Yesterday I ran my second race from the Dirt Cheap Trail Race Series here in my community. I’ll be posting a race recap later, but for now, I just want to share that this was a really challenging race for me. Ok ok, I’m not trying to sound like a downer, but, I needed to figure out why it was such a difficult race for me, other than that the terrain was difficult. I mean, seriously though, this race was a short 3.37 miles….pretty much upmountain (I mean hills) the entire way. It was brutal. Obviously, I survived to talk about it, and to wonder…what could I have done differently to make this race better for me…knowing I cannot change the terrain.
Here’s the truth. I was almost OVER confident going into this race. I kinda had an “I ran a half marathon, 3-6 miles won’t be hard at all” mentality. I did not prepare for this race like I would have for other races. And as a result, I had a tough race, physically and mentally.
That brings me to: 10 Ways to Prepare for a Race….of any distance.
While I am no expert….nor do I ever claim to be…I have found tricks/tips that work for me, and probably for other people too. All of this advice I’m about to give you are my own words of wisdom and come from personal experience or recommendations from others. What works for me, may not for you.
I digress. Let’s get prepared!!!
1. Set a reasonable goal. I can’t stress how important enough this is, and I think it is different for every single race or run you do. Sometimes goals start with “I want to run a full marathon.” Or “I want to PR in a 5k” (both of which are my current goals). Setting a reasonable goal, meaning, making sure you have enough time to complete a training plan, is so key. If you start training without enough time, you better prepare yourself for disappointment my friends.
2. Choose or create a training plan that works best for your schedule, not what other people say to do. I’ve found this to be very important over the years. When I began training for my half, and now a full, I had to change the training plans I’ve followed around. I have a life outside of running. What?!?!?!! I know, hard to believe! But I do, and sometimes it works better for me to do a long run on a Tuesday instead of a Wednesday. Don’t be afraid to get creative…just don’t skip important workouts…you are only cheating yourself….
3. Reward yourself for following through with the plan. And have others help you stay accountable. Tell people what you are doing. Training is hard work, and it always feels good to be rewarded. Grab a beer, glass of wine, or some Rita’s Italian Ice (I discovered this goodness after the race last night and am now obsessed).
4. Learn how to deal with bad days, runs, races, etc. You are going to have them. You know, those ones where your shorts are hiking up to your chest, your belt or armband keeps shifting or coming undone, you chafe in every area you didn’t even know was possible. You just straight up feel like hell. It will happen. Deal with it. Use lots of positive self talk to get yourself through it, because you can’t quit on race day. And have a donut when you are done. You deserve it. Silver lining: your next run will almost always feel better.
5. Hydrate, hydrate, fuel, hydrate, hydrate. Get it? Good. Don’t skip this ever during your runs or races. Ever. I use Cliff Shot blocks and Mio Fit water to replenish electrolytes. So good:)
6.Ok, so it’s the week (or few weeks in longer distances) before the race. Enjoy the taper. Take it easy and begin to mentally prepare yourself for the race. At this point, you most likely followed all of my awesome words of wisdom above, that you are physically prepared. Tapers are there for a reason, don’t ignore them. Give your body time to rest so that you can be ready for race day. It doesn’t matter if it is a 5k or a full marathon in my opinion. I think we always push harder on race days….so get your body ready for it. TAPER.
7. The day before a race is always the hardest for me. My advice is, remind yourself that you are ready, because your mind will tell you that you aren’t. Or at least my crazy mind does. Remind yourself that you trained hard, for a long time, and that your body can handle it. Because at this point, you are just in your own head. There is a lot of excitement the day before, embrace it. Eat some carbs the night before and get some sleep. This will be the hardest part, because if you are anything like me, you will toss and turn all night. So, back up, make sure you get a good nights sleep two nights before the race:)
8. Prepare your clothes and gear THE NIGHT BEFORE. Don’t wait until day of. Even if you know where everything is, it is still best to set everything out the night before. And please, only wear moisture wicking clothes. People chafe enough while running as it is, don’t increase your chances of raw painfulness by wearing cotton. Don’t smother your body and drown yourself in your own sweat. Moisture Wicking Clothes are a must!! Get your body glide out, your fuel belt, your phone arm band, your sneakers, hair accessories, etc. ready. Also because, I like to just roll out of bed in the morning and not get up earlier than needed.
9. Wake up and eat something. A banana. Peanut Butter Toast. Do it.
10. ENJOY!!! You successfully made it to race day!! Enjoy it. Focus on your goal, again, whether that is a time goal or just plain standing upright at the end of the race, get it done. You’ve got this!! Keep reminding yourself that, and keep countering all those thoughts you have telling you to quit, or you’ll never do it. You can and you will. And you will always have another chance if you don’t make that time goal. It’s hard work. STAY POSITIVE.
Over the years, I have found that if I follow these basic ideas before a race, particularly the last few before race day, I tend to do much better at my races. When I downplay the importance of an upcoming race, like “oh, I’m just running this 10k tomorrow to get some miles in,” I don’t perform as well. And although it may be true that I registered for that reason, come race day, I want more than I can put in because I didn’t prepare. Preparing mentally leading up to the race is just as important as preparing physically in my opinion. Hydration has always been somewhat of a challenge for me, don’t let it be for you, especially in these summer months. Yesterday, hydration and lack of mental preparedness were the top two reasons I did not do as well as I could have. It’s just as important to hydrate before the race as it is during the race. Lesson learned. Again.
I guess I had a lot to say about all this, probably because it’s so fresh in my mind from yesterday. Over time, you will also find tricks that work for you to get and stay prepared. I would love to hear your ideas too!!!
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