• Drew Dillman

#4: Race Day Routine

Updated: Aug 10, 2020

Welcome to the Coach’s Blog powered by Dillman Coaching. This is where I share my knowledge of racing and training with my athletes and anyone else who wants to ride fast.

With Dillman Coaching still being fairly new I am still making changes here and there so in my last post I talked about a few of the changes I’ve made in TrainingPeaks. It was primarily a post geared toward Dillman Coaching athletes, but there are a few tid-bits that are interesting for everyone else too. Check out Blog #3 for the full read.

As we venture into the middle of the CX season I am excited to see the results of my athletes and want to be doing everything I can to help them perform at each race. With that in mind, this post is going to walk through the day of a race and the routine I typically follow on race-day.

Night Before

I know I said race-day, but there are a few things I’ll do the night before a big race to make race-day go a bit smoother.

The main thing I’ll always do the night before a race is plan out my day. This may not be a written out schedule of events, hour by hour, but I will at least have a general idea about when I’m eating, leaving, riding the course and warming up. Don’t show up without even knowing when your race starts.

Another thing I like to do the night before is pin my numbers. Obviously this only applies for races that allow you to pick up numbers the day before. This is just one less thing you’ll have to worry about on race day.

PRO TIP: Always pin your own numbers. The first time might be hard, but once you get the hang of it it’s easy. And no one (except Mom) really wants to pin your numbers on your skin tight spandex while you wiggle around on the trainer. Just do it yourself.

Note: If you are pinning your numbers, make sure you try the skin-suit on before the last call to staging. When you’re rushing to get to the line and you bust 3 pins trying to put your skin-suit on, it just adds unwanted stress.

Sleep. This is a no-brainer. Make sure you get at least 8 hours of sleep the night before the race. This means appointing yourself a “bed-time.” Trust me, I know how important the 8PM movie on FX can be sometimes, but most of the time that 8pm movie doesn’t end until 11pm or midnight. Not worth it. Read a good book instead.


Wake up. I always set an alarm to wake me up. Don’t rely on someone else waking you up. Especially if your race is earlier in the day. You don’t want to over sleep and end up eating breakfast an hour before your race.

Coffee or juice? I do like coffee, but I limit myself to one cup a day. Especially the day of the race. Caffeine is good, but coffee is also a dietetic which means it makes you pee more which means you lose fluids. So I will usually balance my one cup of coffee with a good amount of water as well. This is when I’ll sit down with my Bible and focus my attention to God. Racing is important, but not as important as my relationship with God. So this is one of my favorite times of the day. I’ll usually drink my cup of coffee and read for about an hour and then I’ll do breakfast.

Getting your eating-times dialed is crucial on race day. We all know what it feels like (and tastes like) when your breakfast starts burping up in the middle of a race because you didn’t give your body enough time to digest. If your race is before noon I’d say to just plan to have a big breakfast at least 3 hours before the start of the race. If you have a lot of nerves for this particular race you may want to extend it to 3.5 hours. So for an 11AM race you’ll want to eat breakfast at 7:30-8AM. That will give your body enough time to digest all the food and you shouldn’t cramp during the race.

For afternoon races, you’ll want to get a big breakfast in the morning and then you’ll want to eat lunch 3 hours before the race. So you’ll want to eat breakfast a little earlier so you can also eat a sandwich before the race. You don’t want to end up eating a late breakfast, skipping lunch and being hungry an hour before the race.


Larry's Haystack should NOT be a part of race-day nutrition


My go-to breakfast is oatmeal and eggs. You’ll get a good amount of carbs from the oatmeal and a little protein from the eggs.

Here are some other good breakfast options:

  • Oatmeal. Steal-cut oats are great, but the individual packaged oats are still a good option as well. Add brown sugar, fruit, peanut butter, nuts, raisins or milk to flavor.

  • Eggs. Not the fake stuff. I prefer mine scrambled on a piece of toast.

  • Whole-grain pancakes. Just don’t slather them with too much butter and syrup. I love to put peanut-butter and bananas on my pancakes to make them a bit thicker and to add a variety of nutrients.

  • Fruit. Stay away from high-acid fruits like oranges or grapefruit. These tend to upset the stomach during a race.

  • Yoghurt. Dairy is different from person to person. I can handle dairy on race day as long as I give my body plenty of time to digest it. But I know plenty of people who won’t touch dairy products on race-day.

  • Potatoes. Some good hash browns or dices potatoes are another good source of carbs. Just be careful with the grease. Baking is always a better alternative to frying.

Things to stay away from:

  • Greasy, high-fat foods like fried sausage or bacon.

  • High fructose corn syrup. Usually in pancake syrup.

  • Bagels. Good for training days, but very dense and take a long time to digest.

  • Dairy. Depends on person, but I usually limit dairy on race day.

  • High-acid juices and fruits like orange juice.

  • Sugary cereals. Cereals like corn flakes, frosted wheats or Raisin Bran are about the only good cereals out there.


My go-to lunch is a turkey, cheese & mustard sandwich with a banana or apple. Good carbs from bread and banana and small amount of protein from lunch meat.

Here are some other good lunch options:

  • Turkey sandwich.

  • Pasta with chicken and tomato based sauce. Stay away from high fat-sauces like Alfredo.

  • Rice and chicken.

  • Peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

  • Peanut butter and banana sandwich.

Things to stay away from:

  • Greasy and high-fat foods like hamburgers or chicken nuggets. Sorry, but McDonalds is out.I prefer turkey over ham, because turkey has less fat. I prefer mustard over mayo, because mayo is high in fat.

  • All fried foods. Come on. Y’all know better.

PRO TIP: Don’t try anything new on race day. This includes food, race supplements, drink mix or even race strategy. Use hard training days as practice for new drink mixes and food. Experiment with different meals on training days so that when race-day comes you know exactly what to eat and when to eat it.


I always plan to arrive on-site at the race venue at least 3 hours before my race. For early morning races you can arrive 1-1.5 hours before because you probably won’t have to worry about pre-riding between races.

My typical schedule:

8:00: Coffee & Bible.

9:00 : Breakfast.

1:00 : Arrive on-site. Eat sandwich/ last meal. Pick up numbers.

1:45 : Change into pre-ride gear.

2:00 : Course pre-ride. Usually 2 laps between races. May allot more time if muddy conditions.

PRO TIP: If your bike is muddy, swing by the pits and spray your bike down before heading back to team tent. Saves mechanics from the extra hassle.

2:45 : Pin numbers.

3:00 : Change into skin-suit.

PRO TIP: Wear a short sleeve jersey under a long sleeve jersey so you can shed layers while your on the trainer. And leave your skin-suit rolled up, off your upper body so it doesn’t get soaked in sweat and cause you to be even colder on the start line.

3:15 : On trainer for warm-up.

3:45 : To staging.

4:00 : Race start.

5:00 : Race finish.

5:15 : Recovery mix & trainer cool-down.

PRO TIP: Start with your race time and work backwards from there. That’s what I just did with the schedule above.

Warm-Up Routine

An often over-looked aspect of the race-day routine, but so important if you want to have a good race. I will list out my warm-up routine below, but the basic idea is to hit each zone before heading to the start of the race. Don’t just do a few sprints and think that is enough, it isn’t. Keep in mind, this can be done on the road or the trainer. I usually let the weather decide. If it’s hot, I’ll do it on the road. There is no point in over-heating on a trainer before a race. If it’s cold, then it’s the trainer.

Drew’s Pre-Race Warm Up (1 Hour Elite Race):

3:00 Easy Spin

5:00 Tempo

3:00 Recovery

2:00 Steady State

3:00 Recovery

2:00 Steady State

3:00 Recovery

1:00 Power Interval

3:00 Recovery

1:00 Power Interval

3:00 Recovery

Total Time: 31 minutes

Juniors Pre-Race Warm Up (30 Minute Race):

3:00 Easy Spin

3:00 Tempo

3:00 Recovery

2:00 Steady State

3:00 Recovery

1:00 Power Interval

3:00 Recovery

Total Time: 18 minutes

Post Race

This is especially important if you have another race the next day.

I will usually have a bottle with recovery mix already prepared for after I finish the race. It is very important that you drink a recovery drink within 30 minutes of the finish of your race. This is the magical “30-minute window” when your body is able to absorb a ton of nutrients, so you’ll benefit much more if you drink your recovery now rather than later.

Plan to get a full meal within 2 hours of the finish of the race. High carbs and moderate protein is important. Carbs are the #1 source of energy our bodies burn during high intensity efforts so you need to replenish them.

Hydrate. Make sure you continue to drink water and electrolyte mix. I tend to stay away from soda, especially if your racing the next day. I just don’t like having the extra carbonation in my tummy.

Customize It

Hopefully the information above is helpful, but most of this is my preference and it is customized to my race-day schedule. Most of you have different race times and different taste buds so you’ll have to customize your race-day routine to match your schedule and preferences.

The biggest tip I’d give is try all this stuff out before you get to Nationals or any big A race. Get your routine dialed so on A-Races you know exactly what works for you.

Thanks again for reading. And as always, feel free to shoot me a message with feedback or ideas for future posts.


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