Every time I have a big race (or even just a key workout) coming up, I plan to take extra time for rest and recovery. I designate a time when I’m going to spend a few hours with my feet up on the couch or go to bed an hour earlier. I might as well flash a neon sign that says “Now’s the time! Bring me your illnesses, bedtime stalling, and meltdowns! It’s time to fuss with each other or dirty a bunch of dishes.” I’m surely guaranteed at least one of the above. Maybe there will even be a minor emergency somewhere around the house.
The half marathon I ran at the end of March was labeled “Toughest Half in Texas.” It was by far the toughest one I’ve ever run, but I was ready. Even though I had been tired and felt overworked two weeks before the race, I made sure I cut back and rested the week before. I went into Saturday’s race rested and prepared.
In my history of running, I’ve made a few mistakes in race preparation, but it wasn’t until I started to focus on improving my time that I began to take a more proactive approach. There were a few steps I took that helped me get ready, so when I crossed the finish line I was confident I gave my best effort.
1. Fuel Up – It took me four half marathons to learn how to get enough carbohydrates during the race, and a friend told me I needed to increase my calories in the days before. This is not the time to cut calories, and it’s something I struggled with. Not the eating part. I love to eat. It’s the not worrying about weight gain part that I struggle with, but I followed my friend’s advice for the last three races I’ve completed. The result: a consistent amount of energy during the race, and a finish where I don’t feel like throwing up.
2. Know the course – This sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s an easy detail to overlook. I was prepared for those Texas size hills at mile 5, because I reviewed the elevation chart on the race website. I made sure in my training to hit hills around miles 5-10 so that my legs would be ready. In earlier weeks of my training I studied hill training. I came across this – “It’s a hill, get over it.” This made me smile as I willed my legs up the steep hills. I also trusted in my training.
3. Train the way you want to race – I’ve had a tendency to run slower as I go longer. In the last few months, I have changed my training to start slower and then steadily increase my pace. This helps my legs get accustomed to running faster when tired.
I’m still learning a lot as I go along. It’s taken me almost two years to get to this point. My hope is that by sharing these simple tips, you can learn from my naivety and get more enjoyment from any run you complete.