Race Advice From Coach Natalya – Updated 2014!

Race Advice 2014


  • Identify 3 objectives that you wish to improve upon in your race. After each race, evaluate what you learned from you race and revise your objectives for your next race.


  • Get a good night’s sleep two nights before the race.  You will be nervous the night before and getting prepared, so you won’t sleep as well.  Two nights before is what counts.


  • The day before your race do an easy ski of perhaps 30-40 min (for masters) if you have time and throw in a couple of short tune up sprints. Use easy terrain with no steep hills.


  • Eat an elite athlete’s supper with lots of protein and carbohydrates to build up your reserves. Keep a record of what you eat for prerace suppers to find out which one is your best pre-race meal.


  • Glide wax your warm-up/test skis and race skis the day or night before or even two nights before. Prepare the kick zone of your classic skis by cleaning them, sanding them, and putting the appropriate base binder on if that is what your coaches suggest.  Wait till race morning to apply the proper kick wax.


  • Pack your ski bag with everything you need the day or night before. Prepare your clothing, food, and water bottles. You will need a change of clothing for immediately after the race and a change for the travel home. Bring a towel, extra clothing and spare toques, gloves, buffs, etc . for the weather. Prepare a lunch bag for the finish line recovery nutrition, cool down nutrition and travel home meal if applicable


  • Write down a little schedule for race day so you know what to do when and so you don’t have to think about it. It will remove the stress. Start with the race start time and working backwards, fit in getting to the start line, your warm up, your wax testing, going to the bathroom, signing in, finding parking, driving there, packing car, dressing, eating breakfast, getting up, etc. Keep this schedule with you and stick to your schedule.


  • Relax the night before at some point. Have a warm bath, do some easy stretching, and have a tea. Go to bed early and get 8+ hours sleep.


  • Eat 2.5 to 3 hours before your race start. Eat an elite athlete’s breakfast, like 1-2 eggs or some cottage cheese for protein, large flake oatmeal with raisins, dried fruit, nuts, fresh fruit. Avoid fats, meats and milk before races. Don’t eat within 2 hours of your race start and don’t drink fluid with sugar content between breakfast and your warm up. But you can drink water or tea before your warm up. Drink at least one bottle of your water or energy drink during your warm up.


  • Get to the race site with plenty of time to follow your schedule (1.5 hours to 2 hours) and allow more time for classic races to test your wax and apply the race wax before the warm up.


  • Consult your coaches for the kick wax recommendation and ski on the course to test your kick wax before adding the final layers. Get away from the start area, where the snow will be skied in and different than snow out on the course.


  • Make sure you know the course. Check the course map, and ski the course if you can to memorize it. Do it the day before or arrive earlier to ski the course (if it is a short course). Think about how you will ski each section. Don’t rely on course marking or marshalls to let you know where to go if you can avoid this, because they can make mistakes and are not responsible if you go off course and get disqualified. You are responsible for knowing the course.


  • Start your warm up with enough time to get your warm up in and have 10-15 min to get ready at the start-line. Warm up sufficiently ! Don’t try to warm up during the race. You will lose time. During your warm up, start drinking your sports drink or water if you prefer and hydrate well before the race. Carry a bumbag with the things you need before the race like your wax, cork, puffer, gels, sports drink, etc. And drop off a small backpack or bag at the race start area before your warm up with dry gloves and toque if you wish to change these after your warm up. You can use this to store your warm ups in during the race.


  • Warm-up routine for masters for a short race of 5-15 km:  15-20 min zone 1, 5 min zone 3, 3 min zone 1, 5 min zone 3, 3 min zone 1, 1 min zone 4, and get to the start area, but keep moving.


  • Spend as little time as possible at the stadium before your start. This will keep you focused on your race and little time to get nervous or to cool off after your warm up.


  • Get to the start area at least 10 minutes before your start. Drink your sports drink, eat a sports gel and take care of any last minute adjustments. Take off your warm ups with 5 min to go and get to the start line. Move to stay warm. Be at the start line with at least a few minutes to go or earlier if you need to get a good position.


  • Start your race with a big smile and be positive. Have fun. Use your cue words or mantra to stay positive, to focus on technique and to stay focused and motivated!


  • Start your race as hard as possible (you have to be well warmed up to do this), unless it is a very long race, such as a marathon or loppet.  You will have a faster time by starting harder. But stay relaxed and calm, particularly in a mass start where poles can get broken because people are too aggressive. Look for the openings in the pack and slip through.


  • Build your speed up during the race and try to get a negative split if doing two laps. Pick a spot near the end of the race where you will go for broke and go as hard as you can to the finish line.


  • Be confident that you have done all the right training and that you are in the best possible shape you could be at this point in time.


  • Push yourself. It is supposed to hurt; it’s a race! Enjoy it. Focus on your technique, not on whether you are hurting.


  • Think about how to gain time on each section of the course, like good poling before down hills, gain time on down hills, low body position on downhills and in fast corners, weighting the outside ski on the down hills, or being in or out of the track, keep speed up after hills, ski harder before rest sections, increase speed and frequency up short hills, use high frequency if you are tired, ski the hard parts easier to prevent from overtaxing your muscles, but ski the easy parts harder to gain time.


  • Look ahead of yourself and push yourself to finish each section of the race as fast as you can. Race yourself to the top of every hill and around every corner. Look for seconds.  Try to glide an inch further every stride, add a few extra pushes at the tops of downhills, take the shortest line around the course. Push your limits. Race on the edge or your ability. Otherwise you are going too slow. Attack the race. A good race won’t just happen to you.  You have to make it happen.


  • Talk to yourself. The voice in your head should be helping you race your fastest, telling you what to do, what technique to use, what’s coming up, to stay relaxed and positive, etc. Use your cue words to focus on technique and to motivate yourself. Tell yourself you are not tired – you have lots of strength and energy left, etc.


  • Stay relaxed during your race, keep your body loose and fluid and think positively.
  • Go fast right now. Think only about what you have to do in each few seconds of the race. Don’t worry about what you did at the start of the race or what’s coming up in 5 minutes.  However, if you are in a mass start race, you should be aware of the skills of the skiers around you and think ahead to a spot on the course where you can exploit their weaknesses.


  • Go harder when you get to the point where you decided to go for broke! Finish your race with nothing left in you at the finish line. Finish with a big smile and positive thoughts.


  • As you cross the finish line, start thinking about what needed improving, your muscles or your motor, so you know what to concentrate on in your training (e.g. more muscular short speed intervals of steep climbing and double poling sprints or long aerobic hill cardiovascular intervals).


  • Then, you should get your warm-up clothing on right away. Eat your finish line recovery snack right away and rehydrate. Go inside and change into dry ski clothing for your cool down. Take your recovery nutrition and fluids with you and consume them. Each 5 minute delay in eating after your race will delay your recovery by 30 minutes! Do a 20 min cool down ski on easy terrain. Evaluate your own race without looking at the results and write this down. Focus on your feelings and thoughts about your effort in the race.


  • After your cool down, put on more clothes. Have a shower and change as soon as you can to help with recovery.  Have a recovery meal. Take a warm bath and stretch. Get a good night’s sleep and start your next race preparation!


Warm Up Routine (long race)

#1 (Note that new research shows that too many short hard efforts before a race are detrimental to performance, so don’t do many hard sprints.)

15-20 min zone 1

3 min zone 3

3 min zone 1

2-3 x 20 sec sprints with 2 min recovery

Ski to start area and keep moving as long as possible


#2 (If you find you are perform better well into the race you probably need to do this longer warm up and gradually work up into zone 3-4 race pace.)

15-20 min zone 1

5 min zone 3

3 min zone 1

5 min zone 3

3 min zone 1

1 min zone 4


Warm Up Routine (sprint race)


25 –30 min zone 1

3 min zone 3

3 min zone 1

5 x 10 sec sprints with 1 min recovery

Ski to start area and keep moving as long as possible


Sample Race Day Schedule for Coupe Skinouk


Get up: 7:00

Eat breakfast: 7:15

Dress: 8:00

Pack car: 8:20

Drive there 8:30

Find parking 8:55

Pick up bib: 9:00

Test waxes:  9:30

Go to the bathroom: 10:00

Warm Up:  10:15

Get to the line: 10:45

Take off warm ups: 10: 53

Race Start:  10:58


Sample Race Day Schedule for Gatineau Loppet 29 km


Get up  5:30 a.m.

Eat breakfast   5:45

Dress   6:15

Pack car 6:40

Drive there   6:45

Go to the bathroom   7:00

Put on boots  7:10

Test waxes   7:15

Put final kick waxes on 7:40

Go to the bathroom  8:00

Warm Up:   8:10

Get to the line: 8:45

Take off warm ups: 8:50

Race Start:  9:00