So I had a lovely, lovely *deepthought* type post planned for today and then today happened – a 2.5 hour dentist appointment, a super busy (and late) day at work, and I’m not in any capacity to do anything but shallowthought. So hopefully tomorrow I’ll scoop out my brainpan and throw it all over. Today, something a little lighter.
I’ve gotten a few requests for half marathon advice. I’ve posted EXTENSIVELY on the training methods and emotions and play by plays of my runs and whatnot, but here are some random right before/during/right after the race advice I can pull together from the last race and both training endeavors. In no particular order and absolutely not inclusive of all advice – just what’s off the top of my head, I present my tips and tricks. Not including having this chasing you (I know I’d get a PR fo sho…)
1. Bring slippers to the race. There is nothing like getting out of those shoes you just ran 13.1 miles in and putting on something fuzzy. Bring a change of clothes too. Generally you will be too tired to care, but if you’re exceptionally sweaty or it’s rainy or muddy or if you might just feel like NOT wearing what you spent the last 2+ hours running in, it’s nice to have the option. Especially if it’s a long way home.
2. Mentally prepare and visualize a perfect race day, and then realize it’s going to be anything but. I was so late to my first half marathon my warmup was a half mile all out sprint to the start line and I had to haggle with the race officials to let me cross the timing start since they were taking it down. Not a graceful start at all. I’ve run 5ks in pouring rain and one course had sticks in part of the path. Yeah, it’s as uncomfortable as it sounds to run on. Shit is going to happen. Whatever it is, you are a rockstar and you can recover from it. Don’t let anything shake you. This is your damn day.
3. Don’t plan anything after the race. You might be totally rarin’ to go and that’s cool, but you might also be so drained you can barely walk. My first 10k, I was so pumped after we did a big long bike ride that same day. Same after some of my double digit runs – I do believe I did a 11 mile run and a 20+ mile ride in the same day. After the half? WIPED the fuck out. Just wanted to eat massive amounts of food and then go home and spend the evening with my butt planted on the couch.
4. DO NOT DIET the week of your race. I know you’re running less. I know the scale might get angry with you. Make sure to ingest lots of awesome healthy food and ignore the fact you’re only running what feels like a warmup. Whatever was working for you before, keep it goin’. Also, splurge after the race. You don’t have to eat the moon, but definitely take the opportunity to have something yummy. I mean, you just burned over 1500 calories if you ran a half marathon, and even if you ran a shorter race – you just ran the hardest you ever have in your life! Get THAT THING that you have been salivating over. This is THE DAY for it.
5. Speaking of eating, eat something the night before that you know is not going to bother your tummy. My meal was steak, fried shrimp, mashed potatoes, a loaf of bread, and salad. Nothing spicy, which is difficult for me, and nothing from a questionable food cart. I went with a chain steakhouse I’ve eaten at dozens of times. Most people say stay away from so much protein and fat, but it did me great. For me, it was VITAL I did not wake up hungry because I won’t get up early enough before the race to eat anything substantial (grumble grumble stupid early start times grumble grumble).
6. Even if you’re not going to eat a full meal in the morning, eat something. A protein bar or a normal AM type snack for you is good. Something you’ve eaten close to working out and been ok. And make sure to hydrate.
7. What does eating lead to… hmmm? Yeah. Try to #1 and #2 as many times as you can before the race, #2 mostly. It disturbed me I could not do the later for about 24 hours before the race and I was SO EFFING scared I was going to have to stop during the race but my body did me alright. But make sure you give yourself the chance. Once you get going the sweat should balance out the need to pee so just make sure you go before the race and you should be fine.
8. Don’t get to the end of the race and don’t get your time reported because you went the wrong way! Or, you might feel like this guy above. If you have questions while running, ask the race officials. I don’t know how many people got DQ’d on the last race but it was quite a few… it was definitely a confusing course. The officials are there to help, don’t worry that you look stupid.
9. Do whatever feels good after the race. Sure, you’ll recover faster if you keep moving. But honestly? Who cares! You just blew your load. You ran your big race. You’re probably not going to run for a few days, so don’t push yourself. I collapsed about 100 feet after the finish line, rested, got up, hobbled to the water cooler, collapsed again, drank about 10 glasses of water, hobbled to a bench, and stretched. I tried to do the post race thing but what I really wanted was to sit, so I left. See #3 about not planning anything.
10. Give yourself a break. If you push yourself to the limit and give 110% (or do some other cheesy sports cliche phrase type thing), it’s going to take a while to get your mojo back. Do some easy cross training the next week. Maaaaybe some really easy jogging-like runs. It is going to take a WHILE to want to go either FAST or FAR. You just spent 3 months doing some really intense things with your body. Give it the recovery time it needs. Go swimming. Ride your bike. Take up dancing. These are the things I did for about a MONTH before I started running again. I wondered if I would ever run again like I did before that month. But a few months later, after resting a bit, I shredded my 5k time by almost a full minute (and more in practice). And you know how strong I’m feeling lately. So no matter how weak you feel shortly after, know you WILL recover. Chill out and do some active recovery.
Other little tidbits? Smile during the race. You love this. This is your day, and you are carpe-ing it. Run hard, leave it all on the course, and have fun. Enjoy the course (personally, I DON’T study courses which is so all against my controlling, type-A ness, but for some reason, I like the surprise that day and rolling with it). Cheer other runners on if you get the chance. Double knot your laces so they don’t come undone. Carry at least one 100-calorie pure sugar source. Don’t train with any sports drink – it’s so much better to be able to use it as your ace in the hole. Lift your hands and celebrate wildly when you cross the finish line – it’s unlikely anyone will get a proper picture of it, but they’re cool when they come out.
Any silly or random race tips to share? Any more serious specific half marathon or race questions you want me to answer – I mean – I’m not an expert, but this will be my 7th race in a year, so it’s not my first BBQ, so I’ll be happy to share any biased and twisted wisdom I can.