With Fall just around the corner, that only means one thing for road runners. Racing season is nearly here! Having run more races than I could ever count, I have a few tried and true tips for race morning that I am excited to share. Especially since I certainly won’t be racing anything this season (I’ll be pretty occupied with a newborn). Here are my top seven tips for race day morning.
Set the Alarm(s) – One of the most common pre-race experiences is difficulty sleeping. Couple in the fear of sleeping through your alarm, and those precious zzz’s might be a little more ellusive. Very few runners miss their alarm (because we’re only half asleep), but I cannot imagine a fate worse than training for months, only to miss a race while you’re dreaming. For all of these reasons, set more than one alarm, a few minutes apart, the night before. Hopefully it will help you relax, and you know you won’t find yourself scrambling to get out the door.
Focus on Hydration & Fueling – The morning before a race honestly isn’t all that important in the scheme of things. When you weigh out where most of the effort takes place, training is the most important part of your race preparation. So if you only focus on one thing the morning of, make it be hydration and fueling. A few ounces of water, and about 50-100 grams of carbs should be the goal. If you need a few idea’s for what to eat on race morning, check out my Favorite Breakfasts.
Keep in mind that it can take 30+ minutes for easy carbs to digest. My recommendation is wake up about 90 minutes to 2 hours before you need to leave, and eat breakfast as soon as you get up. You do not want to eat or drink much of anything for the hour before you leave, because you need to give your body enough time to “process” what you ate (meaning go to the bathroom).
Coffee to Get Things Moving –Speaking of the bathroom, trust me when I say you want to avoid mid-race poops as much as possible. One tried and true method of emptying the tank before the run is to swig a quick cup of coffee. It generally helps to get things moving, and caffeine can help boost energy and performance. Once again, timing is important here. So don’t plan to toss back a cup on your way out. Instead, try a few drinks with breakfast and right afterwards so that your body (and bowels) have plenty of time to get things going.
Give Yourself Time at the Start – As a seasoned runner, it bothers me 0% to show up to big races after the national anthem and start gun have gone off. I know there’s lots of people that need to move through the start line, and I don’t mind starting out in the back. For newer runners, though, it can really help calm the pre-race nerves to get to the start earlier than necessary. I recommend arriving about 30 minutes before the start, for a few reasons.
Parking, walking, and finding how to get into the starting chute can sometimes be overwhelming. Especially at larger races, and even more so for novice racers. So give yourself time to figure out where things are. Additionally, an early arrival gives you the chance to make one last bathroom stop at the port-a-potties (they’re not pretty, but most racers find that nerves can make you feel like you need to pee a lot more than usual). It also gives you time to do a few warm up movements, take a couple of pictures, and take in all the excitement of running a race.
Don’t Forget – There is a whole check list of things you want to go through before you walk out the door on race day morning. Being a little nervous can make it harder to focus, so here’s what I always make sure I check off before heading out.
- Sunscreen – spray it on liberally, regardless of weather (barring a torrential rainstorm, maybe). You’re gonna be on your feet for a long time, and wrinkles don’t do us any favors.
- Anti-Chafe – Especially if you’re running a longer race. Make sure to cover any area’s where skin meets clothes (like the sports bra line and waistband), as well as spots where skin is prone to rub other skin (like inner thighs and the underarm area).
- Race Fuel – This should be packed the night before and ready to go. But do not, under any circumstances, forget to grab it on your way out. If you’ve only tried a few fueling options, you don’t want to run the risk of having to grab whatever is on the course only to find that it doesn’t sit well with your stomach.
- Entertainment – If you plan to run with music or a podcast, make sure you don’t forget your headphones and whatever you use to play it with (iphone, watch, etc).
- Sunglasses – Not always a complete necessity, but if you’re someone who prefers to run with them, make sure you don’t forget them!
- Your race bib – Because you paid good money for that piece of tracking paper.
Focus on Yourself – If you’re traveling with friends or family, it can be tempting to get occupied making sure everyone has what they need. Especially if your family includes small kiddos. But it’s so important that you focus on yourself so you don’t forget something important, or end up with less time than you need. Make a plan with your loved ones the night before, and let them know that outside of an actual emergency, they are on their on their own that morning.
Activate the Glutes – One of the ways runners often limit their own race potential is by not incorporating a proper warm up. Will your legs and breathing generally warm and fall into place over the first couple of miles? Yes. Will your glutes turn on and fire appropriately so that your running feels less effortful? Not if you don’t warm those suckers up! You don’t need to devote 30 minutes to jogging in place and stretching, but plan to give yourself about 5 minutes to go through a quick warm up to get the glutes firing.
Are these pre-race tips evolutionary or secret? Nope! But they are things that have worked well for me time and again after countless races. Racing isn’t rocket science by any means, but race day morning can feel pretty hectic. Having a race morning plan in place can help settle the nerves, and make sure you give yourself everything you need for a successful, fun race.