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You’ve trained for 46 weeks 5 or 6 days a week. You’ve done your 7-10 day taper. You are injury free and ready to rock and roll.
Yet sometimes we all make mistakes prior to the big meet. It doesn’t matter if it’s a Provincial meet or the Olympics. Your big meet is your big meet.
NOW is not the time to try new things.
But life is not perfect and stuff happens. Here is a quick list from experience, both from myself and other athletes.
- Changing your start – after 8 years of practicing blocks, why would you change anything at the last minute? Especially the 100m or 110m hurdles where it’s 8 steps to the first hurdle. Inches (or centimeters) matter or else you will crash. (sounds familiar? **cough cough PF cough cough**)
- Practicing starts the night before – I’ve heard stories of athletes totally wired for their race, that they were practicing starts in their hotel room (using a mattress for a crash pad) the night before the big meet. This will trash your CNS the next day. Plus, your hotel neighbors will wonder what’s going on.
- Changing your gear – you should never wear new shoes or spikes, unless you forgot or lost your pair, and you are forced to use new spikes. Yes, I know Tim Montgomery wore Marion Jones spikes in this 9.78 WR, but we know the whole story now.Same goes with bodysuits. Always test your new bodysuit at the hotel and bring a spare to the track, as they are known to rip if too small or tight. (Remember the Women’s Bobsled “wardrobe malfunction” video on YouTube that went viral?) You would think this is obvious, but I can recall this happened to a world class 400m sprinter (who wishes to remain anonymous for obvious reasons!)
- Changing your diet, especially on the road – try to eat the same way you do all year. It may be tough with travel, and you might think pasta the night before will be healthy, but watch out, it may make you feel bloated. Anyone who has travelled with me knows my pre-race superstition meal (for night meets): a Club Sandwich (preferably no fries and unbuttered whole wheat bread)
- Not enough warm up, warm up too soon or warming up too late – I always advise starting 30 minutes earlier in big meets because you have extra check-in times, marshalling, sitting around in the control area, stadium PA speakers announcing the field, etc.When you do 2000 meters of tempo 3 days a week, your body has a good cardiovascular system right down to the capillaries. Staying warm will be easier because your system is more efficient. I’m not promoting 100 miles weeks like Arthur Lydiard. Just good old fashion low intensity volume.
- Changing practice times – this is tough especially when travelling and access to the practice tracks. Something can be said about biorhythms or HRV (heart rate variability) about the time of day that is best for you. Track finals at big meets are always at night. So try to find a practice time that is close to what you are used to.
- Shopping, sightseeing or laying in the sun on the European tour – sightseeing and shopping is the worse thing you can do being on your feet all day in the hot sunshine. First year newbies on the European circuit always fall into this trap. Seasoned professionals read novels in their hotel room.When I was at the Rome Sheraton, several athletes were in the lobby on their laptops and netbooks. Others, such as Dayron Robles were just sitting and chatting inside for hours. Of course, he had the odd interruption of asking for his photo to be taken.
- Sleeping in – since you can’t shop or do sightseeing, I can see sleeping in as the only thing to do. Again, this may be a bad thing if it leaves you too groggy.
- Too much energy drinks – Let me reiterate, NOW is NOT the time to double up extra energy drinks like Red Bull, Vitalyze, or 5-hour shots. Even at Starbucks where you can get an extra espresso shot added to your 20oz venti size drip coffee, this may be a bad thing. Better be close to the bathroom, and bring toilet paper, as mama used to say.
Those are my nine. Can you add a few more?