Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Race Day Lessons Learned - The Marathon

Several of the "RunDisk" group are running their first 26.2 this weekend. This is an exciting event for me since I've been running with this group for the last couple of years and have seen first hand the progress from a few lunch time five milers every week to toeing the starting line of 26.2. Wish I could be there but I have my own event to deal with. Best of luck guys! I wanted to pass along a few tips that I've garnered from the races I've done:

Race Week: Rest and relaxation is the key this week. Eat well but don't overeat. Prioritize sleep over low-value activities like watching TV, cleaning the kitchen, checking the kids homework (wait, scratch that one... check the homework). Remember, BEER IS NOT A HYDRATING BEVERAGE. Those of us who partake (we know who we are ;)) should hold off until Sunday afternoon.

Mental Aspects: If you're like me you will feel a little sluggish and have some doubts about your race prep. You're worrying that this taper is costing you some fitness. Don't sweat it, you've put the work in, you're fine. You may lose a trace of fitness, but you'll gain a lot of form - your legs will be fresh for the race. "You're fit enough, you're fast enough, and gosh darn it you're gonna do great." My best practice for countering this feeling is ...

Final Week Running: Don't run a lot of miles this week - 50% of normal max. but do go ahead and do a few miles (2 or 3 on Tuesday/Thursday) at a good pace. You'll notice the effects of rest combined with months of training. It helps calm the doubts and it's good for the legs. Don't overdo it of course, but don't underdo it either.

Race Weekend: Friday night is the night that matters, sleep wise. Eat some protein for dinner, and get to bed at a reasonable time. Odds are you will not sleep Saturday night. Carbs for dinner on Saturday are always good, but do what you've been doing. Just make sure you are hydrating, and drink some sports drink during the day. Get your gear together before Friday if possible: pick out your shoes, socks, shirt, nutrition, etc. and get it organized. One less thing to keep you awake Friday night...

Race Day: It's gonna be chilly on race morning. Bring a throw-away shirt that you can run in for a little while. I actually take a pair of my wife's thick hose (knee-high) cut the ends off, and turn them into disposable arm-warmers. Those worked great at the Napa Valley Marathon. Don't overdress, don't wear a jacket, any extra clothing besides your shirt and shorts should be DISPOSABLE .Put band-aids or body glide on your nipples, don't be this guy. I use body glide on my inner thighs as well to eliminate "chub-rub". Vaseline works for this too.

The Race: Have a plan, and stick to it. For first-timers you can be aggressive or conservative, just know that the more aggressive your first 15 miles, the more you'll suffer in the last 6. There are a lot of water stops, but it's harder to hydrate appropriately than it seems. Make sure to get a full cup of sports drink at least at each water stop. A lot of times I'll find myself drinking maybe 4 ounces every 2 or 3 miles, which really isn't enough. Walk through the first few stops if necessary.... my eating plan is to eat one GU just prior to the start, one GU after 45 minutes, and one every 30 minutes thereafter.

Mistakes I've Made:

1) Spicy noodles and a micro-brew the night before the Big Sur Marathon. Nuff said, I think I spent 20 minutes in the porta-potties that day and had my slowest day ever

2) Spending Energy on non-running related activities: OK, so this was New York Marathon, and there were so many people I couldn't resist giving high-fives to as many as I could. I probably ran an extra half-mile that day. IMPORTANT: run the inside of every turn. Marathon courses are measure from the inside of each turn, so run as close to the curb as possible to minimize your distance.

3) Starting too fast: Truth be told, this wasn't necessarily a mistake. At CIM in 1999 I ran the second half 8 minutes slower than the first, and I still PR'd. But those last few miles were painful!

4) Listening to my body in the final 6 miles: when you're on the doorstep of the finish line, you have to stop feeling the pain and just push through to the end, unless you're legitimately injured. Everybody feels it at the end of the race, but that's where the race is made.

5) Stressing: The marathon is a big deal, but you guys are ready for it. Pain is temporary, the medal lasts forever.

Post Race: Don't forget, what you do Sunday after the race helps determine how you feel the following week. 2 words, ice bath. Suck it up, you just finished a marathon. Eat right after the race, and make sure you eat some protein within the first hour.

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