Saturday, May 31, 2008

26 Tips for Marathon Training and Racing: #2- Race Day!

The day you've worked so hard for has finally arrived! All the miles, sacrifices, and pain. Don't blow it now!

Pre Race

- Get up! You need to be out of bed 3 hours before the race starts. Eat a carbohydrate breakfast and drink at least 12 ounces of water or sports drink. Go to the bathroom! I usually drink 2 cups of coffee, but limit that to 1 on race day.

- Gear. Double check your race gear one more time to make sure you have everything you'll need. Take snacks and fluids to the start.

- Hydrate. Stop drinking about an hour before the start so you have plenty of time for bathroom trips. With about 10 minutes to go, drink 8-12 ounces of sports drink one more time.


- Your pace the first mile or 2 is crucial. You want to do everything possible to conserve precious muscle glycogen, because the faster you run, the faster you burn it. Hold back and check your 1 mile split. Slow down if your first mile is faster than your anticipated pace.

-Practice energy conservation. Tuck in behind other runners whenever possible. Focus on smooth, relaxed running. Make it feel easy.

-Drink at the aid stations. A few sips at every stop. I take sports drink or switch to water if I take a gel.

-Carbohydrates. You should try to take in 200-250 calories per hour. These days more often than not you have a choice of sports drinks or gels. While hundreds of thousands of long distance athletes use gels without complaint, distance running expert Owen Anderson is not convinced they are the best choice. "...dump a load of goo into your stomach along with a little liquid, it's hard to know what the actual CONCENTRATION of that carbohydrate will be. That concern is not an esoteric one: if the carbo concentration is too high (too much goo, not enough liquid), the carbohydrate will be absorbed slowly and may even pull fluid into your gut - lowering your blood volume and dehydrating you in the process. If the carbo levels are too low (too little goo, too much water), not enough carbs will get to your muscles, and you'll limp through the final miles of the marathon with sad, glycogen-depleted legs. The commercial sports drinks are formulated just right, I always say, so why not just use them ..."

If you use gel, remember they are very concentrated. Crank Sports, maker of e-Gel, recommends 14 oz of water between each one. You'll start the race with water in your system, but that will need to be replaced throughout the race. Each gel has roughly 100 calories, so if you take 1 gel per hour, you should maintain a drinking rate of 7 oz plain water every 30 minutes. You'll still be at least 100 calories short, so take some sports drink along the way to make up the difference. This is something you'll have to experiment with. I recently took about 6 gels during the Vancouver Marathon over 3 hours with no problem, and I know that I was not drinking 28 oz each hour. I've also carried gels on training runs and not had any problems.

If you go with a sports drink, 4 ounces has 30 calories, so you need to drink 28 ounces per hour to get your 200 calories, or 7 oz every 15 minutes.


"The day of the marathon I watched in amazement as he cut all the tangents in Central Park while Smith ran down the middle of the road. The measurement difference between miles 23 to 25 was approximately 50 meters!(tangents vs. middle of the road). It is my opinion that Rod didn't run one step faster - just every step smarter."

–david katz, well-known expert on marathon course design and measurement recalling Rod Dixon's New York City Marathon victory in 1983.

Don't run more distance than you have to! I've been running shorter distances than my competitors for years. Take the shortest distance at every opportunity.

The perfect marathon is run with even splits. In other words, your goal is to run the second half in the same time you ran the first half. This is very difficult to do, especially for the novice. Hold back early or the last 6 miles will be a very painful experience.

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