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Race day is almost here! Remember to lay low and stay off your feet the days before the race. Your reward is race day itself and the challenge of running. . . .

Arrival

Make sure you get outside and feel the air. Go for at least a 20 minute walk or jog on either the day before, or two days before (or whatever is on your schedule).

Think about what you did, not what you didn’t do in your training. When you go to pick up your race number and run into old friends, family etc. everyone will want to ask about your training so they can tell you about theirs. Forget about theirs and don’t compare yourself to anyone. You followed a terrific training schedule and are well prepared.

Night Before, Morning Of

Have a full meal the night before. Try and consume some complex carbohydrates (pasta). Do not over eat, but make sure you fill up.

On race day eat a light breakfast of 200-300 Kcal of carbohydrates including the sports fluid you drink. If you have a normal pre-race breakfast then stick with it. Don't try any new foods before the race. Drink gatorade (or any sports drink that doesn’t include protein) and/or water frequently to assure you are hydrated (clear urine is a good sign). You should stay well-hydrated throughout the morning before the race. At some point prior to the race stop drinking so you can empty your bladder before the start. It is important to refrain from over-consumption of water alone, as that will drain your body of needed electrolytes.

I suggest you take some throw away warmups to the start especially if it rains or will be cold. This could be an old t-shirt or old sweat pants. Also old socks will keep your hands warm. Some runners will even wear a t-shirt for the first couple miles of the race until they warm up and then pull it off and throw it away. This is a good strategy to prepare for all temperatures.

Take a bottle with gatorade/sports drink to the start with you and right before (less than 5 mins) the gun goes off drink 4-8 ounces. This is your first water stop. If you drink close enough to the start you shouldn’t have to pee – the fluid should only drip through your kidneys because most of your resources (blood) will be in your legs and out of your gut as soon as the gun goes off.

Early Miles

I suggest that you start 5-10 seconds per mile slower than your goal pace. By the 2nd mile you should be running at around goal pace while listening to your body. I recommend this approach as it may activate (and utilize) a higher percentage of fat fuel over the first couple miles. Remember we are trying to conserve glycogen and muscle for as long as possible.

Stay on top of hydration. Fluid stations will be located at 4 stations throughout the course. Take note of these opportunities to rehydrate and plan to drink 4-8 ounces every 20 minutes. It is better to consume enough fluid early and sacrifice the later stops if necessary.

Remember the 3 ‘C’s’

Confidence: Have confidence in your ability and your training. Remember all those hard workouts you did. Remember those early mornings, late nights, sore calves, tight hamstrings etc. - they weren’t in jest.

Control: You must relax yourself early in the race. You absolutely must go out under control for the first half of the race. We want to save a little bit for the final miles.

Collection: Keep your thoughts collected and on your objective. There will always be lots of distractions on race day. The further you get in this race the more you need to focus on yourself, goals and race strategy. Don’t let the fans and competitors into your zone.

The Ebb and Flow

I said before that I can’t guarantee anything about the training or the race itself. Well, I can guarantee this: you will feel good at some point and you will feel bad at some point within the race.

Races usually ebb and flow, runners rarely feel terrific the entire way. We always hit little walls. If you hit one just focus on the next mile, don’t think about the end of the race. If you take each difficult moment one mile at a time you will usually feel better at some point. It always comes back because. . .

You Always Have One Cup Left

That’s right – you always have one cup of energy left. The difference is that some people find it and some don’t. Remember what normal, untrained people do when they feel discomfort – they slow down and feel better. You are not a normal un-trained person.

You are a runnining machine!

You are programmed to give your personal best so. . .

Go get that last cup!


Guest Blog Post from Heather Tanner

Heather Tanner is a 3-time Olympic Trial marathon qualifier, 2004 USA World Half Marathon Team Member and decorated NCAA Cross Country and Track & Field Athlete during her time at the University of North Carolina and Stanford University. Tanner is currently preparing for the 2016 Olympic Marathon Trials and offers her advice on fueling for the marathon to runcoach and movecoach trainees. 

There are many things to worry about in the final days leading up to a marathon. Like mapping out a race strategy in line with your fitness so that you don’t end up becoming intimately acquainted with the “wall”. Like taking care of the not so little things such as sleep, nutrition and stress management to ensure that you can get to the starting line healthy. Point is, fueling strategy really shouldn’t be one of those worrisome things. As long as you practice your fueling method in the long runs leading up to the race and have figured out a way to ensure regular carbohydrate replenishment during the race, you will be ok on this front.

During my first marathon experience (Columbus Marathon, 2003), I was a novice on many fronts and broke some major cardinal marathon rules (most importantly: don’t start a marathon injured, ever!). I had no idea what I was doing on the fueling front either and recall being alone at the expo the day before, trying to decide what type of fluids to try (water or maybe that new, strange-tasting Accelerade?) and how many gels I might need (is 1 or 2 enough?). As was inevitable, my hip injury helped me avoid hitting the wall, by slowing me down in the form of 8 stretching breaks. Not pleasant, for the record. Let’s just say fueling probably would have gotten the better of me had something else not have gotten there first.

Fortunately, I’ve had the opportunity to learn from some amazing runners over the last 10+ years and have since followed a few simple yet important guidelines in order to avoid the “bonk”:

1.) Take fluids as EARLY as possible – Do not pass the early water stations by. I typically try to take fluid at every station available, sometimes both water and the race-provided electrolyte beverage. This often means fluid consumption at least every 2 miles. You may only successfully take in a couple of ounces per cup, depending on your speed and your ability to coordinate moving and drinking at the same time, so it’s better to focus on frequency of water stops.

2.) Take your gels SLOWLY – Your digestive system can only absorb about 1-1.5 grams of carbohydrate per minute. An average gel contains 20-22 grams of carbohydrate. The quick math here means that your body can’t keep up with you very well if you down the whole gel in one second. In addition, gel consumption becomes even slower if you do not consume it with adequate fluids. I may take a gel every 4-6 miles during the course of the marathon (4-5 gels in total), but I take each one in slowly.

Note: Magdalena Lewy-Boulet, US Olympian and VP of R&D for Gu, told me about me this slow Gu consumption method after she had a successful marathon in cold “frozen Gu” weather (CIM, 2001 – 2nd: 2:37:57). Her Gu had formed into a cold, solid state and she was only able to consume small amounts at a time as it thawed. Despite this, Magda felt properly fueled.

Logistically, slow gel consumption can present some challenges. I prefer to hold onto the packet and take a small amount every minute or so, i.e. “sipping” on the gel. It can become a sticky mess, and the only helpful thing I can offer here is that this is all less annoying if you are wearing gloves. If you prefer other types of fuel, there are options that are already conveniently partitioned into smaller caloric chunks. Think Sport Beans or Clif shot blocks. Always intersperse gel consumption at or near water stations and practice this slow fuel consumption method in training.

3.) Ingest electrolyte-based drinks, not just water - This is another fairly obvious one, but not always followed. Research has supported evolution of sports drinks over recent years and many are purportedly optimal for electrolyte replenishment during the marathon. If you have the choice, it’s best to use beverages backed by science and your own experience. Osmo, UCAN, GuBrew and Nuun are some good newer beverage options with solid science to support their use. The more common beverage choices serve their purpose for most of us too though (Gatorage, Powerade, etc.).

The same slow carbohydrate absorption rule may apply for your electrolyte drink, but remember that these drinks are often significantly diluted, which can be a good thing. If the race-provided drink tastes too concentrated, try to balance it out with more water consumption at the next station. This may help your digestive system to absorb the carbohydrates more easily.
Also, if you are at all at risk for hyponatremia, or essentially over-hydrating, counterbalancing your fluid intake with an appropriate volume of electrolytes is even more important. The risk threshold for hyponatremia is known to apply to those who consume approximately 8 oz of fluid (any type) every 20 minutes (a lot!) and this risk is even higher if that fluid is water alone. Don’t over drink.

4.) Adapt your strategy for weather conditions – Heat and/or humidity will of course greatly increase your rate of sweating and will necessitate increased fluid consumption. Stay on top of that early. Potentially equally damaging in a different way, extremely cold conditions may interfere with your desire to consume fluids. You could then be at risk for dehydration and subsequent muscle cramping if you do not drink according to your normal plan, despite your perceived lack of thirst.

5) Don’t worry if something goes wrong – If you miss a water station, or an untrained child volunteer throws the cup all over your shirt at mile 16, do not panic. It will be ok as long as you’re following rule #1. Make it up for it at the next stop by grabbing both water and electrolyte drinks. 

I try to remember these themes as I race, but do so in an unscientific way because, in most cases, there are many other elements you cannot control over the course of 26.2 miles. You don’t want to create an overly specific fueling plan in case it becomes difficult to execute. One missed water station and you could find yourself in an unnecessary tailspin of distraction. Based on your individual body composition, it is certainly possible to estimate the precise amount of carbohydrate, electrolyte and fluid you should consume over the course of a marathon. It is extremely difficult to make that precision happen in real life, particularly if you are not fortunate enough to have the luxury of elite water bottles placed at regular intervals over the course. Fortunately, by keeping these general guidelines in mind, you can still get pretty close to optimal fueling and feel good come mile 26!



Kick is a term used to describe an emphatic finish.  The final sprint is one way to talk about it, but many times, a kick can include a push that more closely resembles a tsunami rather than a crashing wave.

Whether you are running a one mile race or a marathon, sometimes a kick can help leave you with the definitive and lasting positive memory of a race that may not even have gone well otherwise.  So, what are some key things to remember as you prepare to unleash yours next weekend?



ACS_croppedParticipating in a race for a personal cause or organized charitable organization has become an extremely popular way to experience race day.  Some of the largest marathons can boast of millions of dollars raised per year for great causes in this manner. Charities in almost every segment of the non-profit world have found their way into the action, offering race numbers for a variety of challenging endurance events.

If you are an experienced racer looking to try your next goal race with this additional motivation, or if you are seeking your first long endurance effort and wonder if the charitable piece would help you get to the finish line, here are a few things to consider when making the commitment.



marathon-de-Paris

I admit it.  I love the big races.  Tens of thousands of runners, festival atmosphere, spectators all along the way - that is my type of marathon. I have checked a few of the biggest US marathons off the list over the past several years, but traveling abroad for a marathon was not anywhere near the top of my to do list.

 

Somehow, a wide-ranging conversation with a long time coaching client last fall coincided with a time when we both needed new goals and the narrow window for Paris Marathon registration was open.  Next thing I knew, I was headed to the City of Lights for a running adventure.

 

Most of my weekends include coaching or participation in sort of running competition, but with all the quirks of the American running culture baked in.  Many of these details I had taken for granted and had expected Paris to conform.  To my surprise, I had the opportunity to wean myself out of the comfort zone, and experience a few things I look forward to having inform my running and coaching.


1. These people are serious!

In the United States, the growth of running as a participatory (vs. competitive) sport has been well documented, and the expansion of the field has generally widened the spectrum of finishing times. In Paris, however, the very last corral offered at the Paris Marathon by finishing time was 4:30! My two traveling companions found that aid stations were being packed up as they arrived not too far behind that pace.   At six hours, little remained of the finishing area, and the police presence had been lifted, leaving the last remaining few to navigate their own version of the final half mile around traffic.  Amazing for a race of over 30,000 finishers.


2. Women’s running has plenty of room for growth

In the wake of the explosive growth of  women’s only events, women’s running has grown by leaps and bounds in the United States.  While the Paris Marathon had a ton of men running 3-4 hours, a yawning gap of depth remained after the elite field on the women’s side.  For myself, that was a plus – I’ll freely admit that a cool spot in the results was a draw.  However, it spoke volumes of how much we take for granted the middle class American women’s fitness culture taking root in our neighborhoods.  That “casually serious” athlete population remains a much smaller sisterhood in other parts of the world.


3. Who needs waves?

With a stroke of good fortune to find lodging between the start and finish, our little group had the opportunity to head to the race directly from our place.  45 minutes before, we set out, my companions to their end of the corrals, me to my end.  So much for 4:30 am wakeups and long bus rides to the start!  In a situation that I will likely never enjoy again and haven’t enjoyed before, I actually returned to our hotel to use the facilities in comfort, and had plenty of time to spare.  A miracle.  As the race time counted down, the handcycles were started early, but beyond that, each corral was just let through sequentially after the starting horn sounded.  Nearly 35,000 people in one wave on a single street.

Myriad traffic islands, various bumps and signs loomed unmarked in the center of the road, with a few pretty rough 90 degree turns early on.  Only the goodwill of the person pointing to it in front of you spared you from disaster.  Merely the hint of the insurance liability involved in just these factors would have caused change and precautions in American races of this size.  Here?  No problem.  Just watch your step.

 

4. Sports drink every mile?  Pshaw.

In the US, many of our bigger marathons provide water and sports drink every mile or two miles.  At this race, we received only water and fruit every 5K, and many times on what felt like variable sides of the road, causing some harrowing navigational challenges.  Interestingly, the water was served in small bottles and returned in small dumpsters (great for bank shots)!  With each water bottle, I grabbed a huge handful of oranges with my gloved hands (it was chilly) and stuffed my face into each for the next several hundred meters.  Very messy, but these and gel packets got me to mile 18, where the sole Powerade station waited.  Once, I would have laughed at myself for caring so much about sports drink, but by accustoming myself so much to it over the years, it tasted like liquid gold.  Flourescent blue gold, but gold just the same.


5. No barricades?  No problem!

Perhaps one of the most enjoyable, yet jarring elements of the race were the lack of barricades during much of the course.  Having watched the Tour de France on television, where cyclists climb narrow roads with crazy crowds just barely stepping back in time as the bicycles part the sea of people, It was slightly surreal to be barely avoiding people who had spilled on to the streets, off the curbs, cheering and stepping back milliseconds before the outermost person crashed into them.

Around mile 8, a boy on a scooter, accompanied by what appeared to be his father, also on a scooter, pushed along side us for at least a mile, on the street, until a fellow runner started yelling at him in French to get out of the way. Sunday long runners showed the minimal interest in making way, sometimes running the opposite direction along the route or leaving the tiniest fraction of a second while crossing the course.  Absolutely, most marathons do not have barricades along the majority of the course, but if you have ever run down 1st avenue in the New York City Marathon and can picture that scene with no barricades or controlling police presence, then you can imagine the crazy vibe at a few points.

 

Will my Paris Marathon experience help me run faster next time out?  Successful adaptation to the unexpected does breed confidence.  The low key approach to many of the things American race directors might stress about definitely contributed to my own relaxed approach as a runner, and I believe that helped. More importantly, I gained a new appreciation for all of the little things we take for granted – what race directors do to ensure our safety, increase the chance we’ll have an enjoyable time, and have the ability to do our best.  I learned I can survive without them, but I’m glad I usually don’t have to!




confused-baby1

Distance running and goal setting often go hand in hand.  While plenty of runners lace up each day for the enjoyment and the endorphins, it is often hard to train without a goal.  The large majority of our Focus-N-Fly trainees are focused on a particular event, many times with fitness, lifestyle, or weight loss goals as by-product.

Your training plans come built in with recovery cycles, designed to carry you safely to your next goal-setting point.  But how and what you choose to do next is a decision that remains squarely in your court.  Here are some of our ideas for choosing a new goal and re-lighting the fire that fueled you to your original goal race.

 

Take care to attend to your mental and physical needs

Some runners finish a big goal race and can’t wait to set a more challenging goal.  The thrill of success or the interest in re-doing what may not have gone well can be powerful motivators.  Others finish a race, rebound physically right on schedule, but don’t have the motivational itch to take on another challenge.

 

Work towards a goal race will require both physical and mental energy, so it is important that both aspects are attended to when making an appropriate goal for the next time around.  Your recovery cycle is designed to deliver you to a point where your body is ready for another challenge.  That point is usually after the immediate emotions have subsided from the goal race itself.  If emotions are high or you are unusually physically worn down, commit to setting a goal, but leave the actual goal setting until you are able to decide with a level head what makes sense.

 

Granted, many runners don’t have the highs and lows discussed above, in which case, there is not problem choosing another goal right away.  For those of us who require and enjoy more overt organization in our training lives, choosing another race right away doesn’t pose a problem and in fact can help keep you on track.  However, many new runners fail to respect the recovery period following a huge emotional and physical challenge.  Make sure you set your next horizon far enough away to take an appropriate recovery period and plenty of time for build-up into account.    It is true a few weeks of rest might leave you slightly less physically fit than race day, but that time for recharging will also prepare you to take on bigger challenges next time around.  Don’t rush it, or unplanned time off due to future aches and pains will likely be your result.

 

Take inventory about what you liked and disliked about your last goal race

Did you race for charity and find your cause to be a crucial motivator?  Did you enjoy (or not enjoy) any travel involved to get to your race site?  Were you enthused by the crowds or did you enjoy the solitude of a less populated and more scenic race route?  Pick the top three enjoyable aspects of your race experience as well as the three aspects that were most problematic to help narrow down what types of races will suit your preferences.

 

Researching races online can also prove useful to learn about the size and setting of potential races – sites like MarathonGuide.com provide a helpful clearinghouse for endurance events filtered or sorted geographically and/or by race date.

 

Learn from the daily life challenges that were present in preparation for your initial goal race.

Often a major goal race involves some reorganization of life as business as usual.  Some of those changes, such as daily nutritional improvements, or adherence to a more regular sleep schedule might be beneficial both for running and for good health.  However, the time and care required to train for a marathon or other long race might put additional strain on family or professional time.  Consider what has been good about that process and what probably needs to be avoided.  If the time to get in long runs was tough to manage, a 10K or half marathon might be a better fit – not because you couldn’t rise to the challenge, but because other goals might fit more seamlessly into your schedule if racing is becoming a regular occurrence.

 

On the other hand, if the specific challenges training for a long race provided the most enjoyable aspect of your training week, consider that as well.  We always encourage athletes to practice racing at a variety of distances, but the frequency of each requires personal inventory.

 

Keep seasonal differences in mind

If you live in a region where the winters are particularly cold or the summers particularly hot, or if you have become accustomed to doing long runs or challenging workouts during hours that can go from light to dark depending on the season, keep these in mind when scheduling your next race.  Even if your goal race is located in a temperate climate in March, if you live in Maine or Minnesota, your long runs will have to be managed through challenging conditions.  Likewise, for an early fall race when you reside in a hot and humid location.  These factors can be identified and can help guide you towards goals you are able to work toward without unexpected barriers to enjoyment or success along the way.

 

Stay focused on the affirmative

Challenging goals are, by definition, hard to accomplish.  As you may already know, things will undoubtedly come along and threaten to sway you from your path to the finish line.   Whether it is a cause, a personal performance goal, a basic commitment to finish what you start, or another motivator, remind yourself regularly what kinds of things draw you to them, what motivates you in other aspects of your life, what gets you up in the morning.  It is always much easier to run towards something than away from fears or difficulties.  Pick a magnetic goal, and you’ll benefit with a clear sense of purpose even when training is difficult.



postmarathon

Personal Best - October 2011

Race Weekend Tips for Friends and Family

Every athlete must marshal the vast majority of effort needed to accomplish a big goal race.  However, many runners and walkers who embark on an ambitious training season must rely also on the help and support of family and friends.  Whether providing rides, fluid support, space in the family calendar, or just emotional support, oftentimes these individual can be difference makers, especially since they are often the motivation for the individual to keep trucking when things get tough on race day.

 

While athletes get a great deal of advice and tips on how to manage their training and race, friends and family can be left empty handed when wondering how best to support their runner or walker.

 

Here’s a road map for every support person or team to take into consideration (since we wrote it – you don’t have to feel selfish about handing it out)!

 

Designate a czar of logistics

One common situation is that the decision for a large group of friends and family to come to the race creates additional stress for the athlete.  Everyone definitely means well, but numerous calls to ask about where to stay, when they can visit with the athlete, where they should watch on the course, and so forth, can increase the perceived pressure when nervousness may already exist.  Designate a family member who will serve as the traffic cop for this type of planning, someone who will coordinate flights and airport trips, hotel stays, dinner reservations, and various rendezvous with all those who wish to be included.  This person should be well versed in the details available on the race website for the course, the expo, and the post-race reunion area.  If a new person pops up who wants to support the athlete, the athlete can then confidently connect them with the logistics czar, who can walk them through the plans already in place.

 

Consider the Athlete

It is not uncommon for friends and family contingents to begin to build a life of their own as race day approaches.  Interest in various sight seeing expeditions, brunch or dinner locations, matching t-shirts, expo shopping trips, and more ideas may continue to grow and expand.   There is absolutely nothing wrong with making plans that don’t include the athlete, respecting the runner’s need for rest and calm before (and rest and recovery after) the race.  However, keep in mind the race that your runner has trained for and the needs they have in final preparation.  For example, if everyone wants to eat dinner at 9pm at an exotic restaurant, but the athlete expresses a desire to eat simple pasta at 5pm and go to bed early, consider compromises and alternatives (such as having one person from the group have dinner early with the athlete).  Race weekend isn’t a democracy; it is a narrowly focused time period with one specific and very demanding aim..  Be proactive, and ensure the physical and psychological needs of the competitor are paramount.

 

 

Determine a simple post-race plan, including a fall back plan if things haven’t gone well

At smaller races, athletes are easy to connect with after they finish.  However, at many large races, the post-finish process can be very crowded, and may take some time.  Cell phones have been left at home, at the hotel, or in the race baggage, so old-fashioned methods of communication must be relied upon.   Races often offer reunion areas, but it may make sense to pick an alternate landmark or process to find each other as the reunion areas may be clogged.  Friends and family need to be patient with post-race logistics.  Oftentimes races require a lengthy cool down area, and the competitor may not feel especially perky after running a 10, 13 or 26-mile race. If more than one person is racing, they may also want to greet each other within the finish area before heading out.  Determine a plan for reunion if things go as planned, and an option if things do not.  The runner should have a plan if forced to withdraw mid-race (read the race materials), and the czar of logistics should be well versed in this process as well.  The same goes for brunch, lunch, dinner or whatever is the first item of business after the race.  Consider that the athlete may not be in a position to eat a large meal, walk a long distance, or sit in the car for an hour.  Try to plan accordingly and be prepared to be flexible.

 

Marshal the energy of the support group into loud and visible demonstrations of support

Make a plan to provide an inspirational boost to the competitor or competitors in the race.  Large signs, strategic course placement, and clear visibility can be a huge boost, but require an organized plan to account for pacing and transportation variability.  Don’t miss out!  Think through how the group will get from point to point and how the problems that might occur can be addressed.  HOWEVER, again also consider the athlete’s needs.  Should they prefer a lower-key approach, respect their wishes and support as requested.  It is their day!

 

Race weekend can be an intense, but significant and memorable weekend on many levels.  Everyone involved wants to provide support, but the greatest energy must be saved for the actual task itself.  Keep that focus in mind at all times, and hopefully your athlete can look forward to a happy and unified reunion when the finisher’s medal has been finally placed around their neck.



You're in the race - now what?

When we choose a goal race, we are often preoccupied with the deliberation leading up to the final clicks on the screen.    When the rush of the final commitment wears off, we are left with the training to be done – which of course is where we come in!

Certainly, the start of your program is the most important thing. However, it also makes sense to begin planning travel as soon as possible, to ensure your race weekend experience is all that you hoped for.   Here are a few tips to optimize your goal race travel.

Read the race participant info early...and often

Most big races require number pick-up at a participant expo the day or two before the event.  Some races may also have a fairly complicated process set up for start area arrival and finish line departure.   Race directors know thousands of people need to get in and out and have thought through how best to get everyone where they need to be.

Before you set up any travel plans, make sure that you have a good sense of the logistical tasks required of you by the race.  The flight that arrives at 5pm may be the least expensive, but you may be out of luck if the expo closes at 6 and your flight is delayed.  Even if you are local, securing a ride or a forming a carpool to the start and away from the finish can make the difference between a successful day and one that turns south when you are rushed and hurried, or forced to stay outside in the cold while waiting for a ride.

Even if you review race day details upon initial registration, it makes sense to return periodically to ensure you have not missed any updates.  If the race’s plans have been forced to change by unanticipated construction, a different level of participation than originally expected, or any other reason, you will want to make sure you have plenty of time to make your own adjustments.

Check out the race-sponsored travel options, but don’t limit yourself to those.

Many races partner with local hotels and even some airlines to provide options for participants.  These may very well offer the best prices for places to stay within walking distance to the start or finish.  As such, they should be checked first as they often sell out early.  Before you act on a pre-pay option, however, consider hotel reservations with a closer cancellation date in case of injury or change of plans.  Also consider other ways to stay in favorable locations relative to the race.  If you are early enough, travel websites that offer flight / hotel options in combination may provide value as those negotiated prices might have been made before the race blocks were established.   Vacation rental sites like vrbo.com or airbnb.com may offer houses or condos for rent at reasonable rates, particularly if you bring the family along for the big day.  Finally, never underestimate the power of a call directly to an onsite reservations agent or even the front desk of a small hotel.

Consider your regular pre-race routine and sketch a travel scenario that will allow for as much familiarity as possible.

Do you prefer to eat dinner at a certain time?  Do you try and head to bed at a certain time?  Do you prefer a certain type of food in the evening or morning before the race? Take these preferences into account when you make your initial travel plans.  How long might it take to get to and from the expo?  Where will you likely eat and how close is it from your hotel?  If you want coffee in the morning, where will you get it and are they open at that hour?

For these reasons and others, it often makes sense to arrive two days before your race so you have a day to take care of whatever you need to do without being rushed for time.  Similarly, if time and finances allow, you may be well served to depart the day after your race instead of that same afternoon.  You never know quite how you will feel or how long it might take to exit the finish area, and no one should be rushed after a terrific race effort.

If you need to make a choice between staying near the start or the finish of a marathon, by all means, stay by the finish.

Unless the start of your race is extremely early or in an obscure location, definitely err on the side of staying by the finish.  You can always get up 10 or 15 minutes earlier to get to the start with all your energy intact, but anyone who finishes a marathon will be glad that a hotel room is close by.  Very glad.

If planning a general vacation in concert with a goal race, plan to race at the start of the trip whenever possible.

Many people combine travel to a new destination with an opportunity to complete an exciting goal race.  If you do so, consider how much more you will be able to enjoy your surroundings without the concerns of a race over your head during the “fun” part of the trip.  You’ll want the freedom to walk without worry of fatigue in your legs, the freedom to eat adventurously and the flexibility to have a schedule that doesn’t demand eight hours of sleep. Yes, distant travel may require a couple days to adjust to a new time zone before the race.  However, it is always best to celebrate the completion of your goal with the bulk of your vacation after the race.

 

 



large-running-race-start-line

Many of us set running goals that culminate in a large race event with thousands of people.  Even if you are not completing your goal race at the ING New York City Marathon (more than 45,000 starters) or the Zazzle Bay to Breakers (more than 50,000 starters in 2011), your race day experience will likely not resemble your typical “roll out of bed and head out the door” long run.  How do you manage to find your normal, confident, well-trained self in the midst of a completely abnormal situation?  Try these tricks for race day success.

Weeks or at least days before your race, take advantage of all the available information on the race website.  If your race requires transportation to the start or transportation from the finish, examine your options and discuss the best choices with any friends or family members meeting you.  Closely examine the course map, particularly if the race offers an elevation chart.  Knowing exactly when you can expect hills, and how often hydration, gel, porta potties, and other key items are offered can help ease your stress by eliminating some of the unknowns of a big race.

If you have a web confirmation of your entry, double check you have the correct corral or wave start time, and exactly what tasks you will need to accomplish at the expo (shoe chip confirmation, etc).  One of the key reasons to do this well before you race is to be able to contact the race organization in a relaxed way if you have any questions or discover any discrepancies.  Usually, the organization is scrambling on race weekend and is off site at the expo so get on it early.

One key way in which many large races will differ from your typical workout is the length of time you will be required to stand at the start and the amount of walking you may be required to do to get to the starting area.  Again, read through the race materials well in advance and have a sense of what this will entail.  If it worries you, remember that everyone who is racing will also go through the same process, and that all the racers in prior years made it the same way.

To help condition yourself for this and to remind yourself that you will be ok, practice by walking a half mile or a mile before starting a few of your long runs, and then walking that same distance home when you are done.  Plan to wear a last layer of clothing that you would be ok with discarding (pick from your Goodwill/ Salvation Army pile at home).  This will leave you with a bit more warmth in the wait at the start, and less of a dilemma than if you had worn your favorite and most expensive outerwear to the line.  A $3 plastic parka or a trash bag with head and arm holes punched through can also provide a cheap alternative to hold in a bit of warmth.  $1 drug store knit gloves (or multiple layers of the same) can also be handy.

Even the most experienced racers have the butterflies on race day.  Sometimes this means extra trips to the restroom, particularly if you are well-hydrated.  The amount of facilities available at a particular race can vary widely, and it is likely you will need to wait in line, sometimes for quite a while.  In addition to being very deliberate about using the facilities at the last comfortable and private location you will have before you head out, consider going right when you arrive at the staging area.  If there is a line, you will have allowed yourself time afterwards to grab a drink or sit and relax a bit, and you won’t be as stressed as if you have left it to the last minute and are now faced with a full bladder, a huge line, and 10 minutes until you need to be at the start.  A travel pack of baby wipes or Kleenex (accompanied by a small bottle of Purell) in your gear bag can also be invaluable in case improvisational measures are required, or if race management hasn’t managed to keep pace with the usage of toilet paper in the facilities available.

Finally, all of the machinations required to get tens of thousands of people in place to start a huge race require several hours of organizing the people involved.  You may need to leave hours before your race and rise at a very early hour.   It is worthwhile taking at least a time or two to get up earlier than normal before your run in the weeks leading up to the race to prepare yourself for what that will feel like on the big day.  It is difficult to suddenly go to sleep at 8pm on the night before, so don’t expect yourself to be able to get a perfect and luxurious night of sleep from an artificially early hour.  Instead, just do your best to have an evenly paced evening so your food is digested, your stress levels are low, and your body can wind down as quickly as it naturally can.

Many experienced athletes have different strategies for managing the above challenges.  2012 Olympic Marathon Trials Fourth Place finisher and our May 2011 Pro’s Perspective interviewee, Amy Hastings, reported that she plans by making Post-It note lists of all the things she will need to do on race morning between waking and beginning the race.  Others may have great ideas – if a particular issue continues to trouble you, don’t hesitate to reach out to your fellow runners or to us (write us on the Forum or tweet us at @focusnfly).  We’re athletes ourselves and have been there.  Now that you have done the hard work of training, we’d love to help you enjoy and excel on race day!



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