You have trained long and hard for your big race. You have sacrificed happy hours, desserts, and a little extra sleep for months to make sure you meet your race day goal. You have sunk a small fortune into running shoes, running gear, drink mix concoctions, energy bars and gels. However, your race isn’t over until it’s over and you cross the finish line with your hands raised. Don’t let poor judgments or the lack of common sense in the eleventh hour cause you to fall short of your mission. Following these easy tips will not only help keep you healthy as you lead into the big day, but will also minimize your race day jitters and get you to the start line locked, loaded, and ready to rock.
Tapering or reducing your training volume as you approach your event is a key factor to your success. The longer the race, the longer the taper period should be. Do not try to cram a few months of training into the two weeks leading up to your race. Your body does not adapt to training by cramming. Overtraining is a sure-fire way to injure yourself and it is always formula for failure.
Proper hydration and nutrition are always critical but for many people, excitement takes over and they forget to sufficiently eat and drink during the couple of days leading up to the race. You must make a concerted effort to eat and drink, no matter how nervous or jittery you may be. Walk around all day with a bottle filled with your favorite sports drink to remind you to sip frequently.
Rest is very important leading into a race. However, it is not uncommon to be restless the night before the big day. Fret not, and be sure to get some extra rest 2 to 3 days prior to race day to make up for those night-before jitters. And even if you cannot sleep, stay off of your feet and REST as much as possible.
Do yourself a favor and lay everything out the day before the big day. This includes your running shoes, socks, shorts, top, race bib number, and timing chip. Additional things to consider are; sunglasses, running cap, potential bad weather gear, and venue directions. Do not leave anything to chance on race morning, be maniacal about your preparation. Cover all of your bases the night before.
Earlier Than Early
Race morning traffic and parking are always X-factors that can ruin your morning in a jiffy. Don’t let that happen. Do your homework and get a feel for what time registration or packet pick up opens and expect ample delays. The last thing you need is a two-mile sprint from some remote parking area to the start of the race. Be early, be safe!
Creature of Habit
Do not try anything new on race day that you did not use during training. This is a common mistake especially at events that have large vendor expos that load you with new and exciting products. Novice runners tend to use that time to shop for that new energy gel or new pair of running shoes. Race day is not the time to try anything new. Use your training time to experiment with what works and what doesn’t, being a creature of habit will save you from any race-day nutritional mishaps.
Most races are self seeding, meaning you line up in the start pack according to how fast you think you will run. Faster runners should line up in the front and slower towards the back. Seed yourself accordingly. Don’t line up with 5-minute milers if you expect to run 9-minute miles. This can create an unnecessary sense of anxiety that will not be conducive to having a good day, all you can run is your own race. Remember that most races are timed with electronic timing chips worn on your running shoe, so your official race time will not start until your chip crosses over the mat at the start line. For most of us there should be no great rush to get out of the gate, the race is won on the finish line not the start line.
Hydrate – Take Two
We’ve already talked about the importance of proper hydration leading up to a race. It’s also important to take advantage of those water stops that are strategically placed along the course while you are racing. This is another area where excitement or the flow of the race can take over and people just don’t think to hydrate. If need be, slow down or even walk a few steps along the water tables to ensure you are taking in enough fluid. The time that you will lose as a result of slowing down or walking will easily be made up by the fact that you have kept adequate fuel in the tank.
After you cross your finish line and have had a chance to celebrate and savor the moment, it is important to get some real calories in you. Your recovery will be much swifter if you can get some good balanced calories in your system within 45 minutes of your finish.
I cannot speak long enough or loud enough on this topic. Races require hundreds, if not thousands, of volunteers who work tirelessly to make sure the athletes have a smooth and memorable event. They are up at the crack of dawn and work long after you have crossed your finish line. Without these people there would be no running or multisport racing. Be courteous and thank these people with everything that you have. They have worked very hard so that you can realize a dream, be sure to give thanks.
These tips may seem simple but they can literally make or break your race. Hopefully you will find these useful and will practice them at your next event. They are guaranteed to help eliminate some of the unforeseen little things that can wreak havoc on the best plans.
Train safe, race smart, and thank the volunteers.
See you at the races!
Steve Brown, after many years of playing high caliber soccer, he traded in his soccer shoes & goalie gloves and turned his passions to multisport racing and never looked back. Since 1986, Steve has racked up countless multisport events of all distances, often racing for philanthropic causes.
In 2006, Steve was diagnosed with a chronic form of leukemia. Since that time, Steve has undergone 54 rounds of chemotherapy to keep his leukemia in check and keep him in remission. Steve made it his mission to remain in motion throughout his cancer journey, often running home from chemo and scheduling races around his treatments. His diagnosis also drew him to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training program where he signed on as a triathlon coach to help others realize their dreams while raising funds and awareness for blood cancers, like his own.
Steve leverages his own positive cancer experience by connecting with other patients and their family members as a volunteer mentor with a number of patient advocacy organizations and often speaks to audiences about his experience. As a contributing writer, his work has appeared in a number of regional and national print and online publications. Brown has also written five books, all of which relate to the intersection of his cancer and multisport lifestyle and the people he’s met throughout his journey.