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Active Life talked to DC-area bloggers Sokphal Tun of Life as a Classroom, Sue Tate of This Mama Runs for Cupcakes, Kristi Martin of Runaway Wonk, Jennifer Beasley of Mark My Miles, and Erin Masterson of Happiness in Hindsight about how they stay prepared for race day. If you're training for a race this spring, listen and learn!
ALDC: What race(s) are you training for this spring?
Sokphal: I am currently training for the Shamrock Marathon on March 16th - making 2014 the year of the BQ!
Sue: I am currently training for the Shamrock Half Marathon (hoping for a PR), then the Cherry Blossom 10 miler, GW Parkway 10 Miler and then 4 half marathons in the month of May!
Kristi: I have a full schedule for the spring and picked races to help me prepare for my first 70.3 triathlon this summer and the New York City Marathon in the fall. I'm also running: The Love Run Half Marathon (March 30/Philadelphia, PA); George Washington Parkway Classic 10 Miler (April 13/DC); Nike Women's Half Marathon (April 27/DC); Broad Street Run 10 Miler (May 4/Philadelphia, PA).
Jennifer: My race schedule for this spring is full and I couldn’t be more excited. I’ll be racing the Rock n’ Roll USA Marathon, George Washington Parkway Classic 10 miler, Nike Women’s Half Marathon, MCM 17.75, and Mother’s Day 8k.
Erin: My focus this spring is the Boston Marathon on April 21. I had the opportunity to race Boston last year, and look forward to running again and celebrating the return of an amazing race. I also plan to run the DC Rock n Roll Half Marathon and Cherry Blossom 10 Mile this spring as tune-ups for Boston, and I do most of the Pacers 5K/10Kroad races as well, because they're great fun.
ALDC: Do you taper before a race?
Sokphal: I've done the research - the Taper Crazies are real. :) I normally taper three weeks before the marathon. During this training cycle, my peak run will be 23 miles, then 19, 13 and then it's GAME TIME. When I'm running 13 miles on a Saturday vs. 20-something miles, doubt starts to creep-in, but I have to remind myself that the "hay is in the barn" and to "trust in the plan."
Sue: I do taper. I think it's important to rest the legs and save them for race day. I typically run short 3-4 mile runs the week of a race with my long run being about 8 miles (for a half marathon).
Kristi: Yes, I taper for every race. It is important to let your body recovery before pushing it to the its best performance. My plan for taper depends on the race I am doing and where it stacks up in my race scheduling. For 10-milers and half marathons, I will plan no more than a week to 10 days of tapering. I keep up the intensity of my workouts and cut back on the time/mileage.
Jennifer: Let’s just say I do not taper with grace. Taper time leaves me with bouts of nerves that I use to work on projects that I did not have time for when I was training…like cleaning between the couch cushions. Or even registering for future marathons to convince myself the taper won’t last forever…
Erin: My taper is minimal, since I race so much (every other week or so). Last year I ran 30 races, which equates to 2 or 3 a month, with a few back to back races on Saturday/Sunday (one great weekend - I raced the Semper Fi 5k on May 18 and the Marine Corps Historic 10k on May 19). So essentially I use my races as part of my training regimen, rather than running workouts geared towards a few specific milestone races. This works for me, but not for everyone, especially those who are injury-prone. I will of course, taper for Boston, reducing mileage two weeks prior to the race.
ALDC: What do you do the night before a race?
Sokphal: I don't sleep well the night before a marathon (or at all). I've run really well with zero sleep during a marathon - think how much better I could with a few zzz's. :) The night before, I'll get in a good carb dinner (usually pizza or pasta); sleep in my running gear (anything to have me stay in bed longer); and lay out what I will need to put on and what I will be eating that morning. My goal for pre-Shamrock marathon is to zen-out, SLEEP, and remind myself to have fun - because if it's not fun, why do it?
Sue: The night before a race I make sure I lay all of my gear out to make sure I have everything. I also enjoy a nice glass of wine to relax and get rid of the jitters!
Kristi: My race eve looks the same as any night before my long runs -- Come home from work, have an early dinner, and lay out what I need for the next morning. This means putting together my "go" bag with my morning snacks, shoes, socks, pinning my bib on my shirt, and having everything ready. In addition, I double check my transportation plan for getting to the race, whether that is checking the bus schedule or making sure I know where to park. Then, I get in bed at a reasonable time. I am not a huge fan of the big carb-loading supper, but I do believe that you should not try anything new that could upset your stomach. I live in Glover Park and nothing sounds better for a pre-race meal than tacos from Surfside.
Jennifer: Toss and turn. I wish I could say that after many races I wouldn’t be so nervous right up to the starting line, but I still suffer from pre race jitters.
Erin: Since I race so much, I don't get nervous or alter my normal routine too much the night before a race, especially the shorter ones. Sometimes I race the best when I've been out too late the night before! But if it's a milestone or longer race (10 miles+), I'll try to drink extra water and go to bed earlier the night before.
ALDC: What do you do the morning of a race?
Sokphal: My go-to marathon breakfast is two pieces of bread with almond butter and a banana. For races and running, I'll have one piece of bread or a granola bar and a banana. Every body is different and this is what has worked for me.
Sue: The morning of a race I get up at least an hour before I have to leave the house in order to get dressed and eat breakfast to make sure some unmentionables get moving if you get my drift. (Sorry I've got to tell it like it is) My pre-race breakfast always consists of a whole grain english muffin with almond butter or peanut butter.
Kristi: For me, my race morning is like most mornings because it is important to have consistency. Waking up early is usually not a problem on race day because I am one of those people who mentally can set a time in my head and will wake up at that time. First thing is to wash my face and eat my breakfast. I want to make sure my body has plenty of time to absorb all those calories from my oatmeal and fruit. After sitting and having breakfast, I start getting myself ready. I try to get to the race about 30 minutes early. I don't want to be cutting it close or standing around, and it is nice to see all the excitement. I rarely check a bag, but bring a banana or something to snack on while I wait. I am one of those people who always wears a fuel belt. This came about because I ran the Cherry Blossom 10-Miler in 2012 without it, and the water stops was so busy I missed a personal best. Now, I carry everything I need with me -- some energy chews (Honey Stingers are my favorite), water and Skratch, my phone, ID, my house key, and some cash.
Most races I am meeting up with friends, so we usually we have a plan to meet before the race starts. We always let each other know our expected finish times and pick a mutually agreed upon spot to meet up after the race. There is nothing better than having someone waiting for you at the end.
Jennifer: Wake up groggy eyed from a restless night of sleep, drink coffee, eat a bagel with peanut butter and get excited for race day!
Erin: I wake up, drink water and eat a granola bar, pin my bib to my shirt, and go!
ALDC: What advice would you give first-time racers?
Sokphal: Have FUN! Eat up the running energy at the race expo (I love these!); get yourself pumped at the start line; have friends and family come cheer you on; remind yourself to smile while you're running (this will do wonders for your spirit and your photos); when things are getting tough, tell yourself how AWESOME you are (repeat this as many times as needed - I swear this works!); and say "thank you" the volunteers/police officers out there! They are so important in any race and help make it possible!
Sue: First I would say to make sure that you don't do anything different the night or nights before than you have during training. Eat the same thing and wear what you have worn during training! You don't want tummy issues or chafing issues during a race! Show up early on race day, especially in DC where the races are so large! And most importantly, I would tell a first-time racer to just have fun. Take in the sights, the sounds and the experience of the race. Save time goals for later down the road!!
Kristi: There are three pieces of advice I would give any runner preparing for a first race.
(1) Race the race you prepared for. You put in the training and know how you are feeling. Sometimes, life gets in the way of training, and especially with a first race it can be hard to determine how you should do. The first time I run a distance or try an event, I just shoot for finishing it uninjured. Then, the next time I focus on improving my time. Taking the initiative to try something new and committing to your goal is a great accomplishment.
(2) Don't try anything new leading up to the race. If your friends ask you to go salsa dancing for the first time the night before, tell them you will go next time. If you think about trying Ethiopian food for the first time, celebrate that deliciousness after the race. If you bought a new pair of shoes, make sure and break them in before race day. Your body has become accustomed to a routine, keep it that way until after race day. In 2010, I ran the Kentucky Derby MiniMarathon (13.1 miles) and wore new socks. By mile 8, my heel was a giant blister. It is tempting, but just stay on track.
(3) Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Two weeks before my race, I start tracking how much water I am drinking to make sure I am adequately hydrated. It makes me have such a better race day. I usually just keep a bottle or glass to sip on throughout the day, for me, that is about 10 glasses a day. When I was pacing the Baltimore 10 Miler (a great race) in June 2011, I felt the consequences of a hot day and dehydration. I was light headed, stopped sweating, and felt so sick. Thank goodness for my friend, Jill, who made sure I got home safely and called to check on me. The experience put me out for a few days. Remember, every body is different, so you may need to consumer more or less depending on your personal factors, for example, how much you sweat. Like anything, too much can be bad for you, too.
Jennifer: Train. Nothing helps build race confidence more than actually feeling ready for the race. Training can do this.
Erin: Don't set limits for yourself. Be open to whatever may happen, but always have the goal to race well and give it your best. I don't advise holding back in a race because you are afraid it will hurt or you won't finish. You will finish, and it may hurt, but that's how you get better.