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Execution at Loretta’s. Don’t F It Up!
By: Seiji Ishii
I have been to Loretta’s a lot. I have witnessed greatness, but I’ve also seen some things that, as a trainer, made me shake my head in disgust. The LL Championship is indeed about making memories with your friends, family, and team, and for some, it may be the highlight of their amateur career or a stepping stone to the professional ranks. To most, it’s a crucial week, with so much work, time, and expense behind the effort. So it’s hugely important to execute the week as well as you can to create the best memories and results.
This article lists things I recall as a trainer while working at the Ranch. I was there to aid in execution, not further any fitness. That lays the groundwork for this list. By the time you get to Loretta’s, preparation and training have ended. Only execution remains. Nothing you do at LL will improve your fitness, but plenty of things can be detrimental to performance. And there are so many process-oriented things you can do to give yourself the best chances of putting in the race of a lifetime.
While you are training, you are purposefully depleting energy stores and causing tissue micro-damage to stress the body and force adaptation to the output. This process takes time, and time has run out by the time you step foot on the hallowed grounds of Loretta Lynn’s. Your focus should turn to saving energy and avoiding unnecessary tissue damage to get the most out of each moto. There should be zero energy going into “training.” Energy should be directed to the racing and recovering from that racing, nothing else.
I would see riders getting up super early to cycle or run, then see them on the gate a few scant hours later. There are certain things you can do to “prime” your fuel and nervous systems for battle (during warm-ups), but a two-hour ride in extreme heat and humidity do nothing but to degrade your race performance and recovery between motos and days at the Ranch. Remember, training time is over! It’s all about execution when you receive your race bib.
Heat and Humidity
I heard so many times that riders needed to stay out in the heat and humidity between motos to “acclimatize” to the conditions. Acclimatization, like fitness, takes time, and well, that time has passed. Needlessly frying in the sun decreases your hydration levels and zaps energy, as heat raises the number of calories you burn at rest. And your body is spending energy trying to maintain the correct internal temperature; energy that recovers you from motos. So, avoid unnecessary heat stress. I do realize this is a balance with mental and social needs; you cannot stay cooped up in your RV for an entire week, only to emerge for motos, but be aware of your body’s hydration and energy status.
Please pay attention to insensible water loss; it’s apparent you are losing a lot of fluids when you sweat, and that moisture is visible and felt on your skin. What is not apparent is the water you lose through breathing (especially in an air-conditioned motor home) and while digesting dry foods. Account for the water loss while inside with drier air, sleeping, and other times you may not be profusely sweating. And try to incorporate foods that have a high moisture content.
Kids will be kids. I get that, and part of the great memories stem from hanging out with friends that you may only see at the races. But some of the most tragic things I’ve witnessed at Loretta’s or any other amateur championship were injuries from playing around that removed that rider from competition or affected his or her results. I’ve seen golf cart accidents, injuries from rope swinging into the creek, and other avoidable incidents. And every time, the rider was devastated and felt foolish. Have fun, but be smart.
The Social Scene
Again, the social aspects of Loretta’s are part of the fun and created some of the most memorable times for me. But, alas, I have seen championships lost and threatened by unnecessary drama causing such distraction that I didn’t recognize the rider on the track. Fights, girlfriend or boyfriend issues, or family and team squabbles upsetting riders so much that it showed in significant ways on the track.
Not all of this is avoidable, but a lot of these circumstances, in my opinion, were self-inflicted. Yes, you are there to have fun, but you are also there to race in the amateur national championships. If results are your priority, act accordingly. And surround yourself with people that understand and can help you stay focused on the critical goals.
Don’t count on the food vendors to provide your body’s race fuel. I would see expensive race fuel go into modded motors, but then see riders eating the worst foods, and risking their performance. Having a treat here and there is all good, but making that food a mainstay for that week is shortchanging your efforts.
The best possible scenario is you bring all your food with you, and someone you know and trust does all the preparation, or you do it yourself—proper, wholesome food. Although it can be tedious, if you consistently eat the same things during race weeks in the same time windows, if something goes awry, you have already eliminated the food as a potential problem.
It’s even better if you test these combinations of meals and snacks during training and racing in similar conditions. Some athletes’ tolerance of certain foods changes drastically with heat and nervousness, so this needs attention during the season, before LL.
Be picky and deliberate with your crew; yes, you are stuck with your parents, but parents can use reverse logic here. We are all social animals and feed off each other, especially our close friends and family. If you surround yourself with sullen, cynical, nervous, or low energy people, it can affect your mental and emotional state in the wrong way, and it can take the fun out of what should be an incredible week.
Upbeat, positive, happy, and grateful crew members are gold, especially when times are tough. So if you are picking a buddy to travel with you and be your right-hand man or woman, be very selective. Not only for performance reasons but also to have fun during the highlight of the season.
The Loretta Lynn’s Championship is the celebration for all your hard work. I understand you can be nervous. But it should be a celebration of your efforts, talent, and the work of those in your corner. What happened at the last qualifier doesn’t matter. What happens beyond the week doesn’t matter. Stay. In. The. Moment. Clear the machine. None of these notes on race week execution or the prior months of preparation will matter if your mind isn’t free at the gate.
Motocross is a game of reactions that don’t have the time for processing. If your mind is full of problems that stem from the past or you are fearful of the future, your conscious mind can intercept usually lighting fast, almost non-volitional signals that move control your physical actions.
It sounds cliché; “the most important muscle is the one between your ears.” But it’s so true. The mind needs a clean slate, an open space free of distractions and concerns, ready to react without friction to inputs from the ground, your bike, and your body.
Do you have to do to arrive at the gate in this zen-like state. “Flow” is a buzzword in human performance, and it begins with an unburdened mental state. Meditate, lie quietly, listen to music, read a book, whatever it is you have to do to blow the smoke out of your mind before you go to staging.
I had a wise, old cycling coach. He would see me get nervous in staging, and taught me this go-to routine: I would stand over my bicycle, close my eyes, and inhale deeply while thinking, “that was then.” Then I would exhale and think, “this is now,” open my eyes, then clip-in with my right foot and pump both brakes. And the machine cleared, and my focus drew narrow, ready, and wanting the efforts to start. I did this 100% of the time, and still do it today whenever I embark on a challenge.
Maybe you can come up with something you do every time. The routine alone can be calming. And free you to leave it all on the track and cross that finish line with no regrets. OK, that’s it from the Coach Seiji memoirs of Loretta’s. I know you will have a great time and forge wonderful memories. Have a safe week, and go get ‘em.