Saturday, August 15, 2015

Beginner Blog: Pre-Race Prep

See you at the Falmouth Road Race start line tomorrow!
Preparing for a big race (or your first race!) can be very stressful.  Here are a few things you can do during your training and leading up to race morning to minimize that stress and help you arrive at the start line with confidence and ease.

Practice pre-run meals.

Training is the time to experiment with your food choices.  Before your long runs, simulate race morning.  If your race starts at 8am, plan to run around 8am. How early do you need to eat before you run?  What do you eat before your run?  Can you drink coffee before you run?  If you are staying in a hotel the night before a race, see what the hotel has to offer in terms of breakfast (and how early breakfast opens up) and plan ahead if you need to bring your own meal.  Find out what works best for you and then continue to practice the same habits during training and then again on race morning.

Determine your race nutrition and fueling strategies.

Almost as important as your pre-run meal is the fuel you take during your runs.  If you are training for a 5k and possibly even a 10k, you won’t have to worry about fueling during your race.  If you are training for a half marathon or full marathon, this is a very important concept.

·      Step 1:  Do your research. 
Find our what companies are sponsoring the race.  Is it Gatorade?  GU?  Clif Bar?  Honey Stinger?  You have 2 options – either train with what will be out on the course on race morning or bring your own.  Trying something new could lead to porta-potty stops mid-race.  Eek!

·      Step 2:  Read labels.
Check the serving size.  I love GU Chomps (strawberry is my favorite!) and there are 2 servings per package.  It’s perfect for a half marathon because I fuel twice: mile 3 and mile 8.  In a marathon, I’ll bring 2 packages.  My dad tried the GU Chomps once and said they made his stomach a little queasy.  Guess what—he used the whole package at once!  Silly dad.  Also check the caffeine count on the labels.  Some have no caffeine, some have 2x caffeine.  Caffeine can affect your performance in a positive or negative way.  Again, see what works best for you and stick with it.

·      Step 3:  Figure out when you need fuel. 
I have always stuck with the theory on the GU packages: 15 before every 45.  I start at mile 3, then every 5 miles after that.  It takes about 15 minutes for your body to start feeling the effects of your fuel so don’t wait until it’s too late.  Plan ahead to keep your body and your muscles happy.

Don’t rely on expo for new gear or race nutrition.

Race expos can be fun.  Big races have a lot of different vendors giving away free stuff and sampling products but don’t rely on the expo for your race day essentials.  What if you were planning to buy your race fuel and the expo and they are sold out?  Minimize the stress and come prepared.  Plus you’ll spend way more time on your feet walking around trying to find what you need when you should be resting for the big day!  It’s also never a good idea to buy new shoes or gear right before a race (see my next topic) so you can skip over those over-priced merchandise booths and head to your local running store for all your running needs. 

On a similar note, if you are flying to a destination race, plan to carry on your important items.  You just never know!

Do a dress rehearsal.

Decide what you plan to wear on race morning ahead of time and do a dress rehearsal.  You will find out of your shorts ride up or if your sports bra is rubbing or your compression socks are too tight or any other little nuisance that may affect your performance on race day.  Make sure you have a good two or three weeks of running in new shoes before a race.  If you race in flats, wear them a few times before your race.  New or unfamiliar shoes on race day could lead to blisters and/or random aches, pains, or strains.

Lay everything out the night before your race.

Try everything on and lay everything out the night before your race. I’m big on to-do lists so I make a checklist.  Shoes, socks, shorts, sports bra, shirt, deodorant, body glide, GPS watch, Road ID, hair tie, bobby pins, sunglasses, race number, safety pins, GU, banana, granola bar, etc.  Preparation means less stress when that alarm goes off. 

Read the directions on your timing chip and make sure you use it correctly as intended.

At the start line of the Chicago Marathon, I noticed everyone had zip ties on their shoes and I couldn’t figure out why.  I thought they were in with your race number to attach to your bag for the bag drop-offs.  Turns out that’s exactly what they were for.  People were just using them to double secure their timing chip to their shoes.  It was the biggest race of my life and I didn’t even have a second thought while I was putting the chip on my shoe.  The gun had already gone off and we were walk/jogging to the start line and I couldn’t even remember if I put my chip on correctly.  Even worse, around mile 5 my GPS watch lost signal and stopped my run so if my chip fell off during the race, I wouldn’t have any official record of running 26.2 miles or even know what my time was for a MARATHON.  Soon after I stopped, did a tug on the timing chip then retied by shoelaces to go around the loop.  Silly me.

Most races I’ve run recently use the timing chips on the bib numbers.  Those are easy and can be thrown away after the race.  Just make sure you don’t wrinkle your number or fold the chip in half or it may not register correctly with the mats.

Wear Throwaways to the Start

It’s so important to not only warm up but also to stay warm (but not sweat!) before your race.  Depending on the size of the race, you may spend lot of time waiting around in the start corrals.  Cold, tense muscles can cramp up and increase your chances of injury.  Wear “throwaways” that you don’t mind leaving at the start line and keep them on as long as you possibly can.  Don’t have anything you want to part with?  Stop by a thrift shop for some cheap sweats.  Many of the bigger races will even collect clothes left at the start and donate to charity.

Take a deep breath.

You can do this!  Good luck!

[Related Posts: Training Plans & Race Nutrition]

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