The holidays can be a stressful and disruptive time for athletes. There are often loads of travel, relatives that are stressful to be around, and sick people sneezing on you. It's not ideal for training, but normally that's not a problem as it is the off-season. For those who plan to race CX Nationals, however, it's peak season!
If you're headed to Madison in mid-January, then right now you're in your final preparation phase as you gear up for the big event. In the next couple of weeks, you will want to hone your form to a sharp edge and peak for your big event. There are a few things you can do over the holidays and on your way to Wisconsin to minimize the disruption to your preparations and maximize your chances of a great result:
1. Get plenty of rest. When you're doing those tough intervals (more on those later) in cold and wet weather, you will be a bit more run down and more likely to inherit Uncle Elmer's cold. So, make sure you sleep well and often, taking naps if necessary, especially after workouts. Naps are also a great way to avoid hanging out with boring relatives.
2. Stay warm. Shivering can burn as many calories as a nice L2 ride, and you want to save that energy for training and for your race. It is cold in Wisconsin and it is cold on airplanes. Bring your warm layers, a cap and gloves, and wear them before and after training and while you travel.
3. Go easy on the sweets. The holidays are for feasting, but if you plan to be at your best in January, it will benefit you to stick to eating your fruits and veggies and some good protein. Save the sweets for while you're on the bike. Stay lean and mean.
4. Do your intervals. As you get closer to Nationals, your workouts will get a bit shorter, and a bit harder. By now, you have done the bulk of the LT work you need to do, and you should be honing the very top end of your form. This means a couple of days each week of Anaerobic Capacity (AC) intervals as well as some VO2 Max work. The key to getting the most from this hard work is solid rest (see #1!).
5. Minimize your stress level. This goes hand-in-hand with getting lots of rest. The holidays can be stressful for lots of reasons. Stress lowers your immunity to illness, wears you out, and makes your training less effective. Try to go into these weeks with a relaxed attitude. Channel your inner Dalai Lama and let stresses roll off your back. Focus on your objectives, and don't worry about your in-laws or whether or not you'll miss your connection.
Following these few simple bits of advice can help get the most out of your Nationals bid. Good luck!