You’ve trained long and hard for your “A” race. You have logged mile after mile, said “no” to junk food and happy hours and your big day is one week away.
Here’s what to do:
Trust your training. It’s gotten you here so don’t begin to second guess it now.
Don’t push. You won’t get any extra speed or endurance during this week so relax and take it easy. Run to keep lose, run to release stress, but don’t run to break the sound barrier. Nice and easy.
Avoid getting injured. Don’t go downhill skiing or rollerblading unless you are great at these. Stick to what you know. A rolled ankle, a bruised knee, a pulled muscle will certainly put a damper on your race day style.
Try not to get sick. I am a preschool teacher, I live in germland but the week before a race I become best friends with the hand sanitizer.
My first half marathon was awful. I made some mistakes and paid a big price for them. I spent the last mile desperately seeking a port-a-potty with a major case of stomach upset. That is the very polite way of describing the incredible discomfort my gut was feeling. Here’s what to do the day before and the morning of your race to avoid the same pitfalls.
– Don’t miss out on the expo. Here you can get lots of information, and if there are speakers … attend the sessions. There is always something to learn, however ….
Don’t try something new. Probably the best advice out there. If you get a great deal on new shoes at the Expo … fantastic. However don’t use them on race day; try them out after the big event. Same goes with food – especially food. Not a spicy Indian food eater on a regular basis? Don’t try it the day before.
Time your meals. LUNCH the day before is most important so eat a good mix of grains, proteins and vegetables. Have a good dinner but don’t go overboard. Carb loading doesn’t necessarily mean eat all the pizza you can stuff down, eat complex carbs and as cleanly as possible.
Hydrate. But don’t go overboard. If your urine is clear you are drinking too much water. I like to hydrate by drinking first a glass of water, and then the next time, something with electrolytes. On my awful race, I drank all through the day and spend the night visiting the restroom totally disrupting my sleep.
Be ready. Knowing what to expect is a great way to ease up the nerves. Be familiar with the race course, know where the water stops are, have a game plan for your pacing. So if it’s a hilly course, then know where those hills are and how your pace will be affected by them. I did none of the above and had no idea there wasn’t a water stop on mile one, a problem for me.
– Prepare. Set out what you will be wearing, including your hydration belt if you are going to use one. Pin your number, and have your nutrition set aside. In your mind go through everything you will need and make sure it is all there, together, in the same place. I couldn’t find my headphones and had a minor coronary.
Visualize. Take a minute or two the day before the race and run it in your mind. See the course, and imagine yourself keeping your steady pace throughout the race and then triumphantly sprinting to the finish. Then smile … because tomorrow you will be doing exactly that.
Sleep. For a Sunday race, Friday night is the most important sleep night. Chances are that the night before your big race you will toss and turn a bit AND you are probably going to get up at an ungodly hour. So rest up two nights prior to give your body some good down time.
For my horrible half, I made my major mistakes the morning of the race. Keep this in mind:
Breakfast. Eat three hours before the race. A good mix of grains and protein, one that you have tried before and sits well with you. Don’t try a new breakfast today, and don’t change things up. If you don’t drink coffee normally before a run, don’t do it today. Even if you think you need some help to come to your senses at 5:00am. You’ll pay for it later. That was my biggest mistake of all.
– Get there early. Things are hectic at the race start. Traffic starts backing up, parking lots get full, people are running around you warming up, lines to the porta-potty (which you WILL have to go to) tend to be long, and the last thing you want is to panic because you might be late.
Don’t drink too much water. I got to the race site super early and had a bottle of my electrolyte mix. Out of nerves, I kept sipping on it and ended up having to use the port-a-potty numerous times before and mid-race.
In the end, much of this is common sense. However, if this is your first or your hundredth race it’s always good to remember these small details. Take care of these and do what you do best: race.