You’ve put in the hours of training. You’ve fueled your body. Now it’s time to put all of your hard work to the test. The best way to relax and enjoy race day is to be prepared. Have a set plan that you create during your training so that the morning of the race you’re just going through the motions. In addition to determining what you’re going to eat, figure out where you going to eat (home, restaurant). And yes, always have a back-up plan. Because, as you know, life (and racing) can be unpredictable!
Hydration can make or break your race. It’s important to find out what sports drink will be provided during the race. If it’s different than what you train with be sure to plan how you’ll carry or have access to your preferred hydration source. You could wear a hydration belt or have friends stationed along the course ready to hand you your preferred fluids.
Make a list of everything that you need to take with you to the race. Take two bags. One bag should have everything in it that you’ll need before and during the race; the second bag should have everything that you’ll need for after the race. Pack the day before the race so you’re ready to go that morning.
The Night Before Race Day
- Eat a nutritious meal that you’re comfortable with – whole grains (whole wheat pasta or brown rice); grilled or steamed vegetables or a salad (lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, and light dressing); and a small amount of protein such as grilled chicken, fish, or lean red meat.
- Don’t experiment! Stick with the fueling plan that you’ve fine-tuned during training. If you had pasta and marinara sauce the night before your last successful long training run, don’t try chicken and rice! A new food or combination of foods could upset your stomach or leave you feeling “off.”
- Sip on fluids throughout the day to stay hydrated.
- Get a good night’s sleep.
- It’s race day! Remember to stick with what’s familiar and has worked well for you in training.
- Eat your usual pre-long run breakfast three-four hours out. Don’t rush! As you know, the trick is to top off your energy stores without feeling heavy in your tummy. Some good options: Oatmeal and raisins or cold cereal with low-fat milk, a bagel with peanut butter, egg with toast and juice. Avoid slower-digesting high fat foods like sausage, bacon, greasy hash browns or pastries that can lead to nausea.
- If you’re used to having a cup of coffee before a run – go for it. If not, now is not the best time to try it! Although caffeine may make your run feel easier, it also stimulates your digestive tract. Consider yourself warned.
- Continue to sip on fluids to stay hydrated as you warm up.
- Know that your fueling and training regimen has set the stage for you to shine. You’re prepared and can step up to the starting line with confidence.
During the Race
- Keep hydrated. It’s a good idea to take a drink at every drink station, even if you don’t feel thirsty — especially on a hot day. However, it’s important not to overhydrate. Again, stick with your routine from training.
- Maintain your blood-sugar levels. If you’re running a long race (a half-marathon or longer), you’ll need to consume carbohydrates along the route. This may be in the form of food (like banana or raisins), gels, sports drinks or a combination. Whatever energy-replacement option (s) you decide to use, make sure that you’ve tolerated them well in your training runs.
After the Race
- Congratulate yourself – you did it!
- Once you cross the finish line, you’re on the recovery clock. It’s time to replenish with fluids and food. To start the process, eat a high carbohydrate snack along with some protein (you’ll need to pack and bring with you). Portable foods that work well are banana and peanut butter sandwich, raisins and nuts, or rice crackers and almond butter. You may not feel hungry right after the race, but it is important to consume something — even if it’s just a sports drink — to jump-start the recovery process.
- On the flip side, some athletes feel ravenous after a long run. However, it’s best to avoid eating a huge meal right away – your body may not be ready to tolerate a large amount of food until later in the day. Have small snacks until you’re ready.
- Continue to sip on fluids – water or sports drink to cool down and re-hydrate.
- Although you may want to celebrate your success with an alcoholic beverage it’s best to wait until you are hydrated and have eaten a meal.