My recent return to running at the Hampton Beach Half Marathon jolted my memory to my regular race day bloopers that I never seem to learn. These are solely based on my personal experiences, but perhaps there are a few of you out there that can relate...or even better, maybe some of you I can save! For those of you gearing up for a race of some kind in the near future, keep these four things in mind on game day:
1) Don't overhydrate. This seems counterintuitive to almost every race day "best practice" that I have read. In fact, I think I have read so much about the importance of hydration since my high school cross country and track days that I have mistakenly taken this one too far on occasion. I have a perpetual fear of finding myself in the middle of a distance event feeling dehydrated. This is partially due to my Irish complexion and not doing so well in sunshine and extreme temperatures. It is also partially from a high school track experience when I found myself dehydrated and had to demand that the bus pull over after a track meet so that I could vomit and pass out in front of my coach, team members and the local fire department. Oops. Fast forward several years to the one marathon I have ran and I was terrified of finding myself in this predicament part way through the race. So, I drank water...and water...and water before the race. I then took in a cup of water at every aid station there was and finished the event with a very uncomfortable Buddha belly. I refused to stop at any porta pottie along the way. Thankfully, my other half caught me slugging water on the 1 1/2 hour drive to this last race and told me to stop drinking water to avoid having to stop repeatedly during the race. This brings me to my next lesson....
2) Stopping can be ok. Actually, sometimes stopping during a race can be very important. The uncomfortable Buddha belly situation above is one example. I can only imagine that my race would have been faster and much more comfortable had I done so. I also remember a stinging sensation around my ankle around mile 5 in that marathon, but I refused to stop. I had this illogical fear in my head that I would never get going again if I stopped for even a second. So, I didn't. I kept going....until I hit mile 26.2 and the volunteer at the finish line was faced with a blood soaked timing chip around my ankle. My ankle and sock were all bloody, which has sort of a "I'm tough" feeling...for about a second. Let's be honest, the World Series were not at stake here (do you like my Red Sox reference?). And was it worth hobbling around for the next week in low cut flats? I don't know. I think I could have spared the 10 seconds to adjust that timing chip. Fast forward to this recent race and I felt a pebble floating around in my shoe. Instead of stopping, I kept shaking my shoe to make the pebble fall all the way to the front. Will I ever learn? People- please stop for something silly like this. Take care of your feet. Thankfully, I only ended up with a tender spot on the front of my toes after this half marathon. Once again, will I ever learn?
3) Don't try something new with your fueling plan on game day. It is really awesome when race events provide a gel or energy snack at an aid station. That said, make sure to bring your own stuff that you know works for you. I have done this a few times where I roll the dice and just throw the provided gel into my mouth only to remember that it is a flavor that I absolutely hate and now my mouth is coated in it until I can get to the next water station. I feel like Jim Carrey in "Me, Myself and Irene" with chalk mouth. Also, plan out and try your refueling ahead of time. I have found this especially important in triathlon. At the last minute before my Olympic Tri, I decided that I would shave a few seconds off my precious transition time by opening my gel and leaving it ready for me in the transition area. Oooh the 3 seconds I might save. I was so slick. I finished my swim to find all of my fuel swarmed in ants. Again, don't try something new on race day....ever! Unfortunately I once again ignored my past experience and threw a vanilla gel into my face during this race...it wasn't terrible but I should have just stuck to my own and knew so as soon as I did it.
4) Don't over dress. Yes, it is a great idea to plan ahead and be prepared for anything. That said, add twenty degrees to the temperature to estimate what you will be feeling like once you get going. I never learn from this. Thankfully, my better half again saved me at this last race. I stood at the starting line with my hat, gloves and coat. He told me he would take them and I said "No, I'm soooo cold." I was positive I would need at least the hat and gloves. It was February after all. He insisted I hand them over. Thank you. Less than twenty minutes into the 13.1 miles I realized that I would have had to carry them or toss them. 7 miles into the race and I wanted to strip down to my short sleeve shirt, but I didn't because that would have required me to stop and re-pin my number. Refer back to lesson #2 :)
Have a great week and run happy!