How to Race Like the Pros

Slide1It’s race week in Nebraska! Lots of Kearney Runners are gearing up for the Lincoln Marathon and Half this weekend. There are many first timers in the group (GOOD LUCK!) and many who have chosen to take on bigger challenges shortly after this race is over. (WOW!!) To help you this weekend, and in future training cycles, here are some tips that will help you run like the pros.

1) Carb Loading. Most runners are in the habit of carb loading the night before a race. This is generally a good practice, but the food you eat the 3-4 days before the big race is even more important. Carbs help restock glycogen stores, and for every gram of carbohydrate your body stores, it also stores 3-5 grams of water (Source: Active.com article) The night before the race, avoid over eating. And, don’t try anything new. It’s best to stick with fuel you have already tested. For three methods of carb loading, see this article.

2) Nutrition. Most experts will tell you to eat a small meal 3-4 hours before your race starts. I know of very few people who are disciplined enough to wake up that early on race day. A common race day breakfast is a bagel with peanut butter and a banana. How you fuel is really an individual thing, which means it’s important to test fueling strategies on training runs. Race morning is not a good day to alter your plan. For a good article on fueling and hydration, click here.

3) Hydration. Just like with carbs, you want to start a few days before your race. Most of us walk around dehydrated on a regular basis. And, if you wait until race morning to drink up, it will go straight through you… and you’ll spend part of your race in the potty line. It’s important to drink during the race–but don’t drink too much! For most of us, water or Gatorade at every aid station (about one drink per every 2 miles) should do the trick.

4) Stick to your plan. Have a plan for how you will run your race. By race day, you should have a good idea of the pace you can stick with for 13.1 or 26.2 miles. Most people will tell you to start out slower and pick up the pace as you move along. If you start out too fast, you could crash and burn and wind up taking more time to finish than if you had started out conservatively. Lincoln Marathon uses the Smart Pacing system, which encourages use of even effort throughout the race. Your pace per mile will vary slightly, depending on the terrain… but they’ve already done the planning for you and know exactly how much to vary the pace per mile.  The pacers are excellent at sticking with their pace and getting you in just under your goal time. (Brandon will be pacing the half in Lincoln!)

5) Visualize. Things can and will go wrong on race day, so plan for it! How will you react if your calves cramp up? What will you do if you hit the wall? What will you say to yourself to get through that rough patch? (See some of my favorite tips from triathlete, Chris McCormack.)

6) Stretch, Foam Roll & Ice. Make it a practice to stretch and foam roll. On race day, you will see lots of people using knee braces to try to stop knee pain that is actually caused by a tight IT Band. The foam roller is your friend. Use it to keep knots out of your IT Band… (and to keep all your muscles loose). You’ll be amazed at how much better you run when your body is not full of knots.

7) Know your “experts.” If possible, use “experts” who understand your goals: a chiropractor, massage therapist, personal trainer and/or running coach can help you get to race day in top form. Because I tend to pull stupid moves that leave me injury prone (back-to-back half marathons, anyone?!) I wouldn’t be running this Sunday without the help of these guys! If your body is tight, it’s not too late to get a massage!

8) Recovery. Remember the protein after a long run or race. Many runners like chocolate milk post-run. This is also a great time for massage and ice baths. After the full or half marathon, take a few days to recover.  Some people swear by an easy recovery run the day after a race. Listen to your body, and remember to take it easy.

What are your best race day tips? Share in the comments or on our Facebook page!

Good luck to everyone running this weekend. Be sure to keep an eye on the Kearney Runners Facebook Group for times to meet up at the pasta party and for group photos before the race!

And, if you haven’t already registered… Buffalo County Stampede is coming up soon! 

For more information on Kearney-area races, click here.

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6 thoughts on “How to Race Like the Pros

  1. Reblogged this on powerofrun and commented:
    Lots of people find Power of Run via Google searches about carb loading. I wrote a lot about that last year when I was messing with my diet and trying to nail down my fueling strategy. Here’s a post a wrote for a running group in Nebraska. It has lots of race day tips… and has a link to a solid article with three methods for carb loading.

    Happy racing and training!

  2. Excellent post! It seems that everyone has different race prep rituals, plans, and ideas. Thanks for sharing some solid guidelines that allows runners to decide what might work best for them.

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