Friday, February 14, 2014

Race day preparations

It's been a long journey getting here, but race day approaches!  Before the nervousness starts to really set in, here are some things you can do beforehand that will relieve some anxiety!

5-7 days pre-race:

  • Make sure you have any supplies you'll need for race day.  Energy gels/Gu/Cliffshots, your race day breakfast (same thing you've been eating before your training runs!), etc. 
  • Weather so far looks to be a low of 60 degrees on race day, so you probably won't be cold.  However, if things change or you want to be overly prepared, bring an old sweatshirt and sweatpants that you don't mind donating to charity (or buy something at Target or Goodwill).  You can wear them beforehand when you're going to the start line and waiting (which could be 45-60+ minutes of waiting), and then 5 minutes before the race starts, take them off and discard them at the sidewalk.  Tons of people do it, and local charities come by after the start and collect them.  If your hands tend to get cold, a $2 pair of gardening gloves or cheap knit gloves work great.  At very cold races, I'll sometimes even wear the gloves for a couple of miles until I warm up, and then discard them.  I'll also usually bring a big trash bag from home and keep it tucked into my shorts.  If it starts to rain before the race, put a hole in the bag, put your head through the hole and wear it as a poncho.  May not be Project Runway fashion material, but it will keep you warm and dry!  And if you don't need it, toss it on the sidewalk before the start.
  • Have your friends & family sign up to track you live during the race:
  • If you're not going to bring your cellphone during the race, try to arrange a meeting reunion spot after the race.  The finish line is always a zoo, but they usually have a reunion area with signs such as A-C, D-F, etc by last name.
1 day prior:
  • Get your shirt and race number at the expo.  The expo can be a ton of fun, but try to avoid being on your feet walking around for hours and hours.  And remember, no matter how tempting that cool new thing you see at the expo is, stick with what you know works for the race!  New stuff causes blisters, distractions, confusion, etc!
  • Drink plenty of water and avoid alcohol/caffeine if you can starting the evening before the race, you want to stay hydrated
  • Attach your race # to the shirt you'll be wearing.  If you're going to wear a sweatshirt that you're going to discard before the race, don't attach your number to that!  
  • Arrange for a wakeup call and use a phone or alarm clock alarm as backup
  • Lay out everything you'll wear on the floor the night before to make sure you have everything (I had a friend who realized at 9pm the night before she forgot her running shorts, luckily she had time to find some). 
  • Head to the inspiration dinner and get ready to meet some amazing people!
Race morning:
  • Get up, have your breakfast and hop on the bus.  
  • When you get to the start area, get in line to use the port-a-potty.  The lines will probably be pretty long but should move quickly.  Once you've finished, turn around and get right back into line because you'll probably have to use it again in a few minutes!  Totally normal, it's actually a good sign because it means you are well hydrated.
  • When the gun goes off, keep putting one foot in front of the other like you've been doing all along! 
During the race:
  • The port-a-potties tend to have pretty big lines the first 2-3 miles, but lines will thin out after that.  Also, the bathrooms inside the park are usually open for races if you spot one, and they are much nicer and cleaner than a port-a-potty.
  • Stick with your run/walk routines.  If you're feeling fantastic at mile 10 and want to run the rest of the way, go for it.  But until that point, better to be conservative and do what you know works.
  • The Disney characters are usually out there cheering you on, you can stop and take a photo with them if you like (but the lines may be pretty big for the popular ones like Cinderella).

A couple of thoughts that don't necessarily fit into the timeframe:
  • You're going to be nervous, everyone is.  Don't let it stress you out, just laugh at yourself and try to enjoy yourself. 
  • The #1 most common source of problems in first-time half marathoners is going out too fast.  There will be tons of people around, you might not even be able to do more than walk, don't worry!  It will thin out in a mile or two, and your adrenaline is going to make you want to run much faster than you've been training, fight the urge to do so!  Nobody ever ruined their race by going out a little too slow, but tons of people ruin their race by going out too fast and then falling apart at mile 10.
  • Just because they offer water and gatorade to you every mile doesn't mean you have to take some every time.  Stick with roughly the same drinking schedule you've been doing during your training.  
  • You are not going to sleep well the night before the race, trust me.  I've run thousands of races and I never sleep well, nobody does.  It won't affect your race, even if you toss and turn all night only to get up at 3am.  Two nights before the race is the important one when it comes to sleep.
  • At some point during the race, make sure you soak in the whole spectacle.  There will be thousands of people ahead of you, thousands behind you, and you're all doing this crazy thing at 6am in the morning.  It's a pretty amazing thing to be a part of, so let yourself just soak it in and enjoy it!
And probably the most important thing to remember:  You rock!  You've raised a ton of money for a fantastic cause, taken a chance undertaking something big and scary, gone out and trained despite having a thousand reasons not to every time you stepped out the door.  Instead of thinking of everything up to this point as preparation for the race, think of it instead as the race being the reward for doing everything up until now!