Prepping for a race starts long before the starting line. Depending on the race distance, your fitness level, and your goals, race training can begin many months before race day and your regime can include a vast variety of elements from a special diet to speed work and beyond.
But in the days before your race, your race prep should be shifting – here’s how I do it.
When you’re active, you should be staying well-hydrated – period. But in the days before a race, I always find it helpful to add extra water to ensure my body is as well-hydrated as possible.
I’m pretty sure this isn’t a legitimate term, but I abide by what I like to call Proactive Hydration. Basically, I try to increase my water intake by about 20% (which for me, is two extra YETI travel mugs) for 5-7 days because having a couple of extra glasses the day before just won’t cut it and I have a small bladder, so drinking more than a cup or two the morning of my race means I’ll need to pee a billion times and it’ll slow me down.
Also, even though I’m told it’s not really helpful, I add Emergen-C to my water once a day for 3-5 days pre-race JUST IN CASE.
During the weeks or months leading up to your race, you’ve logged lots of kilometres and many runs each week. Now it’s time to let your body rest. In running terms, this is called “tapering” and essentially means you’re cutting back your running distances and overall weekly mileage as you get closer to race day.
About two weeks before your race, you should do your final long run. Then it’s time to start tapering. Depending on your usual weekly kilometres and “long run” distance, you’ll need to modify this long run based on your needs. In the next five-seven days, I like to do one or two 10km runs and one run dedicated solely to speed work.
Once race week hits, I like to do a final run of up to half of my race-distance three or four days before race day and, if I’m antsy, a short and slow shake out the day or two before.
Sleep hygiene is important, always, but it can be hard to get the appropriate number of zeds when you’re antsy! I try to dial in my sleep schedule a week before my race (not always easy) and practice getting up for race-time wakeup a few days in a row beforehand.
Food is the literal fuel for our racing bods, which is why I take my nutrition extra seriously before race-day. I have a few simple rules for this.
- No skipping meals or cutting calories the week before a race.
- Don’t introduce new foods to your diet (especially if you have any dietary restrictions or tummy issues like I have).
- Add extra carbs to each meal (carb-loading), and eat mostly carbs for your final two meals before your race.
- Eat extra protein early in the day, and go easy on fibre and fats as you get closer to race day.
- Limit alcohol (it’s dehydrating and tastes way better after a run, anyway).
I am a total psycho about my running gear. I try everything on a few days before my race to make sure everything fits and feels right – right down to my socks. But since I can’t control the weather, and I sometimes travel to a race, I make sure I have options for any weather. I try on all the options and check for any spots that might rub and either swap that item or make sure I can use BodyGlide to save myself.
I never wear anything new on race day with one exception: I once wore compression socks for the first time for a race, and I did not regret it.
AND ON THE DAY OF…
On race day, I try to give myself a full 90 minutes between wake up and leaving for my race. This gives me plenty of time to eat, have a coffee (#necessity), drink a bit of water, get my gear on, and digest a bit before I hit the starting line.
Similar to my gear and previous nutrition advice, I don’t do anything new on race day. I usually eat an English muffin with peanut butter, a banana, and one regular-sized coffee. Lots of deep breaths, a quick warm-up, and some positive self-talk and I’m literally off to the race.
What’s your best pre-race tip?