On Sunday I will be racing in the Columbus marathon which will be my eleventh "mary." Eleven is kind of an odd number. You always remember your first. My tenth was memorable (Boston '13) for a variety of reasons including it's impact on Boston and the world. Eleven must be wood or paper on the anniversary scale. What it does provide is ten marathons worth of experience. Many struggle with the taper going from 6-7 days a week of training usually with at least two of those pushing the body to its limits. When things wind down especially during race week, what do you do? My top ten (or eleven) tips on race week;
1) Ignore the temptation to run fast or long in the handful of runs you have race week. Face it...if you don't have it by this time, you will only tire yourself by doing this. #fuhgetaboutit
2) Diet. Just like the above, you should stick with what you've been doing all along, but if you're like me, you cheat a little bit on diet once in awhile. We're marathon runners after all and we burn a few calories, but resist the temptations and try to stay true to a reasonable diet. Lots of water and healthy carbs, and if you're me, avoid the gluten succubus.
3) Sleep. Hoard your sleep like you're literally charging your body's battery.
4) Get close to your time zone. For all the challenges my work (travel) schedule presents to my training, this one works to my advantage. Travel (if you can) as close as possible to race day. Rule of thumb is one day per time zone. For me, I traveled East for work on Wednesday to get one time zone closer. I'll fly Friday morning on a short flight to be reasonably acclimated to the Eastern Time Zone by the time I land. Coming from someone that traveled 100,000 miles last year, I know that travel can wear you out. Plan accordingly and compensate with rest as needed.
5) Body tune-up. If you're 22 years old and never have any aches and pains, you can skip over this. For me, I have a posse of people that make me feel good; chiros, PT's, massage therapists, mental therapists, orthos, snake charmers, hypnotists and the like. Last week, I had a P.T. tune-up (see blog post) followed up by a ninety minute full body massage earlier this week. #OMG
6) Relax. Relates to the above. No doubt I was in full on drool mode in the massage table donut, and I followed that up with a hot tub that night at home. You see a pattern here; rest, relax, and sleep.
7) Don't overdo the 72 hours leading up to race day. As most of my races have been "destination" races, I have flown into some great towns. With some family normally along for the ride, it's tempting to want to entertain them and yourself. Too much walking and staying out too late do not work for me. Save it for post race celebration!
8) Noah's Ark packing method. This implies packing the primary and the backup with a small dose of OCD. I have enough clothes to run the race three times. With cooler temperature expected in Columbus, I've literally "dusted off" some of my cold temperature run gear. I mentally walk through "head to toe" on what I'll wear based on a variety of temps. I prefer a singlet, but may opt for arm warmers for this race. Both Garmin's have been packed; two pairs of gloves (for cold and really cold weather,) and two pairs of shoes. I will make a "game day" decision on which pair to wear. I have also packed my favorite nutrition; iron supplements I take, Generation UCAN (pre-race) and PowerBar (in race) nutrition.
9) Mental preparation. I normally have three goals for a race. The first is always to complete the training and arrive on race day. This is a tough journey in and of itself. My second and third goal are related to what time I'm shooting for. One is a reasonable goal I know I can attain. The third is a "stretch goal." One I'm hoping to hit if I'm feeling great on race morning and the "moons align." This is usually a PR or slightly more aggressive goal. Focus on the prize, but maintain with a balance of relaxation. Don't stress--be confident. You worked hard, and you will do well.
10) Have fun. Since most of my races are destination races, enjoy the city, but don't enjoy it too much. I've heard of runners who will "pound" a half dozen margaritas the night before a race or close the bar. I'm not one of those runners. Save the revelry for post race. Enjoy the expo which is typically great for getting you "amped up" for the race, but bigger city marathons and expos can wear you out with walking Especially on Saturday (for a Sunday race.) Meter your walking and physical exertion. I have even caught a movie the day before to rest my brain, relax and be ready to go in the morning.
As I complete this blog, my last work meeting for the week is done. A few emails and phone calls remain Thursday night and Friday morning, then I will get over to Columbus. The hay is in the barn.