’t brought it down to the bottom. Remember this is just part one of two. If your run wasn’t everything you wanted, focus on what went well and what can be improved for the 2nd run. Don’t dwell on any mistakes. Offer words of encouragement to your teammates. Ask your
coach when the 2nd run is scheduled to start. If chilled, go inside and eat a quick snack.
Race Day — Second Run
On the 2nd run you need to be extra attentive so that you don’t miss your start. It’s better to be early than just in time- being rushed will be the biggest distraction on run 2. If you can, talk to your teammates that have already run the course, and be positive. Don’t obsess over a spot that everyone is talking about, a really icy spot or a big rut. If you run the
whole course worrying about one spot, you will ski the whole course defensively rather aggressively.
After your 2nd run, go back up top and try and help out your teammates. Give them words of encouragement or advice about the course. It’s good to mention a hard spot, but don’t describe it like the rut is huge, everyone is crashing there. Keep the emphasis positive. “It’s pretty twisty and a little tight, but it’s fun.”
Race Day — Back at Home
When you get home think about what you did well that day and what you can improve next time. Being a ski racer isn’t easy by any means but your day was the result of a lot of effort, so enjoy and be proud of your accomplishments. Dry off your gear and maintain your race
equipment. Thank your mom and dad.
Above all remember that race day is and should be a lot of fun. It’s a chance to demonstrate your abilities and test yourself. There will be races where you crash or DQ despite your best efforts. It happens to World Cup racers that have very specific race day routines, so don’t worry about it. All the stuff above may seem like a lot of info, but it’s surprisingly easy to do and it will improve your finish results. Tweak and adjust your race day routine at every race and find what works well for you. Over time it will be second nature and automatic. And over time the attention to detail and precision will make you faster.