Friday, September 7, 2012

Preparing for Race Day

Only two days until the Chicago Half Marathon on Sunday! I'm not sure I'm mentally prepared for the race, but I think I'll get in the zone when I pick up my race packet at the expo tomorrow. I also get really nervous for races. I mean, its not like I'm trying to qualify for anything or win money, but I think its valid to be nervous for something that you've been preparing for for months. I'm afraid that if I don't do well, then all those Friday nights I stayed in so I could do a Saturday long run were a waste. Of course, that's not really true because I sign up for these races to motivate myself to exercise. So, no matter what the outcome on Sunday, it wasn't a waste! Plus, the accomplishment of completing a half-marathon is more than most people can do.

Of course all of the exercise and long runs in the months before the race are important, but preparation the week/days before can be just as essential. I have to admit that I did not eat or drink the best last weekend and I even accidentally took a bite of a beef burrito (ewww!), but I've been trying hard to eat well these last couple of days.

Anyone that's a runner has heard of "carbo-loading." Usually this is done in the form of eating a huge plate of pasta the night before the race. I've read a few things from Runner's World and other places that actually say the second to last meal (lunch the day before) is most important, and that you should carbo-load 3 days leading up to the race. This ensures that the glycogen storage in your muscles is maximized, so that they have enough energy for the whole race. Since you shouldn't be working out hard the days before your race, the glycogen will store up after eating carb-heavy meals.

Traditionally, carb-heavy meals are composed of pasta. However, most pasta (especially at restaurants) is made from bleached flour and thus the nutrients have been taken out. These pastas have a high glycemic index and therefore spike your glucose levels (not good for the body). So, if you're going to eat pasta or bread, it should be whole-grain.

I've actually found that potatoes, especially sweet potatoes, work the best for me in terms of carbo-loading. They are in a much more natural state than pasta and don't contain gluten, which many people are sensitive too even if they aren't celiac. I made this sweet potato salad for lunch, I'll post the recipe soon!

Besides carbo-loading, you should also stay hydrated the week before the race by drinking plenty (but not an abnormal amount) of water. Pure coconut water (without added sugar) is also a great way to replenish your electrolytes. Fresh fruit is also perfect for electrolytes and carbo-loading.

Finally, some people have a hard time waking up for early morning races. I'm going to have to get up at 5 am to catch the train to the start line. This isn't a huge issue for me since I get up at 5:30 am during the week for crossfit and I do my long runs in the mornings. However, if you're a midday or evening workout person, you should switch to morning workouts a week or two before the race. I heard on the Jillian Michaels podcast that sticking to a routine for the time of day that you workout is pretty important because your body starts ramping up adrenaline levels when it's time to workout. So if your race is in the morning, try to get your body used to running in the morning.

How do you prepare for races?

Wish me luck on Sunday!

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