Editor’s note: The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia is honored to host a new series on our blog about adaptive cycling, written by local cyclist Patrick Sweeney. As a differently-abled person, Sweeney has found freedom in his bicycle and has used that freedom to become an athlete. See Sweeney’s previous posts here, here and here.
Racing Part 1: Pre-Race
The most important part of racing strategy is making sure you find the right race for you. As an adaptive cyclist, it’s important for me to consider the distance, but also the different terrain on the course. This is a safety issue. When you’re riding an adaptive bike, you have to know what your equipment can handle.
Find out how wide the trails are, if there are any sharp turns, or blind U-turns, and if there are any parts where an adaptive bike couldn’t get over the terrain without help. Lots of adaptive bikes don’t ride well on grass, so I make sure I can get started on a hard surface.
I recommend asking for this information in advance. You can contact Race Directors to ask about these things. You also need to confirm that the race allows para-athletes. Any Triathalon sanctioned by the US Triathalon Association should allow Para-athletes. Race directors are the most helpful in accommodating you. Also, athlete meetings can be a good time to ask some of these questions if you haven’t already.
There are lots of organizations that host races. To search for races I usually look at DelmoSports, CGI Racing, DQ events, and the Ironman Association. Registration usually costs a fee. Adaptive athlete foundations will help cover these costs, but you can also fundraise on Facebook or GoFundMe. I only fundraise if I’m doing a race where the registration fee goes to charity.
When you find a race, check the distance to make sure it’s fits your abilities. There are Sprints which are about 10-15 miles, Olympics which are 16-25 miles, full Ironmans which are 100 miles, and Half Ironmans, which are about 50 miles. Pay attention to whether there is a time cut off within the race, because you have to pick a distance where you know you can meet that cut off. Make sure race you choose fits a speed you can maintain.
A big piece of my mental strategy comes before race day. Tapering is a strategy where you rest before race day, so your body isn’t too tired from training. Sleep is also key. Races start really early, so get enough sleep the night before. Proper nutrition is another crucial factor of racing.
I like to start fueling for my races 3-4 days before. A nutritionist can help with this, but in general, stay away from processed foods. Try to fill up on whole grains, veggies, quinoa, and chicken. The morning of my race I usually have egg whites, cheese, and whole grain waffles for breakfast. If you fuel properly before your race, you can skip rest stops which saves you racing time.
I try to not let the race overtake my mental anxiety. The day before I like to go for a walk to detach from the race and stretch my legs. This helps me get ready to fully go into race mode on race day. Preparing ahead for your race is half the battle toward a successful race.
Stay tuned for my next post, about Race Day!