Cyclocross champ Rebecca Gross’ pre-race routine

The largest source of nervousness I get from racing is showing up to the venue for the first time. It’s always when I’m in the car and the first flutter of course tape catches my eye that I feel those same flutters echoing in my stomach.  The last thing I want is for that nervousness to impact my race day plan, so I find that showing up the day before to get a look at the layout of the venue helps to keep me focused.

How I spend the 24 hours leading up to a race is critical to my performance. I use this checklist before every race:

  • Eat a good dinner and then breakfast the following morning
  • Get at least 8 hours of sleep
  • Arrive at the race at the right times to catch a pre-ride lap in between races

I generally leave for a cross race three hours before call-ups. I eat my pre-race meal around that same time. I prepare white rice and egg or yogurt or avocado and have it in a container to take with me as I drive.

When I show up at the venue, the complications of parking and knowing the registration location are minimized from having been there the day before. When the temps are low, I like to wear my pre-ride kit to the venue to avoid changing in the cold. 

Rebecca Gross Pre-Race

I always bring extra socks, chamois, base layers and sports bras so that I don’t spend any considerable amount of time in wet clothes. In between course laps, I grab and pin my number on my race kit, drink Beta Red, snack on a banana or bar, set up the trainer for my warm up, and watch the other racers take the trickier sections of the course. 

I like to give myself 20 minutes from the start of the race to get off the trainer, get my socks and baselayers changed (if it’s cold), use the bathroom and roll over to the start.  Once I join the group waiting on call-ups, it’s relax time as I make small talk with my fellow racers, eat a gel, and stay moving so I don’t get cold. 

My last bit of nervousness comes when I’m sitting on the line ready to go and the group gets quiet and tense.  I perch on my seat with pressure on the clipped in pedal, elbows bent and ready. I focus on quieting my mind by breathing steady and not thinking. 

Once the race is off, it is a bit of a blur, but as the start chaos settles, the real test of how hard you can push yourself begins. This is the challenge I spend the whole week anticipating and it’s my favorite part of the race.  If everything else was done right – training, nutrition, and rest – this is where tenacity is found, where resiliency is built, and pushing the limits of what you think is possible can be tested.  You can predictably learn more about yourself and lessons that apply directly to your life in those 50 minutes of racing than in months of day-to-day experiences.

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