Prepping for a Race

I have three half marathons coming up in the next three months.  I’m no expert on racing, not by a long shot, nor am I an expert on how to prepare for a race, but I do have some tips that have helped me prepare for the best of my ability, to perform the best I am able, on race day.  I’d like to share some of my race prep tips, and I’d love to hear any you have, too!

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3-4 weeks before the race:

Have your race outfit(s) ready to go.  Make sure you’ve worn them for test runs that are similar to race day conditions.  Definitely don’t go into the race wearing something you’ve never worn before!  It’s always best to have a “dress rehearsal,” if you will, run a long run, or a race-paced training run in the clothes you plan on wearing for race day.  Make sure you don’t randomly chafe or blister; make sure your shirt doesn’t ride up, or your pants slip around and feel uncomfortable.  There should be no surprises on race day.

Also, have your nutrition planned out; especially if you’re going to be taking fuel during the race.  Every long run, try out your pre-race nutrition, so that your stomach isn’t surprised by something weird.  For me, I can’t eat nuts/peanut butter before a race, and I also can’t drink a ton of water beforehand.  Knowing this helps me prep for my pre-race meal, to avoid extra bathroom stops or cramps during the race.

The week leading up to the race:

HYDRATE!  During the week before the race, I drink extra water to help me be as hydrated as possible going into race day.  As I said earlier, I can’t drink loads of water on race morning, so I make sure my body is properly hydrated before race day.  Also, eat good meals.  I struggle with my diet on a day to day basis, but during the week of a race, I really try to focus on getting good, solid, nutritious meals.

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Taper, if you’re running a long race, or a hard, fast race.  I feel my legs are freshest if I run 2-3 times at a slow, easy pace, the week leading up to a half marathon.  For a race shorter than a half marathon, I don’t really need to taper off, but taking an extra day off can help my legs feel fresher for race day.  I also try to wear my compression sleeves a couple times during the week leading up to race day, which just make my calves feel super happy.

1-2 days before the race:

Lay out your race day outfit.  Make sure you have everything you need BEFORE race morning! I lay out my clothes in “flat Renee,” pin my bib on my shirt, lay out the exact outfit I’m wearing, including shoes, nutrition, socks, underwear, visor…  Have it all out, that way you can see what you have before race day.

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Make sure your watch is charged, music is synced, headphones are working, etc.  I don’t listen to music, so I don’t need the music/headphones, but I do make sure my watch is fully synced and updated, and that if there is a timing chip, it’s on my shoes, ready to go.  No need to worry about electronics on race morning.

Get good sleep.  For lots of huge races, it’s difficult to sleep well the night before a race.  By making sure you sleep well the week leading up to the race, especially a few days before the race, your body is just that much more rested.

Pack a bag of supplies for race morning/post race.  After a half marathon, all I want to do is change into dry, clean clothes, and put on sandals.  I also just want to sit/lay down, but sometimes I can’t do that, so having fresh clothes and something comfortable other than running shoes makes things feel better until I’m able to shower and lay with my legs up a wall.  I recommend having a change of clothing, sandals or some kind of comfortable footwear, deodorant, face/body wipes, and a snack that you know your body can handle.  You never know what, or if, the race is handing out after you’re finished, so you want to make sure you have something to snack on if you’re in need.

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Photo courtesy ActionSportsImages.com from the KC Half Marathon.

Race morning:

Get up, eat your meal 1 1/2 to 2 hours before the race (or earlier/later, depending on what your body can handle), get dressed in your clothes that are already laid out, grab your supplies, and head to the race!

No stress on race day, and nothing new on race day.  That’s the best advice I can give.  Plan as much as you can before the race to put as little stress on your mind/body as possible.  And don’t ever do anything new on race day, everything you do, from eating to clothing to pre-race warmup should all be routine and normal.  Don’t do sprints or calisthenics if you see someone doing them, if you’re not used to doing them race morning.  Don’t eat/drink something just because the person standing next to you is; your schedule/plan is not based on theirs!

Best of all, HAVE FUN and ENJOY the race!  Best of luck to all those racing this weekend, or coming up soon.  If you have any other pre-race tips, please share!

9 thoughts on “Prepping for a Race

  1. I agree with your sleep tip! I have read elsewhere that it’s important to sleep well two nights before the race. i think it’s too common to be excited or half to get up very early to race, so sleeping well right before the race can be a challenge. Good self care in the days before the race can help us run our best!

    Best of luck on 3 half marathons coming up!!

  2. Let’s see, what do I do? For the week prior to a big race, I drink a bottle of Gatorade each day (to get my electrolite levels maxed out). I generally do some carb loading (pasta and rice) but not the night before (to get my glycogen levels maxed out). If possible, I drive the course so I can know where the hills and flats are; I realize some people prefer not to see the course in advance. I do. And that leads to my last point: I spend a lot of effort getting myself ready mentally. I assure myself that while it will likely be hard (and painful) it is not beyond my ability. I give myself permission in advance to run whatever my best race will be that day. I remind myself that I’ve done this before. As Yogi Berra said, “Half of this game is 90% mental.”

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