I'm running my second half marathon this weekend with Louie and our good friend Nick (it will be Nick's first!) and I'm well into my pre-race rituals. I've been thinking this week how important the week before your race actually is. Though I've been training for weeks, this last 7 day period before pinning on my number, lacing up my shoes, and running 13.1 miles with my 3,000 new best friends, is probably more important than all of those miles I've logged getting ready for the big race. So, today I wanted to share with you a little Survival Guide to the week before your race!
Rule #1: TAPER YOUR RUNNING!
"Taper" is a fancy term runners use that basically means slow down and give your body a rest. The week (or in some cases 2 weeks, depending on how long your race is) before a big race is the time to let your body recover a bit from the long miles you've been putting down day after day during your training. It is still important to continue to run so you don't fall completely fall out of shape, but make sure you're running shorter distances at slower paces. In doing this, you're saving your body from stress so it is in top condition to race.
Rule #2: Water, water, and more water.
Water is your best friend the week leading up to your race. Try to drink one or two Nalgene-esque bottles of water a day. Choose water over other drinks with your meals. Water when you wake up. Water when you go to sleep. Water when you're thirsty. Water when you're not. Drink so much that it annoys you how often you have to run to the bathroom with a full bladder. (That means you're doing it right!) Although it may be refreshing in your dry mouth, the water that you drink during your race does not actually hydrate you, so it's important that you start chugging your H2O during the days leading up to your race.
Rule #3: Ssssttttrrrrreeeeeetttttcccchhhhh
The same idea of drinking water applies to stretching. Do some simple stretches at your desk at work. Instead of plopping yourself on the couch, take 20-30 minutes to get a good stretch in while your catching up on your favorite reality TV show. Stretch in the shower while your muscles are warm and loose. The more your stretch in the days leading up to the race, the better your body's going to feel during it.
Rule #4: Stalk the Weather
I'm a bit obsessive when it comes to checking the weather for big events, but with a race it's a little bit more important. Since you'll be outside for an extended period of time, you need to know exactly how you'll need to dress in order to be comfortable throughout your run. Temperature wise, dress as if it's 15 degrees warmer than it is. If it's raining, dress with lighter, less absorbent materials, so you aren't running with extra weight absorbed into your clothes. Dressing right can make a huge difference in how you run your race!
This is my personal favorite part. You want to pick out clothes you'll feel running in, and if you have people coming to cheer you on, something they can spot you in out of the thousands of other competitors. I prefer bright colors!
Rule #6: Lay everything out the night before.
This way you can make sure that you have everything you need for race day and you'll cut down your chance of forgetting anything early on race day morning when you're groggy and trying to mentally prepare for the race. I like to have my race outfit layed out (everything from my number to my socks), and put all of the extras (change of clothes, foam roller, snacks, water bottle, headphones, etc) into a bag that I can just grab in the morning.
Rule #7: Visualize
Think about your goals throughout the week and how you plan to accomplish them throughout the race. Positive thinking is one of the most powerful techniques in sports (and life) for success. Tell yourself that you can accomplish the goals you set out to reach, and if you put the work in during your training, you will reach them!
Rule #8: Relax!!!
At this point, you've trained all you can, and there's no use stressing over it if you think you didn't do enough. Have confidence that you've set yourself up for success and that you'll do the best you can come race day. Once the race is over, you can evaluate what you did right, what you did wrong, and how you can adjust your training to have a better race next time. But for now, enjoy the race and the events surrounding it, take in the atmosphere, and have a great time!