When I was training for my first marathon, I was blissfully unaware of the preparations that I should have been making along the way, all the way to race day. I followed my dad’s training calendar that he wrote for me right down to the last mile, but didn’t look much further. I was alone at college, on the east coast, 3,000 miles away from my family and support system, and I felt grossly unprepared when I woke up on race day. I found myself asking questions like the following:
Where exactly is the staging area in relation to the start line?
I brought a protein bar for breakfast, but is that enough?
What was I supposed to do with my sweatshirt I arrived wearing?
How far was the start from the DC Metro stop?
After a few race bonks and other gear mishaps, I started taking my logistical prep-work seriously. There is so much more to being prepared for a race, and training is only half of it.
Here’s my list of must-do’s for pre-race planning!
A Couple Weeks Out
- Know the course. Like really. KNOW IT. If you aren’t rippin’ through Google Maps and scouring the race page and other online social sites that give out information on the race, you are doing it wrong. There’s nothing worse than realizing you’re running up a giant hill a mile from the finish. This has bonk written all over it.
- Start thinking about your race day diet. Start noticing how your breakfast choices are affecting you, and pick one that gives you energy throughout the day and doesn’t upset your stomach. Steel cut oats and a banana with a small cup of black coffee is a great choice, as you are getting a boost of energy and potassium to help combat cramping.
- Ladies- step out of those heels! Nothing gives you more cramped calves than wearing heels. Ever noticed how it often feels impossible to run after a long day in sky high heels? This is due to the fact that your calf muscle is forced to remain in its shortest length and is stuck there all day long, which is counterproductive to an effective stride. Kick off the Loubs a week out, let your calves stretch, and you will be happy you did! Try my fave office/party friendly flats: Tieks!
- Gear checks. Make sure you make a plan for when you end the race and either meet your cheer squad or find your way to your gear at the end. Know where you are dropping it off before the start, and know exactly where you have to go once you cross the finish. There’s nothing worse than being exhausted and wandering aimlessly through a crowd to figure out where the gear check is.
- Start running with your race day load. Do you carry a pack? Do you need extra socks along the way? Run with your race day load now to account for potential chafing hot spots and other wardrobe malfunctions.
One Week Out
- Start taking rain-checks for your regularly scheduled happy hours and AM cappuccino run. You body will be expelling a ton of fluids if you are running a half marathon or beyond, so keeping the hydration you are building up is key. It’s no secret that coffee and alcohol dehydrate you. Save that happy hour cocktail and coffee habit for after the race.
- Maintain your sodium levels. It is related to your body’s ability to retain water, which is key for long races. Choosing foods with a higher sodium level about week out helps keep your levels at a healthy level, allowing you to go into your race prepared from the inside out.
- Sleep. This goes without saying, as this should already be an integral part of your routine to maintain a healthy lifestyle. The key to being rested and having the most energy is consistent sleep. Trying to log 8-10 hours the night before after a busy week of 4-5 hours of sleep a night isn’t going to help you. Just like your running training, you need to keep it steady and routine.
- Race day back planning. Figure out how long it takes you to get ready in the morning and how long it will take to get to the race course, and set your alarm accordingly. If you start your day stressed and behind, you are definitely not going to have a great race with stress clouding your already nervous mind!
- Caffeine. A tiny bit of caffeine with your breakfast can help in boosting your initial energy levels, whether that be tea or coffee, or another natural source of energy. Make sure you have tested your source multiple times before, so you aren’t stuck with adverse effects the day of the race. If you aren’t a coffee fiend like myself, Vega’s Pre-workout Energizer is game changing clean option with a boost from green tea!
- Consider consuming a gel packet at the beginning of your race. You body will begin to digest it and route the nutrients to your body when you need it most: miles in. Again, try this trick on one of your long training runs and don’t let race day be the first of anything you do.
- Bathroom breaks. Have these planned. If you know you are a chronic breaker, check out the course map for stops and plan from there. Additionally, make sure you arrive to the start early enough to get one last break in before your start. For you trail runners, you’re off the hook, as you usually have the luxury of the great outdoors 🙂
Save yourself the agony of bonking, and the shame of not doing your best at your next race. Feel free to shoot me an email with any other questions you have that this post pay not have answered. Happy to make sure you have your strongest and prettiest race yet!