Oh race week.  Its such a mix of emotions.  Whether its your first super sprint distance triathlon, a charity 5k, an Ironman, or a marathon, it can always get to you.  Pre-race jitters and the anxiety of tapering your training can really do a number on you mentally.   So its important to trust in the work that you did leading up to the race, and recognize that unlike in school, you can’t cram training in at this point.  The work is done, now its just about the race.

I’ve got a few tips for anyone else looking forward to doing their first race at a given distance, or doing their first event.  I hope you find them helpful;

  • Rest and Recovery – You’ve done all of the work now.  Resist the temptation to build your aerobic engine on one last long run, or sharpen your speed with one more tempo.  You can’t get any more fit in the week before a race, but you can certainly derail a race by going into one with fatigue from a tough session that was too close to race day.  Its much better to err on the side of caution in the last few days.
  • Carb Loading is for earlier in the week – Especially when it comes to endurance events, its important to have a deep reserve of calories to dig through on race day.  But that doesn’t mean the night before the race you should be eating a big pasta dinner.  Add more carbs to your diet Tuesday through Friday before a Sunday race, and be sure too keep yourself hydrated all week.
  • Take in all the race has to offer – One of the cool things about a lot of the larger races is the expo atmosphere and all the positive vibes that seem to resonate from package pickup.  Give yourself a bit of extra time to do things like take in the speaker series, or visit with vendors.  Chances are you’ll see a few familiar faces and you’ll be able to trade a few training stories and good lucks before you get to the start line.
  • Sleep – This seems like a given, but its absolutely crucial that you start getting in some extra Z’s a few days before race day.  One of the best tips my coach gave me before my first Ironman, was telling me to sleep really well two days before race day, because the night before race day you’ll be lying there thinking about the next morning.
  • Visualize – The power of visualizing what happens on race day can’t be understated.  Think about everything that you’re going to do from the moment you wake up on race morning.  From getting out of bed to getting to the finish line.  In an ideal setting, by the time the gun goes off and you begin your run, you’ve already done everything in your head dozens of times.  This will help reduce anxiety leading up to the race.
  • Visualize (again) – The tip so important I gave it twice.  Imagine how the race is going to go for you.  Think about how good its going to feel to see the finishing chute, but also think about how you’re going to get through the tough parts of the race.  In endurance racing there are plenty of highs and lows, and the last 10km of any race tests your mind more than your body, so be prepared for that. Have a reminder of why you’re racing ready in your mind to pull you through those tough moments.
  • Just say thanks – There are a lot of people to thank on race day, from volunteers, to race organizers, to the loved ones who supported you on this crazy adventure and put up with early morning runs, weird blisters, and gnarly smells.  A simple smile and a “thanks for helping me get here” will go a long way.

For me, going into the Calgary Marathon, I’m pretty relaxed.  Having done a few races now I know that I’ll push as hard as I can on race day and that for me personally, being confident and relaxed in the days leading up to the event will help me when its time to get going.  I’ve planned out my paces to within about a 10 minute finish time window for the marathon varying based on how I feel in the first couple of kilometers, and the weather conditions on race day.

Anyways, if anyone has any last minute questions about the Calgary Marathon or racing in general, feel free to comment below, or find me on Twitter! In the meantime, best of luck and I’ll be posting here again next Tuesday with my race report!