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October 17, 2013

A Few Key Things First Timers Need to Know and Experienced Racers Need to Remember

Written by Dena Evans

large-running-race-start-lineDeck the halls with gel and sports drink – fa la la la la, la la la la!

 

‘Tis the season for a goal race. It is natural to get a bit nervous, especially if you have a lot of little questions about how to handle race day.  Before you tuck yourself into bed on the night before with visions of sugar plums and finish lines dancing in your head, stay ahead of a few key things that many first timers need to know, and many experienced racers need to remember.

 

Avoid overeating like crazy on the night before

Many athletes have heard of the term “carbo loading” and believe that means stuffing an entire pound of pasta down the hatch on the night before the race.   It is true marathons require plenty of fuel, and it is also true that carbs are very helpful toward this task.  However, it is also true that a body cannot process four times the  normal amount of food in the same amount of time.  If you eat more food than your body can digest and process helpfully, where will it go?  Where will the excess end up?  Ponder….. Eat until full, but not until explosion levels!

 

Don’t drink two gallons of water 24 hours before the race

Hydration is important, but with too much water, the bloodstream can be stripped of important electrolytes, a potentially VERY dangerous situation on race day.  Hydrate consciously with a mix of water and sports drink or other fluid containing electrolytes for several days before the race so you aren’t pounding large bottles at the expo on the day before.  When your urine is light yellow, nearly clear, just keep sipping so your bladder isn’t under duress with an excess amount of fluid on race morning.

 

Bring throw-away clothing to the start

If it is cold, cold-ish, wet, or wet-ish, an extra layer can be very helpful at the start, particularly if you are in the second wave of a large race and you are going to be standing there for 30-40 minutes, shivering and nervously fidgeting.  “But wait,” you say, “It is supposed to clear up and be nice by the finish so I don’t want to bring my nice zip down.”  Fine, but that’s not an excuse to freeze for three quarters of an hour before you even start running.  Bring a long sleeved shirt that was already headed for Goodwill, and toss it to the curb with the rest of the detritus at the start or after a few warming miles with a hearty “Job well done!” Yes, you will look like a dork, but you will be a warm dork.

 

You must eat before you run a marathon

Is it physically possible to run a marathon without breakfast?  Probably.  Is this something you want to do, even if “I don’t normally have time to eat before my morning runs so I didn’t want to start now.”  No. Way.  This is folly.  If you don’t normally have time to eat, you must consciously change that practice and figure out what works for you in the weeks leading up to the race so you have some fuel in the tank on race day.  The nerves, the waiting at the start, the length of the run and the wait until you have food afterwards – not eating is unwise.  Extremely unwise.  Have a good day, and get something that works for you down the hatch.  No excuses.

Likewise, you must drink during a marathon

Again, is it possible to do it without drinking?  Yes.  Is this smart? Not in the least.  Don’t pick race day to be a hero for water conservation.  Drink 6-8 oz of water and sports drink (alternate!) every 45 minutes or so, if need be in the form of several small splashes from a few fluids stations.  You will have a much more enjoyable time, probably get across the line more quickly, and have a much, much more enjoyable recovery.

Do not switch horses mid-stream

Well yes, riding horses is probably cheating.  However, if you have run in one style of shoe, do not change them the day before the race.  Break anything new in three to four weeks before, when you have a chance to do at least one long run in them to find out how they feel.  Shoes, fuel packets, clothing, pre-race dinner, pre-race breakfast – all of these things should be very status quo on race weekend.  Experimentation is for folks who have one under their belt!  Notch this one and then look into switching things up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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