HAPPY NATIONAL RUNNING DAY!!
In honour of yesterdays National Running Day! I thought today would be as good a day as any to address some of the most common questions (yes, even the awkward ones) I get asked from clients and friends that are preparing for their first ever run race!
QUESTION #1: Should I keep my training up the week before the race?
The week before your race is considered your TAPER time, when you scale back your training (though not entirely) and you focus on rest and rejuvenation. Your last longest run will be 2 weeks before your race ideally, keeping up your normal distances until the Sunday before the race where you run 1/2-2/3rds your race distance. The rest of the week you stick with relatively low mileage and no high intensity work. A ‘cheeky’ morning run (2-5kms) the Saturday morning before a race is a great way to ease nerves.
QUESTION #2: My training load has decreased and my anxiety has increased! What do I do?!
First of all realize that A) you are not the only one experiencing panic this week, B) you are ready- trust all of the training you have done leading up to this week and relax. I always tell people to be extra mindful of their sleep this week, get in as much as you can. No one sleeps well the night before a race so don’t count on catching major ZZZ’s Saturday, rest lots the week before so that you aren’t going into Saturday feeling exhausted already. You will get such an awesome high on race morning and when you cross that finish line the lack of sleep the night before won’t be an issue :).
QUESTION #3: When do I start keeping an eye on my hydration?
Ideally this is something that is top of mind for you throughout all of your training, but during the week before a race its important to definitely focus on getting in that H2O. If you are thirsty you are all ready dehydrated, so just keep that water bottle on you at all times and take small sips throughout your day. Your pee should be a light straw colour and not clear (too hydrated) or bright yellow (dehydrated). I usually slip in some extra electrolytes into 1 of my bottles on Friday and Saturday or have a couple coconut waters instead of normal water for the added potassium. Basically, you don’t want to start hydrating on Saturday, keep it a focus all week and you will be fine.
QUESTION #4: What do I eat the week before? The day before? Day of?
This question is definitely a big one and one I plan to dig into it more in another blog. The main thing to remember is that your training load has decreased this week so no need to really eat ‘more’ rather just continue to eat the same amount, the glycogen stays in your muscles until you exercise. I tend to add on some extra carbs but sticking for the most part to my normal plan. For example if you start eating a bunch of fruit as your carb source you could end up with diarrhea.
My day before meal plan is big breakfast, medium lunch and small dinner. I never eat a big meal the night before a race, and I keep things simple- whole wheat pasta and tomato sauce for lunch, so I have ample time to digest as well I find that my nerves are a lot less intense and my stomach has time to settle before bed. Dinner is always on the lighter side and early in the evening to assist with a good nights sleep. I could go on and on here…. The biggest thing, don’t drastically change anything, and avoid any heavy, rich foods that could cause stomach issues.
Same applies for race day nutrition, make sure breakfast is at least 2 hours before your race no less, 4 being the optimal. Stick with what you know works for your body and keep it heavier on the carbs. A good article that goes more in depth on morning nutrition for a race can be found HERE. During the race don’t put anything in your body, gels in particular, that you aren’t used to. Research before your race what will be served at the stations and either train with that product or be prepared to pack your own.
QUESTION #5: What if I have an upset stomach during the race or have to pee?
My golden rule race morning- pee when I get to the race start, do my warm up then line up again. A small sip of water after my final pee and then Im usually good. There will be bathrooms along the route usually at every water station. Stashing a couple sanitary wipes in your race belt, and some toilet paper is a good idea because especially at a bigger race the bathrooms run out of TP and sanitizer quickly. Not to mention if you have to jump in a bush you are prepared- and yes this does happen. (Refer to Question #4 and why we don’t mess with our nutrition to hopefully prevent stomach issues).
QUESTION #6: What do I wear on race day?
Wear what you have been training in, you know it works, you’ve tested it on long runs you know where it might chafe you so you can lube up in all the right places. As tempting as it is to get a flashy new outfit, shirt or bright new socks, this can end up being the source of serious discomfort on race day. Think brand new socks and blistered feet, or underarm chaffing from a new tank top- in this case the function beats out fashion every time.
QUESTION #7: Can I have a beer/ glass of wine the night before the race?
You bet! Can you have 5? Probably a bad idea. Personally I always have a small drink with my dinner the night before a race. I find that it helps me relax slightly and also helps me fall asleep, I have dinner usually around 5pm so its more than enough time for me to keep hydrating etc, and is not going to hinder my performance the next day.
Prepping for a race can be daunting especially your first. My best advice is to remember that there is no such thing as a stupid question and to remember that everyone at every race has had a ‘first’ race, and has had all the same hesitations and questions you have so ask away!