So you’re set to race in NASTAR Nationals. You’ve qualified, trained, and practiced Ted’s Tips on technique and tactics. Now it’s time to put down your absolute best runs at Nationals–bringing your top performance through the gates, from start to finish.
One alpine racer who stands out for the ability to ski to her highest level come race day is Olympic, World Cup, and world champion Mikaela Shiffrin. Mikaela and her Coach Roland Pfeifer know once you’ve sharpened your technique and tactics it’s also key to develop a race day routine–your own recipe of warm up, physical, and mental prep to ski your best when it counts most. SKI caught up with Roland and Mikaela for their tips and advice for achieving race day peak performance.
“My main message is always to keep it as simple as possible on race day,” says Coach Pfeifer. “If you’ve performed well in training and developed a good system for before, during, and between runs, simply follow that. Stay composed and focused and allow your training to naturally kick in.”
As for how Mikaela gets her highest level of training to kick in on race day, she offered the following tips:
Mikaela Tip 1 – Get Good Rest, Maintain Your Energy
For a two run race, I make SURE to get plenty of rest the two nights prior. It really matters. On race day make sure to pace your energy level. You can't possibly stay amped up and intense all day so find a way to relax before runs–a book, movies, music, take a nap–whatever calms you down. Then allow enough time before your run (20-30 minutes) to get yourself energized again with music, a slight jog or (whatever works for you). Even in the warm up, it's important to conserve mental and physical energy, to some extent.
Mikaela Tip 2 – Eat Right Before and During Your Race
Eat well before and between your runs. I like to have multi-grain cereal with fruit for breakfast. Between runs I take a light, but nutritious snack, like a tuna sandwich or a little bit of pasta with veggies. I suggest just enough to stay energized, but not too much to become lethargic. Save the big meal for after you put down your best runs in the race!
Mikaela Tip 3 – Find Your Best Warm-up Routine in Training, Follow It on Race Day
When it comes to pre-race warm-up and gear check, find what works for you in training and follow it on race day. Warming up with a tried and tested routine reinforces confidence and composure going into the start gate. I usually take some free ski runs, do a gear check, and then stay warmed up and relaxed through walking and some music, while beginning to visualize the race.
Mikaela Tip 4 – Visualize and Trust Your Vision
In the start area, while staying warmed up and stress-free, I start to visualize the course and my race. Be sure to maintain your confidence level, trust what you’ve inspected, and maintain your vision for the race. As the race starts, it’s ok to watch other skiers, but still trust your own skiing and plan–even if you see other racers struggle. Review the course several times in your head, set your mind toward turning on that switch to be aggressive and ski to your top level once you click the wand. I usually don’t think about winning the race, rather skiing my absolute best technique and tactics through the course. Three to five minutes prior start time, stop thinking about the upcoming run. If you’ve visualized properly in advance, you should leave the start not thinking, rather automatically executing your best skiing.
Mikaela Tip 5 – Stay Sharp From Run 1 to Run 2
First and foremost, continue to think positively no matter how your first run went. If there was a technical issue in your skiing, or you felt a little off, try to fix it through a free ski run or two, getting back to your technical fundamentals. Per Tip 2, make sure you add some hydration (water or sport drink) to a snack. Practice active recovery through walking or hiking using your poles. Per Tip 4, do your final visualization, then take a short mental break before the start. Smile, remember how much you love ski racing and rip that last run!
So there you have it. Race day tips from Olympic gold medalist Mikaela Shiffrin. There’s still time to mix your own routine with Mikaela’s advice toward your best performance at Nature Valley NASTAR Nationals.