Now that you've put in the long hours of training and preparation it's finally time - race day is here. Although the hardest work is done, you don't want to neglect the race day planning and not be prepared to perform at your best. This includes prior to and during the actual event. Having a plan and routine will help ease those race day nerves.
Here are some tips that will help make your race day experience as stress-free as possible and may just enhance your performance in the process.
Get up and get moving
Research has shown that optimal performance isn't likely in the first couple of hours after waking up. So, make sure you get a good night's sleep and set an alarm for at least three hours before race time.
What to eat before the race
You should eat your last major meal 12 to 15 hours prior to the start of the race. Eat foods that are easily digestible, and make sure it's food loaded with simple carbs. It's the time when you should enjoy a plate of pasta with regular marinara sauce. However, do not overdo it by over-eating. You can try eating smaller portions of carbs throughout the day prior to the race. Most importantly, don’t experiment with foods you don't regularly eat.
For the morning of the race, leave yourself time to consume and thoroughly digest a high-carb breakfast. Consume 75-100 grams of carbohydrates three hours before the race.
Keep hydrated before the race
You want to be hydrated, but avoid consuming large amounts of liquid a half-hour prior to the race. Just sip small amounts or rinse and spit if your mouth is dry, or if it is a hot day.
If you have been in the habit of drinking coffee before your workouts or long runs, don't stop. It can actually be a performance-enhancer.
How to plan what to wear
Don't overdress, but dress for weather that's 20 degrees warmer than the actual temperature. It may be cool at the start, so you may want to bring throw-away clothes that you can peel off just before the start.
Avoid stress by having all of your clothes, including your race bib, laid out and easily accessible the night before the race. If it’s an out-of-town race, make a checklist to make sure it's all there before you travel. Check again the day before the race. If you are missing something, you'll still have time to replace it.
What to bring in your race bag
Make sure your race bag is packed with everything you need, including:
It's also important to pack clothes and gear that you have used before. Race day is not the time to try out new shoes, socks or shorts.
Avoid last minute rush, arrive early to the race
The last thing you want to do is run to the starting line minutes or seconds, before the starting gun. Plan to arrive at least one hour before the race and give yourself plenty of time to warm up.
Know the course
Study the course map thoroughly before the race, preferably in the days or weeks leading up to the race. Know where all the hills and turns are. Also, plan to run in the middle of the road at all times, rather than near the curb where the road slopes to one side of the other. This will prevent running with a leg-length discrepancy.
Get psyched for the race
Mentally rehearse, or visualize, the race both the night before and in the morning. Focus on key parts of the race like the start and challenging sections of the course, while imagining yourself in good running form and feeling strong. Be realistic, as well. Imagine yourself fighting through the fatigue.
Don't forget to warm up
Begin your warmup routine about a half-hour before the race. Start with easy jogging, follow with some stretches, and finish with a few shorts bursts at race pace.
Stay calm and enjoy the experience
Being nervous on race day is only natural, but turning that nervousness into self-doubt can sabotage all the hard work and preparation. Believe in your training, what you're capable of, and then treat the race like a hard, long training run.
Most of all have fun and enjoy the experience of being out there with like-minded people who are probably just as nervous as you are. Don’t forget to enjoy the feeling of:
Easy does it, remember to maintain your pace
Staying calm also means not getting too pumped up by the race atmosphere and starting at a pace that's too fast. You will feel it later in the race if you do. Instead, plan to run the first one or two miles conservatively.
Consider ordering yourself a temporary pace wristband or tattoo online to wear for your race. These can help you keep on track with your pace throughout the race and can be custom ordered for many races.
Hydrate, but don't overdo it
Drink plenty of fluids during the race, just as you have during training. However, be careful not to over-hydrate, even on a hot day because it can be dangerous. Research has shown that drinking four to eight ounces of water each hour is sufficient. Drink 16 oz. water two hours before race time, which will allow enough time for it to pass through your system.
Recovering after the race
Once you have crossed the finish line it's important to keep moving. Walk for five to 10 minutes to give your legs a chance to cool down. Keep drinking small amounts of water or sports drink, even if you feel like you don't need it.
It is important to ice sore spots as soon as you can. While it's not necessarily comfortable, covering your legs with cold water and ice in a bathtub will help accelerate the healing process if you can bear it. Try to keep your legs elevated as much as possible for the next 24 hours.
Eat small, easily digestible foods following the race. Stick particularly to foods high in simple sugars before going on to lower glycemic foods and protein. Protein is important for rebuilding damaged muscle tissue.
Whether you are new to racing or an experienced runner, being prepared will help make your racing experience more enjoyable. And with each race, you will surely discover additional tips to add to your bag tricks to make your day go even smoother.