Russell Finsterwald podcast training one-day races

Russell Finsterwald: Training For One-Day Races

About This Episode:

In this week’s episode, Adam Pulford interviews professional cyclist and CTS Athlete, Russell Finsterwald. In part one of this two-part series, they talk about Russell’s training approach and strategies for one-day races.

Episode Highlights:

  • Training approach for one-day races
  • Russell’s favorite workout for single-day event prep
  • Pre-race food and game plan
  • Race warmup routine
  • Pre-riding the course for shorter and longer singe day events

Guest Bio – Russell Finsterwald:

Russell Finsterwald has been racing bikes since the age of 13 and professionally for the last nine years. Russell has accumulated 5 National Championships, a Pan American Games Championship, over 40 professional podiums, was named to the 2016 US Olympic Long Team, and has represented the United States in seven World Championships. He is the current XCM National Champion. When not training for races, Russell can be found enjoying the mountains he grew up in. Russell has climbed over 60 of Colorado’s highest peaks, is an avid photographer, bike packer, backpacker, and all around outdoor enthusiast.

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Thanks To This Week’s Sponsor:

Stages Cycling

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Episode Transcription:

Please note that this is an automated transcription and may contain errors. Please refer to the episode audio for clarification.

Adam Pulford (00:00):

Many of the athletes I work with are finally gearing back up for races in events in 2021, the pandemic is getting more manageable and in-person events are coming back online. So I thought it wise to have a conversation about how best to prepare for races again, in particular, how best to prepare for single day versus multi-day events like stage racing. I sat down with Russell Finster world five time national champ, cross multiple disciplines in the sport for a two-part series, where we get granular about how best to do both all in for Epic one day challenge or playing the long game with stage racing. Not only do we discuss details about the training leading into the event, but we get deep into the pre-race prep, race day logistics during race execution, and post-race recovery tip to tail. These two episodes should either give everyone listening a good reminder on how best to do it, or hopefully something different to add to your preparations for your next event that said let’s get right into the show.

Adam Pulford (01:07):

Welcome back, or welcome to the train rate podcast. I’m coach Adam, Pulford your host for the cycling centric side of the show. Today we are talking about single day versus multi-day races or events. We’ll talk about what they are, how you train for them properly and how best you can optimize your performance for either or both. I brought in professional rider five time national tramp across various disciplines on the mountain bike, current ECC marathon, national champ in expert of any length to help us figure this out. He’s known in the community as simply Finsta. And he’s part of the CTS family coached by CTS coach Jim layman, Russell Finster weld. Welcome.

Russell Finsterwald (01:49):

Yeah, thanks for having me on Adam. Where are you at today? Um, right now I’m down in Tucson, Arizona, milking out, um, the last of winter down here, um, I head to Utah this weekend for a race and then it’s back home to Colorado. So looking forward to that here soon

Adam Pulford (02:07):

Tucson is your, your home away from home? Isn’t it?

Russell Finsterwald (02:09):

Yeah, definitely. It’s kinda one of those places that, um, I guess I first started coming down here about 10 years ago. Um, and each year my winter seemed to get a little longer and it grows on me a little more. So Tucson’s a good place to be, especially this time of year.

Adam Pulford (02:23):

Yeah, no, no joke. Uh, I’m missing it for sure. I love Tucson, uh, well for, for audience members who don’t maybe know you as well. Can you tell us more of who Russell is on an, off the bike?

Russell Finsterwald (02:35):

Yeah, definitely. So, um, I’ve been racing mountain bikes professionally for a little over 10 years now. Um, I’ve as a junior kind of dabbled in a little bit of road racing, track racing, but I found the mountain bike to be my calling and, um, had found some success there. So pursued that. Um, and right now I currently race on the cliff pro team. It’s my third year on the team. Um, and it’s, it’s been awesome. I feel very lucky to, um, call being a professional racer, my job. Um, but yeah, um, mountain biking consumes a lot of my time, but off the bike, um, I like exploring around Colorado. Um, so that’s where you can find me when I’m not on the bike.

Adam Pulford (03:17):

Cool. And you’re, you’re more than a hobby level photographer too. If, if, if anyone falls is Instagram, you’ll, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Uh, how’d you get into that?

Russell Finsterwald (03:27):

Uh, you know, it, it was just kind of one of those hobbies that I sort of picked up. Um, I do a lot of backpacking and climbing fourteeners and stuff and realized that I wake up to a lot of beautiful sunrises and everything. So yeah, photography was kind of a natural Avenue to capture and share those different sites and scenes. I get a witness unfold, so just kind of naturally happened, I guess.

Adam Pulford (03:48):

It’s awesome. It is awesome. And I do recommend anybody who wants to be inspired by nature, as well as all things, bike racing, go ahead and follow fence on the ground. Um, but we’re not here to talk about Instagram. We’re talking to, we’re here to talk about training. So Russell, before the show, uh, kind of explained why I want to interview you for the, for this process is because you have results for short, long races single day in multi-day races. Um, so, you know, I, I wanna kind of extract some of the information of like how you do it, how you’ve done it in the past. And also clarify maybe like what we’re talking about in terms of single day multi-day events and how to prioritize, um, those aspects. So, and throughout this, like we’ll go high level and we’ll also get super granular and we’ll kind of bounce back and forth with the two. So, um, get ready for the, the rabbit holes, get ready for some theory and then get ready for real applicable stuff. Um, but to clarify what we mean by single day or multi-day, um, we’re also, when I say a single day, big race to you, what kind of events are we talking about?

Russell Finsterwald (05:03):

Yeah. So in my eyes, a single day event is where you basically the results. And as soon as you cross the finish line, um, it can be anywhere from a 20 minute short track to a three hour marathon race. Um, but a single event in my eyes, you prepare for one singular event, as soon as you start and you cross the line it’s done, whereas, um, multi-day event, um, it’s typically a stage race or something where you’ll have five plus days of racing and the clock doesn’t necessarily stop for the overall event when you cross the finish line. It it’s accumulation of multiple days.

Adam Pulford (05:40):

Yeah. So the chips are all in on Saturday for that one single day. And I like what you said about the clock doesn’t necessarily stop on the, on the stage at events or the multi-day that’s that’s foreshadowing to where we’re going. Right. Well, so you mentioned, you mentioned a few disciplines or, or distances of the single day, um, events, but like what are some particular races or events that you’ve done or you see athletes doing that are single day events that people our audience can relate to?

Russell Finsterwald (06:14):

Yeah. I think a lot of the singular or the single day events these days that are really popular or something like Leadville, the Epic ride series, um, and then national championships always seem to be a big one. Um, and those are obviously a varying distances, Leadville being a hundred miles. And then, um, our mayor, our national championships, maybe an hour and a half or so. So the way you prepare for those singular day events is different, but I think the mentality going into those events is kind of the same, whereas, um, it’s a little bit like chess versus checkers where a single day event is your chess match, where you kind of have to, you have to be smart, but you can kind of just go for it and, um, not save any matches or anything. Whereas the multi-day events, it’s more like chess in the sense that you kinda, you need to be smart throughout the whole five plus days of racing and realize each day that there’s more ahead and strategize a little more.

Adam Pulford (07:12):

Yeah, I agree with that. So what are some of those multi-day events that you’ve done in the past?

Russell Finsterwald (07:19):

Um, the most common one I do is Breck Epic. Um, that’s a five-day stage race in Colorado. Um, my favorites. Yeah. It’s just some of the best mountain biking you can do. Um, and it’s all above 10,000 feet, which is its own challenge. Um, but yeah, really fun event. Um, I kind of consider the Epic rides events sort of a multi-day event as a professional racer. Cause we do the fat tire crits on Friday. We have a day off and then we race again Sunday. Um, so it’s not in the same sense of multi-day event, but in a way it is cause you’re, you kind of need to be prepared for the whole weekend of racing. Um, and then let’s see a few other, yeah, I think Breck, Epic’s kind of about the only multi-day event I’ve been doing lately. Um, there’s always one stage race a year that seems to pop into the mix. Um, couple of years ago, Keegan Swenson and I raced as a team over in Israel for the Epic Israel.

Adam Pulford (08:19):

Oh, I remember that. Yeah. Awesome. That looks awesome.

Russell Finsterwald (08:22):

That was, that was a really good experience, super hard race. Um, it was just hot, flat, flat, wide open racing, um, but a really cool experience to get over to Israel and race for a few days.

Adam Pulford (08:36):

Yeah. And I know last year with COVID, I mean, it’s not necessarily blur as much as it’s a like cloudy slurry for some people, but um, Pikes peak apex erase last year as well. Right,

Russell Finsterwald (08:50):

Right. Yep. Um, apex was last summer. That was a first time event, um, in my own backyard, which is really cool to have around

Adam Pulford (08:59):

That’s. That’s awesome. In the previous episode, we’re talking to Micah and, um, mentioned how you were part of building that experience as well with kind of your, your, uh, past experience with, with racing too, but that’s, that’s kind of a unique, um, stage race in itself too, especially being in your backyard,

Russell Finsterwald (09:15):

Right? Yep. Yeah. It was really cool. I’m excited to be back at that race this summer as well.

Adam Pulford (09:21):

Yeah. So in terms of, I want to drill down and kind of get to the main difference between the two events in terms of how you prepare. So let’s, let’s just start with single day events. Um, what are some of the things that you in, in, in coach layman consider when you’re prepping for just a singular event, just a one day chips are all in for Russell, what are you guys thinking about?

Russell Finsterwald (09:47):

Right. Um, so with my training, going into a big single old day event, that’s a main focus or a main goal. Um, I’ve noticed gym tends to give me, um, workouts that are focused on just peak power, um, in terms of just hitting your max power each day. Um, so throughout a training block, I seem to be a little more fresh for each workout, um, and just focus on really good power, um, whether those are shorter or longer intervals. Um, and then as we enter multi-day events, it seems to be these blocks that I’ll do four hard days in a row or something where you’re not, obviously you’d get a little tired throughout the block and your power will kind of drop off a little bit. Um, so we’ll use like group rides and stuff to sort of push yourself and not necessarily look at your power meter, but do these hard efforts while you’re fatigued. So, um, the single day events, it’s more about being fresher throughout the block and hitting peak powers. Whereas when you’re training for something really long, you kind of try to push yourself through different fatigue levels and still hit those power numbers.

Adam Pulford (10:53):

Got it. So those, those P the peak power for the given interval or plan it’s like whether it’s threshold or VO two, it’s like you’re going to hug the upper end of that range on a given day, whatever the goal.

Russell Finsterwald (11:05):

Yep, definitely. So if it’s across country, we tend to do more VO, two workouts. Um, and just trying to do, I mean, as much as you can milk everything you can out of those workouts and yeah.

Adam Pulford (11:15):

Yeah. What’s, what’s an example, VO, two workout that Jim has you do when you’re prepping for say nationals or something like that.

Russell Finsterwald (11:24):

Yeah. I think sort of the classic Jim Leman workout is, um, a bunch of three minute work, three minute intervals. So, um, typically seven to those, um, that those are hard, especially if I’m back home at altitude, they seem to sting just a little bit more. Yeah.

Adam Pulford (11:41):

By three with three to five minutes in between,

Russell Finsterwald (11:45):

Uh, yeah. Three minutes off. Um, and it’s all all done as one set, so you don’t get to break it up or anything. Yep. Yeah. That hurts. It’s amazing. How big of a hole you can put yourself in, even though it’s only 20 minutes, 21 minutes worth of work. Yeah, it hurts.

Adam Pulford (12:04):


Russell Finsterwald (12:04):

And lately he’s kinda, he just gave me this new one that I’ve really been enjoying it’s, um, kind of a decreasing, um, VO two time structure. So do two, four minute intervals and then two, three minute intervals and then three, two minute intervals with equal rest in between them. So if you do a four minute or you get four minutes off and that one’s fun, it cause it in your head, it gets easier as you go, even though yeah, exactly. You’re like, Oh, I got to get to do a minute less this

Adam Pulford (12:33):

Time. So yeah.

Russell Finsterwald (12:36):

I’ve been liking that one. It VO two efforts are sort of a mental game, I think. Whereas like y’all, as you’re doing them, you’ll say, okay, I’m 33% of the way through now, almost there, even though in reality, you’re still have a long ways to go. So, um, this workout seems to work well mentally, cause it’s just, it gets easier mentally as you go, even though you’re still producing a lot of work.

Adam Pulford (13:00):

Yeah. That makes sense. And so from the, from the performance standpoint, it seems like you guys are focused on high quality, power, high quality workouts, uh, finishing that as strong as you can to have high performance for the single day then. Right, right. Yup. Gotcha. So leading up to that in terms of like, um, let’s just call it fitness. How do you personally quantify that? Or how do you work with gym in making sure your fitness is high enough for a single day like that?

Russell Finsterwald (13:30):

Yeah, I think, um, a lot of it is just really focusing on the recovery side of it as well. Um, a single day event, I think, I mean, any race you want to go into really fresh. Um, but I think a single day event, you need to go into a little fresher cause you can’t really ride into form throughout the five days or something. Um, so a single day event, we like to go into it pretty fresh, um, and well tapered, especially if it’s a main objective of the season.

Adam Pulford (13:57):

Gotcha. So like the, so having the fitness on the particular day in order to do that, you’re making sure that you’re like scrubbing off fatigue from all the training and recovering to make sure that you’re tapered, peaked and ready to go.

Russell Finsterwald (14:12):

Exactly. Yeah. And for me, I’ve, we’ve sort of found that like five-ish days is just kind of chill with a couple openers here and there is sort of what prepares me to be freshest on those one day events.

Adam Pulford (14:24):

I was going to ask you, like, what is the, the Russell Finster wall signature taper? So five days, that’s it.

Russell Finsterwald (14:32):

Yeah. About, I think I respond pretty well to doing hard workouts, close to an event. I know some people will take two ish weeks to taper, but I’ve kind of found like five days seems to be the sweet spot for me without feeling flat, but still, um, fresh enough that you’re not fatigued at all. Yeah. And that’s is super

Adam Pulford (14:52):

Important. Uh, and for our listeners as well, I mean the taper, at some point I will do a taper episode, everyone, but, um, tapers, very individual. And I think that it also, I mean, roughly maybe you can speak to this too, but, um, it’s individual for the event and it’s also individual throughout your career, you know, five days may be working for you, you know, currently, but may not have done that in the past. I dunno. Yeah,

Russell Finsterwald (15:15):

For sure. And I’ve found, it sort of seems like the older I get the less, my taper needs to be. I don’t know if that’s actually like scientifically backed or anything. Um, but I feel like when I was young, um, I needed a lot more time to recover or to taper, to be super fresh. Um, but the older I get, I feel like I do a lot of these harder rides and I seem to bounce back, but I don’t know if that’s a temporary thing where I’m kind of in this middle zone where I’m not young, but I’m not at the end of my career. Whereas like in mountain biking, 40 seems to be kind of the, like if you’re Todd Wells, he raced till he was 40. So I still,

Adam Pulford (15:51):

Yeah. Based on, I mean, based on my coaching. Gotcha. Gotcha. I think we had just a little bit of hiccup there, but just to clarify to our audience, I mean, that’s, that’s very typical in terms of like a junior coming to hitting the prime in like the late twenties, early thirties and then, um, into master’s level racing. I do find that it’s like your w w with hormones and fitness in, in, I mean, you’re, you’re in your prime. Right. So being able to shake off a T recover quickly, assuming good habits are in place for recovery. That’s about how it goes for sure. Um, so kind of getting back to maybe overall fitness trends and how, and, and maybe you don’t even look at this. I don’t know, but if you’re doing a big single day, um, event, like, uh, let’s just say one of the Epic rides events, and I know this one is a unique one for me, and I kind of want to like, press into that a little bit more because for amateur racers, it’s a single day event. It’s Saturday. Right. And for our listeners who don’t know the Epic rides events, um, well I guess Russell, do you want to explain what the format is that Todd Sidella puts on for those weekends? And then we’ll kind of backtrack into like how you prepare for it.

Russell Finsterwald (17:13):

Definitely. So yeah. Anyone who hasn’t heard of the Epic rides, it’s definitely something you should research into and see if it’s the kind of event for you. Um, there are super fun weekend. I always look forward to those races. Um, and they have the first one coming up in Bentonville this year after their sort of COVID hiatus. Um, so yeah, the Epic rides Friday is for the pros and that’s, we’ll typically do a fat tire crit downtown. It’s a super fun event to come out and watch. Um, there’s always a concert going on beer gardens flowing. So it’s a good time to come out, hang out, have a beer before your race. And Saturday morning, the amateur races, um, kickoff it, I think it’s 8:00 AM and they’ll typically race the same back country course that the pros race the following day, um, there’s varying distances. So you can race anywhere from 15 to typically or 50 miles is the longer one. Um, and once you finish, there’s more beer, more concerts, um, a whole expo to check things out. Um, it’s a super fun weekend. Todd does an amazing job putting those races on it kinda, I wasn’t really around for the heyday of mountain biking, but those events make me feel like I am.

Adam Pulford (18:25):

Yeah, no, that’s, that’s true. I mean, it’s a festival mountain bike race for sure. And, and kind of something for everybody and I guess, soft plug to you, Todd, I’ve always been a fan, um, of what you guys are doing, but for you, Russell, um, are you all in on Sunday or how much does that fat tire crit mean to you in terms of overall, uh, performance and preparation?

Russell Finsterwald (18:49):

Yeah, I think, um, the fat tire crits for me, they’re not the priority of the weekend. Um, they’re a super fun event. I usually use them as my opener for Sunday’s efforts. Um, but yeah, it’s not the priority for me for the weekend that said, I like to go out, raise it hard and if I’m able to go for the win, I’d definitely go for it. So don’t hold back in any sense in the fat tire crits, but yeah, Sunday’s race is always the priority. That’s where the big paychecks are. Um, one, so yeah, those are the focus.

Adam Pulford (19:20):

Gotcha. Gotcha. So as you’re talking about kind of the, the performance need for that, and then I’ll go to like fitness. Is there anything that you and Jim are tracking from a fitness or CTL standpoint or benchmark to make sure that you are optimized not only from the power you’re pushing, but from just an overall training load or fitness standpoint before you go into an Epic rides weekend?

Russell Finsterwald (19:46):

Uh, yes and no. Um, I think Jim and I don’t necessarily talk about that so much. Um, I think Jim knows that I’m not so much like a numbers guy where if my CTL is 90 or if it’s 140 to me, I, I know there’s a difference, but I feel like I can still race as, and still be capable of winning, even if I have a 90 seat Taylor, 140. Um, so I think Jim does more of that on the backend and we don’t really communicate about it so much together. I think he’s kind of the brains behind the operation and he looks into that a lot more than I do. So he, he could probably speak to that a little more as to what he looks for to set me up for the weekend. Um, but yeah, I just focus on what I can control on my end. Um, I trust in Jim and let him handle all that. And I tend to focus on things like staying hydrated, making sure I’m fueling enough and eating enough just before the race and having a good race plan. Yeah.

Adam Pulford (20:45):

Yeah. And that feel, that feels important, right? It’s like not only like leading up to the event, but you know, the training that are, that say two, three weeks out from the event and feeling good throughout that. And I think it speaks to, you know, before, um, we started rolling this podcast. I said, you know, a lot of the stuff I’ve been putting out lately has been a deep dive on analytics in data. And, um, it’s not just that, right? Like the athlete needs to feel like the fitness is coming no matter what the algorithm is spitting out toward the coach. So I think what you said about, you know, how you and Jim worked together. I mean, that’s, that’s, it’s something to not overlook right as an athlete.

Russell Finsterwald (21:28):

Yup. Definitely. Yeah. I think, uh, one of the most important things is like paying attention to your body and communicating with your coach on how you feel, because I don’t think TSB and CTL always communicate exactly how you’re feeling. You may have other things that aren’t miserable happening off the bike. You could be stressed from work or other stuff going on that isn’t communicated through that CTL and everything. So just communicating with your coach seems to help quite a bit, if I’m really tired going into a race, definitely tell Jim, I think we need to back it off a little bit. I’m cooked. And um, I think that’s an important thing to recognize is it’s not always about doing everything that’s in your training plan. You need to communicate and realize when things aren’t going to plan and express that for sure.

Adam Pulford (22:13):

Yeah. Yeah, no, I completely agree. Um, and so we, we talked about your Tabor. We talked about how important it is to be fresh coming into that single day event. And you mentioned sleep, I don’t know, scale of one to 10. How important do you rank sleep in performance preparations?

Russell Finsterwald (22:33):

I think, yeah. I think sleep’s one of the bigger things. Um, that’s really important for me. Um, I recover from training workouts best if I take a little nap in the afternoon. Um, so after a hard day, especially if it was early morning workout, I always try to squeeze in a nap because I just seem to bounce back a lot quicker when I get that was in. Um, and of course, like I, I’m known as kind of being a bit of a sleeper. Um, I, I typically sleep in until like nine, um, on rest days, try to get till 10. So not an early morning person. I typically sleep 10 hours a day on average. And that seems to help me recover quite a bit. I get, I get made fun of a lot for how much I sleep, but yeah,

Adam Pulford (23:18):

I was just going to ask you what you would rank yourself in terms of how good of a sleeper you are because I’ve known Russell sincere what, I don’t know, 15 or 16 years old. And you were not, I mean, you weren’t the early bird catches the worm.

Russell Finsterwald (23:30):

Nope, no, no. Like the shootouts here in Tucson start right now, they’re starting at six 30 in the morning and that, that is a struggle for me. I have to prepare the night before to be able to like have my morning go smooth and get out there. But yeah, I think sleep that’s super important. I don’t measure it using like a whoop device or anything. I just kinda, if I sleep good, I know I slept good because I wake up feeling refreshed and recharged and ready to take on the day, so,

Adam Pulford (23:58):

Yup. Yup. And I think it speaks to being, uh, having self-awareness as an athlete self-awareness as a human being is like, uh, you know, when you, when you slept well and you know, when you didn’t sleep well, the second you get out of bed. Yeah. Yeah. So, well, I guess the question there is, okay, so say you’re a really good sleeper Russell and all the things in your, we’ve got a single day prep coming up. I mean, if you have a bad night’s sleep on Thursday in the races on Saturday, what do you do? Do you, what do you call Jim? What can he do?

Russell Finsterwald (24:30):

Yeah, I think like at a certain point it’s, um, you just have to accept you didn’t sleep good and, um, make the most of it. Coffee can help you throw down a few espressos, but, um, I think as long as you’ve been preparing, going into the race and you’ve had good sleep, most of the nights going into it one bad night of sleep, isn’t going to change. Um, much. I used to like some races, if it was a really important race, like nationals or something, I would toss and turn the night before. And like, just thinking about race strategy and how you want the race to unfold and how you’re going to utilize your tactics out there. So I would, I, I mean, there’s some nights before races, I would maybe sleep six hours, which for most people doesn’t sound like, um, it’s a lack of sleep, but for me, when I typically rely on 10 hours, I lost half of my sleep almost. And I S I still feel like when I get on the start line, I’m totally a hundred percent ready to go. So I think if you go for a week of having bad sleep, I think that’s different than one night. I think the body can handle one night of mediocre, bad sleep pretty well.

Adam Pulford (25:34):

Yeah. And that’s backed by science. Absolutely. And it’s, it’s, um, similar to say fitness trends. It’s like, you don’t get fit overnight necessarily. It’s the, it’s the trends of sleep in a row. So, um, if you’re a streaky, you know, good sleeper, that’s better than, uh, you know, incontinent overall bad sleeper. But, um, I guess my point is you want to get as consistent with your sleep as possible, especially leading up to an event and try to minimize all the various possible so that you are kind of maximizing, maximizing, um, the time in bed and the time and in sleep and all this kind of stuff. And I mean, you can, you can make fun of a pro athlete for sleeping more, but I think that has, uh, you know, as an amateur, um, listening to this to mean, uh, you know, podcasts across various disciplines is like the professional athletes sleep more and because they can, they have the time.

Adam Pulford (26:33):

And so the translation is maybe not everybody should sleep for 10 hours because maybe they don’t have that time. But if you’re sleeping six, try to get seven, if you’re sleeping seven, try to get eight. Definitely. You know? Yeah. Yeah. And just like you said to, don’t freak out. If you get a bad night’s sleep in typically and where the science goes, and this is like the day before definitely don’t freak out. Cause it kinda doesn’t matter two days before more important and then the trend leading into it. So it just like everything that you said, Russell, in terms of how it feels to you. I mean, that is backed by science for sure. So awesome. Just know that Mr. Non algorithm. Yeah. Um, okay. So day of chips all in and here’s again, I promised our audience that I was going to get granular. Sometimes in, in here we go, we got a few more on just single day. You mentioned you can, you control only what you can control. And part of that is your hydration and your nutrition. So you, you kit up, you’re going to warm up. What are you doing from a nutrition hydration starting then?

Russell Finsterwald (27:38):

Right. So when I warm up, I typically, um, well, I guess let’s start three hours before my pre-race meal. Cause I think that’s kind

Adam Pulford (27:47):

Of what we should probably talk about breakfast,

Russell Finsterwald (27:49):

Right? Yup. I think that’s kind of when the race starts in my mind, I guess. Um, so yeah, I’ll, I typically eat three hours before, um, I’ve found that’s kind of the sweet spot of going to the start line feeling fueled, but not, um, overly stuffed. Um, some people it’s, one of those things you can experiment with three hours seems to be the sweet spot for most athletes. Um, but I know some that will eat two hours before and some that need to eat four to five hours before, so, and just kind of snack a little bit. Um, so it’s one of those things you should be experimenting with in your training, I think, um, to find out what works best for you. Um, but yeah, typically three hours before all have a pancake, that’s kind of my go-to pre-race meal, pancake, peanut butter, and of course in coffee.

Russell Finsterwald (28:37):

Um, so yeah, I have that. Um, and then I get all my race stuff ready to go head out. And I typically warm up starting about an hour before the event. Um, I like to have a really good solid warmup, no matter what the race is, if it’s, uh, on one day events, especially. Um, so if it’s a three hour back country race, I do pretty much the same warm up as if I’m doing a 20 minute cross-country race. I like going to the start line, um, and just ready to go from the gun in case there are attacks that happened right away. I think you need to be ready to respond to those.

Adam Pulford (29:11):

Do you change your intensity at all for like a three hour race versus a 20 minute race and your warmup

Russell Finsterwald (29:18):

A little bit? Yeah. So for a shorter race, I’ll do a few more sprints and stuff. Um, whereas, um, for a longer event I do more of just a like four minute ramp up the effort, um, with a couple like, um, high cadence spin ups, whereas the power’s not super high on those, but just to really like get the blood flowing through the legs a little bit, kind of shake them out. Yep. Um, but yeah. Then before the warrant, like, because that 45 minute warmup is still utilizing calories in your body. So, um, I I’ll normally warm up with some cliff drink mix and eat some Clif blocks, um, right before I start my warmup. And after I do my ramp up effort, um, and then

Adam Pulford (30:02):

Carbs and electrolytes going in, even during the warmup

Russell Finsterwald (30:05):

Definitely. Um, and the blocks are super easily digestible. Um, and it just makes me go to the start line, knowing that I have a little bit of extra glycogen going into the race so that I’m not depleting myself before the race has even started.

Adam Pulford (30:19):

Yeah. Yeah. You’re topped off. Ready to ready to go.

Russell Finsterwald (30:23):

Um, and then yeah, throughout the race, um, a lot of it, my fueling strategy depends a lot on altitude. He, how long the race is. Um, but I like to race with a mix of water and mix. Um, so I kind of alternate throughout the race mix, water mix water, um, sometimes just having simple water to wash food down or, um, not have any taste or sugar it seems to do well. And that’s more from like, I sometimes get stomach issues with racing and water’s as simple as it gets and treats my stomach well.

Adam Pulford (30:58):

Yeah, yeah. No, absolutely. And I’m the same way in, in say we go back to the science of this is, um, you know, if you’re consuming only carbohydrate during a race or ride, depending on the concentration of that, um, carbohydrate food stuff. I mean the, the stomach can get a little blocked up and it needs clear fluid for the gastric emptying to occur in order to process everything and, and absorb everything throughout. So it all starts with the mouth too, because if all it is is sugar, sugar, sugar, and you don’t have anything to change that up and that could be savory or it could be water to kind of flush. Um, I call it an emotional palette. You need to chit to change it because the, the palette, it wants sugar, it wants savory, it wants clean. And so you’re going back and forth and that’s the mechanism that you’re, that you’re doing there. Awesome. Yeah. Cool. Okay. So sorry. We’re um, in and out of the science-y stuff, but are you doing just drink mix when you’re racing? Let’s just go back to it, like in a big rides, a Sunday race, are you doing just drink mix or are you doing, uh, blocks there or what else are you doing?

Russell Finsterwald (32:05):

Um, in terms of fuel? Yeah, I’ll typically only use blocks and drink mix to fuel me through the race. Um, I’ve found that taking solid foods like a Clif bar or, um, a banana or something. Um, it’s just too much for me to process while I’m out there racing. Um, and I think the race is being three hours. It’s short enough that I can get away with just doing blocks. Um, but then something like Leadville, it’s already, I’m going to be doing Leadville for the first time this year and it’s already something, yeah, it’s already something that I’m working on trying to figure out my fueling strategy for it. Cause I know a six hour race it’s twice as long as an Epic rides event and I’m sure I’m going to need some real food to get me through that. So I’ve already been kind of experimenting with a few different things to see what’s easy for me to digest while going hard on the bike. Um, and get, get that real food in you.

Adam Pulford (32:59):

Yeah. Yeah. And kind of frame that up. I mean, when, when Ross was racing for three hours and say 50 miles or whatever, um, I mean it’s, it’s full on intensity and it’s running high threshold, you know, into VO two max attacks and that kind of stuff. So when intensity is super high, you need more carbohydrate. You need electrolyte and hydration as opposed to something like Leadville, where, um, as you race over time, you have longer dissents and longer time periods where the intensity is going to be lower. So then you can take in more caloric, dense food stuff, um, and bring on more calories for the long haul. And so when he’s talking about, um, the race strategy on the particular day, you gotta frame it up in terms of the intensity and the duration that you’ll be racing with and then develop that strategy. And that’s when we’re talking about the distances of what Russell’s doing here, that’s why he’s doing what he’s doing. Um,

Russell Finsterwald (33:54):

Tried to eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich while doing a threshold interval or something it’s you can’t do it.

Adam Pulford (34:00):

Exactly. That’s a good, a good, a good analogy there. Um, okay. So like leading up to that, I mean, are you just to a point where it’s like, you know, exactly what you need in your pockets before the race and it’s just like automatic or you laying this stuff out the night before and be like, yeah, this is my, this

Russell Finsterwald (34:17):

Definitely I think, um, it’s always good to be prepared. Um, so I said everything out the night before, um, like I said, I’ve been doing this over 10 years and it’s still easy to forget something like a CO2 Cartlidge or whatever you normally have in your race kit. Um, so I have everything just on an iPhone note and, um, set it all out and just go through it the night before, um, 99% of the time I have everything, but there’s still that one time here and there where you’re like, Oh yeah, I need my, um, Stan start or something like that. And that that could make or break a race. So, um, as monotonous, as it may seem, it’s always good to just have a checklist, no matter how confident you feel in your preparation, just to go through and make sure you have everything. Cause you’ve, you’ve put in so much work before the race. It would just feel dumb to forget something super simple. And, um, it has a big impact on your race.

Adam Pulford (35:10):

Yeah, totally. And I think that like if our listeners only take one thing away from this podcast, it might be to have a checklist on your phone, in the notes. Cause that’s what I tell my athletes to do all the time. Um, and I have a myself because it not only does it help you prepare in your, in your packing and it’s like, okay, this is exactly what I need. It minimizes stress too. Because if you don’t have something that you go back to, you’re like, okay, Oh, did I need, do I need this? And do I need that? Did it bring that last time? What, and it’s just like, it’s always there for you and you can start with that and be like, and then you can also adjust for it. So if you don’t, um, you know, one CO2 is generally not enough on these silly things. We’ll give you this back another one, for example, but it’s like how the list on your phone? Have it ready to go and know it, know what you need? That’s a good point. Yup. Didn’t even plan on that one also. Nice one. Um, so let’s talk. Um, okay. So nutrition, hydration. We’re not done yet because we were racing. We get to the finish. So you lay it all out. Um, ahead of time you put it in the pocket, you raise, you go, let’s just, let’s forward to like the finish line. You hit the finish line and then what

Russell Finsterwald (36:32):

Yeah. And this, I think as soon as you cross the finish line, especially on a multi-day event, that’s when you need to, that’s when the next stage starts basically, um, you need to start recovering as quick as possible. Um, I always have a recovery mix waiting for me as soon as I finish. And

Adam Pulford (36:49):

Even if I can jam in and say, if it’s, if we just focus on single day, you cross the finish line, then what are you like Mr. Recovery drink? Or are you like I’m going to the bars?

Russell Finsterwald (36:58):

No, I think like, um, for me, like even if it’s a single day event, I, um, there’s always going to be more training coming right after the race. I think you need to recover from that race as quickly as possible so that you can get ready to prepare for the next one. Um, so yeah, I, I always have a recovery mix as soon as I finish. Um, just to get some calories in you and I try to eat, um, if it’s possible within the next hour or so have a real meal, um, just to feel your body and give it everything it needs after a long, hard day in the saddle.

Adam Pulford (37:34):

Yeah. Those are, those are really good points. And I, and I think like from a habitual training standpoint, in, in to some amateurs, maybe listen to maybe some of these are like your bucket list events. And so you finish and you do Leadville, right? And then you want to celebrate, I get it. But you also need to know that like, you will feel so much better, no matter how hard you party or if you travel the next day or if you train the next day or whatever, if you have a recovery protocol, whether it’s a recovery drink or a meal, or you get back on the hydration train, like right away. Like, just because you cross the finish line doesn’t mean like it’s over,

Russell Finsterwald (38:10):

Right? Yeah. And if it was a long, hard, like if it’s a hot race, I’ll also have another, um, bottle with drink mix in it. Like the same stuff I was racing with. Just to give you some more electrolytes, because chances are, you’re probably dehydrated, no matter how much you drank after finishing a race. Yeah.

Adam Pulford (38:31):

Yep. No, that’s, that’s it. And, um, it’s super important. And dare, I even go down this path, I think it will. How important is bubbly water in your life, Russell?

Russell Finsterwald (38:43):

Uh, I drink a lot of carbonated water. Um, yeah, it it’s, there’s worse addictions to have, I would say it’s definitely an addiction at this point, but um, I drink a lot of carbonated water. So Valtech our team manager, he typically has a soda water waiting for me at the finish.

Adam Pulford (39:01):

Yes, exactly. Yeah.

Russell Finsterwald (39:02):

I just get kind of bored drinking plain. Flatwater so little carbonation in there. Just changes things up

Adam Pulford (39:09):

And I, and I bring it up because as I’ve traveled with the mountain bike circus over the years, I mean, Russell’s a big fan of bubbly water Baltic, good friend. Um, in, in Myron here. We’ll talk about my own here in a minute. Um, we’ve had bubbly water Wars. Myron’s currently into like Waterloo right now. I can’t get into it TOPA. Chico’s my go-to. It is it’s delicious. Um, but I have a point with this and my point is because of the carbonation and it is water. It is hydrating. It is still hydrating. Despite the myths out there. Yes, there’s some gasoline in and all this kind of stuff, but the, the mouth feel, and here we come back to, um, how it all starts in the mouth is it helps to change up the mouth, feel, say after a race or, um, can’t handle more sugar or man water, like plain water just feels like flattened. I don’t want it that bubbly drink. It’s actually a really good way to like change it up so that your emotional palette can recalibrate and come back to regular food stuff. So I wanted to throw that in there, knowing that you have a full on addiction to soda water.

Russell Finsterwald (40:15):

Yeah. That’s something I never really thought of, but it totally makes sense. And another excuse to drink more soda water. I’ll take it.

Adam Pulford (40:21):

Yeah, exactly. Exactly. Um, so we talked about some of, uh, we talked about Volvic and Myra, and so to bring those people into, um, into the, some of the picture here, when you’re talking about travel to single day events, I mean, it’s, it’s a whole, I mean, it’s a rat’s nest of what we could talk about in terms of travel, but what are the important factors in how important is a pre-write to you when you’re prepping for an important single day event?

Russell Finsterwald (40:51):

Yeah. Um, pre-writing, it’s, um, I think for most races, it’s something that’s super important to do in some sort of capacity. Um, if it’s a hour and a half long, cross-country where you’re doing six or seven labs, super easy to get in, um, multiple laps of the course and dial in all your lines and feel a hundred percent confident on race day that you have everything dialed in. Um, but like a 50 mile race, like the whiskey 50, um, unless you’re getting there a week before, you’re probably gonna ride some of the course without seeing it, um, previously I guess. Um, so yeah, I always try to start get the first 10 miles in, in the last miles, if I’m able to. Um, and a lot of these races, we’ve been to a few times now, so you kind of know what’s out there a little bit, you know, what the climate is going to be like.

Russell Finsterwald (41:42):

Um, so you’re not going into it a hundred percent blind, I guess, but yeah. I like to always see the parts that are gonna be super important the first 10 miles. At some point there’s going to be a sprint for single track or you need to be positioned really well. So I’d like to know when that’s going to happen and kind of see what the trains like before it to sort of dictate my strategy a little bit. Um, in the last 10 miles, that’s when you’re going to be in theory. And if everything goes right, battling someone for the win and you want to know when you’re going to make your move, um, that moved my, that said that might happen 25 miles from the finish line. It might happen in the first 10 miles. You never really know. Um, but knowing the last 10 miles seems to work pretty well for me. Um, and if anything, if you’re having a good race or a bad race, you know what it looks like as you get close to home and know how much is left.

Adam Pulford (42:29):

Yeah. I was just going to say, I mean, for, for anybody who’s out there doing the event, it’s still say, pre-read what you can within the constraints of what, you know, time or whatever that you have, because seeing some familiarity with, especially the longer you go, I mean, you know, you can start smelling the bar and when, when you see that tree or that turn, that’s like, Oh yeah, I was there. It’s actually super important. Yeah,

Russell Finsterwald (42:50):

For sure. And like, um, we typically have Saturdays free at the Epic rides events and that’s when I’ll, pre-read like the last 10 miles or so. And it’s super fun just jumping on the course with some of the amateurs and, um, they’re, they’re hurting it various degrees, so it’s always fun to give them a little motivation and, um, offer them a cliff bar or something to get them to the finish.

Adam Pulford (43:09):

Nice, nice. Um, so to the single day logistics, and again, this is, this is a, um, uh, kind of a bigger topic, but if you can focus on like how you do your logistics, just at a high level, um, in a kind of, I’ll kind of lead you down, like start aid station, finish, things could go sideways at any time. How do you plan and control for the things not to go sideways? And then who do you involve in that aspect of, of racing?

Russell Finsterwald (43:42):

Uh huh. So you’re, you’re talking more about like the travel going to the race

Adam Pulford (43:46):

More like you’re on the ground and you’ve got the app, you’ve got the wifi 50 and there’s eight stations out there and some people have helped meaning a bottle hand ups, or I’m taking care of your bike beforehand. Some people don’t, they’re flying solo. How do you do it?

Russell Finsterwald (44:04):

So like what race day logistics,

Adam Pulford (44:05):

More logistics.

Russell Finsterwald (44:08):

Yeah. So, um, so always good to travel to a race with your bike, hopefully in tip-top condition. Um, but if not, I’m lucky enough to have, um, Chris Mathis, he’s the mechanic on the cliff pro team. Um, so he kind of goes through our bikes, um, make sure everything’s in working order the day before the race, um, puts the tires we want on, um, after we’ve pre-rolled we kind of decide what we’re going use for the race. Um, and then on race day, um, our team Swan, your Valtech is out on course at all the aid stations. Um, Chris goes along with them to, um, all the aid stations as well for mechanical support. Um, so yeah, it’s, it’s great having those guys that makes, um, race day a lot less stressful having to worry about who’s going to have bottles for me, who’s going to have spare wheels. Who’s going to fix my chain if I break it out there. Um, so that takes a huge load off pre-race stress and definitely grateful to have that support because it, um, it can definitely change your weekend. Um, so you have Baltic hell we’ll have bottles for us at all the aid stations, whatever we request, hand that off to us and send us on our way.

Adam Pulford (45:17):

Cool. So when you don’t have the full treatment and I know you’ve gone to races where it’s just Russell, um, how do you do it then with nobody in the aid stations?

Russell Finsterwald (45:28):

Yeah. Um, just try to find someone who’s willing to help you out. Um, a lot of times there’ll be a friend or someone who will have, um, either their team or family members or someone handing off bottles for them. Um, so I’ll just ask around until I find someone who’s willing to do it. Yep.

Adam Pulford (45:49):

Yeah. And, and the reason I ask that is, is, um, you know, for, for those listeners who as I go, I don’t care. I’ll stop at the aid station in, in, in, you know, pick up my bottle. Um, absolutely. I mean, thumbs up if we’re just trying to, you know, uh, get to the finish line, um, absolutely. Do it, enjoy yourself while you’re out there. However, I will say, you know, to add to the experience or, you know, if you’re an age group and you’re going for the win and you haven’t thought, or like you’re, they’re, they’re solo, it’s like talk to some people and see who’s going to be out in court. It’s usually somebody’s husband or somebody whose wife is going to be out there handing out bottles. And it’s like, it’s part of the mountain bike community in terms of like sharing and sharing resources. And every week someone’s always up for hand in a bottle of even if like, when I’ve been out, you know, I’ve handed off, uh, bottles to Russell, even though he’s on the opposing team or something like that. And everybody’s like willing to share as long as you’re like open to like talking.

Russell Finsterwald (46:44):

Right. Definitely. That’s a great thing about the mountain bike community, even though you’re all competitors out there and you want to beat it, everybody at the end of the day, I feel like the whole mountain bike community everyone’s friends and, um, wants to help in any way they can. Yeah,

Adam Pulford (46:59):

Yeah, yeah, exactly. Oh man, I’m getting excited about bike racing com coming back online.

Russell Finsterwald (47:07):

Definitely. It’s been awesome having it back this year. So

Adam Pulford (47:11):

For sure, for sure. We’ll put a pin in it there. Now with Russell, like I said, in the intro, this is a special two-part series and next week we’ll go deep into how to prepare best for multi-day events until then. I hope each of you listening found a few golden nuggets to take away from the single day preparations that Finsta has really honed in. Well, over the years, both Tina’s coach Jim laymen have a process that’s well dialed, which is why I wanted to offer a glimpse into how they do it. It’s not to say that everyone listening has to do it just like them, or even can do it like a pro, but gathering some of the more simple insights from the ones who do it best in the sport is a great way to refine your process so that you too can have the best day when you want it tune in here in a few weeks for part two, with Russell Finster, Wald, to get more of those insights.

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