For most of my life, the biggest motivation for me to finish a ski race was so I could get a hot cup of Tang and a stack of cookies at the end. Then there were a few years when I just wanted to beat the 7th guy on our school team so I could make varsity. And now here I am, trying to win National Championships and score points on the World Cup. Whatever your motivation is, there are definitely ways to give yourself a better chance of winning that ribbon and getting those cookies.
1. Eat Early Enough
This one is brutally hard for me because I’m that guy who tries to sleep in until the last possible minute every other day of the year. I’m famous for my wicked short alarm-to-training times when we’re at training camp. But I’ve learned from experience, and as much as I resent it, I know that it takes way more than half an hour to digest a good enough meal to power you through a race. Get yourself up early enough to be finished eating a hearty, carb-heavy meal well before you need to start warming up… my rule for myself is to be done eating at least 2 hours before my race start. (Of course, there are some exceptions. 8 AM sprint qualifiers, super long marathons…)
2. Have a Warm-up Plan
I have heard of a lot of people who go out for their warm-up and they say they’re gonna “see how it goes.” I think this is a very bad idea. I almost ALWAYS feel completely awful when I start doing the intensity portion of my warm-up, and if it weren’t for my plan, I would just back off and resign myself to feeling bad that day. The point of the warm-up is to get yourself PAST the feelings of lethargy and tiredness so that those are out of the way by race start time.
3. Be Totally Self Contained
We have all been there; you left your race bib in your backpack, and you were planning on going back to put it on before the race, but your backpack is in the van, which got moved to the far parking lot because the close one was full, and your teammate that you can’t find has the keys. Great! When I warm up, I try to keep everything that I absolutely NEED for the race in my water belt on my person. Bib, timing transponders, race gloves, race headband, any pre-race food or drink; so if at any point I run out of time and have gone straight to the start pen, I will be able to start the race, no problem. It just leads to a much less stressful “pre-race,” allowing you to focus on your warm-up and getting your skis.
Written by Reese Hanneman, Two-time US National Champion, and World Cup Nordic Ski Racer, Alaska Pacific University Nordic Elite Team. See more at reesehanneman.com.
Photo credits: Main featured – Andre Horton, above – Fasterskier.com, Eric Packer, Andre Horton