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Race day is almost here! Remember to lay low and stay off your feet the days before the race. Your reward is race day itself and the challenge of running. . . .

Arrival

Make sure you get outside and feel the air. Go for at least a 20 minute walk or jog on either the day before, or two days before (or whatever is on your schedule).

Think about what you did, not what you didn’t do in your training. When you go to pick up your race number and run into old friends, family etc. everyone will want to ask about your training so they can tell you about theirs. Forget about theirs and don’t compare yourself to anyone. You followed a terrific training schedule and are well prepared.

Night Before, Morning Of

Have a full meal the night before. Try and consume some complex carbohydrates (pasta). Do not over eat, but make sure you fill up.

On race day eat a light breakfast of 200-300 Kcal of carbohydrates including the sports fluid you drink. If you have a normal pre-race breakfast then stick with it. Don't try any new foods before the race. Drink gatorade (or any sports drink that doesn’t include protein) and/or water frequently to assure you are hydrated (clear urine is a good sign). You should stay well-hydrated throughout the morning before the race. At some point prior to the race stop drinking so you can empty your bladder before the start. It is important to refrain from over-consumption of water alone, as that will drain your body of needed electrolytes.

I suggest you take some throw away warmups to the start especially if it rains or will be cold. This could be an old t-shirt or old sweat pants. Also old socks will keep your hands warm. Some runners will even wear a t-shirt for the first couple miles of the race until they warm up and then pull it off and throw it away. This is a good strategy to prepare for all temperatures.

Take a bottle with gatorade/sports drink to the start with you and right before (less than 5 mins) the gun goes off drink 4-8 ounces. This is your first water stop. If you drink close enough to the start you shouldn’t have to pee – the fluid should only drip through your kidneys because most of your resources (blood) will be in your legs and out of your gut as soon as the gun goes off.

Early Miles

I suggest that you start 5-10 seconds per mile slower than your goal pace. By the 2nd mile you should be running at around goal pace while listening to your body. I recommend this approach as it may activate (and utilize) a higher percentage of fat fuel over the first couple miles. Remember we are trying to conserve glycogen and muscle for as long as possible.

Stay on top of hydration. Fluid stations will be located at 4 stations throughout the course. Take note of these opportunities to rehydrate and plan to drink 4-8 ounces every 20 minutes. It is better to consume enough fluid early and sacrifice the later stops if necessary.

Remember the 3 ‘C’s’

Confidence: Have confidence in your ability and your training. Remember all those hard workouts you did. Remember those early mornings, late nights, sore calves, tight hamstrings etc. - they weren’t in jest.

Control: You must relax yourself early in the race. You absolutely must go out under control for the first half of the race. We want to save a little bit for the final miles.

Collection: Keep your thoughts collected and on your objective. There will always be lots of distractions on race day. The further you get in this race the more you need to focus on yourself, goals and race strategy. Don’t let the fans and competitors into your zone.

The Ebb and Flow

I said before that I can’t guarantee anything about the training or the race itself. Well, I can guarantee this: you will feel good at some point and you will feel bad at some point within the race.

Races usually ebb and flow, runners rarely feel terrific the entire way. We always hit little walls. If you hit one just focus on the next mile, don’t think about the end of the race. If you take each difficult moment one mile at a time you will usually feel better at some point. It always comes back because. . .

You Always Have One Cup Left

That’s right – you always have one cup of energy left. The difference is that some people find it and some don’t. Remember what normal, untrained people do when they feel discomfort – they slow down and feel better. You are not a normal un-trained person.

You are a runnining machine!

You are programmed to give your personal best so. . .

Go get that last cup!


 

Day Before

Whenever possible, pick up your bib number, timing chip, and goody bag the day before the race.  This way, you won't have to worry about rushing to get it on the morning of the race.  (Added bonus - you will be more likely to get your desired race T-shirt size if you pick it up early!)

Once you have your bib number, pin it to the front of the shirt you will wear on race day.  (Don't pin it to the back).  Most races will have boxes of safety pins for your use.  Take four so that you can fasten all 4 corners. 

Dressing The Part

For race attire, consider some "throw away" warmups for the start.  These will protect you from the elements if it is cold or rainy.  Old socks can come in handy for keeping your hands warm.  Some runners will even wear the t-shirt for the first couple miles of the race until they warm up and then pull it off and throw it away.  This is a good strategy to prepare for all temperatures.

Once the race starts, you WILL warm up.  Be prepared by wearing lighter clothes underneath your "thow away" sweats.  A good rule of thumb: Dress as if the weather is 15 degrees warmer than it is. That's how much you'll warm up once you start running.

Hydration

Drink Gatorade (or any sports drink that doesn’t include protein) and/or water frequently to assure you are hydrated before the race.  Clear urine is a good sign.  At some point (usually 10-20 minutes) prior to the race stop drinking so you can empty your bladder before the start.

Breakfast

We always recommend eating breakfast and an essential, light breakfast is important on race day.  2-3 hours before the race, try to consume 200-400 calories of food you are accustomed to and can easily digest.  Your body will need that fuel in the latter stages of the race. 

Don't try a new food the morning of the race.  Instead, experiment with different foods beforehand or stick to things that have worked for you in the past.  The best breakfast foods contain both complex and simple carbohydrates and high-quality protein (in small amounts).  Your breakfast should include some healthy fats, but also in small amounts.

Heading to the Start Line

There will often be race day traffic so allow plenty of time to get to the starting area.  You will need time to stretch out, do a warm up jog, and use the bathroom.  (Warning:  The lines for the bathrooms at road races are always long.  Don't wait until the last minute to go!)

Pace

Remember this is an endurance race and the key to success is pace.  As soon as the gun goes off remind yourself that you have a long race ahead of you.  Check your breathing, body tension and other physical markers to gauge your pace.  If you are running faster than a pace you can maintain throughout the whole distance, slow down immediately.  The goal of any successful race is to run every mile within 10% of your average pace.

Remember the 3 ‘C’s’

Confidence:  Have confidence in your ability and your training.   Remember all those hard workouts you did.  Remember those early mornings, late nights, sore calves, tight hamstrings etc. - they weren’t in jest.

Control:  Feel comfortable with the pace for the first 1-2 miles.  Stay relaxed and controlled.

Collection:  Keep your thoughts collected and on your objective.  In the typical big city race there will be thousands of distractions along the way.  The further you get in this race the more you need to focus on yourself, goals and race strategy.  Don’t let the fans and competitors into your zone.

You Always Have One Cup Left

That’s right – you always have one cup of energy left.  The difference is that some people find it and some don’t.  Remember what normal, untrained people do when they feel discomfort – they slow down and feel better.  You are not a normal un-trained person.

You are a running machine!

As a machine you will have to dig down at the end to determine if you will have a good effort that you can be satisfied with or not.

Go get that last cup!


Kick is a term used to describe an emphatic finish.  The final sprint is one way to talk about it, but many times, a kick can include a push that more closely resembles a tsunami rather than a crashing wave.

Whether you are running a one mile race or a marathon, sometimes a kick can help leave you with the definitive and lasting positive memory of a race that may not even have gone well otherwise.  So, what are some key things to remember as you prepare to unleash yours next weekend?



ACS_croppedParticipating in a race for a personal cause or organized charitable organization has become an extremely popular way to experience race day.  Some of the largest marathons can boast of millions of dollars raised per year for great causes in this manner. Charities in almost every segment of the non-profit world have found their way into the action, offering race numbers for a variety of challenging endurance events.

If you are an experienced racer looking to try your next goal race with this additional motivation, or if you are seeking your first long endurance effort and wonder if the charitable piece would help you get to the finish line, here are a few things to consider when making the commitment.



postmarathon

Personal Best - October 2011

Race Weekend Tips for Friends and Family

Every athlete must marshal the vast majority of effort needed to accomplish a big goal race.  However, many runners and walkers who embark on an ambitious training season must rely also on the help and support of family and friends.  Whether providing rides, fluid support, space in the family calendar, or just emotional support, oftentimes these individual can be difference makers, especially since they are often the motivation for the individual to keep trucking when things get tough on race day.

 

While athletes get a great deal of advice and tips on how to manage their training and race, friends and family can be left empty handed when wondering how best to support their runner or walker.

 

Here’s a road map for every support person or team to take into consideration (since we wrote it – you don’t have to feel selfish about handing it out)!

 

Designate a czar of logistics

One common situation is that the decision for a large group of friends and family to come to the race creates additional stress for the athlete.  Everyone definitely means well, but numerous calls to ask about where to stay, when they can visit with the athlete, where they should watch on the course, and so forth, can increase the perceived pressure when nervousness may already exist.  Designate a family member who will serve as the traffic cop for this type of planning, someone who will coordinate flights and airport trips, hotel stays, dinner reservations, and various rendezvous with all those who wish to be included.  This person should be well versed in the details available on the race website for the course, the expo, and the post-race reunion area.  If a new person pops up who wants to support the athlete, the athlete can then confidently connect them with the logistics czar, who can walk them through the plans already in place.

 

Consider the Athlete

It is not uncommon for friends and family contingents to begin to build a life of their own as race day approaches.  Interest in various sight seeing expeditions, brunch or dinner locations, matching t-shirts, expo shopping trips, and more ideas may continue to grow and expand.   There is absolutely nothing wrong with making plans that don’t include the athlete, respecting the runner’s need for rest and calm before (and rest and recovery after) the race.  However, keep in mind the race that your runner has trained for and the needs they have in final preparation.  For example, if everyone wants to eat dinner at 9pm at an exotic restaurant, but the athlete expresses a desire to eat simple pasta at 5pm and go to bed early, consider compromises and alternatives (such as having one person from the group have dinner early with the athlete).  Race weekend isn’t a democracy; it is a narrowly focused time period with one specific and very demanding aim..  Be proactive, and ensure the physical and psychological needs of the competitor are paramount.

 

 

Determine a simple post-race plan, including a fall back plan if things haven’t gone well

At smaller races, athletes are easy to connect with after they finish.  However, at many large races, the post-finish process can be very crowded, and may take some time.  Cell phones have been left at home, at the hotel, or in the race baggage, so old-fashioned methods of communication must be relied upon.   Races often offer reunion areas, but it may make sense to pick an alternate landmark or process to find each other as the reunion areas may be clogged.  Friends and family need to be patient with post-race logistics.  Oftentimes races require a lengthy cool down area, and the competitor may not feel especially perky after running a 10, 13 or 26-mile race. If more than one person is racing, they may also want to greet each other within the finish area before heading out.  Determine a plan for reunion if things go as planned, and an option if things do not.  The runner should have a plan if forced to withdraw mid-race (read the race materials), and the czar of logistics should be well versed in this process as well.  The same goes for brunch, lunch, dinner or whatever is the first item of business after the race.  Consider that the athlete may not be in a position to eat a large meal, walk a long distance, or sit in the car for an hour.  Try to plan accordingly and be prepared to be flexible.

 

Marshal the energy of the support group into loud and visible demonstrations of support

Make a plan to provide an inspirational boost to the competitor or competitors in the race.  Large signs, strategic course placement, and clear visibility can be a huge boost, but require an organized plan to account for pacing and transportation variability.  Don’t miss out!  Think through how the group will get from point to point and how the problems that might occur can be addressed.  HOWEVER, again also consider the athlete’s needs.  Should they prefer a lower-key approach, respect their wishes and support as requested.  It is their day!

 

Race weekend can be an intense, but significant and memorable weekend on many levels.  Everyone involved wants to provide support, but the greatest energy must be saved for the actual task itself.  Keep that focus in mind at all times, and hopefully your athlete can look forward to a happy and unified reunion when the finisher’s medal has been finally placed around their neck.



You're in the race - now what?

When we choose a goal race, we are often preoccupied with the deliberation leading up to the final clicks on the screen.    When the rush of the final commitment wears off, we are left with the training to be done – which of course is where we come in!

Certainly, the start of your program is the most important thing. However, it also makes sense to begin planning travel as soon as possible, to ensure your race weekend experience is all that you hoped for.   Here are a few tips to optimize your goal race travel.

Read the race participant info early...and often

Most big races require number pick-up at a participant expo the day or two before the event.  Some races may also have a fairly complicated process set up for start area arrival and finish line departure.   Race directors know thousands of people need to get in and out and have thought through how best to get everyone where they need to be.

Before you set up any travel plans, make sure that you have a good sense of the logistical tasks required of you by the race.  The flight that arrives at 5pm may be the least expensive, but you may be out of luck if the expo closes at 6 and your flight is delayed.  Even if you are local, securing a ride or a forming a carpool to the start and away from the finish can make the difference between a successful day and one that turns south when you are rushed and hurried, or forced to stay outside in the cold while waiting for a ride.

Even if you review race day details upon initial registration, it makes sense to return periodically to ensure you have not missed any updates.  If the race’s plans have been forced to change by unanticipated construction, a different level of participation than originally expected, or any other reason, you will want to make sure you have plenty of time to make your own adjustments.

Check out the race-sponsored travel options, but don’t limit yourself to those.

Many races partner with local hotels and even some airlines to provide options for participants.  These may very well offer the best prices for places to stay within walking distance to the start or finish.  As such, they should be checked first as they often sell out early.  Before you act on a pre-pay option, however, consider hotel reservations with a closer cancellation date in case of injury or change of plans.  Also consider other ways to stay in favorable locations relative to the race.  If you are early enough, travel websites that offer flight / hotel options in combination may provide value as those negotiated prices might have been made before the race blocks were established.   Vacation rental sites like vrbo.com or airbnb.com may offer houses or condos for rent at reasonable rates, particularly if you bring the family along for the big day.  Finally, never underestimate the power of a call directly to an onsite reservations agent or even the front desk of a small hotel.

Consider your regular pre-race routine and sketch a travel scenario that will allow for as much familiarity as possible.

Do you prefer to eat dinner at a certain time?  Do you try and head to bed at a certain time?  Do you prefer a certain type of food in the evening or morning before the race? Take these preferences into account when you make your initial travel plans.  How long might it take to get to and from the expo?  Where will you likely eat and how close is it from your hotel?  If you want coffee in the morning, where will you get it and are they open at that hour?

For these reasons and others, it often makes sense to arrive two days before your race so you have a day to take care of whatever you need to do without being rushed for time.  Similarly, if time and finances allow, you may be well served to depart the day after your race instead of that same afternoon.  You never know quite how you will feel or how long it might take to exit the finish area, and no one should be rushed after a terrific race effort.

If you need to make a choice between staying near the start or the finish of a marathon, by all means, stay by the finish.

Unless the start of your race is extremely early or in an obscure location, definitely err on the side of staying by the finish.  You can always get up 10 or 15 minutes earlier to get to the start with all your energy intact, but anyone who finishes a marathon will be glad that a hotel room is close by.  Very glad.

If planning a general vacation in concert with a goal race, plan to race at the start of the trip whenever possible.

Many people combine travel to a new destination with an opportunity to complete an exciting goal race.  If you do so, consider how much more you will be able to enjoy your surroundings without the concerns of a race over your head during the “fun” part of the trip.  You’ll want the freedom to walk without worry of fatigue in your legs, the freedom to eat adventurously and the flexibility to have a schedule that doesn’t demand eight hours of sleep. Yes, distant travel may require a couple days to adjust to a new time zone before the race.  However, it is always best to celebrate the completion of your goal with the bulk of your vacation after the race.

 

 




 

RaceRecoveryThis month in Personal Best, we’d like to examine the one time of year most difficult to plan for:  Recovery.

 

Most of us fall into one of two categories.  Either we can’t wait to get right back out there on the roads and are tempted to rush our recovery period, or we let a month turn into two, into three, before pretty soon we are starting again from scratch in our next build-up.  Regardless of which tendency most closely resembles your default habits, we’d like to encourage you to take your next recovery period seriously.  We believe it is one of the most under appreciated, yet important parts of the training year.

 

After you cross the finish line…

When you cross the line of the big race, resist the urge to sit immediately, and keep moving for 10-20 minutes after you cross the line.  Most large races force this process to a certain extent, requiring you to move through lengthy feed, medal, race photo, and other stations as you head toward your baggage claim area.   Begin to hydrate with carbohydrate and electrolyte replacement fluids, sipping and drinking as much as your stomach can accommodate.  In the immediate hours to come, try to avoid caffeine, alcohol, aggressive massage, and hot tubs / baths in favor of cold tubs, and ice, easily digestible foods, and nutritious beverages.    In the day or two following, gentle massage, light stretching, and continued icing / cold tubs may assist in recovery.

 

Sometimes, athletes have certain foods they know will work well with their post-race digestive state.  If this is you, plan ahead and pack them in your gear bag so you know you’ll be able to start your nutrition replenishment with confidence.

 

Recovery is a mental, emotional, AND, a physical process.

Oftentimes, we have put a great deal into our goal races – other leisure habits on hold, dietary choices made and adhered to with great will power, families patiently waiting for you to come home from yet another long run.  Perhaps you have run your goal race in honor of a loved one or an important cause, and most likely you have given more of yourself physically than you have ever given before or typically do on a regular basis.  Your body may feel recovered, but you may not be ready to embark on the emotional journey yet again.  Or, you may feel as though your race left you with unfinished business that you want to re-try at the earliest opportunity, even as your body isn’t quite ready to cooperate.

 

We encourage most athletes to take approximately a month to recover from one of your bulwark goal races.  1-2 weeks of complete rest, followed by at least a couple weeks of recreational exercise, including cross training, and more rest than usual as needed throughout the week.

 

One great approach is to choose another goal race of a shorter distance at least 10-12 weeks from the date of the current goal race for which you are preparing.   You might even want to do this before you compete in the big race.    It is not uncommon to feel emotionally listless after a big effort, and having a new goal can help keep you connected to your over-arching health and fitness goals even as you take some time off.  Choosing a race shorter than the one you just finished will ensure you don’t pressure yourself to find the same level of motivation and commitment right off the bat, can provide a fun fitness test to keep your pace chart moving, and can serve as a good midway point if you do choose to do a longer race in 4-6 months.

 

If you come back from recovery too early, you may feel fine initially, but when the real training sets in, the aches and pains will then begin to crop up – take the time NOW!

 

As we read in this month’s Pro’s Perspective, Brooke Wells says she has traditionally been too aggressive in coming back from her recovery periods.  By jumping immediately back into a heavy training load, she often found herself requiring another mini-break a few weeks in. This is a common occurrence for many runners, both novices and elite athletes.   Now that she has run her best time and is creeping in to the rarified air of internationally competitive performances, she knows she can’t afford to take the same type of liberty this time around.     That second bunch of training weeks after the initial restart is when we as coaches see many problems occur, but we recognize, sometimes it is tough to take that time if you have plenty of motivation left in reserve.  However…..

 

Resist the urge to lace up your shoes the first day you aren’t sore climbing stairs, and after you take that first run, resist the urge to jump in the Sunday 12 miler a few days later with your friends at the park.   The time you spend ramping up slowly back to a normal level of training activity is recovery time as well.  If that is excruciating to you – you can’t stand staying in one more day, encourage yourself that many of the world’s top athletes take 3-6 weeks completely away from running after a goal marathon – you’re trying to work harder than the pros!

 

 

Make sure you use your recovery time to “exhale”, enjoy something you might not have been able to during your build up.

 

For you, it might be a different sport –Brooke mentioned trying rock climbing, something she’d never do in the midst of heavy training.  Maybe it is enjoying a later bedtime, a favorite dessert, an activity with family, a night out, or a weekend away.  Or, just force yourself to sit on the couch and do nothing for once.   While we are here to help you with the plan you need to train for your goals, we also want to make sure that when you are within the crucial weeks before your goal race, you are motivated and not burned out.  Recharge yourself with moderate doses of life’s simple pleasures when a racing deadline is not bearing down and you’ll be able to focus when the time requires that single-mindedness.

 

 

Celebrate and appreciate your accomplishment before heading off to the next mountaintop.

 

It is also important that you celebrate your accomplishment.  Acknowledge to yourself a job well done.  And if things didn’t go as planned, acknowledge an effort earnestly made, a willingness to go for it.  Even if you hope to yet run faster or have bigger fish to fry down the road, consider everything that went right, including the accomplishment of a season of training you might not have considered possible before you began.  Consider all that you hope to recreate in your next build-up as well as those things you hope to change for the better.  After all, while recovery is the final stage of your last race, it is also the first stage of your next!



Pre-Race Sleep

January 31, 2010

Everybody’s been there: sleepless on the night before a big race.

Countless articles and anecdotal stories have been shared on this topic. Certainly, Focus-N-Fly’ers probably have an entire wing to add to the library. However, it takes a little bit of time to become comfortable and game plan your race “eve” strategies. When you do this game planning, here are some key pieces of info to keep in mind:



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