Can you believe that the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon is less than 2 weeks away!!! I am mildly freaking out as I type this. By now, runners should be in their taper phase and preparing for the big day. I originally planned to do my last long run (22 miles) this past Saturday, May 4, but it didn’t happen quite like that. I had issues with muscle fatigue and thought I was going to faint, so I cut it short at 4 miles and decided I was as trained as I could get. I normally like to prepare to 22 miles. I know most plans have you run to 20 and leave the last 6 for race day, but something about that just makes me nervous. In my opinion, 6 seems so much more daunting than 4. Anyway, 22 miles definitely didn’t happen, so I am hoping for an excellent race (power of positive thinking).
There are a few things that I like to do before a big race (anywhere from 2 weeks out to the morning of) to help make me feel mentally and physically prepared. Here are some of them. (Please note that I am by no means a doctor or marathon expert; these are just tips that I find work well for me.)
STRETCH! Your muscles are going to take a beating no matter what race you are doing. I found that stretching well about two weeks before the race will help with this. Plus who wants tight calves and hamstrings on race day? No one. Also, I am not a person who uses a foam roller on the reg, but I do have a handy rolling pin that works wonders. I used this when I had the problem with my calf muscle, and it was fabulous. I’ve heard of people using tennis and golf balls to roll out muscles, too.
Plan your race outfit ahead of time but be flexible. Ahh, Cleveland weather can be so unpredictable. Check the weather starting the week of the race and start planning what you are going to wear (if you haven’t already…I already have because fashion is just as important as comfort). Keep checking right up until race day. Put your clothes out the night before and pin your bib on before putting your shirt on (so much easier). I like to bring an old long sleeve shirt to keep myself warm before the start of the race. I usually toss this before we start or when I am into the first mile. If it’s raining, trash bags double as ponchos.
Diet is important. I am sure you are reading this and saying, “DUH!” I don’t just mean eat healthy foods to help prepare your body for race day, but eat foods that are not going to give you issues during the race as in making you stop at every. single. bathroom stop along the course. For me, I know that I need to seriously cut back on my fruit, veggie, dairy, and fat consumption the week of the race. I eat a lot of white rice and chicken and drink a lot of water, and pretzels are my fave snack to eat for carb loading. I’ve also found that sports drinks are not good for me to hydrate pre-race, but I do drink them along the course.
Get plenty of rest. The body doesn’t function well without this, so plan your pre-race week to get the most rest possible. If it means not heading out with friends or passing up on that late-night movie date, do it. I also try to get up early the day before a big race, so I am tired and want to go to bed earlier.
Chipotle is the best pre-race meal there is. I know I just got done saying eat well, but hear me out on this one. I swear by a Chipotle burrito bowl two days before a long run or race. I get mine with the following ingredients: brown and white rice (half of each), chicken, black beans, tomatoes, corn salsa, and cheese. This gives me carbs and protein that I need to keep my body going. Plus it’s just plain delicious. And I want to give a shout-out to my local Chipotle in Elyria for being the best one ever. Raym and I are self-proclaimed connoisseurs of Chipotle, and Elyria wins hands-down.
Make sure your mp3 player and watch are charged. The marathon is not the time for your music to die, and how heartbroken would you be if your watch didn’t have enough juice to finish recording one of your greatest accomplishments? Plan in advance to have all devices charged and ready to go.
Give yourself enough time on race day morning to get ready. There are a lot of things that need done on the big day before heading out the door, and rushing around is a sure way to stress yourself out and forget things. If it helps, make a list of what you need to do the day of and follow that.
Eat a smart breakfast. I think I’ve found the best breakfast combo for me – toast with peanut butter and banana (or chocolate peanut butter) and water. I’ve tested it for the past few long runs, and it provided me with much-needed energy. I highly recommend sticking with your usual breakfast for race day. I can tell you from past experience that your stomach is not ready to try something new.
Have a game plan for nutrition on race day. Again, I follow what I have been training with all along. I use GU energy gels in chocolate, peanut butter, and vanilla, and I make sure I take them every 4 miles. I also added GU Chomps in watermelon. They work well when I want to actually eat something instead of downing a gel.
Body Glide (or a similar anti-chafe product) will save your skin. I slather it all over my feet to prevent blisters and on my thighs to prevent “chub rub.” This stuff is magical. I had my legs chafe one time. I will never let it happen again.
Plan to arrive in Cleveland early! They start closing the roads at 6:00 am, so give yourself ample time to make the drive. And remember, you still need to find parking and walk to Browns Stadium to reach the start, and then there’s the issue of bag check (if you desire), bathroom stops, pre-race stretching, and getting to your start corral. I would suggest planning as to allow yourself at least an hour from the time you reach the stadium until the start of the race. You will need it.
Whew, this list was longer than I planned. Now I want to hear from you!
What pre-race tips do you have? Please share because your tip could save someone’s race :-)