By Teel Tishgast, Showdown Half 2 Hour Pacer, RRCA-Certified Running Coach
Now is not the time to try anything new. Try eating a basic diet of rice, potatoes, pasta, fish, chicken, grains and hummus. Foods to avoid: dairy, spicy, acidic, fatty, fried, processed, artificial sweeteners, leafy greens, and gas-causing foods like broccoli.
Keep your fluid intake up stick to water and electrolyte beverages. Avoid soft drinks and alcohol. Maybe incorporate Emergen-C once a day to help ward off any potential germs. If you are a coffee drinker like me, be very aware of how your body processes it and be careful not to drink too much.
It’s important to get good rest two nights before the race. The night before, I am so nervous my alarm won’t go off, that I toss and turn the whole night. So don’t worry about it if you don’t have a great night's sleep, because your adrenaline will carry you through as long as you are well-rested the week leading up.
I highly recommend picking up your bib from Whole Foods Market Fairview on Thursday or Friday because it’s one less thing to worry about on race day. PS- your numbered bib goes on the front of your shirt.
Lay out everything you will need for race day including: underwear, shorts, shirt, jog bra, socks, shoes, spibelt (or other branded fanny pack if needed), nutrition (GU, Chomps, sports beans, etc.), water belt or handheld water, throwaway shirt (if it's cold at the start and you think you will need an extra layer before warming up), change of clothes, bib, safety pins, relevant race day materials including directions and parking map, and a towel if you will be using the onsite shower trailer post-race!
Race day time line: If I have a 7:30 am start, I plan to get there by 6:30 at the latest, to allow time for parking, use the port-o-potty, do a 1-2 mile very easy warm up and visit with my friends. You never know what traffic will be like if you are going to a new location so map it out and allow for an extra 10 minutes. If the map says the race is 20 minutes from my house, then I would leave by 6:00 am. I am a coffee drinker, so it is worth it to me to sacrifice 1 hour of sleep in order to avoid stomach issues. Therefore, my alarm will go off at 4:00 am.
I wake up, have a glass of water, and do a relaxing stretching routine while drinking coffee for about 30 minutes. Then I have 3 pieces of Orowheat bread, 2 with hummus and one with jelly. This has been my training and pre-race staple for 3 years and nothing else compares for me. I have one more cup of coffee and then I have plenty of time to go potty and I am ready to start my day. On the way to the race I drink a Gatorade.
Starting Line: You trained through the heat of summer and now you get to reap the rewards of beautiful race day weather. If the weather pattern continues, the morning will start off in the low 60’s and by the time we cross the finish line it will be in the mid 70’s. This means you will want to dress in an extra layer that you can shed as soon as the race starts. [Note from the Race Director: Be considerate when discarding your throwaway item. Leave it on start corral fencing, or at an aid station if possible. We'll donate the left items!] I recommend an old long sleeve shirt you don’t mind throwing away or a 99-cent poncho. You will want to bring a bag with an extra change of clothes because once you cool down your damp/sweaty clothes will make you cold.
Bring your favorite race nutrition, you don’t want to try something on race day that you haven’t tried before, so don’t rely on a race to give you what you need. I bring 5 or 6 Gu’s and take my first, 15 minutes prior to start time, then I take one about every 3-4 miles and maybe have 1 or 2 to share in case a friend forgets. I also like to bring a sports water bottle that I can toss at an aid station. That way, I can skip the first couple of water stops where there is usually the most traffic.
Most courses offer water stops every 2-2 ½ miles, so if you need water every mile, be sure you have your own water. It is important to stay hydrated but don’t over-hydrate because it will throw off your electrolyte balance. Try taking little sips of water and alternating in Gatorade.
Finish Line: You have earned your glory of becoming a half marathoner. Enjoy the moment and take it all in. Do a victory lap and keep walking, don’t sit down. Your body needs time to cool down. You want to keep the blood flowing through the body. Stopping suddenly can cause light-headedness because your heart rate and blood pressure drop rapidly. Winding down slowly allows them to fall gradually and will help keep your legs from cramping up. Enjoy the post-race snacks to help assist in the recovery process.
You will lose all recollection of the pain you went through and only remember the awesome feeling of accomplishment! So now it’s time to sign up for your next race. We’ll see you at the New Years Double!