Updated: May 14, 2019
Ready, Set, Run
It’s race day! We maybe did or didn’t do the training, but it’s here and we showed up! I personally love race day. I love the thrill, the adrenaline, anxiety and most of all to see what I’m made up. My husband would probably read these previous lines and chuckle in disbelief. It’s true, I love races for all the reasons stated. If I didn’t love the thrill of the game, I wouldn’t keep signing up for them, but they stress me out beyond all belief until I cross that finish line. It’s true, I do the training. Most of the time, I do over the race amount in training. I get a great night sleep, eat a solid dinner, breakfast and have plenty of liquids but I always find myself thinking I can’t do it.
Why do we doubt ourselves so much?
We put the work in, but we still get so down on ourselves. I recently ran 3 marathons is 6 weeks. It wasn’t my immediate goal, but it’s what happened. The first marathon, I prepped kind of foolishly. Pumping as much food and liquid as I could ahead of time thinking that would plug me through. In the end, it did get me through the race in a PR time, but I also spend 8 plus minutes of the race rushing to a portapotty and with deep GI stress. The 2nd marathon, I read up on race nutritional supplements, made some changes, cut 13 minutes off my time, and went from 7 potty stops to 2. When I got to my 3rd marathon, I did everything the same as the 2nd marathon, and I fell flat on my face literally. I ran out of steam early on and never got the energy back. I couldn’t make it to the bathroom in time on some occasions, I was drained and walked a lot which I never do, and have no idea how I made it to the finish line but I did. Afterwards, I was defeated and puzzled. Wondering why the last marathon I did so well and this one I just flopped. Some may say I put myself through too much in too little time but we know our bodies and I was ready. It was really hard for me to sign up for another race after that because I was so down on myself. Life didn’t stop after that race and either did my love for running. I would be lying if that last marathon didn’t haunt me on every race I have done since. I’m not here to live in defeat, I’m here to learn from mistakes and put my best stride forward.
Sometimes we have good races and sometimes we have bad races and there is no explanation why one race is better than the other. Races are a lot like life. We wake up with a smile on our face, have a cup of coffee, feeling the best. Then we step out the door and we get cut off by a driver, or a person at the store is rude to you and suddenly we are not our best. We can’t control our surroundings, but we can change our finish results. It is important to know our bodies. It took me a few races to figure out the connection, but I get a cold and knee pain, 3 days leading up to a race. The first time it happened was before my first marathon. I was so mad and discouraged, but I showed up anyways and the pains dwindled. I started to notice a pattern. This only happened before races. My husband told me, people only get anxious about things they are really passionate about. I guess in some ways they were good to have but it can sure mess with your thoughts.
What do I eat?
There are many blogs, articles and discussions out there about proper prerace meals and theories. If you sat and read all of them, you would leave flooded and overwhelmed by the information. I have read a lot of them for my own education, and I have gained knowledge. At the end of the day, you are the only one that knows your body. What works for you may not work for someone else. I recently read the man who runs the Barkley Marathon use to prep his marathons with 5 ham and cheese sandwiches and he finished in amazing time. I personally can’t eat that many calories in a whole day versus right before a race. In addition, there is no 2 regimens the same.
Your race day preparation should aim to provide you with lasting energy and strength. Depending on the distance of your race, would dictate how long before the race you should prep. The longer the race the more your body is going to rely on your glycogen stores. When prepping for a half marathon or higher, I start pumping up my calories 3-4 days ahead of time.
1. Diet should be 50-60% carbohydrates, 25-35% protein, strong and 20-30% of your total calories should be from mono or poly saturated fats. My favorite choices are avocados, and high protein granola mixes. I make a homemade high protein granola which will be under my recipe link. In addition, I like using roasted chickpeas instead of nuts. They have a higher protein and fiber content than nuts, but less fat. For carbohydrates, lean towards whole grain, non-simple sugars. These are going to leave you fuller longer and give you a more lasting energy.
2. Food choices should be leaner and lower in grease. This will aid in you not having unexpected trips to the bathroom. A lot of sources will say stay away from fiber which would include fresh fruits and some grains. I personally need a regular diet of fiber or I will get constipation. For me constipation hurts more during than race so finding the right balance for your body is key. For example, I typically eat a serving of raw vegetables in the afternoon, but I will cut those 3 days until a race. I do continue to eat whole grain bagels, and high fiber pasta. Fiber rich foods are harder for your body to digest which leads you fuller longer as well. Pumping up calories can be hard if your body isn’t use to it but you will be thankful you did it come race day. Small, frequent meals is the best so you don’t overwhelm the body too much at once. I have a very sensitive stomach and have to be very selective about what I eat. Furthermore, since I can’t handle a lot, I want to make sure what I do digest is going to help my body. Eat foods that you enjoy! Even if you’re not hungry every 3 hours, try to eat something small to keep your metabolism up and to build up your glycogen stores. Some examples are string cheese, yogurt, pretzels or a banana with peanut butter, a small protein shake or a½ cup of cottage cheese with a small fruit. Each of these examples will provide you with a source of carbohydrate and protein but not leave you with that full feeling.
3. Stay away from artificial ingredients as much as possible. If you notice there is a food you love but it has artificial ingredients, look for a substitute. A good example is yogurt. Yogurt can be a good source of protein and calcium. Oikos is a brand that tastes good, doesn’t taste overly sweet, has no artificial ingredients, and is a good source of protein and fiber. Protein bars and powders can be a tricky one as well. Obtaining protein from the whole food source is always better, but if in a bind there are some good protein supplements out there. I buy the Kirkland protein bars from Costco. I try to find foods where I can get a good fiber and protein combination where possible. They have no artificial colors or flavors, they contain 21g protein, 19g fiber and only 190 calories. They provide you with solid nutrition, without replacing a meal, the flavor is good, and they are affordable. They can also act as a solid filler if you are in a bind for a meal, but don’t want to settle for fast food. I will keep a few in my car for emergencies. Costco sells them for $17.97 for a box of 20. That’s less than a $1.00 a bar. Most protein bars average around $2.00 each and aren’t nearly as nutrition filled as these bars. I will use mine as a post-race snack or as a dessert at night with a cup of low-fat hot chocolate.
What do I wear?
1. Go with what you know: Rule of thumb, is to not try something new right before a race. We want race day to be predictable and full of as little surprises as possible. If there is a new regimen you would like to try, try it 1 week before a race, in the same context as you would use it on race day, to see how my body responds. You may find it works or it may not. Important thing is finding the glitches out ahead of time. Changing the regimen could be diet, outfit or shoes. The 2nd marathon I ran out of high school I ran in brand new shoes. I knew that you weren’t suppose to but I did it anyways. I can’t say 100% that my pain during the race was related to the shoes, but I know some could have been avoided by suffering through the old shoes until after the race.
2. Don’t overthink the weather: Dressing for race day can be hard especially if you live in MN like me. There can be so many factors to consider. Wear an extra layer as long as you can to keep muscles warm. Take advantage of bag drop offs if available. If bag drops aren’t available, and you don’t have a place to drop your spare clothes, buy some cheap warm clothes from goodwill or like store, and throw them as you get warm. Stocking up on long sleeves, pants, hats and gloves at the end of the season when they go on big markdowns, is good to have for backups when you need some throwaways at races. Don’t be intimidated by other runners’ outfits do what you know is best for you. Most people tend to over dress because they get worried, they’ll get cold, but than regret it halfway through the race. I’ve discovered the wonderful world of arm sleeves and a light hat. They are both comfortable, fitting, warm, but they don’t make you feel like you’re carrying an extra layer on you.
How can I be content with my results?
Everything we do is trial and error. We make the decisions that we think are best at the moment. I’ve run so many races or just practice runs where I tell myself, it’s okay to walk this hill. I won’t be upset later with myself, I’m tired. I get to that hill on the race, that I told myself was ok to walk during practice, but now I’m struggling during the race and I’m mad at myself for allowing myself to walk during practice.
Water stops lead to a lot of guilt for me. I can go 8+ miles in practice with no water but you see water stops on the route and you grab the extra water because it’s available. Water stops can lead to slower times and creates more needs to use the bathroom. I end up walking through them because I haven’t mastered the run and drink technique. I’ll tell myself that it’s ok because it will be faster than me trying to get the water in my mouth while running. But than I get the
results at the end of the race and see I could have moved up a place if I wouldn’t have stopped at that water stop, or used that portapotty.
Races are a journey and a challenge. They can leave you on top of the world or just feeling like crapp about yourself because of the littlest regret. Races help me mentally to face everyday tasks
and struggles. Life really is 1 big race, we just don’t know the route or where the finish line is. Most races I do, I think I will never finish because fatigue hits me, but so far, I have finished every time. Battles get hard in our lives, but we are still breathing and are going to press on to that finish line.
Analyze your race afterwards and make a list of 3 things you feel you did right and 3 areas you can improve on. When you are practicing for that next race, concentrate on these items. For the areas you were happy with, keep working on those and become stronger in those tasks. Create a strategy for improving in the areas you struggled. For example, I have started to practice the water stops at home. I have some dixie cups and I have my daughter hold the cup out for me as I run by. Secondly, hills have hit me hard in my last few races. During winter, I allowed myself to walk hills, but I realized I was becoming to lineate with myself. Knowing I don’t want to walk during races, I’m really pushing my body with smaller strides, to get up every one of those hills. It can be a real struggle some days because I live by a lot of hills, but when I stand at the top of the hill, and look at what I left behind, it presses me further.
In conclusion, remember to have fun out there and enjoy the scenery. Enjoy not running the same route as your practices and soak in the beauty around you. Be a good sport to your peers during the race. If there is someone that you were back in forth with during the race, go up to them afterwards and congratulate them. Were all in this race together, and we should support one another. Also, you will likely see some of these people again so be a face people look forward to seeing. Lastly, stick around after the race, if time allows, and get to know some of your peers over that post race food. It’s a great chance to learn about opportunities you didn’t know about or learn about other running groups. When having conversations with other runners though, be mindful of peoples results. Just because you had a good race doesn’t mean your peer did and vice versa. Before sharing about your amazing PR, ask the other person first how he or she did on the race.
Enjoy the road ahead and keep aiming for that finish line!