Originally published in Master Skier Magazine
By Garrott Kuzzy
The Week Before the Big Event
Your preparation the week before the big race will not help you have the best race of your life; leave that to the other 51 weeks. The week before is for you to enjoy. It’s the best week of the year, when you can enjoy the fitness you have worked so hard to achieve. Planning your training, meals, sleep, equipment and travel will help you prepare, so you can glide to the start line with confidence. Ready to fly.
First, there is a fundamental question that will help keep the big event in perspective.
Why do you ski race?
This question is distinctly different from “what are your goals?” Ski racing has a different
purpose for everyone. For me, it gives an opportunity to test my training, spend time with friends and see new places. So, why do you ski race? A clear, written answer to that question will help you leading into the big event more than anything else. If I know my training has not been ideal, I am okay with less than ideal results--I still love skiing with friends and exploring new places.
What has worked in the past?
Before looking forward, think about past races. Do you keep a training log or journal? Previous training and events are all part of the preparation for this one. The big event. Each day of training should have a purpose. Write down today’s goal. “Today, I’m working on pacing. Each interval will be faster than the previous” or “today, is an easy day. I’m biking with friends and sharing stories from the weekend.”
At the end of each day or race, write down three things that worked well and three things to improve upon. Three is too many? Okay…pick one of each. Review those goals and assessments about a week before the big event.
What is your plan?
Now that you know what has worked in the past, you can make your plan. This is the best part. Your plan allows you to move confidently into the big event. This is not the time to look at skiers around you and wonder if perhaps maybe you should be doing something differently. You know what works. You know what you need to do. Write it down. Follow it.
Your plan may be to the nearest hour a week before the event. On race day, it should be to the minute. Each time you accomplish a part of your plan, you are achieving a small goal. Each of these small goals adds up to preparedness, and confidence, when you glide up to the start line. There are five primary categories to consider when writing your pre-week plan: training, meals, sleep, equipment and travel.
This is not the week to train more or harder. This is the week to enjoy the fitness you have achieved. Use previous pre-race weeks to test variables. Personally, I perform better after a hard effort the day before a race. This is not the case for everyone. Know what works for you. Continue to do the same number of workouts you normally would, but keep them shorter and sharper. If you are doing intervals (and you should), do them on downhills, flats or rolling terrain. If you are doing strength (and you should), keep the weight lighter and your movements powerful. If you are going easy, think about staying relaxed and using your best technique. Take the time you gain from the shorter workouts and spend a little more time stretching and taking care of your body afterwards--including what you eat.
Plan your meals early in the week. Buy groceries accordingly, so you do not need to make unnecessary trips to the store. Keep your meals balanced: grains, proteins, fruits, vegetables. You may want to increase your carbohydrate consumption this week, but not to extremes. Too much pasta can make you tired from having to digest so much. Also, remember to stay hydrated, without overdoing it. Salt and electrolytes are a good idea to help your body absorb liquids and keep a fluid balance in your body, as you lose salt through sweating--especially on race day. Include a snack in your bag to facilitate recovery immediately after you finish. Most of the pros travel with hand sanitizer. It’s a good idea to apply it liberally and often.
Sleep is your secret weapon. Especially this week. If you can add an extra hour of sleep every night this week, that almost adds up to another night of sleep (and recovery!) that you would not normally get. If there is ever a time to treat yourself to sleep, it’s this week. The book “Power Sleep” by James Maas is an excellent resource with many insights about the benefits of sleep. One anecdote that has helped me: we benefit from sleep, so long as our eyes are closed and the lights are off--even if we are not actually able to sleep.
If there’s anything that wakes me up at night, it’s not pre-race nerves; it’s the fear of forgetting something. Pack the night before and use a checklist. You will sleep better knowing that everything is ready. Make sure that you have enough dry clothes, especially a warm hat and socks, for after the race. Know the weather forecast and triangulate with several weather sources.
How are your skis getting waxed? Ideally you have looked at the forecast and prepped most layers on your race skis earlier in the week. Waxing late into the night before a race will hurt you more than it helps. Ideally, you just need to add one or two quick layers the afternoon before the race. Or better yet, have someone who knows more than you do about wax prepare your skis for you.
Travel & Race Day
Most of us are not lucky enough to live in Hayward, Sun Valley or St Moritz. That means we are often traveling to the big event. Leave plenty of time in your plan for travel. On the morning of the event, when your plan is to the minute, aim to arrive early. If there’s a day when external variables will impact your plan, it will inevitably happen today. One way to keep adversity in perspective? Think about Norwegian Simen Krueger, who fell at the start of the 30km Pursuit in PyeongChang, then skied past everyone in the race to win gold.
When it’s time to warm up, know when you are going to start and what you are going to do. I prefer a basic warm-up: 10 minutes easy. 3 x 3 minutes at race pace with equal rest. 3 x 1 minute at last-kilometer pace with equal rest. Then 10 minutes for final prep and getting to the start line. It takes about 45 minutes total. For a long marathon, this warm-up could even be shorter.
Throughout the week, you have methodically checked off each line in your plan. Each check mark is a goal that you have accomplished. Your training has been sharp. You have been eating well and sleeping well. You have your skis, boots, poles and bib. You know your purpose for being here. You can stand at the line with confidence. The gun goes off. Now it’s time to fly.
Garrott competed in the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver. He currently lives in Innsbruck,
Austria where he offers cross country ski vacations through his company, Lumi Experiences.