October 16, 2011

Tips for Race Day

Guys. I just finished my third half marathon. Just 10 months ago, I could barely run 2 miles. Now, I have 39.3 race miles and three medals under my belt. Not gonna lie, it feels like it's been a LOT longer than that. This one was the most iffy because I didn't train as much as I did for the others and I was sick last week. Also, this race was the biggest one I've been in. I was very overwhelmed at the start, feeling like I wasn't ready when the cannon sounded (yes, a cannon.) But once I got started, I got more comfortable and confident in my ability to kick this race in the bum!
dancing across the finish line. you know how I do.

I want to share some race day tips for anyone thinking of completing their first half. Most tips are applicable to full marathoners as well but since I've never done a full, I can't personally say how to prep for race day for the full shebang.

1. Don't worry if you feel weird. Let me elaborate: It's perfectly normal to feel "off" the week or two before your race. You are most likely tapering your runs so you're not running as far as you're used to. Your runs the week before the race may even be sucky. I ran 4 miles the Tuesday before my August race and I could hardly get through it and that race was the one I PRed in. Boom roasted. Continue to eat as you normally would, trying not to "cut back," which I have to really focus on. Since I'm not exercising as hard, I feel like I shouldn't eat as much. But it's really important to continue eating when you're not running as much. Your body needs the rest and it will thank you after your race.

2. Hydrate, but not too much. Drink plenty of water the week before the actual race. But don't overhydrate. I just tell myself to remember to drink water when I'm thirsty. I'm usually good about this but when I'm out visiting schools and I'm in my car all day, I sometimes forget to bring water. Overhydrating can be almost as dangerous as underdyrating but most people don't have an issue with this.

3. Don't try anything new on race day. Do NOT drink anything on race day that you haven't trained with. Same goes with food. For example, if you've never used Gu, it's not something you'll want on race day. You never know how your body is going to react. Most race websites will mention what they're giving out on the course (Gatorade, Powerade, Gu, etc) so if you don't want to bring your own, you can try those things on your longer training runs. I don't train using anything but water, so I never take anything that they hand out on the course except the water.

Same goes for clothing. Make sure the clothes and shoes you're racing in are ones you've trained in before. Blisters are a bitch, and so is chafing.

4. Train in bad weather. This is more of a "before" race day tip, but make sure you are comfortable running in less than perfect weather and make sure you have adequate gear to get you through the race in that weather. I have been extremely lucky that all three of my races had perfect running weather. However, I've trained in the snow, rain, cold, and blazing heat, so I feel comfortable adjusting my pace and clothing to the elements.

5. Wear layers. Today was the perfect example of dressing like it's warmer than it is. It was pretty cold this morning before we started the race, but within the first 2 miles, I was sweating. Since you do have to stand outside for a bit before you get moving, wearing a trashbag with holes cut for your arms is a good way to warm up before starting. When you start sweating, you can just ditch the bag on the side of the road. Some people wear old sweatshirts they don't mind never seeing again, and a lot of races collect the clothes and donate them to goodwill the next day. I wore tube socks on my arms so when I started to get hot, I just ditched them. Any of these options will keep you warm until you don't need it anymore.

6. Slow and steady wins the race. I've seen so many people start up toward the front, only to get trampled once the people in the back try to pass. Or, they start out too fast because they are with the faster runners and then are burnt out by miles 5 or 6. If you start father back, you can be the one passing people as you get in to your pace. Also, it's more fun to pass people than to be passed ;)

7. Have fun! Look at your surroundings! There were 17,000 people participating in the Columbus Marathon and TONS of people cheering us on. It's so great to look around at the signs and see people cheering while you run! I high-fived a few mascots on the course today. Interacting with the crowd helps pass the time, distracting from how far you have left to run. It's great wearing the purple TNT jersey because people yell out "Go Team" without even knowing who you are.

Katie came!

8. Whatever happens, happens. You've put in the miles (hopefully, if you trained beforehand) and now is the time to just let yourself run. If you need to walk, walk. If you need to stop at a portapotty, do it. This is YOUR race, YOUR day, and you can do whatever you want. I get nervous before the race, worrying about everything. After each race, I've always said to myself "that wasn't so bad." I was worried for nothing! No matter what your time is, you still get the medal when you cross the finish line! :)

For anyone looking to challenge themselves, training and completing a half marathon is a fantastic and very realistic goal. Take it from me: if I can go from barely running 2 miles to completing three half marathons in less than a year, anyone can!

Remember, you're the best around, nothing's gonna ever keep ya down!

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