Run, Eat, Run: Practice Doesn’t Always Make Perfect

When race-day prep doesn’t help you find the best shirt, shoes, socks or gels.

When race-day prep doesn’t help you find the best shirt, shoes, socks or gels.

We’ve all heard it before: Don’t try anything new on race day. Test out your gear and fueling in training to find out what works for you, so when the day comes to test your strength, you’ll be strong.

I’ve had every intention of training with that philosophy during the first half of this year as I’ve ramped up the number of races I do. But frankly, when things don’t go right in training, it’s tough to know what to do for a race.

My biggest issues are with blisters on the inside of my feet, with my stomach and digestive issues, and with my pacing, aka speed. Will this sock-shoe combo give me blisters, and if it doesn’t at 5K, does that mean it won’t at 13.1? My fueling questions have varied from what to eat pre-race and carry on long runs to how often to refuel without needing a portapotty. And I have a tough time varying my pace for a negative split: It’s so much easier to go faster in the first half of a race.

I should readily admit that because of my job, I have the opportunity (or duty!) to test out all kinds of products. And because of my inquisitive nature, I love trying new things, so to some extent, I’m sure that adds to my difficulty to dial in the perfect race-day routine.

What I’ve Learned About My Feet

IN TRAINING: Sometimes the shape of your foot simply means you can be prone to blisters. Not having found a perfect shoe-sock combo for my longer runs, I think genetics is part of my problem. I tend to recover pretty quickly though.

IN RACING: My feet grew this year. Yes, I’m in my forties, but after a Ragnar Relay this spring, I needed to go up a half size. I ran in a brand new, bigger shoe for a 10K—yes, a new pair on race day! Better than having my toes squished and getting blisters in new places.

What I’ve Learned About My Tummy

IN TRAINING: I can eat the same thing and sometimes it’s good and sometimes it’s bad. I can also have a short period of discomfort—they say the mind can affect digestion so I try and stay very calm about stomach and bowel pains and they can subside (sometimes).

IN RACING: It’s possible to get a little stomach bug on race day, which means you shouldn’t read into it too much. Maybe those chews weren’t the culprit, especially since they work well in training. Also, not using any fuel for long runs so you don’t have stomach issues? Not a good plan.

RELATED: How To Fuel Your Workouts and Runs

What I’ve Learned About Pacing

IN TRAINING: For about six months, I’ve had a training partner for the first time. We both tend to want to just run without regard to our speed, so we’ve added workouts such as tempo runs and hill repeats. It’s easy to stay together in training.

IN RACING: It’s not so easy in racing. I tend to want to go out fast and she’s better at building speed at the end. Experts say you should “negative split,” or run the second half faster than the first, so I tried not to push the pace in my last half marathon. But I still went slower in the second half.

One thing is clear, I can still use more practice—in training and racing.

Tips for Weirdos Like You and Me

Blister Sufferers: If your feet sweat a lot, use foot powder before a run to help control the moisture and prevent blisters, but if your feet don’t sweat all that much, rub on BodyGlide or a similar product to add moisture.

Tummy Troubled: It may be easier to eat a good meal the night before a race and have something lighter the morning of, knowing that you have some stores to keep you going.

Pace Challenged: I’ve found that tracking my speed with a GPS watch has made it a lot easier to know how fast I’m going. Generally you can have the watch report your current speed and your speed per mile, so you can track yourself real time and over the length of your run.

RELATED: Best Running Watches


About The Author:

Nicki Miller is the managing editor for Competitor and Women’s Running. Follow her on Twitter @nickiontherun.