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!

2015 Running Goals

“Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up, it knows it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle, or it will starve. It doesn’t matter whether you’re the lion or a gazelle – when the sun comes up, you’d better be running.”

– Christopher McDougall

Savannah Lion

Running Goals for 2015:

1.  Run 1100+ miles.  This year, I will come in around 850-870.  Adding 200+ miles will increase my mileage by about 20 miles per month.  In 2014, I have had 2 months over 100 miles, and my goal is to have most of the months in 2015 over 100 miles per month.

2.  Run a half marathon with no walking.  I currently have registered for 2 half marathons in 2015, the Rock the Parkway Half Marathon on April 11, and the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon in Las Vegas on November.  I may add an early summer or early fall half marathon, it depends how the training cycle goes.

3.  5k PR of under 30 minutes and a 10k PR of under 62 minutes.  I have had unofficial 5k and 10k PRs this fall, but they have been in training runs.  I need to focus and increase my speed so it shows on race day.  I feel confident I can reach both PRs in 2015, especially if I continue running some speed workouts, with or without my KCRC group.

4.  Do a handstand.  I know this one isn’t necessarily running related, but it is fitness related, and it will help me improve on core strength and shoulder strength, which will help my running.  I also hope to practice yoga at least once a week, even if it is privately at home.  I miss practicing yoga weekly, like I did back in Hays.

5.  Enjoy the run.  I enjoy nearly all of my runs now, and I want to keep it that way.  I don’t want running to feel like a job, or a chore.  I love running, and want to keep my relationship with running a happy and healthy one.  If I need to take a week off I can, and if I need to get out there and run when I have housework to do, I can.  The run is stress relief, and it is a part of me.

Kara-Goucher

With 2 weeks left in 2014, have you thought ahead to your running or fitness goals for 2015? Share them in the comments below!

Half Marathon Training Plan

I’ve had a few people ask me about my half marathon training plan, and what kind of runs I do to train. Please remember that I am not a personal trainer or a running coach, and each plan needs to be fit to the individual.  Please consult your doctor and/or personal trainer / coach before beginning any athletic program or running plan.  Special thanks to my sister and “coach,” Kristen. She wrote the initial plan for me, and I have tweaked it to fit my needs.

My current “base” for running is about 4 miles. That means I can go out on any given day and run 4 miles easy, with no walking, and have no issues. My goal for this training cycle is to build that base to about 9 miles, meaning I could relatively easily run 9 miles with no walking and have it not be a great struggle to complete the distance. Of course, a half marathon is 13.1 miles, so I will work up to long runs of about 12 or 12.5 miles during this cycle.

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I have a very long training cycle, with about 22 weeks until my half marathon. In my previous 2 half marathons, the Eisenhower Half Marathon and the Kansas City Half Marathon, I also had long training cycles, but my base was lower, and my long runs did not reach as high as they needed to be, which resulted in using a run walk run plan to complete both races. With my training plan below, I hope to not only PR the Rock the Parkway half marathon in April, but to increase my mileage and become healthier and happier in the process!

A typical week of my training plan looks like:

Monday: Tempo Run. This run will include a 10-15 minute warm up run at a slower pace, followed by 10-60 minutes of tempo paced running (starting with 10 minutes and working through the plan to build to an hour of tempo), and a 10-15 minute cool down at a slower pace. A tempo run is defined as a “comfortably hard” run. Talking in short phrases should be possible, but sentences should be difficult. Sometimes instead of a tempo run I will do a progression run, where the goal is to negative split, or run the second half of faster than the first half. In my progression runs, I will typically run each mile 20-30 seconds faster than the previous mile. This teaches my mind and my body to “finish fast” and to conserve energy by not going out too fast.

Tuesday: Easy Run. I use this run as a recovery from Monday’s tempo run, and to shake out my legs. Tuesday’s will typically be 3-4 miles at a relatively easy pace. If I run with a friend or my running group, I should be able to hold a conversation while running. Toward the end of my training cycle I may build this run up to 5-6 miles.

Wednesday: Intervals or Hill Repeats. Wednesday is “speed day.” Now I’m not by any means a speedy runner, but intervals or hill repeats are helping my overall pace drop, and they are making my legs and lungs (and mind) stronger in the process. All of my intervals or hill repeats start with a 10-15 minute warm up run at a slower pace, the interval or hill workout, and then a 10-15 minute cool down run at a slower pace. Interval runs are short bursts of speedy running followed by a recovery of equal or slightly less time. Interval runs should be fast enough that talking, even in short phrases, is very difficult. The runs should not be so fast that running form suffers. The recovery between intervals should lower the heart rate and breathing enough that the next interval doesn’t seem impossible, but not so long of a recovery to make the next interval feel easier than the previous. My intervals vary greatly, from 1 minute intervals at a very fast (for me) clip, to 3-5 minute internals at a fast but not sprinting pace. The number of intervals will increase throughout my training cycle, and the speed for each interval will get slightly faster as the cycle wears on. I alternate intervals and hill repeats on Wednesdays. My Hill repeats include a warmup of 10-15 minutes running at a slower pace, followed by 5-12 runs up a 200m hill, followed by a 10-15 minute cooldown run at slower pace. If I am doing fewer hill repeats, I try to pace the hill at my 5k pace, which is the average pace of my 5k run. If I am doing more hill repeats, I try to keep my speed consistent and simply not slow down up the hill. Hill repeats are often labeled as speed work in disguise, because you do not feel speedy running up a hill, but the leg and lung strength it takes to propel yourself up a hill builds endurance and speed that is unmatched by other speed workouts.

Thursday: Easy Run. I use this run as a recovery from Wednesday’s internal run or hill repeats, and to shake out my legs. Thursday’s will typically be 3-4 miles at a relatively easy pace. If I run with a friend or my running group, I should be able to hold a conversation while running. Toward the end of my training cycle I may build this run up to 5 miles.

Friday: Off. No running! Day off to let my legs rest and recover. I try to drink extra water, and I usually wear my compression sleeves all day.

Saturday: Easy Short Run. I use this easy run as a preparation for Sunday’s long run. This run is the shortest of the week, around 3 miles, and it serves to shake out my legs and rev my body up for the long run. This run will be at a relatively easy pace. I should feel like I could run forever. If I run with a friend or my running group, I should be able to hold a conversation while running. Toward the end of my training cycle I may build this run up to 4 miles.

Sunday: Long Run. The long run is meant to prepare you for what race day will be like. My long run will be building from approximately 5 miles up to around 12 or 12.5 miles to prepare for race day. By spending hours on your feet, running many miles, you prepare your mind for what race day will be like, and you prepare your legs, lungs, arms, and feet for spending that much time and effort propelling yourself forward. The long run is also when you nail down your pre-run and mid-run nutrition and hydration, and when you figure out what kind of outfit you will wear on race day (NEVER try something new on race day! No new food, no new shoes, no new shirt, you never know how something new might affect you. Will it chafe? Will your stomach revolt?). I will add 5-10 minutes to the length of my runs each Sunday to build up my distance safely.

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My mileage will hopefully increase from about 70-80 miles per month to about 120-140 miles per month through the next 5-6 months. For me, I have found that I need the consistency and accountability of a training plan, it keeps me on track to reach my goals. After each workout, I write down how I felt, what my paces were, my mileage, and any other factors that went into the run. Having all the past training information on paper allows me to look back and see how I am progressing, and I can determine if changes are needed for the future.

Now that I’ve explained my running plan, please remember each plan and each person is different, and my plan might not work for you. You have to experiment and find a plan that fits your needs, your mileage and race goals, and your fitness level. Good luck with your training!

Do you use a running plan to train? Are you training for any particular race or just running for yourself? How many days per week do you usually run?