Traffic, feeling unprepared, scrambling for parking, navigating a new resort—all these things can throw your mojo on race-day—or any cross–country ski day. Here are some tips to help you get in your best performance.
Make a timeline.
And write it down. Work backwards from the start all the way to wake-up and breakfast, giving yourself several hours before race time to get fed (2-3 hours before), warmed up and ready. Don’t forget to add in time for parking or bib pickup and allow for a solid 25 minutes on the snow to complete your warm up routine.
Spend some time in your mind.
Joe Howdyshell of Summit Endurance Academy has his athletes practice meditation, and then journal about their race outcomes. “After the clarity of a 20 minute meditation, it’s MUCH easier to sit down and visualize your race and effort, plan your strategies, and mentally prepare.”
Stick to what’s normal.
If you usually have a coffee before your workout, drink coffee on race day. If you have a hot bath the night before, do that. Same goes for your fave breakfast (although make sure you’re getting enough carbs and not too much protein). Don’t completely rewrite the script; if something has been working for you, keep it steady.
Leave waxing to an expert.
When it comes to racing, nailing the right wax combo takes on mythic proportions. Ask the locals—the race host center, racers—for a local shop or wax service recommendation, and if there will be a third-party on-site wax expert who will be waxing the night before; you want someone to give the base a solid wax and scrape. Want to DIY? “Ask the organizer for Swix or Toko recommendations,” says Swix rep Igor Guziur. “Both companies send a waxing protocol to race organizers for big events and will make specific recommendations.”
Perfect a playlist.
Safety-first PSA: you want to check race rules on ear buds and be able to hear fellow athletes or concentrate on your breath. That said, studies have shown that music—of any kind—reduces the rate of perceived exertion by as much as 10 to 20 percent, giving you that extra mental edge to keep going. (For inspiration, check out the Ultimate Race Day Playlist on Spotify.)
Whether that’s sharing a ride to the race destination or mingling with registrants at bib pick up, having a familiar face to look to or someone to stride with helps with accountability, stress and motivation. It can also help improve your time—pick a friend to race with who’s just a smidge faster, and give ‘em a good chase. You’ll help push each other to the finish.
Pick the right fit.
It’s great to have a goal, and if you’re making the effort to race, it’s tempting to go big—but biting off a longer distance than you can tackle is a recipe for frustration. CCCSA’s race series offers a mix of classic and skate races and clinics to help you get ready. And if you’re just not quite there yet, look for events like the Colorado Nordic Fun Series. These combine skiing, drinks, fun and friends in all the best ways.