Now that I have my first race under my belt, I’ve literally spent the last few days analyzing everything. I didn’t do as well as I would’ve liked – what could I have done to improve my experience? How could I have performed better? What would’ve helped?
As I reflect, I figure someone could take something away from my notes, here. Though I’m writing about this and thinking about my race experience, I think I’d probably take this approach for any new race I was running. Many people run the same races over and over again each year… but in order to do that, you’ve got to run it that first time, first. Here are a few things I’m probably going to have to consider while preparing for new races:
1) Do some spy-work. Find out about the race track before you get to the starting line. What threw me for a major loop is the abundance of hills in the race and, as we all know, having to hike up a hill not only affects everyone’s speed, thereby causing them all to get in your way, but also affects your energy expenditure. If you’re meticulous about your energy intake and expenditure throughout your race, an unexpected hill will greatly affect whether or not you’ve got enough energy to carry you through the next fueling station.
2) Figure out your particular race’s procedures in advance, and prepare for that. It’s one thing to understand “how most races operate,” but how does your race operate? Do you have friends, running group-mates, twitter followers or facebook friends who’ve run your race? Can they tell you what to expect? I can tell you straight up, I wasn’t prepared. I almost missed my starting time because I had to dart across the Pentagon parking lot to drop my things off and then run – literally, Go-Greased-Lightning-style – back to my wave to get started. Be obnoxious with your question asking, and ask an official, or someone who has clearly run it before. Carefully review what you receive from your race packet, and hit up your twitter (and follow @bgg2wl!) or your FB (and like BGG2WL) and ask questions there. Before you know it, you’ll feel more prepared… and won’t almost miss your starting time… like somebody we know.
3) Find out about water and fueling stations, and govern yourself accordingly. The Army Ten Miler had water and fueling stations every 2 miles which can be every 30 minutes for a newbie runner, or every 18 minutes if you’re a #bawse. Plan ahead – do you need water in faster time increments than that? If so, do you need to acquire a reliable fuel belt? Do you need to get yourself a back-pack-water-juggy-thingy?
4) Figure out your potty situation. And, if you’re running the Army Ten Miler, realize that there is no peeing in the Potomac. I’m going to have to spend the next year training myself to accept port-a-potties in my life… or learning how to install a catheter. I’m kidding. Sorta. It is absolutely unrecommended to run any extended race with no hydration, but you also have to account for potty-waiting time in your running time… which is frustrating if you’ve got a time goal you’re trying to meet.
5) There’s community out there. Don’t forget to smile and laugh, and take in everything around you. Y’all are out there struggling together. There was one guy, in a pink skully, who I kept catching pace with. We never spoke, but since he was keeping good time, I always kept him in my sights. I think he knew it, too, because he would stop running and walk whenever I caught up with him, and then run back up to catch up with me. After everything was said and done, and we were at the awards ceremony waiting, he walked past and waved goodbye to me.
There’s also the woman who rolled up to me and said, “You know, I can’t stand you tall women. My sister’s tall as you and I can’t stand her either.” I told her, “You better love us, or we’ll just use you as our personal arm rests.” And we both laughed about it… until another woman came up to me talking about my height, at which point I felt like I was wearing a “Come pick with me about my height!” sign on the back of my shirt.
And, of course, there’s the sign that was about .3 of a mile away from the finish line, that said “GO, RANDOM STRANGER, GO!” which is why the pictures of me from the final mile all look like I was seriously hoofing it. Nothing better than encouragement from thoughtful people who are kind enough to consider the “random stranger” as well as their friend. (Also: I may even consider holding up my own “Go, random stranger, go!” sign at the NYC Marathon coming up. Hmmm…)
Alright, y’all… what’d I leave out?
Before the race starts, make sure you are properly warmed up. Otherwise the cramps set in real fast.
Great tips! Love your site. congrats on your weight loss and I pray you continue to have many more opportunities open up for you.
1) Show up/leave early! It’s good for your own peace of mind and gives you a chance to be prepared for all the extra unforeseen hassles (and those happen every race). I also just ran the army 10 miler, and I got on the wrong subway train in the morning (I jumped off in the nick of time) and was also thrown off by the back up in the subway, the walk to the corral, and the lines to the portapotties.
2) Really know your running style. This means knowing how fast you are realistically likely to run, and then being placed in the right corral. It means that if you think you’ll get a boost from passing lots of people part of, or even the whole race, to start near the back, or, conversely, closer to the front if you need to be challenged most of your race. For the 10 miler, I hadn’t run a timed race in 5-10 years (and back when I was timed, I was running 9:45 miles), so I started near the back. Lo and behold I ran it in 74 min, a time I never would have dreamed of, but one that was still probably slowed by the number of people I had to dart around and the amount of uneven grass I had to run on to get around people.
3) Don’t change anything for the race. Race day is not the day to change your pre-race eating or drinking habits. If you eat and drink while you train, try to mimic those habits during the race. If you don’t, don’t suddenly decide that a cup of Gatorade is necessarily a good idea!
4) Also, be aware that pretty much everyone starts out too fast and then slows down (this can ruin some people’s races). In training, it’s difficult to prepare for the psychological effect this may have on you, but as much as you can during the race, don’t let what other people do affect your running too much. Just as their fast starts can ruin their races, it can ruin yours too if you take it too far. You’ve been training for this, you and your body know what to do.
Also, since this is my first comment, I LOVE YOUR SITE! I have been through a severe eating disorder and through significant weight gain. Your descriptions of the experiences you went through as a food addict and the lessons you learned while losing weight – healthily and happily – are really amazing and resonated with me. I think most people need to while away a few hours on this blog and really learn something. I wish this blog had been around when I went through my weight issues, because it would have been invaluable to have your strong voice speaking out about healthy lifestyles and self-esteem. I’m sure you serve as an inspiration to many more people than you know.
Keep running girl! It’s great to read about your experiences as you learn to run distance. As someone that has been running regularly since the age of 12, and distance running since 15, I thought I knew it all. But I’ve learned a good deal from what you’ve posted this last month. Can’t wait to see how your next race goes! In my experience, you learn something every race, and each one is generally better than the last.
I’ve really got to create a comment rating system. Seriously. Some of you need to know just how awesome your comments are.
1) If they tell you ahead of time, do some practice runs with the electrolyte replacement drink or Gu flavor that they plan on passing out. You don’t want to find out that your body doesn’t act well with caffeine or you don’t like the flavor. Then you can decide to bring your own.
2) Put you bib on your shirt and timing chip on your person the night before. Don’t struggle with it on the morning of the race.
3) If you can, have someone drop you off. One last thing to think about – parking. Shout out to the hubby and son who support me from afar. 🙂
4) If they are handing out a shirt, get it as early as you can. Sizing is all over the place and you might be able to change sizes before the race.
5) Have a plan. Whether it is to run for so long and then walk for a short period or just keep running. And have a plan B that you still can be happy with. If I had more time, I could tell about how I almost killed myself in the woods on my first 10k race and didn’t know that it was mostly uphill for the half of the distance.
6) If you find yourself getting powerful headaches after the race and you have salt crystals on your face, you probably sweated out to much sodium in your system. In races over 5 miles I drink exclusively electrolyte replacement drinks. Try to figure out what your body needs during your training runs or you might be very sick at the end of the race.
7) If your race as a secure zone or safety zone, don’t leave unless you are fully recovered. Last year I saw a person pass out outside of the zone and the medical team had a far distance to run out to them to help them.
If I think of anymore, I’ll add them later.
Simple, but don’t eat too much fiber the day before a race, and get adequate rest the night before.
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