I can’t believe the Baltimore Running Festival is less than ONE week away. Last year I put together a post highlighting race-day tips for how to crush your first half. Reading through them again was a good reminder leading up to the race and I decided rather than write another post, to just to add some more detail about what my race day looks like.
DON’T TRY ANYTHING NEW ON RACE DAY. Race day isn’t the day to try out a new pair of shoes or eat something different for breakfast. Make sure you’ve done at least one run in your shoes and as far as food goes, stick to what you know.
This one is key. Just because something works for someone else, doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily going to work for you. So don’t go rogue on race day – got it?
Here’s what may race day looks like:
Long runs require more energy – which ultimately means more fuel and more time to digest. I recommend eating a pre-race breakfast packed with protein, carbs, natural sugars and some fats 2-3 hours before your race.
- Granola w unsweetened almond milk, fresh berries, bananas and sliced almonds
- GF toast w almond butter, honey and sliced bananas
* almonds + almond butter contain satisfying amounts of fat and protein that your body will digest slowly (keeping you energized and full for longer, which is key for a long race)
* fresh fruit provides a carbohydrate boost and natural sugars that your body can quickly digest for fuel. Some fruits are high in fiber so be careful. Peel skin of fruits like apples and peaches to reduce the fiber count or opt for bananas, a low fiber choice that is easier to digest (you don’t want to run into stomach issues mid race)
Shoes – I’ve been running in the UA HOVR Sonic
* while I don’t recommend trying out a new pair of shoes on race day, it’s not a bad idea to get a new pair of shoes as race day approaches. Remember, shoes are like tires. As we log more and more miles on them, they start to breakdown and eventually could contribute to injury because they lack the support our bodies (feet, knees, ankles) need
Socks – I picked up my first pair of Feetures at the Baltimore Running Festival Expo a few years ago and they quickly became my go-to sock for running. Their patented Sock-Lock technology provides targeted compression, support and blister protection.
SET OUT YOUR GEAR THE NIGHT BEFORE. Attach your bib to your shirt and timing chip to your shoe, if you have one, so you have less to worry about in the morning. Set out any important items like headphones or gel to ensure you don’t forget them.
And while we’re talking about the night before, carb load and hydrate.
I always indulge in pasta the night before a big race. Most of those carbs are stored as glycogen in your muscles, and glycogen is your body’s most easily accessible form of energy. In addition to glycogen, your body also burns fat for energy, but your body has to work harder to convert fat into fuel. So the goal of carb loading is to fill your muscles with glycogen to avoid hitting a wall and forcing your body to slow down to turn fat into energy.
* you should actually start carb loading a couple of days leading up to the race because you can’t completely fill your muscles with glycogen from just one meal.
* avoid high-fat foods – opt for tomato based sauces as opposed to cheese or butter based sauces like Alfredo
CHECK THE WEATHER. If you think you’re going to be cold, wear layers because your body is going to warm up as soon as you start running. I suggest wearing an old sweatshirt or long-sleeve that you don’t mind ditching before the race if the temperature is cool.
PACE YOURSELF. Hopefully you have a good base going into the race, so your body is familiar with the distance. Know your body and don’t go out to fast. Pace your first five miles, maintain your next five miles and give it whatever you have left for the last 3.1.
BE MENTALLY TOUGH. When your body starts telling you that you are tired, need to slow down or even walk – keep going.
Hopefully you have been hydrating leading up to the race, but they will likely have hydration stations along the course with water + some form of electrolyte drink like Gatorade. Hydrate early to avoid issues later on in the race. Most races will also have energy gel, pretzels, and/or some form of fuel along the course. I typically grab water at 1-2 stops during the first 7-10 miles, gatorade towards the last third of the race (hello electrolytes + some sugar) and pack my own energy blocks. CLIF BLOKS Energy Chews provide a quick, chewable, energy while racing. I carry a pack while I’m racing and typically have a chew around mile 8/9 when I’m starting to fatigue.
CREST THE HILLS. According to Runnersworld.com, a common mistake is backing off as soon as you reach the top of a hill. Instead, open up your stride and continue your momentum after you’ve reached the top.
This is especially important if you are running a hilly course, like the half marathon + marathon courses at the Baltimore Running Festival. I always like to think of the downhills as recovery, not to be confused with time to pull back and slow down. The downhills are time to open your stride and continue your momentum, but you will be cruising at a faster pace without having to exert as much energy. And mentally, you are now going downhill so it’s smooth sailing. Small wins, right?
ENJOY THE EXPERIENCE AND BE MOTIVATED. Races provide me the biggest adrenaline rush. From the spectators scattered throughout the course holding signs and cheering to volunteers handing out water and providing split times, a lot of effort goes into a running event so make sure you enjoy every step of it. Laugh at the signs (my favorite is still “That’s a long way for a free banana”), push yourself and allow other runners to push you.
YOUR GPS IS PROBABLY WRONG. Whether I’m using my TomTom GPS Watch or the Map My Run App on my iPhone, the race is always longer than my devices are telling me. Not by far, but just a heads up!