Preparing For Race Day
The Week Before Race Day
By now you should be tapering for your race or starting your taper. The taper period before the race is crucial because it lets your body recover from the training that you have put your body through. During this during you will need to focus on:
Rest and Recovery
Nutrition and Hydration
Travel Plans and Packing
Rest and Recovery
The taper period is a gradual decrease in mileage. The idea of the taper is giving your body enough time to rest and recover from the training you've done during this cycle. The goal is decrease fatigue in your body which should leave you feeling fresh for your goal race. You will be running significantly less mileage, which can cause some people to get the dreaded "taper crazies" or even feel sick. If you started to feel sick and get anxious about the taper you're not alone! It can feel weird to drop your mileage so drastically before a race, many people fear losing fitness, but a taper period is an essential component of training. Tapering allows you to:
Increase your glycogen stores, which will give you more energy to rely on race day
Repair micro-tears in your muscles cause by your training. Training is hard on the body and leads to micro tearing in the muscles and connective tissue. With proper rest and recovery these tears will repair which will make you a stronger and faster runner.
Give you a mental break. Training for a race is mentally fatiguing even if your don't notice it. Giving your body time to rest also gives your mind time to rest, which will leave you mentally refreshed for race day.
Other than the miles you are running for your workouts you should put an emphasis on conserving your energy before a race. This ideally means outside of running, you should minimize energy intensive activities. Now is not the time to try that new spin class! The longer your race will be the more true this is. This would also be a good time to cut your strength training as well. Continuing to strength train during the taper will not make you faster or gain anymore strength! You've already put in the work, it's time to recover and prepare for the race.
Nutrition and Hydration
Now is the time to dial in your nutrition. Eating healthy and familiar foods is always important during training, but it is even more critical the week before the race. Fueling before the race can look very different depending on the athlete, the most common strategy for runners to fuel is to "carbo-load." Carbo-loading typically involves eating larger amounts of carbohydrates in the days leading up to the race. During this time your diet would be comprised of primarily carbs (up to 90% of your daily intake). The goal of doing this is to fill up the glycogen stores, which should in turn increase your aerobic performance. This type of fueling is typically used for races that last over 90 minutes. Proper carbo-loading occurs over several days before the race. 3 to 5 grams of carbs per pound of body weight is typically suggested for 3 to 4 days prior to an event.
Hydration should also be heavily emphasized during this time period. Proper hydration facilitates the lubrication of joints, temperature regulation of the body, and help balance out fluid loss from any workouts. Even mild dehydration may impact your ability to perform on race day. Make sure that you are drinking enough water throughout the day. This typically implies that your urine is pale in coloration even after exercise and that your are drinking enough to urinate every 2 to 4 hours.
Travel Plans and Packing
Make sure that all of your travel plans are in place. If you need help with that I wrote a post about travelling for races here. Anything you'll need or want needs to be accounted for and organized before the race. This guarantees that you won't be frantically searching your hotel room 30 minutes before the race. The following is a more in depth look of things that you might want for your race:
Race Kit - Top (singlet, long sleeve, or t-shirt) [This will be dependent on the weather conditions of your race] - Bottoms (shorts, capris, or tights) [This will also be dependent on the weather] - Undergarments (underwear, sports bra, and socks), make sure you've ran in these before (nothing is worse than running a race with a wedgie) - Race Shoes - Rain Gear (Just in case! I like to bring a thin windproof jacket)
Warm-Up/Throw Away Clothes (I like to have sweats and a hoodie that I can keep warm in before the race if there is a long wait for the start. If the race doesn't have a bag check I would bring clothes you don't mind parting with.
Toilet Paper (Trust me, the port-a-potties will run out)
Phone with Battery Pack (If you don't plan on carrying your phone during your race you can leave it in your checked bag)
Wallet and ID (Also can be left in your checked bag)
Sunscreen (Don't get sunburned!)
Race Bib and Paperwork
Race Fuel (If carrying/ not relying on aid stations [gels or chews])
Race Hydration (If Carrying/Not relying on aid stations [Gatorade, Nuun, Skratch])
Pre-Race Fuel (Tried and true breakfast and snacks if you're going to be waiting for a while)
Lodging Information or Paperwork
Medicine and First Aid
Nice to Have:
Anti-Chafing Balm (Body Glide or Vaseline)
Running Hat, Sweatband, or Headband (This helps keep hair and sweat out of your face. Personally, I always run with a hat)
Compression Sock (For after the race)
Change of Clothes (For after the race)
GPS Watch and Charger
Extra Running Gear (For changing weather conditions or if staying longer)
Lay everything you plan on bringing to the race out the night before. Use a checklist so you know you've got everything you need.
Mental Prep Spend some time prepping for your race mentally. This can mean visualizing the race finish line, clearing your mind using visualization, or going over your race strategy. All of these tactics can boost your mental stamina which you will need by the last miles of the race. Knowing your race
will also help you feel more confident about the race.
It's race day! Be ready to toe that starting line! Being prepared on race day is all about timing and organization.
Get Up! It's Race Day!
First thing is first, waking up on time. The most important part of finishing a race is getting to the race. Races can start very early in the morning, sometimes buses can leave for the start line at 4 AM. If you have trouble waking up or are worried about waking up on time try setting multiple alarms on your phone or asking the front desk to give you a wake up call. You'll want to wake up at a time that leaves you enough time to eat breakfast and get ready to leave for the race.
Regardless of what race you're running you will need to be properly fueled which requires eating breakfast! Eat whatever you have been eating on your long training runs. Eating something that is tried and true will minimize the chances of GI stress or other stomach flares during your race.
It's good to do a warm up before a race regardless of length. Warming up before the actual event will help get more oxygen to your muscles and "loosen" your muscles for more efficient and quicker muscle contractions.
Use The Bathroom!
You will want to hit the port-a-pottie one last time before starting your race. Keep in mind bathroom line can get long at a race. You'll want to leave yourself enough time to use the bathroom once you get to the race area. As mentioned before, I would bring extra toilet paper, there's a good chance they might be out if you get there late.
It's Time to Run!
By now you should be all set and ready to go! All you have to do is follow your race strategy and get running!