The Big Day is about to arrive!
This chapter will give you all the information you will need for the big race and the prep during the week before.
There is one cardinal rule: DO NOT TRY ANYTHING NEW! Only use equipment you have tried, worn, or practiced with. This includes EVERYTHING! On the day of a race, do not try a new fanny pack. Do not try those new socks you just read about that are perfect for marathons. Do not try the new supplement that is supposed to give you the extra boost.
Test everything you plan to use during race day well beforehand. No matter how benign something may appear to be, there may be unforeseen consequences. Using myself as an example, in my early days I could actually run at a decent clip; I came through the ten-mile mark just over 50 minutes in a half-marathon. I was feeling great and getting ready for the final push for the last three miles. I took a different energy drink at an aid station that I had never sampled before instead of my usual drink of water. By mile 10.5, I was on the side of the road throwing up. I still finished the race, but my “experiment” took minutes off my time.
The rest of the chapter focuses on the day of the marathon and the prep the week before. For those that haven't read the Tapering section, which should occur one to two weeks in advance of the race, please go here
True carbo-loading is more than just eating pasta the night before the big race. It starts with a phase of carbohydrate depletion at the beginning of the week. By the end of the week the bulk of the diet is carbs. There is no need to get into too much detail, as I think that is an utter waste of time. I tried several variations early in my career, when it was in vogue, and I didn't see or feel any measurable benefit. In fact, it was counter-productive. Instead of focusing on the race, the focus shifted to the food. This added to the anxiety. At the end of the day, carbo-loading falls into the category of DO NOT TRY ANYTHING NEW BEFORE A RACE.
Keep the diet you are comfortable with!
In the last several days before the race, however it is best to favor carbs over high protein meals, and the night before the marathon it is best to avoid any foods that take a long time to digest.
To review, this isn't the week to try that new and improved super-diet. This isn't the week to shave off those few extra pounds. DO NOT try anything new!
During the week before the race, you should be formulating plans for the running portion of race day. Do not leave anything to the last minute. There will always be unexpected events that you did not anticipate. If you have taken care of every detail well before hand then you will not create additional, unnecessary anxiety. Below are several plans you need to have before the race: One is for the race itself and the other is for pre- and post-race.
Research exactly how you intend to get to the starting line. Whatever time you think you should arrive, plan on getting there a full hour earlier. There is no excuse for having circumstances that may arise to may prevent you from getting to the starting line in a timely manner, so that you can relax and settle in before your pre-race routine. Take care of as many details as possible such as who is driving, the route to take, and where you intend to park. Read the information on the pre-race. Every detail should be worked out in advance from what you intend to wear to what you plan to eat on the morning of the race.
This is something you should be thinking about well in advance. Every race is different. A simple change in course conditions due to weather can change how you approach a race, even if it is on a course that you have run before. Plan for diverse factors
If possible, drive the course before the event. If the race takes place in a city other than your own, you can always go to Google maps and use Street View to visually navigate the course.
It is preferable to drive the course, though, because that will give you better insight where the hills are and how severe they are.
If you know the course it may help you determine the shorter route. This will help you in the late stages of the race when you are tired and not thinking as clearly.
If you have a specific time goal, then it is good to know what your splits should be. However,It is best to give yourself a window of time. I see some people who are slaves to their watches. If their pace is eight minutes per mile they will do everything in their power to hit exactly eight minutes. For them it doesn't matter if there are severe uphills or if it is a crowded section of the race. This can have the effect of expending more energy than necessary Conversely, I see people running slower than they should on some downhills because they want to hit that time pace. DO NOT BE A SLAVE TO A SET PACE!
Don't be one of those people. Pace is determined by the average time it takes to cover a distance over several miles. To keep your body in a relaxed state, you sometimes must allow the conditions to influence just how fast you are running.
Also, have a plan for the weather conditions. If it is going to be a hot day, start dumping water on your body early to help mitigate the temperature.
On a hot day DO NOT STOCK UP ON WATER!. This will only throw your body out of balance. This will certainly impact your performance and can cause serious health problems. The majority of serious health problems are from people drink too much liquid.
The rule is Drink when you are thirsty! Unless you are thirsty, there is no need to take more than a sip or two of water at an aid station.
Have a plan in place for after the race on where you intend to meet you family or friends.
Have a Backup Plan in case that doesn't workout.
Also, have yet another plan just in case you do not finish.
Keep contact numbers with you.
It is helpful to bring a fresh set of clothes to change into after the race. Even on a nice day bring something warm.
During the week before the race, the body will be making adjustments. This is because of both emotional and physical factors, ranging from excitement to anxiety. In addition, your body will start releasing adrenaline into your tissues, and this only heightens all other emotions you may be experiencing. Coupled this with the decrease of exercise and you will find yourself a bundle of nervous energy.
It is important to just chill. It takes a conscious effort to keep your body in a calm and relaxed state, and there are some factors that can't be controlled, such as traveling and sleeping in a new location. Family members coming to visit may factor in. Whatever factors arise, you must still try and relax. During this week it is more important than ever to focus on not sweating the small stuff. This may take as much diligence effort as you expended in your training in the previous months. Keep calm as much as possible.
It is highly advisable to have everything in place the night before. You should be able to roll out of bed and without even looking be able to put on your clothes that you organized the night before. The bag that you intend to take with you should be fully packed and ready to go. You should not have to think about a single thing, whether it be directions or who is driving. Take care of all details, no matter how minor they may seem to be, the night before.
For your breakfast on race day, it is best to avoid a big meal. Whatever you do, go light. One English muffin and a small piece of fruit will prevent the stomach from demanding to be fed.
Avoid taking too much liquid; there is no reason to stock up before the race. If you do, once the adrenaline kicks in you will find yourself standing in long lines for the portapotties. There is zero benefit in trying to hydrate before a race. Drinking before a race will also negatively impact your performance and can put you at risk for Hypnotramia.
The rule is drink to thirst. If you aren't thirsty then do not drink. If you are then drink until your body says it has enough.
As I previously mentioned, make sure you get to the race with more than enough time to spare. If it is a large race such as L.A., Boston, or New York, also give yourself more than enough time to get into the corrals. The object is to save as much energy as possible. It takes energy to stand in place for an extended period of time, so help yourself to be comfortable. It is best to bring an extra piece of cloth to sit on, so the cold concrete doesn't chill the body. Sit in the most relaxed position possible. Expect for people to bump into you. Avoid getting aggravated. If you fully expect getting bumped, you can just relax and give them some slack.
It is important to properly place yourself in the corral. It is counter-productive to get too close to the start line if you do not intend to run with the leaders. If you are a 5-hour marathoner and you place yourself with the under 4-hour group, you will find yourself running too fast in the early stages, no matter how hard you try and hit your pace. This means you will unnecessarily suffer in the latter stages.
Keep warm. Bring layers of clothing that you can shed as the start time approaches.
15 minutes before the race you should start to get physically ready. Stand up. Start with light stretches. Most likely there isn't much room to move, so simply put both hands over your head and slowly stretch.
Do not go out too fast. Do not go out too fast! Do not go out too fast!!! If you do not plan to run sub-three hours, then I think you should have the mindset that the first six miles is just a warmup.
There is an entire section devoted to maintaining you body temperature. It will help to fully understand this topic. Click here for more information ( Body Temperature)
Remember your race plan.
After the first several miles when the pack thins out a bit, look to start running the tangents. Click here for more info. (Running the tangents)
Somewhere around 14-17 miles things usually start to get tough. This is where mental conditioning comes in. For those that followed the advice of "Do not go out to fast" instead of being passed, you will find yourself now passing a greater number of people. Use this to your advantage! Pick targets in front of you. Focus on reeling the other person closer to you. When passing the person, make sure you do not settle into their rhythm. After the pass pick your next target. The goal of this exercise is to break the race into smaller manageable goals. This is the most critical portion of the race. By not focusing in on the big goal: The finish Line, you focus on the smaller goals of maintaining pace and proper breathing, which makes it easier to cover ground.
At a certain point, most people have to go into what is known as survival mode. Hopefully this point is well after mile 20 and not mile 14. There are tricks to get you through the difficult times. First make sure you are still hydrating properly. At this point the majority of the liquids should be a sports type of drink. If fruits such as bananas and oranges are being offered, then take whatever sounds good. Change the rhythm of your stride if you are struggling. Sometimes just shortening you stride will help. Set small goals.
Hitting the Wall
There is a difference between ordinary or even severe fatigue in the latter part of the race and hitting the wall. For those that truly have experienced hitting the wall, the difference is like night and day. This can happen to even experienced runners that are still feeling fairly good up to the moment the wheels come off. Essentially hitting the wall is running out of easily convertible fuel for your body. This may or may not be coupled with dehydration. It is important to try and access if dehydration is playing a role.
Please go to this link to get more information on dehydration. If you are also exhibiting symptoms of dizziness and nausea you may be in more trouble. Seek out proper care immediately.
For those that have simply hit the wall, the race is not over. The approach to the race changes. The goal is to get back to survival mod to finish the race. Albeit this will be more slowly than planned. The first rule is not to panic!
It is important to have a general understanding of what is happening to your body, so you can get through this rough patch and finish the race. Essentially you have run out of fuel. However, this is a less than accurate statement. In reality, there is not any easily convertible fuel in the form of Blood glucose and muscle glycogen. Your body has plenty of fuel in the form of fatty acids. This, however, takes a lot more oxygen to convert back into energy. Just before the crash that oxygen was being used to maintain your pace. So something has to give. This is the reason why hitting the wall is different from general fatigue.
Some describe hitting the wall as if someone piled a 100 pounds of rocks on their shoulders. Pushing through this is simple not an option. It isn't possible to keep up with the oxygen intake that is necessary to maintain your previous pace. To get past this, it is necessary slow down or even walk. Once your body converted over to burning fatty acids your ability to maintain your proper oxygen level has been compromised. It is now important to get air back into your oxygen deprived body. Take deep breaths. The next step is to raise your blood glucose levels. This is where those energy gels really come in handy.
If you do not have access to the sports gels, then look for fruit or other food to consume. Make sure you are still hydrating. Try to find a sports drink such as Gatorade, that will also help to get calories back into your body. Once your body has stabilized it is possible to recover. This can happen surprisingly fast. It is still possible to get into a rhythm that will get you to the finish line in a reasonable amount of time.
To find out what to do as soon as your cross the line go to Post Marathon