One of the first things I hear after a race from my athletes or runner friends – and I say it often as well – “I should have …” as part of the reason their race did not go as planned. At my Kauai Marathon a couple weeks ago, I SHOULD HAVE fueled better. Why did I fail at fueling? Because I didn’t practice enough in training to make taking in calories second nature at certain points in the race. I got caught up in the early success I was having and didn’t want to throw off my momentum. The momentum came to a crashing halt when I hit mile 21 and my body decided it had had enough for the day.
The best way to avoid this on race day is to practice your essential actions, like fueling and hydration, throughout your training and set up a dress rehearsal run a few weeks out from the race.
In this dress rehearsal do the following:
- Dress for Success – If the weather is supposed to be the same as what you will face race day, wear your race day outfit or something similar. Throw on your body glide. If you plan on carrying water, fill your bottles. If you have a pack for any fueling needs, like gels or chews, strap it on. Put on your race day shoes. Lace them exactly like you plan to on race day. Guys, bandaid up those nipples. Seriously, you’ll thank me later.
- Run your Race Pace – Do 80% of the run at your goal pace. Use the other 20% as your warm up and cool down. For marathons, I like a 20-22 mile run with 16-18 miles at goal pace. If you feel you are not ready to run that pace, this run will let you know for sure.
- Eat and Run – Have your fueling and hydration strategy in mind as to what miles during your race you plan on eating a gel or chew or whatever snack you pack. If you want to simulate water stations, drop water bottles or sports drink at spots along your planned course. Figure out if you have problems opening your choice in fuel. Prepackaged fuel (gels, chews, sport beans) can be tricky to open when you are sweaty and tired. You may want to consider transferring your fuel from its packaging into a ziplock bag.
- Take Notes – Make mental notes of what didn’t quite go as planned. You have a couple more weeks to figure it out before race day. If you felt like your weren’t quite fast enough, work on speed related drills. If your pack of gel ended up in your ear instead of your mouth, you may need to practice opening the pack with your fingers instead of your teeth. If your brand new shorty shorts left you screaming in pain in the shower from chafing south of the border, change your race day wardrobe. Bandaids, guys.
Get the little details down to a science and you won’t have as many “I should haves” after crossing the finish line.
If you have any tips or “I should haves” you’d like to share, drop them in the comments below.