So You’ve Done All Your Training…

thinking runner

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).

Add Some Sparkle back into the Dreary Winter

xmas tree

The cold temperatures and extended darkness, get all of us a little down after a month. Adding a new activity, can be just the thing to bring some brightness back into your routine.

Many runners take the winter as their “rest season.” Miles are decreased and the focus becomes maintaining a certain amount of fitness or foundation through the winter. Taking a rest season has definite benefits. You’re less likely to get burned out if you have one season where training and building miles are not such a dominate feature of your daily routine. It also allows your body to recover from all the micro tears and any injuries you experienced during the race season, which haven’t fully healed.

Winter seems like the perfect time to decrease your miles too, because it’s cold and dark outside. Family and friends are visiting and you want to be able to spend time with them. There are holiday parties for different social circles you’re involved with and it would be nice to stay out a little later rather than check out early because you have a long run on Saturday morning.

The down side of dropping your miles is for some runners, it can lead to mild depression, which is compounded by the dreariness of winter, cornucopia of sweet foods, and stress of the holidays.

How do we take advantage of this rest season without gaining weight and falling into depression? Try something new. All those things that were put on hold because your training took over your weekends, now is the time. The karate or dance classes you always wanted to do, go ahead and register for them. The Zumba or Pilates class at the gym, get in there and give it a try. Never had enough time to add strength training, you do now. You can even try something more seasonal, such as, snow shoeing, skiing, or snowboarding.

Everyone around you is asking you what you want for Christmas, tell them you want to be registered for a class or a pass to the ski slopes. Learning a new physical activity not only keeps the extra pounds at bay and the depression, it also builds collateral supporting muscles, so when you are ready to start your training again, you will be in better shape.

Even if you don’t want to get into another sport, you can learn something else new pottery, sewing, ceramics, brewing beer, wood working, whatever. It doesn’t really matter, just take some time to do the things you have put on hold while you were focused on getting up early and building your miles.

Once the snow melts and the warmth of the sun returns, you will be ready to make 2015 the best race season ever.