How To Prepare For Race Day

How to Prepare For Your Race

To date, I have done several races ranging from local 5K’s to the Spartan Beast and now have a good idea how to prepare for race day. A few things to consider are what type of race is it and will there aid stations along the course? What will the weather be and what do I wear? What should I eat? What should I bring with me? (I will discuss the topic of training in a future post).

 

What type of race is it and will there be aid stations along the course?

5K: This is the most common race and you can find one happening in your local community quite easily. There are typically 1-2 aid stations that have water only so there is usually no need to bring your own. The course is 3.1 miles and often you can walk, jog, or run and is great for all levels, including beginners.

10K: This is a good race is you want more of a challenge than a 5K but are not quite ready for a half marathon. This race is 6.2 miles and there are typically aid stations every 2 miles but this can vary by race so there is no need for you to bring your own.

Half Marathon: This race is the highest mileage road race I personally have completed and is 13.1 in mileage. Each course is different, but they typically have aid stations every 2-3 miles as well as goo & fuel at some higher mileage aid stations. I personally always bring with me 2 goo packets along for the race and eat some chews before starting in case my body needs fuel before the aid station.

Full Marathon: This race is double the length of the half at 26.2 miles. Since I have not personally ran a full marathon, I will just say that based on what I have learned from others who have, they typically carry fuel belts with an array of chews, goo packets, water, and other types of fuel even though there are several aid stations along the course because based on training and the individual, fuel needs vary greatly.

 

What will the weather be and what do I wear?

This is import for all races so that you are dressed appropriately. If you dress too much in warmer you will sweat and run the risk of overheating. If you don’t layer enough in the cold, it can affect you as well and can lead to injury since muscles struggle to get warmed up. If you are not sure, you can layer, but FireJumpthen you should be prepared to shed those layers or add them throughout the course and may have to even get a little creative on how you do this. Perhaps have spectator you know on the route that can take/give you your layers or wear an old article of clothing you can live without if you lose it on the course. Also, wearing a hat or sunblock is a must! Sweating will dehydrate & magnify the sun’s rays on your skin and the last thing you want is to deal with bad sunburn after your race.

Road Races, all lengths:

  • Proper running shoes tied securely
  • Moisture wicking material for your sports bra, top, & bottom and layered as needed
  • Non-cotton socks. I run with both compression socks & ankle socks depending on the weather and/or length of the race. Compression socks help with muscle soreness & recovery
  • In the cold, ear bands or breathable material hats & turtlenecks with a breathing compartment, long “cold gear” and gloves
  • In the heat, hats or sweat bands, tank tops, shorts or compression capri length “heat gear”

Trail Runs, all lengths:

  • Proper trails shoes tied securely
  • Moisture wicking material for your sports bra, top, & bottom and layered as needed
  • Non-cotton socks. Depending on the season I run with compression or knee socks to help protect my ankles and legs from the brush and pitfalls of nature along the trail
  • In the cold, ear bands or breathable material hats & turtlenecks with a breathing compartment, long “cold gear”
  • In the heat, hats or sweat bands, tank tops, shorts or compression capri length “heat gear”
  • Wear some sort of bug repellant, natural or OFF as your sweat will attract the insects and you don’t want to end up eaten alive

Obstacle Course Races/Mud Runs:

  • I typically wear my older trail shoes and securely tie them so I don’t lose them in the mud (not to say that hasn’t happened before). Some people I have seen used duct tape to keep their shoes on, however, I find it better not to so that I can remove them if needed to discard chunks of mud/rocks that sometimes enter the shoes in these types of races
  • Always wear moisture wicking and fast drying material for these races and you will probably want to stay away from lighter colors unless you don’t mind tossing them afterwards.  In the summer I wear tank tops & capri length pants and in the winter I wear full length “cold gear” compression pants and a long sleeve shirt, but not a turtleneck
  • Non-cotton socks. I have worn both ankle and compression socks and honestly both work fine. Compression or high socks will help protect your legs more from obstacles like walls or climbing a rope so that is something to consider if you are concerned about that
  • If it is a long race, such as Tough Mudder or the Spartan Beast, that will take hours to complete, you want to consider wearing a little more clothing if you start later and will end closer to night fall as you will be sweaty and wet and as night temperatures roll in or if you swim in cold water such as that like I did in the VT Beast, you want to insulate your body to avoid situations like hypothermia
  • To wear underwear is always being brought up when I hear of these so I want to say that I have done both ways personally and recommend wearing either a bathing suit bottom or moisture wicking underwear vs. going commando. I did a few races commando and it was fine, until I split my pants in Tough Mudder and it was pretty bad. Thank goodness it happened towards the end of the race.

 

What should I eat? 

Fueling for a race should not be left to just the day of, but rather start off a few days before so that your body is in top shape for your race and not struggling with dehydration or lack of proper nutrients. 

A Few Days Before Race Day:

  • Try to limit or eliminate all processed foods, foods with refined sugar, and begin to “carb load” on fruits and vegetables that are a little bit higher on the GI scale to help build up energy reserves.
  • Drink at least a gallon of water daily to ensure the body is hydrated properly
  • Eat foods rich in potassium and magnesium, such as bananas or potatoes or drink coconut water to help avoid cramping on race day
  • Try to avoid all alcohol as this will dehydrate the body and your body will be focused on ridding the body of toxins vs. building up energy in the muscles

Race Day:

  • Depending on your start time, you will want to have a good breakfast about 2-3 hours before your race that is high in good carbohydrates, good fat, and protein. My go to race day breakfast for all of my races greater than a 10K in length or any length OCR is ¼ – ½ cup of whole oats, 1 tbsp. plain slivered almonds, 1 tbsp. ground flaxseed, ¼ teaspoon of honey, and a plain Greek yogurt or 2 hardboiled egg whites
  • If you are racing later in the day, you will need additional fuel, but try to stay away from anything greasy, too fibrous, or too high in fat and protein as this may create digestive issues. This is a good time to eat those carbs that you try to normally avoid as they will give you energy. You can also choose something simple like a natural meal replacement bar, such as Vega bars or Quest bars that are not full of chemicals or sugar.
  • Before racing, you may want to have some water with pre-workout, but be careful not to drink too much as it may create a “sloshy” feeling in your stomach and make you sick or sluggish
  • For OCR’s I actually put a few goo’s and chews in my sports bra (how many will depend on the race length & type), especially for the Spartans as they do not provide any fuel typically on the course and often just provide water. Other races, such as Tough Mudder, do have fuel, but I personally like to control when I am fueling my body to help avoid cramping
  • Recovery fuel is key so immediately after you race, try to eat or drink something with electrolytes and potassium to help minimize cramping and muscle fatigue

 

What should I bring with me? 

What you need to bring to a Mud Run/OCR vs. a road race varies so I have broken them down into 3 categories:

Road Races:20131109_104339

  • Fuel (goo packets, chews, Stinger waffles, etc.)
  • Sunblock
  • Photo ID
  • Cash
  • iPod/music if desired with arm band if no pockets to carry it
  • Hat, sweat band, or other if desired 

Obstacle Courses Only:

  • Signed Waivers (if applicable)
  • Photo ID
  • Cash
  • Baby Wipes
  • A Bottle of Water
  • Fuel (goo packets, chews, Stinger waffles, etc.)
  • Sunblock
  • A first aid kit (see below for breakdown)

Mud Runs:

At my first race I was not really prepared to leave there as dirty as I was. The “showers” are really you getting washed down by a fire hose or very low pressure garden hose with freezing cold water and it doesn’t really get you clean, just not as muddy. Packing a bag (that you won’t mind getting dirty) is essential. I personally use the same back-pack for every mud run I do and it contains the following items:

  • A dry towel
  • Flip Flops
  • A dry change of comfortable clothes (getting jeans or nice clothes on after the race without a full shower will leave you uncomfortable and dirty if you have long hair in my opinion) including socks/shoes if too cold to stay in flip flops
  • A garbage bag for wet/muddy clothes & sneakers
  • Signed Waivers (if applicable)
  • Photo ID
  • Cash
  • Baby Wipes
  • A Bottle of Water
  • Fuel (goo packets, chews, Stinger waffles, etc.)
  • Sunblock
  • A first aid kit that consists of Band Aids, iodine, alcohol swabs, bandages, eye wash/solution, Tylenol/Alieve/Advil

 

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