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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.



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!




 

RaceRecoveryThis month in Personal Best, we’d like to examine the one time of year most difficult to plan for:  Recovery.

 

Most of us fall into one of two categories.  Either we can’t wait to get right back out there on the roads and are tempted to rush our recovery period, or we let a month turn into two, into three, before pretty soon we are starting again from scratch in our next build-up.  Regardless of which tendency most closely resembles your default habits, we’d like to encourage you to take your next recovery period seriously.  We believe it is one of the most under appreciated, yet important parts of the training year.

 

After you cross the finish line…

When you cross the line of the big race, resist the urge to sit immediately, and keep moving for 10-20 minutes after you cross the line.  Most large races force this process to a certain extent, requiring you to move through lengthy feed, medal, race photo, and other stations as you head toward your baggage claim area.   Begin to hydrate with carbohydrate and electrolyte replacement fluids, sipping and drinking as much as your stomach can accommodate.  In the immediate hours to come, try to avoid caffeine, alcohol, aggressive massage, and hot tubs / baths in favor of cold tubs, and ice, easily digestible foods, and nutritious beverages.    In the day or two following, gentle massage, light stretching, and continued icing / cold tubs may assist in recovery.

 

Sometimes, athletes have certain foods they know will work well with their post-race digestive state.  If this is you, plan ahead and pack them in your gear bag so you know you’ll be able to start your nutrition replenishment with confidence.

 

Recovery is a mental, emotional, AND, a physical process.

Oftentimes, we have put a great deal into our goal races – other leisure habits on hold, dietary choices made and adhered to with great will power, families patiently waiting for you to come home from yet another long run.  Perhaps you have run your goal race in honor of a loved one or an important cause, and most likely you have given more of yourself physically than you have ever given before or typically do on a regular basis.  Your body may feel recovered, but you may not be ready to embark on the emotional journey yet again.  Or, you may feel as though your race left you with unfinished business that you want to re-try at the earliest opportunity, even as your body isn’t quite ready to cooperate.

 

We encourage most athletes to take approximately a month to recover from one of your bulwark goal races.  1-2 weeks of complete rest, followed by at least a couple weeks of recreational exercise, including cross training, and more rest than usual as needed throughout the week.

 

One great approach is to choose another goal race of a shorter distance at least 10-12 weeks from the date of the current goal race for which you are preparing.   You might even want to do this before you compete in the big race.    It is not uncommon to feel emotionally listless after a big effort, and having a new goal can help keep you connected to your over-arching health and fitness goals even as you take some time off.  Choosing a race shorter than the one you just finished will ensure you don’t pressure yourself to find the same level of motivation and commitment right off the bat, can provide a fun fitness test to keep your pace chart moving, and can serve as a good midway point if you do choose to do a longer race in 4-6 months.

 

If you come back from recovery too early, you may feel fine initially, but when the real training sets in, the aches and pains will then begin to crop up – take the time NOW!

 

As we read in this month’s Pro’s Perspective, Brooke Wells says she has traditionally been too aggressive in coming back from her recovery periods.  By jumping immediately back into a heavy training load, she often found herself requiring another mini-break a few weeks in. This is a common occurrence for many runners, both novices and elite athletes.   Now that she has run her best time and is creeping in to the rarified air of internationally competitive performances, she knows she can’t afford to take the same type of liberty this time around.     That second bunch of training weeks after the initial restart is when we as coaches see many problems occur, but we recognize, sometimes it is tough to take that time if you have plenty of motivation left in reserve.  However…..

 

Resist the urge to lace up your shoes the first day you aren’t sore climbing stairs, and after you take that first run, resist the urge to jump in the Sunday 12 miler a few days later with your friends at the park.   The time you spend ramping up slowly back to a normal level of training activity is recovery time as well.  If that is excruciating to you – you can’t stand staying in one more day, encourage yourself that many of the world’s top athletes take 3-6 weeks completely away from running after a goal marathon – you’re trying to work harder than the pros!

 

 

Make sure you use your recovery time to “exhale”, enjoy something you might not have been able to during your build up.

 

For you, it might be a different sport –Brooke mentioned trying rock climbing, something she’d never do in the midst of heavy training.  Maybe it is enjoying a later bedtime, a favorite dessert, an activity with family, a night out, or a weekend away.  Or, just force yourself to sit on the couch and do nothing for once.   While we are here to help you with the plan you need to train for your goals, we also want to make sure that when you are within the crucial weeks before your goal race, you are motivated and not burned out.  Recharge yourself with moderate doses of life’s simple pleasures when a racing deadline is not bearing down and you’ll be able to focus when the time requires that single-mindedness.

 

 

Celebrate and appreciate your accomplishment before heading off to the next mountaintop.

 

It is also important that you celebrate your accomplishment.  Acknowledge to yourself a job well done.  And if things didn’t go as planned, acknowledge an effort earnestly made, a willingness to go for it.  Even if you hope to yet run faster or have bigger fish to fry down the road, consider everything that went right, including the accomplishment of a season of training you might not have considered possible before you began.  Consider all that you hope to recreate in your next build-up as well as those things you hope to change for the better.  After all, while recovery is the final stage of your last race, it is also the first stage of your next!



Your pasta dinner has been consumed; your D-chip is safely looped around your shoelace.  Your final cup of water is in your hand and you’re just waiting for the gun to go off.  What now?

 

Whether you are a beginner or an experienced athlete, taking a few key tips to the starting line can help you dig down and find your potential on race day.  Here are a good ones to consider:

 

1. Practice as many race day details beforehand as possible.

As Brett mentioned in this month’s Pro’s Perspective, it is important to stick with the tried and true details that have brought you successfully to this point.  Can you survive if an unexpected change of plans is required?  Sure.  However, knowing that there are several things you will do on race day that have been proven to work for you in the past can provide great peace of mind.

 

If you have a pre race or pre long run breakfast that has worked well, make plans to have the same on the big day, even if that means bringing along your own peanut butter, your favorite bar, your favorite drink.  Yes, the hotel buffet might look tempting, but if you haven’t eaten bacon before heading out the door for a hard run, today is not the day to try.

 

Resist the urge to wear that cute new thing you bought at the expo the day before.  Wear it later to impress your friends around the neighborhood instead, and go with the shorts and shirt that have worked for you on your long runs.  Consider the temperature ranges of your race day and have options for unseasonably cold or wet conditions already planned and packed for.

 

2.         Commit to running your race at your pace

Everyone has heard stories of those who start too fast and struggle at the end as a result, or seen races where the whole crowd appears to be sprinting from the start line of a long race.  Do the math on the time you want to run, and stay in the ballpark of those mile splits (and perhaps even a bit slower for the first few miles) during the explorative stages of the race.

 

It is extremely tough not to be caught up in the adrenaline of the crowd, the announcer trying to fire everyone up, the extra energy you have from being tapered and rested, and the older, less fit appearing person who seems to be running so fast and easily right by you.

 

However, resist you must.

 

You’ve come too far to let short-term emotional bursts drag you away from your long-term goal.  As they always say about everything else requiring patience that is not actually a marathon:  this is a marathon, not a sprint.  And the reason why they say it is because it is actually true when you are indeed engaged in a marathon and you need to be steady and independently motivated.  Nerves of steel.  You can do it.

 

3. Plan for a rough patch

There will be a time, if not in this race, but next, where you will go through a tough patch, get a cramp or a side stitch, or have an unexpected period where your ultimate completion may feel like it is in doubt.  Rest assured that is completely normal, and plan in advance to give yourself time to let it ease and sort itself out.  Think of it as an expected challenge you plan to meet, so when it occurs you can almost greet it with joy. Oh, only a side stitch, Ha!  I’ve got this.  I’m going to take some deep inhales until my muscles relax.  Man, I feel out of juice.  Perfect!  That’s what I was carrying this extra gel packet for.  Even if you haven’t brought the antidote, many times the race is long enough and your body resilient enough that what seems like a deal breaker has resolved over the next 3-5 miles.  Plan in advance to give yourself at least that long to let it ease.  Certainly anything that indicates serious injury or illness should be taken extremely seriously and acted upon with every caution. But if you recognize that crampy calf or that mid-long run “blah” feeling, be excited about how you are going to persevere past it and do.

 

4. Celebrate intermediate steps

Is it mile 10 and you are still on pace for your goal? Have you successfully made the first half of the race without feeling like quitting once?  Have you taken fluids and nutrition as planned through the first several miles?  Were you able to give a thumbs up to your spouse and kids along the course when they were waiting for you to pass late in the race?  Consider some of the ingredients to a successful race day and enjoy a moment of appreciation along the route when you execute these plans. A “good day” is comprised of a bunch of different things that have gone well.  You may not always be able to get through the race with a perfect score, but if you have several evaluative check boxes, you’ll have a more complete appreciation of how and why things ended up well in the end.

 

5. Visualize the finish

Before you start, imagine the weight of the finisher’s medal on your chest, the balloon arc or banner over your head, even the joy of triumphantly retrieving your baggage from the trucks and reuniting with your family.  These images, seared into your brain beforehand, can be powerful motivators when things get tough on the racecourse.  What will be most enjoyable to you about finishing?  Picture yourself doing that, and continue to keep picturing it until you cross the line and can enjoy it for real.



Pre-Race Sleep

January 31, 2010

Everybody’s been there: sleepless on the night before a big race.

Countless articles and anecdotal stories have been shared on this topic. Certainly, Focus-N-Fly’ers probably have an entire wing to add to the library. However, it takes a little bit of time to become comfortable and game plan your race “eve” strategies. When you do this game planning, here are some key pieces of info to keep in mind:



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