Race Day - The Gun Fires, Now What?
Friday, September 18, 2009
It’s race day and you’re up, dressed, fed, packed and ready to go. You leave early enough to get to the race venue and find a place to park. After several times through the porta-potty lines, a little stretching and warm-up you have joined the other participants in the chute and the gun has gone off. NOW WHAT?
I’ll start with a DON’T… Don’t get caught up in the excitement and need to get across the start line. Your time doesn’t start until you cross that timing mat so don’t push. And even after you cross the mat don’t start off fast. A lot of people get caught up in the moment and dash off even though they haven’t trained that way. Walkers run, runners run fast and they burn out early. Start out the same way you would if it was a training. Your time will more than likely automatically increase because of all the energy in the air but don’t rush the start.
Break your race down into 3 sections. It’s easier for your brain and body to handle shorter distances and you can use the 3 sections to manage your race better. For a ½ marathon you should think 5 – 5 – 5… 5 miles, 5 miles, 5K. The first 5 should be the “fun” section. Maybe talk to those around you, enjoy the weather, watch the scenery go by. Take this time to find your rhythm, find the sweet spot, the speed you could go forever. The second 5 is the time to put focus on you, feel your breathing, keep those footfalls soft, relax the shoulders and neck, and keep your arms up. If you didn’t push your start and you found your sweet spot you should now have the energy left to pick up the pace on the final 5. Keep those arms up and don’t let them drop. Your arms are what will take you across the finish line, keep them going strong and your legs will follow.
Now for some techniques to help you during the race; use a mantra; envision; keep your mind busy; use the other participants and spectators; use aid stations. A mantra is something that could inspire you or make you smile; it’s something that you can repeat to yourself that can distract you from the race. The joke mantra around our little group is “it’s all Janet’s fault.” I am the first one of our group to have done an endurance event and I was involved in getting the others successfully through their first events, so it is “all my fault” and I’m proud of it. Just make your mantra mean something to you. Envision yourself running/walking the race, drinking at the aid stations and crossing the finish line. If the miles are getting to you or your feeling aches then keep your mind busy. Think about a project you need to complete, do math, write a novel, whatever it is do something that keeps your focus off the pain and distance. Use other participants by fishing – choose a person ahead of you and cast your imaginary line, start reeling in your catch, as you get up to the person the line becomes a bungee that shoots you forward. Then choose a new target and fish your way to the finish line. Use the energy off of the spectators. If they are giving high fives, do it especially with kids. You’ll find an electrical charge transferred to your body. Sounds kind of metaphysical but it happens. Use the aid stations as a “walk” break; if you run, walk the distance of the station, if you walk, slow your pace a bit. This gives your muscles a chance to change their memory and it’s easier to drink from the cups.
As you proceed along the route remember to drink something at every aid station; it doesn’t have to be a lot but drink. Pinch the top of the cup to make it easier to drink without spilling. If it’s hot or you are feeling hot take an extra cup of water and pour it over your head and forearms, but don’t drench yourself. Be sure to fuel. This will not only make the race more pleasant, but it will make recovery faster. If you feel tight, stop for 30 seconds and stretch. If f you need to slow down, then slow down. Whether you do the race in an hour or 4 hours everyone does the same distance. The goal is to finish.
As you cross the finish line keep your head up and smile cuz your picture will be taken. Now you can slow down, but don’t stop. Have your chip removed. Get that all important medal. Take the water they offer. Pick up some food and eat it. Keep moving a bit to cool down. Make the call to someone important. Find your supporters. Do pictures. Take some ibuprofen, your body will thank you. When you get home take a COOL bath or shower and stretch. Eat a real meal with protein and carbs within an hour of the race. Then put up your feet and relax with stretch breaks, you deserve it!
Enjoy your race and believe you can do it. Some final thoughts….
May you be bold (but don't get caught up in the start line rush);
May you be strong (but don't fear reaching out for strength from others);
May hills be gentle and few (all things worth doing come with ups and downs);
May the wind be at your back (but a cool, gentle breeze blow cross you);
May you finish within the time you hope (but finishing is what counts, not time);
May you feel unbridled elation when you cross the finish line (but remember the miracle is that you had the courage of heart and soul to start).