Saturday, June 9, 2012

Learn a little something from my experience

I am in love with running. This coming from the girl who played softball all her life and hated running to the fence and back to now pumping out half-marathons is huge. If you would have told me a year ago I'd be in love with distance running and I would have laughed at you. I hope to share these tips and encourage you that you can be a runner too! I am so proud of what I have accomplished (running entire half-marathons) and look forward to what my future in running holds (one day running a marathon)!

One thing I will say about running is that patience and persistence are key. I keep working at it even if I have a bad run. Running improvements take time; there is no "easy" button to running but every day, every run adds to your ability and furthermore, your success.

I am no Kara Goucher or even SR but here are a few things I've learned in my experience with half-marathon racing and just racing in general:

1. If you are just starting to toy with the idea of racing, I recommend following a designed plan. There are literally tons to choose from! I recommend choosing one that fits your lifestyle and fits what your body can handle. These plans are designed to work with your body and progress it in physiologically advantageous increments. This is best to train smartly and prevent injury (aka what should be your top two priorities!)

2. Start hydrating 3-4 days before the race and drink as much water as you can the day before. Seriously, drink a lot of water. Once you think you've hydrated adequately, drink some more. Your muscles are mostly water so it makes sense that if you want to be on top of your game race day, they'll need to be fully hydrated. If you need to mix it up, flavored water works well too.

3. Cut out foods that give you any issues the day before the race. For me, a huge culprit is dairy. It does not agree with my stomach before running at all. I've also heard that some people can't have too much fiber the day before the race. Remember that the longer you run, the more stress you are applying on your body and specifically your GI tract. The more stress on your GI tract could lead to increased food sensitivity so really pay attention to what you fuel your body with! On the other hand, I know some people with iron stomachs. This tip is truly unique to the individual but I still think its worth mentioning to pay attention to your diet. You do not want stomach issues during the race, trust me.

4. Make all outfit decisions and electronic preparation the night before the race. Before you go to bed try having your outfit laid out, ipod charging (if you run with an ipod), any energy gels, headbands, Garmin, etc. all set out and ready to go. You do not want to be frantically searching for your socks race day morning! Some typical things I will lay out are: race top, race bottoms, any throw away jackets if I'm bringing one, sports bra, socks, shoes, BIC Band, ipod, Garmin, GU gels, Clif bar and a water bottle. Make it as easy on yourself as possible race day morning!

5. Arrive to the start line early! You're already stressing enough! Make it easier on yourself by planning on getting to the start line 45 minutes early. Granted, this does depend on the size of the race, parking availability, shuttle times, etc. Have a game plan before race day of what time you plan on arriving. Plan for traffic too! If you end up getting there "too early" (doubtful, but you never know) it gives you first dibs at the Porta-Potties... that's a win in itself! Getting there early will also give you enough time to warm up, stretch and use the restroom as many times as you might need.

6. Once you arrive to the starting area make sure your shoes are tied, bib secured and outfit positioned comfortably. Seriously, check your shoes. I've made this mistake before and had to stop at mile 2 to tie my shoe! What a time killer! Make sure that your bib is positioned so that it won't bother you during the race. I usually forget mine is even there! Also, choose an outfit for the race that you feel comfortable running in. I don't recommend trying a brand new outfit race day. You don't want to risk chaffing or outfit discomfort during the race!

7. Go to the bathroom before the race! Even if you don't think you have to go, go. Make yourself sit in the pot until something comes out. You do not want to get a few miles in and start to feel a rumble in the jungle if you know what I mean.

8. Don't start out too fast! - I know you hear this everywhere but there's a reason: everyone does it. You're excited, it just happens naturally! But, try your best to start out conservatively and pick it up to your desired race pace gradually. You don't want wear yourself out too early in the race. Been there, done that. Not fun.

9. Drink water and some electrolyte drink during the race. The longer your race, the more fuel your body will need for optimum performance. An electrolyte drink does not necessarily have to be gatorade/powerade. I know some people's stomachs can't handle the sugar in those drinks. If you are one of those people, I've heard Nuun is great. I take water at every station and an electrolyte drink once. You'll figure out what you need the more races you do. Staying hydrated is really important, especially if its a hot race! You can"pinch" the cup into a funnel to prevent spilling everywhere. I wish I would have known that earlier; it would have been nice to not have gatorade all over my face and shirt.

10. Take energy gel's before you feel your energy drop. Don't wait until you're tired to take them! This is key to utilizing them! For me, they take about 15-20 minutes to "kick in" so I try and plan them accordingly. Last race I only took 1 Gu at about the half way mark. Whatever energy gels you decide to use, experiment with them to make sure they don't upset your stomach before race day. Some races will hand out gels during the race but I prefer to bring my own since I know what gels agree with my stomach.

11. Savor the race! Yes, it is a "race" but I encourage you to soak it all in. There is SO much going on and I hope you'll take the opportunity to embrace it. Trust in your training, encourage runners around you, push yourself, feed off of the fans, listen to your body, soak in the scenery, embody the energy. Don't let yourself cross the finish line without feeling like you gave it everything you had.

Sometimes its crazy to think you could put 12 or more weeks into training for one race! ONE RACE! With all of that preparation you'll want to make sure you give it everything you got and that definitely starts before race day. If you have any questions please contact me! I'd love to get you moving in the right direction!

2 comments:

  1. I've only ran one 5K and that was last year... haven't raced since I was pregnant with my son (he's 5 months now). Numbers 4 & 8 definitely apply to me!

    I learned through other blogs to lay out my gear the night before and that was a big help. I did not, however, follow #8. I started fast and didn't want anyone to pass me. I pushed myself really bad because I didn't want to look stupid.

    Can we guess who looked stupid the day after when I could barely lift my legs up a flight of stairs? This girl, right here!

    Great tips!

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  2. These are excellent tips!! I just did the "start too fast" thing Friday night. It sucked, I had to walk, and thus got my slowest time ever.

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