Preparing for an Endurance Race: 10 Tips
1. Check Your Shoes – Make sure you are not racing in brand new running shoes or shoes that have more than 4 months (or 300 miles) of wear on them. New shoes are a recipe for injury, blisters, and pain. Old shoes – even if they still look good – will have a crushed insole from use and will not provide adequate support for the distance of your race. If you need new shoes, it’s best to get them 2-4 weeks before your race. This goes for walkers as well as runners!
2. Hydrate – Hydration begins 1-2 days before your event! Long car rides, summer heat, and airline flights can exacerbate dehydration, so it’s crucial to have a water bottle with you at all times. Drink enough water that your urine is the color of straw (or if you are taking a multivitamin, it is a paler shade of neon yellow). If you do not like the taste of water, perk it up with cucumber slices, rosemary sprigs, lime, or mint leaves.
3. Fuel Properly – For events lasting longer than 2 hours, your pre-race fueling begins 2 days before the event! Emphasize starchy whole grain carbohydrates such as potatoes, brown rice, whole grain pastas, quinoa, millet, sweet potatoes, oats, and corn. Add abundant fruits and veggies and top it off with lean protein. Eliminate alcohol and processed foods so that each bite is nutrient-packed fuel to maximize your performance and recovery.<
4. Test Race Day Fueling Options Beforehand – Use your longer training days to test the fuel and electrolyte beverage that will be handed out along the course. If you find the taste horrible or it upsets your stomach, you’ll have the opportunity to find something that works for you before the big event. Visit the event’s website to find out what fuel will be handed out and where along the course it will be given (I’ve found some courses don’t hand out fuel often enough, so I still carry my own).<
5. Do Not Wear Heels! Walking around in heels throws our low back into a stressful position, binds our feet in a narrow space and keeps calf muscles in a state of continuous contraction. It’s best to not make it a habit of wearing them at all, but certainly it’s important to keep your feet in flat, comfortable, roomy shoes for the last 2-3 days before our race. If other obligations require heels, try to keep walking to a bare minimum.
6. Keep the Visit to the Expo & Other Sightseeing Short and Sweet – It’s tempting to spend hours walking around the expo or the city you are visiting for your race, but a successful race is made on strong, rested legs. Most expo halls are on hard, taxing concrete floors. Dart in and out of the expo and save the city tours for the day after the race.
7. Prepare for Weather Changes – Even if the weather report indicates a certain temperature, factors such as humidity, wind, and sudden changes can leave even the most seasoned runners without proper clothing. Don’t rely on the expo to provide what you need — they’ll often sell out of high-demand supplies. If you are racing away from home, it’s best to pack for hot and cold — just in case! My favorite trick for the start line — a cheap, over-sized sweatshirt from a thrift store to toss off along the first mile. It’s warmer than a garbage bag and will be collected and donated to those in need.
8. Sleep – The hours we sleep are the hours our body spends repairing, rejuvenating, and recharging. The night before the race is often a sleepless one — if you can ensure you have adequate rest during the week prior, one night of pre-race insomnia won’t have as significant an impact. Bring earplugs and a face mask if traveling; a favorite pillow and other comforts from home can also ensure a better night’s sleep. Plan to retire early and adjust your mealtime to accommodate; finish dinner at least 2 hours before bedtime to ensure sleeping hours are spent restoring rather than digesting.
9. Create a Ritual to Combat Nerves – This is one of my favorite parts of racing! Finding a ritual or routine for your events offers stability, assurance, and can also serve to ensure you are well prepared. It can be as simple as laying out what you will wear, fastening the bib and chip to clothing, and taking a warm bath before bed. Some people meditate on their finish, sprinkle their pillow with lavender, or set out a specific breakfast for the morning. It can be as simple or silly as your heart desires; its purpose is to both calm and prepare you for your event.
10. Put It in Perspective – In the end, your race is one moment in your life. How well you perform and your finish time ultimately has no relevance on your inherent worth, who you are, or all of the wonderful things you offer to the world. Enjoy the journey of the course itself, reflect and be proud of the work and commitment it took to get there, and have fun!