You've (hopefully) done all the necessary training. Preparing for the big race day, though, involves more than just logging miles in your running shoes.
I've been running (and racing) for 16+ years. Needless to say, I have learned a lot through trial and error (emphasis on the errors).
A little planning ahead of time can ease the race day stress. It may not eliminate the start line nerves, but having a lot of the details ironed out before the big day will make getting there a little easier.
Tip 1 - First of all, take the taper seriously.
A taper (that period before a race where you scale back the mileage and intensity of your workouts) isn't usually necessary for a short distance, like a 5K or even a 10K. For a longer event, like a half or full marathon (or even longer distances), though, a taper is crucial. A lot of newer runners may fear they haven't done enough, especially if they have not hit all of their training miles or had to skip a few scheduled runs. Likewise, experienced runners can sometimes be over confident in their body's ability to recover. None the less, a taper period (usually 2-3 weeks, depending on the distance of the upcoming event) is vital for your body to rest and be thoroughly recovered prior to the start line. There's nothing to be gained by making up a few extra miles in the final week(s) leading up to the race...and you put your body (and its performance on race day) at risk for injury by over-doing it that close to the race itself.
Tip 2 - Carbo-loading is tricky.
Some carbs the day (or evening) prior to the race will give you a few extra calories (and some peace of mind), but you actually need those carbs a few days prior as well. In fact, the entire week before your race should be devoted to sensible food choices, not just the 12 hours prior to the race. Over-doing the pasta could leave you feeling bloated, and that's not very race day friendly.
Tip 3 - The same goes for hydration.
Yes, your body needs plenty of water for (and during) the race, but it's best to be mindful of staying hydrated in the week prior as well. Just like with carbo-loading, too much hydration at the last minute could have you in the porta-potty more than you desire.
Tip 4 - Consider doing a trial run in your race day outfit.
The weather can be a wild card, and is always a factor we cannot control or change. A couple years ago, the weather looked less-than-desirable the entire week leading up to one of my half marathons. It was early May. The temps were predicted to be in the 50's and rainy. Ugh. I can handle rain on a hot summer day, but it's a different ball game on a cool morning in the spring. I got the idea (the day prior, which had almost identical weather) to do a "trial run" in a similar outfit to what I planned to wear for the race day and see if the layers would work...and it was a success! Whew!
Tip 5 - Do a Race Day Preview.
Even though I do this to show the virtual world my racing outfit, more importantly, it gives me a chance to make sure I have everything ready to go when the alarm goes off the next morning. I seldom ever get a good nights sleep before a race (more on that in a minute), so I don't want to leave it to fate that I'll remember everything with a cloudy brain. Also, even though I lay out the race bib (if I already have it), I don't pin it on because I don't want it getting all crumpled under a seat belt. Instead, the bib gets tucked into the recovery bag (see below), with all four safety pins attached.
Tip 6 - Have a post-race recovery bag on standby.
I wrote a blog post on this awhile back (details HERE). Again, with that early morning wake-up, I have learned to not trust my memory with necessary details. Having the goody bag packed up (and hanging on the door knob) before I head to bed gives me peace of mind.
Tip 7 - Don't fret over how much sleep you'll be getting the evening prior.
I'm a night owl (AND also an early bird) by nature. I am good with 5-6 hours of sleep. I have tired to go to bed earlier than usual (to allow for the earlier than usual wake-up on race day), but it's seldom a successful venture. I tend to lay there TRYING to fall asleep instead of actually sleeping. I would simply suggest trying to be restful if you cannot actually sleep, and not just for that one night....allow yourself some relaxation that entire week if possible. Attempting to force your body into sleeping more than it is accustomed to, or going to sleep sooner than what is typical, is not always a smart move.
Tip 8 Finally, consider mapping out your driving route a few days ahead of time.
This is especially helpful if it's to a place where you're not familiar. That good ole GPS is not always 100% accurate. It may direct you to the shortest route to your destination, but it may not be the easiest route to navigate...especially if it's still dark when you're driving. Also, the GPS doesn't always have access to the temporary closed streets (due to the race course). Just something to think about.
A few related posts:
Bottom line, a lot of race day fears and anxiety can be lessoned with experience. Also, knowing you have trained properly (which is a very personal thing for each of us) can give you peace of mind as well. Even with all the necessary training and preparation, it still is acceptable and A-Okay to have some nerves as you toe the start line...it just shows you really care about your performance. That's not a bad thing.
How does race day affect you? Has it gotten easier, the more races you've done? Anything you'd add?
Excellent tips, Kim!ReplyDelete
I am very anxious before a race, but your point about not trusting your memory with necessary details and preparing well has helped me to calm down.
Strangely, the longer the race, the less anxious I am. I'm a nervous wreck at short races.
I'm with you on the longer races. The short races bring with them so much pressure to run fast (really fast!), and I'm more of an endurance runner. If you make any mistakes in the first mile of a short race, there's not much "fluff" time to correct it...not the same in a longer race ;-)Delete
I still get nervous before a race and rarely sleep well. I always think I am going to oversleep (which I have never done) It's been so long since race day, I hope I remember what to do!ReplyDelete
I have that fear of oversleeping, too...always have (and probably always will). And I'm the one who almost always wakes up before the alarm, no matter how early I have it set for LOLDelete
Doing a test run for the race day outfit is key! Once I had a bad experience with chafing due to an ill fitting shirt. After that, I always tested out everything - sports bra, shirt, pants and socks - before race day lolReplyDelete
I have been very lucky with hardly any chafing...but it has happened when (and where) I've least expected it.Delete
Great tips! I think for me, mapping the route is important. I'll also need to run in my race outfit several times at least, to make sure it's comfortable and weather appropriate. I've signed up for a road 5K in the Fall and am also eyeing a trail race as well.ReplyDelete
I'm a very nervous driver, and I tend to have a lot of anxiety finding a new location (especially if it's still dark or I'm all on my own). Knowing exactly where I'm going is a huge stress-reliever on race morning.Delete
I love these tips! The recovery bag is vital! I've started doing this and it keeps me from being gross and uncomfortable after the race. I also bring some food just so I don't get hangry!ReplyDelete
Ha ha! We don't need any of the hangry stuff happening LOL Most of my races are at least 45 minutes away, so if I can change clothes, the ride home is much more comfortable.Delete
It's been a very long time since I've done an in person race, and I just don't see that changing anytime soon. I thought maybe it would, but at the moment just too much going on in my life.ReplyDelete
Mapping out the route is a good tip, Kim! The GPS can do very odd things sometimes!
I simply do not trust the GPS. More often than not, it has lead us on an impractical journey.Delete
I haven't raced in so long, so I have no idea how it will go. I like to be prepared as possible beforehand. But there are still usually things that go wrong!ReplyDelete
I agree, there are usually going to be a few things that go wrong. At least being prepared (for what you can control) gives you a little peace of mind in dealing with the unexpected.Delete
I follow all your "rules" (but only before a marathon or a half marathon) except the n° 4 because I always use the same outfits for the race.
I have another "shrewdness": when the start and the arrival are far and not on the same place, in winter, I wear also an old sweatshirt that I throw away before the start.
I guess I usually have the same basic outfit (tank top with shorts), but some of the extras vary depending on the race distance and/or temps (compression sleeves or arm warmers, for example).Delete
It really is all about preparation! And experience. I stopped carbo loading years ago when I realized that it was contributing to my GI distress. Find what works and stick with it. For me, it's pizza the night before the race.ReplyDelete
I usually do some carbs the night before (pasta is my poison), but I no longer "load" up on it like I did in my early days.Delete
I think if you race a lot, you have things under control. Even so we forget things.
I always get my outfit ready before and have post race necessities.
I do rely on my GPS but if it's a new race, I leave very early...just in case.
My GPS has let me down many times...and not just on race day. One time it took me on a 1-mile journey (in a circle) only to discover I could have gone the opposite direction and gotten there much sooner LOL. Thankfully, I'm usually with Barb or the hubby, so there's two of us navigating...Delete
It all comes down to preparation, right? I still get nervous before races with which I'm not familiar, but the more prepared I am, the easier it is.ReplyDelete
I've made the mistake of preparing well for before the race and during, but not after. I finally learned to pack a change of clothes since I get cold so easily after a race and even warm-up layers don't help if I'm still in a sweaty outfit.ReplyDelete