You’ve worked for weeks or even months and as fall rolls in your race is quickly approaching. This can be an exciting and nerve wracking time. The key is to stay calm and use those nerves as fuel for your big race. Think adrenaline rush!
As you enjoy your taper and extra time not actually running, this is a great opportunity to make sure you have everything squared away before you take off for your race. If you are flying to a destination race this is a perfect time to pack a carryon bag with your must haves for race day. Years ago when I was figure skating I decided for one competition to go ahead and pack my outfits and music in my luggage. Major mistake! My flight was cancelled and I got shifted all over the United States just to make it to the competition on time. When I arrived, my outfits and music did not. The next few hours were a mad dash to fix that rookie mistake and it almost cost me the opportunity to compete in a national competition.
So learn from my silly mistake and pack everything that is essential for your race in your carry on. Assume your luggage will be lost and make sure you have a bag with all of the essentials with you when you walk off of that plane. Whatever clothes you plan to run in, your shoes, your sunglasses, any accessories such as fuel belts should be stashed in that bag. If you use a certain kind of fuel and aren’t sure you will be able to readily find it upon arrival, pack it with you. In fact, assume that there will be major delays and you won’t have time to get essentials when you arrive. Pack them anyway!
Don’t forget the little things. Band aids for the nipples? Make sure those are in your bag. The worst time to realize you forgot those is halfway through the race when it is too late. Body Glide? Pack it! Headphones or iPods are easy to use on your last run at home and forget to throw in the bag. Whenever I finish my last run before a race I toss it right into my luggage as soon as I return home and before I have a chance to forget.
Whether you are flying or driving somewhere you must remember to hydrate. Planes are notorious for stuffy air and they will leave you feeling dehydrated and puffy. Make sure you drink plenty of water during and after your flight. Try to get up occasionally and do a short walk, even just to the restroom, to give your legs a chance to move a bit. Start drinking plenty of water now to avoid feeling lethargic from your travels.
Use this time to also plan ahead for your arrival. Don’t assume that you will figure out what to eat when you get there. I have heard horror stories of athletes going out for their big pregame meal, only to find every restaurant in town packed. The last thing you want is to be forced to eat a meal at 10:00pm and go to bed way later than planned and on a full belly. It would be even worse to be forced to eat something you normally wouldn’t have the day before a big run. You don’t want to find out at mile 10 that pizza doesn’t really agree with your stomach.
Do you drink coffee in the morning? Call around and make sure somewhere will be open. When we were in Boston a few weeks ago my husband called Starbucks to see when they opened. They told him 5:30am every day. When he arrived at 5:30am and they weren’t open it was a slight freak out moment. We love our coffee and it is an essential part of our morning routine. Fortunately we got our coffee. But learn from us and plan ahead. Maybe get a few extra packets of coffee from the front desk the night before or bring instant coffee if you must. Hey, caffeine is caffeine!
If you can, this is a great time to try and get in a little extra rest at night. It is recommended that you try and get 30 minutes to one hour of extra sleep in the days leading up to a race. Many races start rather early and sometimes you have to plan in extra time to get to the start. This can easily have you waking up well before the sun rises. Don’t even get me started on those Disney race start times! On top of that, many of us have a hard time sleeping the night before. So instead of sweating that night of minimal sleep, get some extra rest a few days before the big day. This will leave you plenty rested and you won’t have to worry about that one night before.
The most important part of your game plan is to stick to what has been working. Make sure before you go that you have laundered your favorite running outfit, the one that you know won’t chafe on those extra long miles. Make sure you bring the shoes you have been training with and are properly broken in. Eat the things you know work for you. Get yourself to bed early.
Finally, make sure to take some time to enjoy yourself. Feel the happiness of making it through your training and the excitement of the upcoming race. Be proud of what you have done and get pumped up for what is to come!