I’m a creature of habit: I like to know where I put my keys, sit in the same spot on the couch, and follow a general daily routine. Some would say it’s a little OCD (trust me, I’ve had some OCD moments in my life: like folding my laundry in college. I know, you’re thinking, “that’s great!” But it wasn’t just the clean laundry, I also folded my dirty laundry into the hamper so it looked “neat.”)
So it’s not too hard to imagine that I like to have a ritual when it comes to racing as well. I tend to do the same things pre-race, starting a couple days beforehand. With a race coming up on Sunday, I thought I’d fill you in on what I do and why…
1. A Week Out: Rest Well, Eat Better
I try to eat “healthier” – which means no fried food, no fast food, and no “bad-for-me” snacks. Lots of fruit, veg, and my required levels of carb and protein. I’m not always good at this (in fact I had a cupcake first thing this morning), but I’m working on it. Getting enough sleep is crucial – many runners don’t rest enough. I read somewhere (likely in a running mag) that you should sleep an extra 10 minutes PER NIGHT for every 10 miles of training (16k) you do per week. So if you usually sleep seven hours a night, and you then do fifty miles of training, you should be sleeping almost 8 hours every night!
Reason: I think my diet the week prior has a lot to do with my performance on race day. While I likely should be watching my diet more all the time, I like to eat my food, it’s one of the reasons I like to run, but I try and shore up my bad habits the week before to prepare.
2. Two Days Out: My Main Meal
I know a lot of races have a pasta dinner the night before the race, but I find pasta and sauce (particularly red sauce) to ravage me like a beast on race day, so I have it two nights before. Often with chicken meatballs. Yummy.
Reason: Apparently carb-loading is really good. Everybody does it. I cave to peer pressure. And you need the energy on race day.
3. One Day Out: Water
Though I’m quite conscious of my daily water intake (generally two liters a day), I take special precaution the day before the race to hydrate well. I spread out my water intake throughout the day – like watering the grass, I don’t want to just dump in a bunch all at once, I want to let it absorb. Is there science behind this? I hope so, but you won’t find a link here.
Reason: I don’t carry water with me on race day. Whether it’s a 5k or a marathon, I don’t like to carry belts or bottles with me, and prefer to even have my supplements handed to me out on the course. Ensuring that I’m hydrated helps me on race day to stick to my hydration plan and get water only at stations provided.
4. One Day Out: Evening Meal
It’s becoming the same – every time. Chicken (on the BBQ if possible), rice. Maybe some carrots or carrot casserole (it’s a secret recipe from my mom-in-law). That’s it. No dessert. No crazy sauces. It works, so why change it?
Reason: I love spicy food, but it does bad things to my system. Keeping my meal low-key and bland may not taste the best, but it ensures I have an incident free run. I always pity those that have to stop and wait in line during the race to go to the bathroom. What a clock-blocker that is!
5. Night Before: Race Prep
Getting my shoes and gear together, making sure I have my clothes laid out, getting all of my supplements packed, printing off a copy of my registration, making sure I know where I’m going (and when), and getting into the race mental space all happens before bed-time. If I have a chip for chip-time, I put it on my chosen pair of shoes.
Reason: Be prepared. I wasn’t a Boy Scout, but it’s sound advice. Leaving things to the last minute often means you end up forgetting something.
6. Race Day: Early to Rise… (I forget the rest)
I think it’s something about being “healthy, wealthy, and wise” – but I don’t know who thought that up. Anyways, I’m up at least three hours prior to race time. In order to get enough sleep, that often means an early night the night before to get enough rest. I have my pre-race meal when I get up, giving me enough time to digest. I have some steel-cut oats, maybe a yogurt, often a banana. Sometimes it’s just peanut-butter on toast. And a banana. Always a banana.
Reason: I need to digest my food, as little as it is. I also like to shake the jitters out, double-check my gear, and ensure I have enough time to get to the race. Checking my gear includes making sure that my iPod is charged. Hate when I forget to do that!
7. Race Day: Before the Gun
I have a pre-race warm-up routine that include five to ten minutes of light running followed by my “usual” warm-up (a five minute routine from one of the Biggest Loser DVD’s – thanks, Bob). I make sure I have time to check my laces, get to my corral, set up my iPod, go to the bathroom (one last time!) before the gun goes off. The tricky part is timing it so you’re not standing around too long beforehand, wasting your warm-up (particularly important on cold race days).
Reason: Priming the body for the race ahead is important. Getting ready for me has become clockwork – I barely think about it. Without it I end up with joint problems, mid-run cramps, and mental fatigue. I try to keep everything under control that I have the ability to control and leave other things out of my mind (like weather and road conditions). Focus is the key at this stage.
Once I’m done my race routine the fun begins!