Over the past year, I've learned a few things about race preparation. Do some things right and you can set yourself up for a strong race and maybe a PR. Do some things wrong and . . . well, dropping out might sound like a good idea.
That's what happened to me at the ZOOMA half marathon in September. I didn't prepare well and the race was extremely tough for me. Similarly, I cramped up in the New Jersey Marathon, and I blame some of my pre-race preparation for that.
I've also had some of my best race performances this year, including setting new PRs at all three of the 5Ks that I've run. I took a look at what I did before those three races, along with my PR-setting half marathon, my strong 10 mile race, and my PR-setting 4 mile race. There were several things I did right and I believe they are fairly universal.
I'd like to think they might be able to help you run some of your best races, too. So, here's a quick list of my best race preparation tips:
1. Accept. Let's start here. You have to accept that you are not going to have a good night's sleep the night before a race. It is just really unlikely that you will. Accept it and move on. I failed to accept that fact before the marathon and I ended up tossing and turning and lying awake much more than I should have.
2. Relax. The night before the race should be a time for relaxation. Don't think too much about your race. Before the marathon I was capital-N nervous. And with the ZOOMA race, I had to drive almost 4 hours and was staying at a hotel so I found it nearly impossible to relax. Before the Mohawk-Hudson half where I set a PR, we hosted my mother-in-law and a brother-in-law for the day. We had a birthday dinner for my younger son and when our visitors left, I kicked back with a cocktail and relaxed. It made all the difference.
3. Prepare early. Don't wait until the morning of the race to drink water -- hydrate early and often in the days leading up to the race. I have a hard time doing this but when I do a good job drinking water leading up to a race my performances improve.
4. Eat light and plain. Everyone's system is different so some of you might be able to handle more complex foods before a race. I can't and I've learned that the hard way -- with cramps and vomiting. What works for me is a plain English muffin toasted and lightly buttered, about two hours before a race. If the race is a long one (10+ miles), I might have half a banana as well. Nothing else. That's what works and I will stick with it forever. The key is to find the exact foods that work for you and not deviate from them. Pre-race is no time for experimentation!
5. Under-dress. How many times have you finished the first mile and realized you're too hot? Yeah, me too. It happens. Under-dress for the weather, by just a little bit, and you'll be happier and feel more comfortable.
6. Warm-up. A 5 to 10 minute warm-up is right for me. It gets my blood flowing and my lungs ready for heavier breathing. If you are not a warmer-upper, I highly recommend you start. Just a light, easy run will help you run a better race!
7. Believe. This one. This is an important one. Believe you can. My last two races were great, both PRs, and during the course of both of those races, I told myself over and over that I could do it. Run strong. Finish well. PR. Whatever. I told myself I could and I believed it. Believe you can and you will!
|Showing off my 2nd place female trophy (along with my friend, Tami, who was the 3rd place female) at the 10-mile Clove Run -- my tips worked!|
Apply these tips, run strong, and go get those PRs!