A collection of all the other stuff.
There are 1001 things that can impact your race. Many are out of your control but some you should try and pay attention to.
1. Goals: This is important. Why are you doing a stage race? What are your expectations? Consider setting yourself a series of ever increasing goals (get to the start healthy, finish each stage, finish the entire race, finish in under XX hours, etc.). Having only one high stretch goal can be very debilitating from a mental perspective during the event if it looks like you are not going to reach it.
2. Navigation: You should be capable of using a map and compass. Most stage races are “old school” and do not rely on GPS navigation. While your race may not require the use of map and compass you should be able to use them in an emergency. Sometimes there are short sections during a race where following a compass bearing is mandatory or can work tactically to your advantage. A local orienteering club can help you out.
3. Mental Attitude: Mental fortitude is a critical trait for thriving in the stage racing scene. Without a positive mental attitude you will be damned to a week of misery and self-pity. You will have bad days and things will not go your way on many occasions. How you deal with them makes all the difference in the world. Don’t let the little things (or big things) do you in. Elite and novice racers alike cave in and quit over small things like missing a turn, poor weather or a bad night’s sleep. Sometimes it is best to just get over what is bugging you and get on with it. Additionally you will also most likely experience some very intense “highs” as you go along. Enjoy them!
4. Cut-off Times: Cut-off times are for safety purposes and to keep the race on schedule. Usually these are quite generous and most should be able to make them even when experiencing less than optimal performance. If you are struggling to make the cut-offs you should seriously consider your current capabilities.
5. Respect the Staff: Most staff at stage races are volunteers. They are there to make the race a success for everyone. As such be appreciative and respectful. Don’t take out any frustrations you might have on them.
6. Cheer your fellow competitors: Everyone is out there pushing their limits. It is a sporting thing to provide enthusiastic words of encouragement to your fellow stage racers – especially when they are down. Hang out at the finish line to greet others as they arrive.
7. Enjoy: While you will be physically taxing yourself during these events one should enjoy the experience, scenery and the people who you are sharing it with. Take a moment out to savor the views, talk to fellow racers and learn about the local culture. You will be much richer for it.
8. Trail etiquette: Some races will have a very limited field and you may find yourself by yourself for long stretches at a time. Other races may have over 1,000 competitors. These larger races necessitate the application of common sense so as not to cause undue stress. If you are overtaking someone let them know when you would like to pass and on which side. Conversely if you are being overtaken step to the side when convenient and let others by. Move away from aid stations quickly and let others have access to water, etc. Finally, if you need to relieve yourself be sure to get off the track and out of sight if possible. Dispose of all wastes appropriately.
9. Race Documents: Prepare and bring along packing lists for equipment and food. Food list should include calorie information. Print these on one piece of paper front/back. Have all medical paperwork (originals) as required by the race. Keep your passport with you if you are traveling internationally (in case you drop or are evacuated). Be sure your passport is valid for at least 3 months beyond your expected return date. A reasonable amount of cash should be carried at all times (beer at the end perhaps?). Store copies of all important documents in secondary location in case originals are lost.
12. Wildlife: Many locations where stage races occur will offer the opportunity to view and be close to wildlife. Be aware of the descriptor “wild”. These are not pets or docile ornaments. Many can cause your great bodily harm if they so desire. Be respectful and observe from a distance. From small insects and reptiles up to large mammals they all for the most part wish to avoid you and usually there will not be an issue. Problems can occur if they are surprised/startled or if there are young involved. Steer clear in these instances if at all possible. Livestock may also fall into this category. If you have any questions, inquire prior to the start.
13. Charities: Many stage racers use their participation as a vehicle to raise funds for charities. This is noble and adds another aspect to your adventure. In addition to the novelty of your competing in a stage race, many will find your choice of charitable support interesting. Work with your charity to ensure their expectations are being met. They may also be able to use your efforts to reach out to a wider audience.