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Every training cycle and every race is a chance to learn. I learn so much from each race that I run (and often more from the bad ones). There are some aspects of training I plan to continue doing while there are others I realize don’t really work. And yet there are a few training details that I’m willing to give another shot. While you can’t control every aspect of the race (weather, stomach problems), you can control what happens in the days leading up to it and ensure that you are as ready as you can be.
Below are some of the things I do and don’t do during race week. Most of these I learned by trial and error.
Race Week Do’s:
- What Has Worked: You’ve successfully gotten through long runs, a training cycle, peak weak and maybe even some tuneup races. Continue doing what has worked for you – from your shoes to your meals to your paces on runs.
- Think plain, simple, light: Plan your meals this way and your stomach will thank you. I typically aim for carb-dense foods in the days leading up to the race and then add some protein the night before. But everything is very plain – nothing loaded with cheese or spices
- Sleep More: I try to go to bed about 30 minutes earlier each night about 3-4 days out from the race. Chores around the house, blogging, and responding to emails all take a backseat to sleep in the days leading up to the race. I aim for 7-8 hours of sound sleep a night as the race approaches.
- Stay off Your Feet: This one is harder than it sounds, especially if you have a job and/or kids, where staying off your feet is not possible. But try to kick those legs up and rest your muscles as much as you can, especially the day before the big race.
Race Week Don’ts:
- Do Anything New: You’ve probably heard this mentioned about race day. But this also goes for race week. We have all this free time during race week because our runs are shorter, but that doesn’t mean you need to fill every second with new activities. Don’t try that barre class you’ve been eyeing or decide to go to a bikram yoga class if you haven’t already been doing so. Be mindful of how much time you are spending on your feet and especially of anything that could leave you feeling sore the next day.
- Change Your Diet Drastically: I made this mistake last fall. My entire diet did a 180 during race week. I cut out all fiber and upped my carbs for the sake of carbo-loading. I didn’t realize that I was eliminating things that my body had become dependent on and had worked so well for me for that training cycle. I felt sluggish and tired on race morning. This past spring, I didn’t really eliminate anything from my diet. I just cut back on a few things while increasing carbs (only slightly). I found that I felt and performed better on race morning.
- Overeat: Carbo loading does not mean over eating. Your mileage is reduced significantly so don’t be worried if you feel like eating less than usual. Your caloric intake should be similar to what it normally is (if not a bit less because of the mileage drop). For my first few marathons, I thought it would help me if I ate a ton of food in the days leading up to the race but I showed up on race day feeling bloated and heavy.
- Sightsee: Save this for post-race. It’s a great way to stay active and prevent the lactic acid buildup! Your legs will thank you at mile 20.
- Stress: Remember that you’ve put in the work, completed the training and are ready to conquer the race. Stress will not help you on race day. But it can wreak havoc on your stomach and your sleep!