Final Race Weekend Tips

15 10 2009

Thanks to Coach Scott G for these very helpful final tips for those F4 athletes racing this weekend in Denver, Moab, or Humboldt:

We have traveled a long distance together, my friends.  In fact, if you’ve done most of the workouts, I estimate you’ve probably run between 200 and 250 miles since we first met back in June.  And a good portion of those miles were uphill.  J

As you know, however, having done all that training does not guarantee success on race day.  All the training does is stack the odds in your favor, and increase your potential for success on race day.  But now that you have the potential, can you turn that potential into concrete success?  Put another way, you’ve painstakingly worked to plant the seeds, foster the growth of the trees, and harvest the lemons.  Now, can you make lemonade?

Bobby McGee often says that on race day, 90% of athletes race below their potential, 9% race at their potential, and 1% actually race above their potential.  The difference between your potential and where you actually perform is what sport psychologists refer to as “performance loss”.  The factors that can contribute to performance loss are, among others:

Leading up to the race

  • Poor nutrition
  • Poor hydration
  • Too much stress
  • Not being fully rested

On race morning

  • Not eating proper breakfast
  • Not eating far enough in advance of start time
  • Stress of getting prepared and getting to start on time
  • Improper warm-up

During race

  • Going out too fast
  • Not sticking to race plan (or not having one)
  • Poor nutrition
  • Poor hydration
  • Being overdressed, underdressed
  • Negative attitude
  • Unnecessary stress
  • Lack of belief in oneself
  • Lack of toughness

Obviously, there are others.  The challenge is to do everything you can to eliminate as many of these as you can, if not all of them.  If you eliminate all of them, you should be able to run to your full potential, which is a great feeling.  There’s nothing better than finishing a race and knowing that you couldn’t have done it any better.  In fact, success on race day is more about removing obstacles to the great race that’s already inside you, waiting to be released.  Your main concern over the next few days should not be whether you are capable of running well.  Your main concern should be eliminating anything that might stand in the way of that happening.  So, with that in mind, here are some thoughts on things you might want to consider over the next few days to help you be in the top 10%, those that perform to, or even above their potential on race day.

The Next Few Days

Really pay attention to what you put into your body.  You’ve tuned it up really well, and it’s like a race car waiting for the green flag to drop.  But it won’t be able to perform if you put low grade fuel (food) into it over the next few days, and don’t keep it lubricated (fluids).  Even one bad meal in the next few days could cost you.  So really be diligent.  If everyone is going out tomorrow from the office to have Twinkies and deep-fried lard, you might want to politely excuse yourself.  Everything you eat and drink for the next few days is fuel for your race.  Choose the high-octane stuff.

Likewise, hydrate well over the next few days.  Keep a bottle nearby, and continue to sip throughout the day.  By race morning, you should be peeing clear and copiously.

Try to do everything you can to go into the race well rested.  The purpose of the tapering period is to allow you to be completely healed and recovered from all the workouts.  Resist the temptation to do anything that will jeopardize that.  Now is not a good time to be pulling weeds, going to the rock gym, moving your barbells up to the attic, pulling the transmission on your pick-up, painting the house, hiking Sanitas, going for long bike rides, etc.  Make smart choices, and certainly avoid the temptation to get in one last hard workout.  It definitely won’t help, and will probably hurt.  Save your energy.  You’ll need it.

The Night Before

Do as much of your race preparation as possible the night before your race.  Set out everything you’ll need so you won’t have to go on a frantic scavenger hunt in the morning.  Put on your race clothes to make sure you have everything.  Pin on your number.  Set out your bottles and food.  Clear the memory on your watch.  Make sure you have your Body Glide, sun block, and anything else you’ll need.  The idea is that you should be able to wake up the next day and have everything prepared.  Have a good healthy dinner on the early side, which will help you get to bed early.  Set two alarms, and leave yourself 15 minutes more than you think you’ll need to get to the start.  As you go to sleep, visualize success on race day.

Race Morning

When you wake up, smile.  It’s race day!  Take a moment, and a deep breath before you get out of bed.

Your morning meal should be completed at least two hours before start time.  This will give your body the proper amount of time to digest and process the food.  If you eat less than two hours before start time, you run the risk that there will still be blood in your stomach processing your food.  If you start running before this process is complete, you force your body to choose between sending blood to your stomach to process your food, or to you legs to help you run.  Either way, you lose.  Note that it’s OK to have a very light snack about 10-15 minutes before the start to top off the tank.

Before you leave your room, look in the mirror, and remind yourself that you’ve done enough.

At The Start

In the time leading up to the start, stay relaxed and focused.  Immediately terminate any negative thoughts that might pop up.  Stay away from anyone who is spewing negative, self-doubting BS, or complaining about one thing or another to excuse themselves in advance for not having a good day.  Decide that regardless of what comes up, there is nothing that can knock you off center.  Be the person that everyone looks at and thinks to themselves, “There’s someone who is really relaxed and confident …”

After The Gun

Settle into your pace as soon as possible.  Ignore the madness that is going on around you.  As people run by you, remind yourself that you there’s a pretty good chance that they don’t know what they’re doing.  More importantly, remind yourself that is doesn’t matter.  You have a plan, and nothing is going to sway you from doing what you need to do.

Pay attention to the things that matter and are under your control, and ignore the things that don’t matter, or are out of your control.  Stick religiously to your nutrition and hydration plan.  Continue to check in with yourself with respect to your form.  Are you relaxed?  Are you holding tension?  Is your cadence good?  By running with good form, you make the whole task easier, and increase the chances that you’ll have a lot left for the push at the end.

Each mile marker, check your splits, and remind yourself that it’s all “excellent”!  J

Look forward to the more challenging parts of the race.  You’ve probably trained more than anyone on the hills, and they are to your advantage.  Remember to push through the crests of the hills, continuing your effort for a few more strides as you go over the top.

At The Finish

If you’ve run a good race in an attempt at a challenging goal, you might experience a bit of discomfort as you near the end of the race.  This is natural, and not a sign that something is wrong.  Know that you can handle it, as you’ve had plenty of practice.  Think of the discomfort as an old friend.  Continue to ask yourself, “After all I have been through over the past 17 weeks, after all the work I have done, am I willing to do just a little more?  Am I willing to push for just a few more minutes?”

As you approach the finish line, regardless of whether or not it has been a good race for you, allow the last 100 yards to be a celebration.  Resolve to cross the finish line with a big smile on your face, and your arms in the air, because every finish line is cause for celebration.  There most likely come a time in the future when you will not have the ability to do things like this any more.  Running 13.1 or 26.2 miles is not a trivial accomplishment, and one that most people that walk this earth will never experience.  Whether or not you think you did it well, it is still cause for celebration, because one day, you will look back on that moment as one of the times when you were at your very best.  If you want to pick apart your race, wait a few minutes until after it’s over.  But during those last few yards, focus only on what you have accomplished, not what you have not.  Remember, it’s not just the end of a race, it’s a milestone on a much bigger journey.

Hope that helps.  Have a great race!

– Scott

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