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Your first start line.
Your hope is for your first finish.
You’ve trained, you’ve paid, and you’ve managed to stay committed to this monumental benchmark called YOUR FIRST RACE. It’s exciting, yet terrifying all at the same time.
But you aren’t sure what to do the week leading up to the race.
What do I eat? How much water should I drink? Do I need to figure out a taper schedule? How about carb loading? Do I need those gel packets? Can I have my coffee? How do I put on my race number and where the heck do I put my timing chip?
As if fear weren’t enough, now you are utterly confused.
Don’t worry. Take a breath. Calm down…and follow these 8 tips to rock your first race.
- The only expectation for your first race: TO FINISH. This takes all the added pressure off and allows you to enjoy the journey and culmination of all your hard work. If you want to feel truly liberated, leave your watch in your car! Run for the FEEL of it rather than the speed of it.
- Don’t change your training, just decrease your intensity. This is your FIRST race. How technical does it really have to be? The week of your race, keep your training schedule as you know it, but slow down, relax, and just make those legs move for you.
- Carb load Nutrient load. Truly, you should be doing this during your training, however, the week prior to your race, load up on clean foods and nutrient dense carbohydrates like: greens, sweet potatoes, squashes, veggies, and fruit! Don’t be afraid of protein either. Mix it up and add in some beans or lentils for a great protein/carb mix. Also, go easy on the sugar and caffeine as these can deplete and dehydrate your body.
- Hydrate. Drink ½ your body weight in ounces of water. Add in an extra 8-16 oz per hour of workout. If it’s going to be a hot one on race day, up your intake the day before. The best addition you can make the week of the race: an electrolyte! A good option: Coconut water.
- Sleep! This should be your NUMBER ONE priority for race week. Your body repairs when you sleep, so don’t skimp on this vital time to give you a rested and revved up engine on race day. Your best regeneration time starts at 10 pm! So, get to bed!
- Be comfortable in your second skin. Race day is NOT the day to try out a new running outfit, and definitely not new socks or shoes! Run in your favorite outfit that doesn’t chafe, ride up, or distract you in any way. The last thing you want to worry about is your comfort.
How about that race number and timing chip? Place your number in a position that keeps it from flapping or rubbing you the wrong way. I suggest using a race belt that can be moved around easily from chest to waist and from front to back. And that timing chip; it goes on your ankle, or even your shoelaces. Pick up your race packet and play with the positioning of these two items BEFORE race day. Just one less thing to have to worry about.
- Eat what you know works. The rule of thumb for a pre-race meal is: eat what you KNOW works for you. Try out different variations before a speed workout during your training. This is a good way to see how your stomach reacts in the extremes of running. Generally, a pre-digested food works best and a small amount will do for a shorter race. A good example: a smoothie, or even a gel packet. How about food during your race? You will only truly need more calories if your event is greater than 1 hour. Gel packets, honey packets, and bites of banana are good examples of blood sugar boosters.
- Arrive early! There is nothing worse than arriving only a few minutes before an event. Not only does this not allow you to warm-up, stretch (if you like to do that), and use the bathroom; but it completely takes your mind into extreme panic mode! This means your heart rate is up, you are breathing hard, and you may even become nauseated…all before the gun goes off! Do yourself a favor – go to bed early (see tip #5) and plan to arrive at least 45 minute prior to start time.
Use these 8 tips as a race-week checklist. Follow each one to keep your stress level under control! You want to keep your mind on the task and not on the hassle. Come race day, you can be calm and prepared, making your experience MUCH more enjoyable. This IS YOUR FIRST RACE! Take in the scenery and embrace your success when you cross that first finish line.