Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Raceday Preparation for Runners

Recover: Training for any event can drain the mind, body and spirit.  The weeks and days prior to raceday are meant for tapering, not cramming; you can not get in shape in one or two weeks, but you can get hurt.  You have likely spent the last 12-18 weeks in “perma-soreness,” so you deserve to run with fresh legs on raceday!  Proper recovery includes decreased duration and intensity of exercise, one or two extra days of rest, increased mobility exercises and increased hydration.  All of this (as apposes to a week of complete rest) will allow the healing and refreshing needed to make raceday enjoyable.

PrepareMake a checklist before packing your raceday bag – include even the obvious items such as shoes, socks, race bib and timing chip/strap.  Raceday is already hectic enough: finding parking (or riding a shuttle that takes forever), checking in your bag (which can be a half mile from the start), waiting in line for the port-o-potty (maybe even twice), wading your way through the crowd to your starting corral . . . after all of this, you have very little energy to focus on anything else.  Do all you can in advance to limit raceday anxiety.

FuelWith a wake-up call sometime around 4:30, travel to the race, and the aforementioned “hectic” events on raceday, it is easy to neglect proper fueling.  The only “perfect” raceday breakfast is the one your body is used to consuming.  Eat a larger meal (300-500 Calories) about two hours before the start of the race and then a “jumpstart” snack 15-30 minutes before the start (50-100 Calories, mostly carbohydrate).  It is okay to have some caffeine on raceday – but once again, make sure you know how your body responds.

HydrateSimilarly to fueling, it is easy to start your race under-hydrated.  Between breakfast and your warm-up, drink at least 20 ounces of fluid (a standard water bottle).  Between your warm-up and the start of your race, drink at least another 12 ounces (half of another water bottle).  Since your body needs a combination of water, carbohydrate and electrolytes – have a sports drink OR water along with carbs and sodium.  The body can load (store) muscles with both energy and water – so your fueling and hydration program begins days before your race, not in the morning.

Warm-up: The #1 way to prevent injury is a proper warm-up – the #1 task people skip on raceday is the warm-up (a few stretches while waiting for the port-o-potty do not count).  As with your nutrition and hydration, you should complete a warm-up routine you have done before.  The ideal warm-up includes exercises that: increase heart rate, increase muscle temperature, take your joints through a greater-than-normal range of motion and involve dynamic movements (as running is dynamic, not static).  Equally important, the warm-up preps the mind for the upcoming 3.1 to 26.2 miles.  Always finish your warm-up with a smile, applause, and/or high-5’s – your friends can use the encouragement as much as you!

Mantra: Never try anything new on raceday!