I am anticipating the race tomorrow to be pretty crowded. Last year, we had a hard time getting to the line to start. Usually Amy and I hang close until about 15 minutes before the race, then we wish each other luck, give a good luck kiss, and move to our different pace groups. Last year was the first time I had run Rodes. Amy had run it several years before. While we were working through the crowd to get to the starting corral, the race started. With any chip timed event, it really doesn’t matter where you start, but the farther back you start the more traffic you have to navigate through in your run. Part of me loves that part of running a race. At the beginning of the race I visualize that I’m doing the trench run, riding the light bikes from Tron, or collecting rings as Sonic. It is probably a little silly, and I probably make sound effects as I’m going, but it helps navigating the crowd. This year I still haven’t decided whether I am racing the course or running the course. Racing involves pushing myself to try to get a PR. Running is finding a comfortable pace and meeting people on the course. Either involves preparation (and a little ritual) to get ready for the run.
I like to plan my outfit, not necessarily to “look good,” match colors, or be fashionable. Anyone who has seen me on a regular day can quickly realize I am not concerned about fleeting fashions. For those who do not know me, I wear classics styles, like Hawaiian Shirts. I plan my running outfits on comfort and temperature management. Comfort includes fit and styles, but most importantly chafing and skin irritations. I could write a lot of anecdotes about chafing. It is not fun, but is very common with distance runners. Simply put, water/sweat, clothing, and skin can irritate each other—no matter where the 3 come together to meet. The danger of chafing becoming infected is what you have to watch against. Temperature management considers both directions—warm and cold. I run in shorts year round. Even in the super cold polar vortex days in Kentucky, I wore shorts. I wear layers over my torso and arms. I also have hats, glove, neck gaiters, etc. I have found layers are the way to go in winter. If I think I will get warm as the run progresses, I will wear a shirt I can ditch. If you look closely att he spectators of downtown races, you will see the crowd in layer. The first layer is runners and run support, second is spectators, there’s usually a small space of pedestrian traffic, then haunting the background is people picking up discarded clothes. In warmer weather, I wear shorts and a tech shirt. I don’t use tanks or go shirtless, because I sunburn easily. Temperature management is essential to maintaining hydration.
After I choose my clothes, I will start throwing together all my running accessories. I usually collect a post race bag for injuries and dry clothes. Never forget an extra shirt and socks! If there is a bag check I use that, otherwise I leave things in my car. For me even in heat, changing to dry clothes a.s.a.p. is essential to my post race recovery. My accessories that I try to always have are my RoadID, Garmin, Phone, vest, nutrition, and race belt with number attached. RoadID is my safety anklet that has an emergency number and info for first responders. My Garmin and phone can track my runs. The phone also lets me make calls in an emergency, or listen to music. My vest is high visibility and I’m trying to get used to wearing it all the time for this summer. It also has 2 zippable pockets for gels, sunglasses, etc. My racing belt can hold up to 4 bottle. I usually carry 1 or 2 on a half marathon or less. Most races have hydration stations if you are willing to lose time in the crush of runners wanting a drink. If the station has a lull in traffic, I will grab their water. If it is crowded, I steer clear and use my bottle.
Finally, food. I am not a fan of carb loading. It doesn’t help me to go eat a big plate of spaghetti the night before a race. I remember in the 80s carb loading for cross country. I guess it worked for me then, but not now. If I increase my carbs, I do it 2 or 3 nights before the race, and it is moderate increases. I try to maintain my normal diet before races. This week I heard Pitino talking about Russ Smith’s diet being horrible for an athlete. Pitino mentioned how Russ often doesn’t feel well because he does not eat sensibly before big games. Russ apparently ate pizza the night before a game and had an upset stomach. I don’t follow Russ’s diet plan, but I understand the idea of maintaining what you are used to eating. Sudden shifts in my diet always bring on calamitous results. Tonight I had chicken with veggies (green peppers, onions, black beans, corn), spinach and green beans. It is all stuff that I would normally eat. I will wake up around 5:30 or 6 and eat a snack for breakfast (low fiber but high energy food), put an organic gel in my pocket, and maybe eat one after we park the car. Tomorrow is 6 miles, so I won’t need nutrition packs as I run.
As I go to sleep tonight, I will visualize the race. If I have familiarity with the course, it is easier to picture landmarks and times I would shoot for. Visualization is one of the most powerful tools for a runner. It lets you mentally focus on technique, strategy, and positive energy. Every race has anxiety, but if you manage that in the visualization phase of your race prep, the anxiety will energize you. I use one of the Runner’s World Daily Motivations as a mantra, if one has caught my eye. Visualization trains you to tame your body with your mind. In stressful parts of the race, I can recite the mantra to refocus and restrategize to get myself back in the race. In the coming year, I am going to work on visualization with some of our XC runners. It cannot hurt them, but if it helps them manage their races they can only improve. I do a mini version of my visualization exercises for my long training runs.
Tomorrow may be a race for me. I think by writing this, I have talked myself into it. Tomorrow at the line, I may change my mind and run it instead. I will be dressed in my orange vest with a “runacrossky.org” on back. If you see me, introduce yourself.