Race Prep 101

For my long time followers (aka – my mom) you may know that my “running goal” in 2013 was to run a race a month.  You may also know that I ran 14 races in 2013.  That led to an extensive lecture discussion between Pat and I about my finances (in ahelpful/concerned sense) as I was spending a fair amount of money signing up for races.

With that being said I went into 2014 with a plan.  I wrote down all of the races I wanted to do, how much it would cost, the benefits, and deadlines for price increases. This got me some pretty awesome deals on races – especially Rock N Roll as I signed up very early on, I also saved my money for the marathon so I would have all the money at that time if I made it through the lottery.

Getting ready for race day requires more than a plan for just the races you want to do.  You should definitely look at things like price, but some other helpful things to look at are:

1) Are you training for a larger race (a half, a full, a tri), if so – how/where would this race fit into your program?  Would it fit?  If it’s a half on a day you’re supposed to do 18 -would you be willing to run another 5?  If not -are you ok with not running all the miles you were scheduled to do?

2) How easy would this race be to get to?  Would you have to travel?  Tips on that are for a completely different post.  If you would have to travel where would you stay?  Are rooms available etc.  If it’s a local race – the page should have suggestions for parking/public transit.  Some races will offer a complimentary shuttle or a shuttle (that you pay for).  Would this be an option?

3) How big is the race? Is it going to be a huge event of 20,o00 runners, or a low key event of 500-800?  Do you have a preference?

4) Look at the course – look at the elevation map.  DO YOU KNOW HOW TO READ AN ELEVATION MAP?! This is important – especially if it’s a course you’re not familiar with.  When looking at an elevation map – you want to pay the most attention to the numbers on the left.  That’s talking about the elevation/climbs.  The numbers on the bottom are typically indicating the mile markers.  When reading elevation maps it can be really easy to look at peaks and valleys.  LOOK AT THE MATH.

Here is a really good article from Runner’s World about comparing grades/steepness, placement of hills is some of the more popular marathons.  Pay special attention to Big Sur and Marine Corps.

When you look at an elevation map it can be easy to look at a hill and be like “oh that looks like hell” and have it not be that bad, the opposite is easy to do as well.

Here is an example of what I have heard can be a bitch of a course (here’s to you Kalamazoo Michigan) – pay special attention to the climb around mile 20-21, as well as the climb around mile 5.  Nowadays most races will include elevation maps along with the course, or somewhere on the site.

Just an FYI – I have it on good authority that if you want to do Kalamazoo – you should add some hill-work into your training plan.  🙂

5) Course support.  How many aid stations will there be?  Will they have just water or water and sports drink on course?  Will there be gels on course?  If so what flavor?  Will that flavor have caffeine?  Is it a gel you like?  Or will you carry a handheld/have your our on course nourishments?

These are just a handful of questions you should ask, then answer before even signing up for a race.

Then.  You have to prep for a race.

Write down the dates, times, and locations of packet pickup.  WRITE THEM DOWN

A good majority of races do not have race day pick up.  NEVER assume a race will have race day packet pickup.  This is probably a more important point to make for out-of-towners, but just the same.

Here are some final tips I have in leading up to race day:

1) Maintain a consistent diet

The night before a race is not the time to try curry.  Honestly – I am pretty paranoid about trying new foods even the week of a race.  And especially the night before/the morning of.  The night before I eat whole grain pasta, with a lean protein, and a non-oily sauce.  The day of I eat about 1 cup of oatmeal or a plain toasted bagel.

Consistency with diet is also important with on course nourishment.  Don’t grab a caffeinated gel that you’ve never had before on course at mile 9 and slurp it down.  I mean you can – you’re clearly way braver than me if you do.

On course nourishment is something worth practicing – especially if you’re like me and prone to acid reflux, or just a sensitive stomach GI system.

2) Stay hydrated

Often times dehydration doesn’t just happen the day of the event – it starts creeping on you likely days before.  I keep a water bottle with me at all times, and try to drink it all twice during the week day.  If it’s hot, and I’ve been doing a lot of running I’ll toss a tab of Nuun in my water – either the electrolyte tab or the all-day stuff.

3) Stretch

Seriously, foam roll, do dynamic stretches, do some yoga, whatever it is – take care of yourself.  For me consistency is key – race week is not the week to try out the trendy new workout.  It’s the week I make nice with my foam roller and list of dynamic stretches.

4) Have a “day of” planned days in advance

Key.  So key.  Do you eat before you run?  If yes – how long do you need between eating and running.  Speaking of running – where is the race start?  Are you walking there?  Shuttle?  etc.  What time does your corral close?  Do you need a porta-loo visit before lining up?  It NEVER hurts to be early on race day.  Seriously.

I always set my outfit out, pre-fill my hand-held, set out my socks and shoes, watch and iPod are charged.  Snacks and breakfast are set out.  Bib is pinned to my shirt, gear check tag is attached to my bag.

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In my bag I always keep some layers in case I’m cold, or if I’m really sweaty and want a clean shirt/bra to change into.  I also carry a stick of body glide (just in case), some vaseline and chap stick (I’m basically the runner you want to be sitting next to if you forget something).

It can be really easy to get scattered on a morning of a race.  Nerves are already running high, and yeah it’s easy to run out the door with out your trusty stick of body glide – or my worst nightmare: forgetting your headphones <– I’ve literally had dreams (nightmares) about getting to a race and realizing I didn’t have headphones.

Heck I’ve even forgotten my gels once, and one time I was on a bus on the way to race when it broke down.  Sometimes things are out of your control – but for the things you can control and can plan for – plan for them.  You’ll thank yourself when you’re wearing a dry tech shirt, and clean socks after running.

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