We're in the thick of race season (good luck to everyone running City of Oaks this weekend, or RDC next weekend!) and we know many of you are counting down the days to race day. You've most likely heard all of this a dozen times during training, but for anyone racing for the first time, or trying a new distance, here are a few last-minute tips to help you feel confident getting to the start line.
Rest. But also keep moving. But not too much.
There are runners who despise the taper period, who just keep barreling through long runs right up to race day without giving their bodies a chance to recuperate. Then there are runners (ok, maybe just me) who are one hundred percent certain that every step they take will result in grievous bodily harm two days before the race. Don't be either of those runners. Let your body rest, but stay active enough to keep your muscles loose and your blood flowing. Go for a few short, easy runs or walks the week before the race, and make sure to keep foam rolling.
Get some sleep two nights before the race.
It doesn't matter if it's your first race or your fiftieth, getting a good night's sleep the night before the race is difficult. You're probably buzzing with excitement, or nerves, or both; after you spend the evening worrying that you've forgotten something or that your somewhat-green banana won't be ripe by morning, you'll probably go to bed and spend another couple of hours triple-checking that you set an alarm, and then setting a backup alarm in case the first one fails, and then dozing off only to wake up again in a panic because maybe you set the alarms for PM instead of AM (you didn't.). Some version of this is inevitable. So, make sure you get enough sleep in the week leading up to the race, and especially two nights before.
Charge your watch.
This seems like the sort of thing you wouldn't forget to do, until you forget to do it.
Pick up your race bib.
See above. Why yes, I have forgotten to do this before a race. Twice.
Lay off the fiber and fat.
And maybe don't have cheese enchiladas for your pre-race meal, either (another one from personal experience). Ideally, you'll have experimented with pre-race dinners for your long runs during training, and you know what will sit well and what won't. Stick with easily digestible carbs (white bread instead of whole wheat), and avoid anything creamy or oily. Since most vegetables are also full of fiber, this is a fun time to let your inner 5-year-old bask in the knowledge that while you're eating pasta and bagels your non-running friends have to eat icky broccoli.
Set A, B, and C goals
You've trained hard, and you're prepared, but there are plenty of factors that can affect your performance that you can't control. Set an ideal goal - in perfect weather, when you're feeling your best and everything goes according to plan, this is doable. When you realize nothing is ever perfect and you can't have nice things, have a secondary outcome that you'd still feel good about - maybe it's not a PR, but it's better than your previous time running the course. Finally, set a goal that feels attainable even if everything goes wrong ("finish on two legs" or "just don't poop on myself" are good ones here). Running a race is an accomplishment, period, and the important thing is to recognize what you did achieve rather than dwell on what you didn't.