Know Your Race!
There are so many different races to choose from now. From local 5k's to world marathon majors the possibilities are endless. All of these races can be super different from each other too! They can have different climates, field size, and courses. A race is the final test of all of your hard work and training. Race day already floods most people people with race nerves and excitement so let's not let the race course surprise you! The more you know your race the more confident you'll feel when you step onto the start line. Here are some things you should know about your race before toeing the start line.
Weather: Weather plays a major role in developing a race strategy. This includes the temperature, humidity, and weather conditions (wind, rain, snow).
Temperature directly impacts things such as your race day gear, hydration strategies, and pacing plan. Racing on a hot can lead to faster fluid loss, which means your hydration plan will need to be adjusted accordingly. Similarly, running in extremely cold weather conditions can impact your performance as well. Extreme cold can cause you to go into "oxygen debt" faster because your lactate production will be higher at a given intensity and your muscles will contract less efficiently. Both of these issues will lead to quicker consumption of your carbohydrate stores which could lead to "hitting the wall" earlier if you're not fueling properly. Although the impacts of cold weather can, for the most part, be reduced with a proper warm-up before racing.
Not only is temperature important to consider, but the humidity of the area is as well. A humid day that is 80°F feels much hotter than a dry day that is 80°F. This is because in drier weather sweat evaporates faster which cools down the skin faster, while when relative humidity is at 100% no sweat can evaporate, so cooling by sweating isn't even possible! Humid weather will mean you will need to adjust your pace accordingly.
Bad weather conditions such as rain, snow, high winds can cause the race to feel more difficult and directly impact your race time. This can be incredibly discouraging if you're not mentally prepared for it. Knowing about bad weather before hand can help you come up with a mental strategy that will help you through the rough weather conditions.
Keep an eye on the weather beginning around 1 to 2 weeks out from the race. Keep in mind that weather predictions may change and check again the night before the race. By race morning you should have a good idea of what the weather will be for your race.
Course Elevation: Knowing the course elevation will help you develop your racing strategy and training plan. If you know your course will be hilly it might be wise to add hill training into your workouts. Knowing where hills are on your race course can also help you mentally prepare for them beforehand. Know that on a hill you will most likely see a drop in pace at the same effort levels. You can
Most of the time the both an aerial map of the race course and the elevation map will be available on the race website, but is you can't find the maps there you can find these maps on many different sites. Here are a couple I use:
Water Stops/Aid Stations: Water stations and aid stations are essential for longer race such as the half or the full marathon. Knowing where the aid stations are beforehand will help you come up with a proper hydration and fueling plan if you don't plan on carrying your own fuel or hydration. Knowing where these aid station can also come in handy if you have GI distress during a race and require a restroom.
The location of the aid and water stations can usually be found on the race website on the map or in the race description.