RACE DAY PREP

Race day is approaching! Race day is exciting but also comes with a lot of stress and anxiety. From what to bring to how you're going to fuel. These tips will help you deal with your race day jitters.

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Travel Planning

A lot of things can come with race day. First you'll need to get your race travel plans in line. The first thing to consider is: How far are you going to be travelling to get to your race?

Will you be going to a destination race where you will need to fly or drive for many hours? Is the race a short drive away? Or is it a local race in your hometown? 

Travel plans for each situation will look different. 

Destination Race:

For a destination race planning will need to be a little more careful and detailed. Here are some things to consider when planning for a destination race. 

  1. Accommodations: For a destination race you will probably being staying in town for a couple days, so a hotel or Airbnb are a must. Things to consider when looking for a hotel are: 

    • How much are you willing to pay?​: Cost is one of the main considerations when looking for a hotel. Some people are willing to pay a little more for the convenience of being super close to the start line, but others don't mind a little bit of a drive to the race. 

    • How close is the hotel to the race start? This is especially important come race day morning. Are you someone that likes to leave your hotel 10 minutes before the gun goes off? If that's you, you might want to make sure your hotel is close to where your race starts.

    • What amenities are important to you? Do you care if your hotel has a hot tub or fitness area? Personally I like being in a hotel that has a fitness center so I can do a shakeout run before the race in the morning. This is really helpful if you're uncomfortable or new to the area. Are you travelling with pets? If so, make sure your hotel allows pets! Another thing to consider is finding an Airbnb with a kitchenette so you can cook your pre-race meal. 

    • How many nights are you going to stay? Are you going to stay for a while to site see? Or are your going to leave right after the race? Even if I'm not staying to tour the city I like to stay the night after the race as well because there is nothing worse than getting on a plane or sitting in a car for 8 hours after running a marathon...

  2. Dinner/Pre-Race Fueling:  By now you should know what foods agree with your stomach before a long run. These are the same foods you should be having before the race but because you're in a new city this might be a little more challenging. I like to look at all of the restaurants in the area on Yelp or Google before I go so I know what is on their menus. If you have any dietary restrictions it's good to make sure the restaurant you go to has food you can eat. If you're going to a larger race it's important to make sure that you make reservations in advance. Races like Boston can cause all of the restaurants to be booked for the night.    

  3. Luggage: Your luggage will be different depending if you're driving or flying to the race. If you're planning a long road trip you have less to worry about when it comes to running out of space. ​

    • Flying: If you're flying you will have more limitations. My main piece of advice is to pack everything you plan on racing with in your carry on. Accident can happen with luggage transportation and it wouldn't be good if you lost all of your race gear right before the race. 

  4. Weather Conditions: ALWAYS check the weather conditions of a race before leaving. Even when you do check the weather before a race sometime it can still change. Because you don't have the opportunity to run back home with a destination race I like to pack something that is suitable for every weather condition. This is easiest to do when you pack in layers. For example, if I'm prepping for a spring race where it could rain or be a sunny 45 I'll bring a pair or tights, a pair of shorts, a tank, a long sleeve, and a windproof outer layer. With this I'm prepped for whatever the weather may throw at me and if it turns out to be a nice day I'll stick to the shorts and tank.  

Driving Distance Race:

These races are a little easier to prepare for than destination races, but can be similar in some ways. I consider a race to be within driving distance if it's between a 1 to 3 hour drive. These races you could drive to on race day if you wanted.

  1. Will you be staying the night? Even though these races are a reasonable driving distance I usually choose to stay the night before the race and the night after the race. Not staying the night will save you some money, but staying the night will make you more comfortable. You won't need to rush out the door at 4AM to get to the start line on time. 

  2. Will you be eating at home or at a restaurant? The benefit of not staying the night is that'll you'll be able to eat dinner at home like you usually would before a long run. If you are staying the night you'll probably need to eat at a restaurant. If you need to do that the same advice I had for destination races applies here as well. 

Local Race: For a local race that's within a 30 minute drive of home you'll just need to bring a bag of running essentials. 

  1. Running Essentials Bag: A running essential bag include everything you'll need after the race (assuming you're already wearing what you plan on racing in). This bag typically has thing you'd want directly after a race a can easily be stored in the truck of your car. I like to bring a snack I like and an electrolyte drink, recovery gear (comfortable sandals, compression socks), and a change of clothes (especially socks). 

I'll be adding downloadable packing lists for each type race location soon!​

 
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: 

https://findmymarathon.com

https://www.halfmarathons.net

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. 

 
Before the Race
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:

  1. Rest and Recovery

  2. Nutrition and Hydration

  3. Travel Plans and Packing

  4. Mental Prep

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:

  1. Increase your glycogen stores, which will give you more energy to rely on race day

  2. 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. 

  3. 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. Make a list or download my packing list. 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:

Essentials:

  • 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)

  • Post-Race Sandals

  • Towel

  • Sunglasses

  • 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. 

Race Day

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.

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Eat Breakfast

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.

Warm Up

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!