Training. We are training our bodies by stressing them a little bit more each week, then resting to let the body adapt to that work. Then repeat. We train our minds to handle the rigors of more miles and to get out of bed to get in our last snowy run of the season, because we need to be strong minded to reach our goal. We’ve also trained our spouses, children, and coworkers to get used to seeing us head out the door in running clothes or show up to a meeting with a recovery drink instead of coffee. All of this work IS training, but we are also practicing. Basketball teams practice inbound plays, soccer teams “set plays,” track relays handoffs over and over again until the simple action becomes part of their muscle memory, almost as unconscious as breathing (almost).
We don’t often call it practice, but that’s what it is. Running events can be overwhelming. Not only do we have to cover a long distance by our own power, but we have nutrition, hydration, clothing choices, parking, figuring out how to drink while running and not wear orange Gatorade down your shirt to think about. Runners worry about EVERYTHING. There’s even a name for checking the weather on race day, weather stalking, and it starts 10 days out from race day! It’s easy to say don’t worry about it, but nearly impossible to take that advice. So, let’s take control of that which we can: pre-run routine, hydration, nutrition (both before and during), proper drinking while running and let go of what we cannot. PRACTICE all of it before race day. Start now.
I’ve covered what to eat and what to wear many times. You can read those here. The bottom line is that the old running coach mantra on race day is true, you should do nothing new on race day. The only way for it to feel normal is to practice it. Set out your clothes the night before a long run, eat the same breakfast, and yes even try the same pre-run dinner the night before. We have 7 weeks left, so if you make a mistake and your tummy dislikes broccoli and chicken with whole wheat pasta, you can try something else next week. Do it until it becomes a habit, just part of your run.
This weekend will be a terrific opportunity to pull out the shorts and singlet to practice your race outfit. With weather in the 60s and 70s, this is our first opportunity to run in conditions close to that on race day. Eat your planned pre-race dinner on Friday, get in your chosen breakfast on Saturday, carry (and use) your gels or blocks or favorite fuel, and enjoy every mile. Look around and smile! While you are at it, practice your finish line pose. If you see a bunch of runners with their arms in the air or flexing at the end of the run, you’ll know you are among fellow Cap City athletes!
Wow we are 7 weeks from race week! That means we only have a few more long runs left in our training schedules. Our workouts are all important to our fitness, but its the long ones where we really start to understand our progress. Throughout the season, we go from thinking that 13.1 is REALLY far, to wow that’s only 1 more mile than last week! The long runs prepare our bodies and minds for race day. But they can be so much more than that too. Start thinking about your long runs over the next 6 weeks or so as dress rehearsals. They are the events where we can practice what we will put in, on, and around our bodies on race day. Then the endurance athlete’s mantra will become your own “nothing new on race day!”
What to Wear
Figure out now what works and what doesn’t as far as gear goes. I realize that a Saturday in March might call for tights, a hat, and long sleeves while in May you might choose shorts and a singlet. However, try to find a couple long runs to wear what you will on race day, from head to toe. Now is the time to find out that your cute polka dot singlet chafes your arms, NOT at mile 10 on race day. You still have time to sort it out or find a different outfit! Most importantly, figure out your shoes and socks soon. My last post on running shoes and socks discusses how to find your race shoes. The most important thing is to try them out on a long run and make sure they work for you.
What to Eat and Drink
Even more than what you wear on race day, what you choose to put into your body is best determined beforehand. This takes some trial and error for people, so start now. We need to be fueling our bodies throughout the week with high quality nutrition. We need carbohydrates to move (to live really but we’re talking about running here). We’ve all heard about the pre-race pasta parties, but you don’t want to do that for the first time the night before Cap City. Use your long runs to mimic everything you are going to eat and drink starting the day before. Work out what your night before dinner will be, your breakfast, what you carry with you, etc. If you haven’t yet tried consuming Gatorade or a gel like Gu, now is the time to start. It might take a few attempts to figure out what works for you. If you need more information on WHAT to eat and when for long runs, check on my blog from last year on Eating on the Run.
Have a great week, enjoy the sunshine. Happy Training!