And you are ready to run that marathon. You haven’t missed a run during your 16-20 week training program. You followed it religiously even through the taper when you thought you would pull your hair out with boredom and extra energy. You are stronger and leaner than you were four months ago. You have your iPod loaded with four and a half hours of your favorite running tunes.
Are you leaving anything out?
Running, swimming, and Cycling aren’t the only things you need to do to make sure you are ready for your race. Training is a major part of being ready and without it, your race is doomed before it even begins, but there are other things too. Things that may not doom your race, but they can make it a whole lot harder if you don’t know to check them out.
The biggest one is reading the race website. You should be doing this before you register, before training starts, and again before the race. Things you are looking for are:
Any rules especially if they can disqualify you.
The products they will have at the aid station and train with them or bring your own. How many aid stations are there and how frequently are they.
Look at the route and elevation map, if they have one. This will help you decide what type of training you need to do. How much climbing and descending is there? Everyone thinks downhill races are easier, but they aren’t if you don’t train to run downhill.
Make hotel arrangement if you need them or reserve a campsite. If the race is within an hour of my house I drive to the starting line because I will sleep better in my own bed than I will at a hotel.
Make sure you know when and where packet pickup is. Don’t assume you know because you’ve run the race before. These types of things change year to year. Some races do not have race day packet pick up, especially bigger and longer races. If you have to travel to the race, make sure you will arrive before packet pick up ends. If you know you are going to cut it close, make sure the race director knows that too.
Read the schedule of events. Some races must shuttle you up a canyon or where ever the starting line happens to be. This is critical because the race may not start until 7:00 a.m. but the last bus will leave the finish area at 5:00 a.m. You do not want to miss that bus. The other thing you must be aware of is how long you will be waiting between the time the bus drops you off and the start of the race.
In Utah, many marathons begin up in a canyon. The runners run down and into the valley. There are shuttle buses at the finish line, which take runners to the start. They usually drop them off an hour before the race starts. Everyone huddles around fire pits trying to stay warm. Typically, you can wear warm clothing to race start, take it off, and put them in a plastic bag a few minutes before the gun goes off. The bag is taken to the finish line to wait for you. This is important to know. It takes energy to stay warm. If you are standing in a windy canyon at the break of day for an hour, you had better be prepared. You can also take a plastic bag to sit on or wear if it rains while you are waiting.
Check the weather. You should be watching the weather the week before your race. Especially if your race is during a season when the weather can change quickly. Showing up at the starting line in shorts and a t-shirt when there are going to be torrential rains may not be the wisest decision.
Plan dinner for the night before. Don’t stuff yourself with pasta the night before a race. Eat the same amount of food you would normally eat. Extra carbohydrates won’t help you because your body can only store so much glycogen regardless of how much you eat.
Have a list of things you need for the race set out on the table, so you don’t forget anything or pack them in your car the night before. Set all your stuff out the night before. Shoes, socks, clothing, bib, garmin, gu or other food, ipod, and earbuds. You are less likely to forget something if you get it ready before you are rushing out the door in the morning.
Driving to the race. Know where the start is and how to get there from your house. Know where you can and cannot park. Know which roads are going to be shut down. If you are meeting people there, have a place planned or a way to contact one another once you arrive.
Have a breakfast plan. Know what you are going to eat and make sure you have it. Know what time you need to get up to be able to eat and digest before you run.
Set two alarms (just in case).