Race the Way You Train
We are 19 weeks into our training season, and for many, your goal races are getting close. Many of you are thinking about race plans. You may be planning to leave your water bottle or hydration vest at home, and go with the water stops and sports drink being served on the course. Why not, it will make your load lighter, right? Wrong! As part of your training, you carry your fluids with you and sip regularly, and you drink your sports drink. Have you ever used the sports drink that is going to be served on the course? Have you heard of the drink served on the course, and do you only drink every 2-3 miles?
For some, you have learned that your race doesn’t allow a hydration vest. What do you do? Do they allow you to carry a hand held water bottle or are you just allowed a belt for your phone and gels, and what about the potato chips and animal crackers? These are very valid and very real concerns. Now is the time to look at the fine print of your races and find out what changes you will need to make for coming training runs. Start using the sport drink that will be served to see if you can tolerate it. If you cannot handle it, figure out how you will transport enough of your special blend. Many sports drink powders can be made into a paste to be diluted whenever you need to refill your hydration bottle at a water stop. If you need chips, think about putting them in snack size baggies and pin them to your hydration belt. Whatever you need, find out now how you, or you friends on the course, will become your own aid station. You may also want to practice drinking and eating based on the intervals of the race to find out if that works for you or if you will need to start practicing using a hand held bottle so that you have more control of your hydration.
In addition to food and fluids, you want to think about pacing. You are accustomed to running as part of a group, and having someone call out walk breaks, or walking next to you every step of the way. On race day, even if your pace group leader or best training friend is by your side, each of your are individuals. You need to know when you are going to fast or too slow, when you need to walk backwards to reset your posture and rest your quads. You need to know how to reset your intervals if you need to shorten the run segment. You need to know how to walk faster and maintain the pace needed to hit a race’s mid-point cutoff. Your race is all about you, and so is your training. You should be taking in every kernel of information that your Pace Group Leaders and fellow group members share, and put them in your toolkit.
Another component of racing the way you train has to do with your intervals. On race day, you should be using the same interval that you used during training. Unless you have done long runs using a longer run segment, you do not want to start your race with longer runs, planning to go to shorter runs on the back half of the race. This is particularly important for the marathoners. If you go out too fast and run too long in the beginning, you will burn through your reserves and run out of steam for the back half of the race. Around mile 18, you will begin to lose time as you tire out and burn through all of the time that you thought you banked. Instead, go out easy and check your pace for the first three miles. The first three to five miles can end up being fast because of the adrenaline and excitement of actually being there and getting caught up in everyone’s energy. Your goal is to settle into your pace and take in all the sights and sounds of the race. Gawking takes time and saves energy that you will call on later. In general, you will find that your pace is faster than our training runs using the exact same intervals. This happens because pace is determined by how quickly you turnover your feet at the ankle, not by how long you run before taking a walk break. Save those longer intervals for your shorter races.
For your remaining training runs and walks pay attention to your Pace Group Leaders and the alumni runners and walkers in your group. Watch and listen to them so that on race day, even if you are by yourself, their spirit is by your side making sure that you hydrate, fuel and stick to your pace. Taking them in will help ensure that your race is more like a perfect training run.