It's easy to sign up for an event, organise a busy training plan, and then find that life just gets in the way, and you're not as prepared as you want to be.
The best plans start with the best intentions, but however good your intentions are, most amateur riders need to put real life first - be that work, children, family or friends.
If you've found that your event has crept up on you, and you're not as prepared as you'd like to be in the week leading up to the target you set yourself a few months ago, here are our tips...
Be Honest With Yourself
Firstly - lets just check you're not panicking for no reason. In training, we can always have done more, but there is a ceiling to how much hobby riders have time to do.
If your goal was distance orientated, and you've ridden at least 80% of the event distance once or twice, you will be absolutely fine, so do not worry.
If you were after speed, and you've been completing one or two short interval sessions a week, again, you'll be fine.
It's easy to run through what you could have done differently in the final weeks before an event, but if you know, deep down, that you have capacity to hit your targets, stop reading now and start getting ready for your big day!
If you've genuinely not been able to get the miles in, there is still hope...
Modify your Expectations
If you've not managed to ride 80% of your distance, or really not been able to get those key speed sessions in if you're after a quick time - it's time to ask yourself 'what's the worst that could happen?'
If you've signed up for a long distance sportive, it may be worth looking into how easy it is to drop down to a shorter distance. This is usually as simple as turning left or right at a route split, and notifying the organisers when you get back to HQ (lest they think you rode 100 miles in half the time!).
If there isn't a short route? Well - there is nearly always event support, and there's no harm in riding as far as you can, and finding a way back to HQ (as long as you inform someone).
If you find on the day that your legs are better than expected and you ride the entire distance - then that's a bonus you'll be super proud of at the end.
In the case that you were preparing for a short race, or a time trial which you wanted to ride fast and furious, you're simply going to be a little slower. Which takes us onto our next point...
Use it as Training
There's no harm in seeing the event as a stepping stone along the route to a new goal. Summer continues for several months, and there are plenty more events in the calendar.
Find a new target, in a month or two months time, and see this ride as a way of taking you closer to achieving your goal in a new time frame.
You will always work harder with a number on your back, so no doubt your upcoming ride will be better training than you could ever have done on your local lanes.
Eat, Drink and Sleep Well
In the week leading up to your event, no amount of panic-mile-munching is going to transform you into an in-form machine. In fact, in the few days before your event, you should definitely be cutting back in the miles, and doing some easy spins with a couple of short efforts, just as you would had your preparation been exactly as you'd hoped.
No amount of training will make up for a bike that won't shift gears, or an energy "bonk" on the day.
When we spoke to coach Jim Syrin about the most common errors he sees in sportive riders, he told us:
Bonking – not eating and drinking enough – is really common and avoidable. And I often see riders attempting a tough ride on a bike that needs work, the gears aren’t working or the tyres need pumping, those little things make a big difference to performance and enjoyment.
The toughest of days on the bike are definitely best with company. If you can find a friend who is in a similar boat, and just wants to get round, buddying up and agreeing to work together to keep each other motivated is a great idea.
If your event is draft legal, as well, you can even be a bit clever with your efforts and get around quicker than you would have on your own.
Ideally, you can get a mate to enter with you, otherwise, many events have social forums - Facebook groups or Strava groups where you can find ride buddies. Obviously, be careful when meeting anyone you encountered online.
Just make sure you're of a similar ability level, and both honestly committed to the cause - no one want to be getting frustrated, and no one wants to be getting dropped!
Maintain Perspective and Enjoy Yourself
At the end of the day - unless cycling is your career - you're doing it to have fun. Everyone understands that from time to time, real life simply has to take the lead, and that you won't always be in tip-top form.
The truth of the matter is nearly everyone else taking part is more worried about their own event than your performance. You're riding for you - and no one else - so relax, have fun, and plan to be competitive another day!
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