What I Have Learned About Racing!

Whether you are a season veteran, or a race virgin, race day can be intimidating. So much time and effort goes into that day. You have possibly been training for months, dreamed of the race for a long time, and put a lot of thought into your race day outfit. Everyone is going to have an amazing race day, where you meet your goal and cross the finish line with a giant smile on your face. But we are also all going to have rough races, where nothing goes according to plan. It is important to remember that no matter what happens on race day, go out there and do your best, that way you can always be happy with what you’ve accomplished, even if you didn’t get that shiny new PR. Race day is so much more than that run itself, it is truly a celebration of all the miles you have ran in preparation for this day. All the struggles, the sacrifices, the adventures, the new friends…every aspect of your training. Go into the race knowing this, that way, no matter what, you can’t be disappointed when you cross the finish line!
Here are 8 quick tips that I have learned through trail and error!
1. Hydrate the day before, but not too much:
            It is important to adequately hydrate the day before a race, but it is important to not drink too much water. I recommend staying properly hydrated always, and drinking a little extra the day before race day. It is important not to drink too much as you can dilute your bodies sodium and cause low sodium levels (hyponatermia) which leads to all sorts of problems on race day. The systems of hyponatermia are very similar to the symptoms of dehydration, so if you have been drinking water non-stop and now are feeling dizzy, low energy, nausea, and are having muscle cramping, you might want to indulge in the potatos and salt, or the chips at the next aid station!

2. Eat Breakfast the morning of:
Try and eat breakfast two to three hours before the start of the race so the food has time to settle. Eat a carbohydrate-rich breakfast so that you will have fuel for the race. Carbohydrates are your bodies energy source, and you are going to need this during the race. Breakfast is an imperative way to restock your energy stores that have deplted with a nights sleep. Also try and drink at least 500ml of fluid that morning so that you are well hydrated for the start line! Not eating a proper breakfast can result in hitting the wall or feeling hungry early into the race. You will use energy with pre-race jitters and excitment prior to the start, you do not want to be trying to satisfy a growling stomach with energy gels half way through your marathon! Oatmeal is a great breakfast as it is rich in carboydrates and easy for your body to break down and digest.

3. Nothing new on race day:
            It is always a good idea to wear what you are used to on race day. It is risky to wear a new pair of socks, especially a new style of socks as they might cause blisters. As cheesy as it might sound, pick out an outfit prior to the race, one that you have ran in before and that you know you are comfortable in. Definitely do not try out a new hydration system either! Get a hydration system that you really like, one that you don’t mind wearing. Where it while training and get to know your gear, be comfortable with it. Have a spot for each gel, your ipod, your power bar, what ever it is you are going to carry with you on race day. No where it is so that you don’t have to waste energy fidgeting with your system trying to get at a gel! 
4. If it’s a hot day and/or the race is longer, use electrolytes:
            When you are out there running for a long time in the heat you are going to loose more than just fluid from sweating. You may have finished a long run before and had white flakes on your skin. This is salt! Salt follows water, and when you sweat, salt leaves your body with your skin. If you are not replenishing your electrolytes, hyponatermia can result. If you are feeling muscle cramps, weak and fatigued, dizzy or nausous, you probably need to load up on some salt at the next aid station. I recommend using Hammer Nutrition Endurolytes. They are sugar free so they wont destroy your hydration system and they provide you with proper electrolyte replacement.
5. Eat on course:
            The longer the run, the more important this becomes. For a 5 or a 10km the need to eat is unnecessary, eat when you are finished. But if you are running half marathons, marathons and beyond, eating and refueling is KEY to getting through the race. On your longer training runs start experimenting with what you like to eat during a run. Find a particular gel that you love, a bar, energy chews. There are SO MANY options out there now with companies offering non-GMO, gluten free and vegan options (Such as Hammer Nutrition), and densely packed, whole nutrition bars (like PRO-BAR), organic energy chews (like Honey Stingers) and the list goes on! Do NOT wait until you are hungry to eat because by that point you’ve already burned through your fuel and are working on your reserve. Start eating early on in a long race, as this will make it easier to keep fueled. From personal experience in long races, nausea can occur later on, so it is important to eat when you are not feeling this way.
6. Keep moving:
           Almost every race you are going to experience a moment of exhaustion, where you feel like you can’t run anymore. The key here is to just jeep moving and don’t concentrate on the negative. If you stop, it gives your muscles a time to tighten up and possible cramp up. I recommend that inless you are at an aid station, keep moving in whatever way you can! Keep running, and if you can’t run at that moment, power walk, or run slow…. Or walk slow. Whatever you do just keep that continuous forward motion. This is specially important in ultra-marathons as you have the potential to be out there for a REALLY LONG TIME! As long as you are moving forward, you are making progress towards that finish line!

7. Support your fellow runners:
If you find yourself passing another runner, always say something positive to them and be polite when you pass. You are all in this together, doing the same race, and positivity and encouragement goes along way. The running community is so supportive and so closely knit, I have never met a rude runner out there on the trails. You know how it feels to get encouraged by race spectators, their cheering fills you positive energy and excitment. Pass that feeling on to another runner, who knows, you might make a new friend out there!

8. SMILE and have fun!
            Chances are they are going to be photographers on course, and it can be pretty after a race to see the awesome shots the photographers got while you were racin! And besides, the race is the celebration of all the hard work you have put in. It is supposed to be fun and enjoyable, you want to be doing this! You signed up for this, you dreamed it up and now here is your moment!! Whether it is your first marathon or first 5km, or your 14th half marathon, it is still a huge accomplishment in itself!

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