November of 2008 marked my very first long distance race. I finished those 26.2 miles with pride and could officially call myself a marathoner.
Since then, I have run over a dozen long distance races. I have learned what works well in training for a race and also what does not work well. I also have figured out my race day rituals that are tried and true.
This past weekend, a friend and I ran a 25k trail run in Alabama. It was set back away from civilization where the trail wound through serene woods and overlooked a beautiful lake. It was one of the prettiest races I have enjoyed so far.
Being the road runner that I am (I have only raced in one other trail run that was a half marathon distance), trail running is a new ball game. The community of trail runners is quite a bit different and I feel like they approach the race with a different mindset. The runners I met along the trail were so kind in letting me pass them and not jockeying for position or trying to elbow me out of the way. Quite different from some road races where I have almost been pushed down in order for a runner to gain that position in front of me.
After years of running and racing, I would like to think of myself as a somewhat seasoned racer. I want to pass along some of my tips on how I prepare for a race and what my best race day tips are.
- Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!
The week before the race, and especially the day before, I try to drink a lot of water. It is always better to go into a race hydrated than not having enough liquid. Dehydration definitely hinders your performance on race day!
- Get a good night sleep TWO nights before the race
I know this may come as a shock to you, but it is very important to get a lot of sleep two nights before the race. Reason being, the night before you most likely will have pre-race jitters, causing you to not get that full night of sleep. Also, if the race is not near your hometown, you will be sleeping in a different bed than normal which always throws people off.
- Carb load a few days before hand
Please do not wait to carb load the night before a race, or even the morning of! Your body needs to build up glycogen in your muscles to use during the race and it always works best for me to carb load a few days prior. My favorite pre-race meal the night before is a sweet potato hash.
*You can find the recipe in my upcoming recipe e-book that I will be releasing soon!
- On the race morning, wake up at least 2 hours before the start
I hate going into a race not fully awake. I love to wake up early on race day, hydrate with water and drink a cup of coffee, have my pre-race breakfast, and take time to mentally prepare for what is ahead of me.
- Do NOT change anything up on race day
Race day is not the time to try something new. Do not buy new running clothes, shoes or even try new foods the day of (or even the day before!). You have no idea how your body will respond to digesting the new food/drink/gu, if the clothes will chafe or ride up uncomfortably, and new shoes will definitely not be broken in. I suggest using your long training runs as a time to try out what exactly works for you. If you need to keep a log book of what your favorite running clothes are, what foods best energize you, and how well hydrated you were, it might help!
- Wear compression sleeves
Seriously, I swear by these. I do not run a long distance race anymore without them. They help me during the race with swelling and circulation as well as keep the soreness at bay after the race. If you are not comfortable wearing them during the race, at least bring some to slip on right when you finish. It will still help with the post-race soreness.
- Actively stretch after the race
After you cross the finish line, grab your finishers medal and some water/snacks they have provided, and then actively stretch. Your muscles and joints have been working continuously for a couple hours (or more – depending on your pace). If you actively stretch (do not do stationary stretches first), it will help immensely!
I hope you find these helpful for your next big race! I love talking about running so please post comments below or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to get ahold of me.