Friday, May 15, 2015

10 Things to Do the Week Before a Race #runchat

This weekend, I will run my 5th half marathon. This distance is decidedly my favorite—hard enough to complete, yet not so all-consuming like the full marathon. I'm looking forward to adding another medal to my collection, and to proving to myself that all those training runs weren't for nothing. Of course, now here I sit. Anxiously awaiting that starting line and while I do so, I can't help but prep myself for the day. In fact, I've been prepping since last Saturday when "training" turned to "tapering" after my last long run.

How do I prep for a race?

A few weeks ago I pinned something from ACE10 tips for preparing for your first race. All of which are great and applicable to those of us who have been running for quite some time. From visualizing race day to getting the right amount of sleep, it all matters. And it all has to be done in a way that makes sense to the runner. So today, I thought it would be fun to go through ACE's recommendations and explain how I apply them to my race week.

1) Visualization
When I ran 11 miles on Saturday, I kept thinking about 13.2 and how I thought it would feel to hit those last two miles. Visualizing the "Mile 11" sign and coaching myself to think positively about the miles beyond it has set me up with the confidence I need to keep going. All week long, I've been reminding myself that I can (and will) do it on Sunday.

Tip for you: Always pump yourself up. Think about your race. Running through it in your mind will help you mentally prepare yourself for the real thing.

2) Research
At this point, I've done all the research I need to regarding my training. I like to use this time to dive into the course. Most races publish a map that outlines aid stations—I'm running the first ever Michigan Shores Mini, and they haven't published a map yet. So I won't know where the aid stations are, but I'm pretty familiar with the area so I have some sense of what the route will be.

Tip for you: Know where you're running. Most races are well marked...but some really aren't, so it helps to have some sense of how you'll be getting from start to finish. And if you rely on the aid stations, it's nice to know how spaced out those will be so you can fine-tune your fueling strategy.

3) Gear
Let's be honest, sometimes a new piece of clothing does wonders for the confidence, so I like to pick up some new gear the week of a race. On Sunday, I'll be wearing this tank from JC Penney that I picked up for $10.

Additionally, I'll be using my FlipBelt, hand-held FuelBelt and (of course) my Garmin Forerunner 15 and Mizuno Wave Rider 18 shoes. All go-to items that have been with me since I started training for this race.

I should mention that I usually affix my race bib and timing chips the night before, but packet pick-up was day of only for this one, so I'll have to do it there. Which means my race bib will probably be crooked (ha!).

Tip for you: Don't wait until the last minute to gather your gear. Assuming you've been using it from the get-go, it should essentially be ready to go. The night before a race, put everything out so it's easy to grab in the wee hours of the morning when most races start.

4) Nutrition
I try be extra careful with my food intake the week of a race. Especially when it comes to dinner the night before. I'm not necessarily one to carb load with a giant bowl of pasta, but I do make sure to balance my plate. And drink a lot of water. Still not sure what my final meal will be, but it won't be full of dairy and fiber (all things that usually make me feel a bit off for a day or two). Breakfast before the race will be a bagel with peanut butter, and I'll bring a banana with me as well since I have a 30-minute drive to the starting line.

Tip for you: There are extensive theories when it comes to pre-race meals. Bottom line, do what works best for you. Always.

5) Fueling
My absolute favorite fuel source is a pack of GoGo Squeez applesauce. I like the Apple Pear combination. My kids like to eat these, too, so I've been keeping an eye on my supply all week. There's one left, and I hid it from my daughter. The typical squeeze packs of gel that most runners like to use? I just can't. And carrying things like pretzels and protein balls? Too cumbersome for me. I also like to bring half a tab of Nuun to replace lost electrolytes. I tend to pull these things out after an hour of running.

And since I've got a small drive after the race, I'll also be bringing a granola bar and apple just in case the post-race treats aren't what I want.

Tip for you: Some races provide fuel on the course. Don't be temped by the unknown. It might sound delicious at the time, but it might become a race day regret. Be smart. Come to the race prepared (or in-the-know regarding provided fuel).

6) Support
If I'm running with someone, I usually stay pretty connected with that person throughout the week. This race is a little different for me. I'm hitching a ride with some people from my running group, but I think our paces are different so I don't know how much running we'll actually do together. Still, it's been nice to coordinate rides to and from, which eliminates that feeling of having to go alone. I've been talking about the race with my family, which has resulted in encouragement. Always nice to have people rooting for you, right?

Tip for you: Don't hesitate to reach out to a local running group. Shared interests produce excellent opportunities for support. And if your support system is lacking, remind yourself that there will be people—complete strangers, actually—out on the course rooting for you, and that's always awesome.

7) Inspiration
I follow a ton of running sites on Facebook and Instagram, favorites include but are not limited to Runner's World, POPSUGAR and FitFluential. They post inspirational graphics left and right, but they always hit home more than ever during weeks like this. Truth: I'll take whatever inspiration I can get. Additionally, I've loaded up my shoes with a new shoe tag from Momentum Jewelry:

I will also be wearing some arm candy on race day because when I look down at my Garmin, I want to feel inspired:

Tip for you: Save 10% on your own shoe tags and wrist wraps when you order via my affiliate link. As an ambassador, I was given the above free of charge. I only represent companies that I believe in, and I truly do believe in the awesomeness that is Momentum Jewelry. These stylish little touches of inspiration are really, truly big necessities in my book.

8) Sleep
This is what I struggle with the most on the night before a race. I'm such a night person that getting to bed at a decent hour is difficult. I don't force it, I just do my best to start winding down a little earlier than usual. My ride is coming at 5:45AM on Sunday, which means I'll be setting my alarm for 4:45AM. I'll need enough time to get up, get dressed, pump and eat.  Needless to say, I plan on doing nothing Saturday night (except for catching up on the last episode of "Scandal").

Tip for you: Don't force the bedtime thing. Go to sleep when you're ready to. This, of course, means you have to stay in-tune with your body. If you're wired, then help yourself wind down by choosing activities that lend themselves to quite sleep.

9) Game Time
When my alarm goes off, I trust in all that I've done to prepare myself for the race. I focus on that as I get ready, and even as I approach the finish line. I'm looking forward to traveling to the race with some people from my running group. I'm not driving, so I'll just sit back and enjoy the conversation.

Tip for you: Don't stress. Seriously, just don't. 

10) Enjoy!
Obviously the most important part of any race week. No matter what, if you go out there and run an honest race, then you've succeeded. My current PR is 2:02:04. I'd like to beat that, but I'll be just as happy crossing that finish line with a solid, strong finish regardless of the time on the clock.

Question: What is your favorite part of taper week and/or race day? 

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