As you know, I’m in taper mode over here at Running Boston and Beyond, and I have to say this is one of the first times I can remember having a hard time with it. The race is next Sunday, March 22nd, and I’m way more agitated, annoyed, grumpy, and moody than my normal sun shiny self. The only real reason I can come up with the difference in this taper is that my actual training cycle has been much shorter, thanks to my 70.3 paired with shin splint denial. I didn’t even start speed work until the first of the year. From everything I can gather, I’m ready, and that particular detail will not matter in my race results. I believe the other variables will have the final say.
Anyway, I’m coming down the last stretch, and there’s a lot to do. Lists, grocery shopping, more lists, playlists, and race planning. I think we runners can all learn from each other, so I thought I’d share what I do to get ready for a marathon, besides getting on everyone’s nerves and randomly breaking out in tears.
Everyone has their own thing, but this is mine. I tweak it here and there for all my races depending on the location and all that, but the basics remain the same. Maybe it can help you prepare for your race as well.
- Playlist preparation – this one is a doozy for me. It takes a LOT of time, because I don’t just compile my music, oh no, I have a specific order of songs and I time them based on where I SHOULD be during my race. I have an excel spreadsheet where I can enter the song title and length so I can put my really good “pump-it-up” songs when I know I’ll need them the most. Music actually helps me focus and keep my mind off the discomfort I will be feeling during that 26.2+.
- Long-term pre-race nutrition plan (the three days before race until evening meal on race eve) – this is one of the most important parts of the overall nutrition plan. I’ve bonked during a marathon before (made it to mile 6 and quit at the half) and vowed to never do it again, so I take nutrition extremely seriously. I write down the different foods that I will consume during these three days. I am very carb-heavy, but I also throw in a LOT of protein in the form of meat. That’s just one of my things – I eat a lot of meat pre-marathon. I do not have specific meals planned to a T, I just write what I will eat on each day. Some of the items included are oatmeal, grits, white noodles, white rice, quinoa, grilled chicken, and casseroles with noodes/rice and chicken. I go light on the milk and cheese during these days. Or at least I try.
- Make a race plan – These are the specific activities I will do and the time I plan to do them from race eve until the gun starts, and I go backwards from the gun. Here’s mine so far, and I know I will be tweaking it until the night before the race. Why do I do this? So I don’t even have to think about when I do anything before the race. It’s already planned and is a no-brainer. And then I won’t forget things either.
- 6:35 am – race starts
- 6:15-6:30 – eat chomps/stingers
- 6:00-6:15 – use bathroom, take ibuprofen
- 5:30-6:00 Drop supplies at water station, use bathroom, focus, find friends, laugh, check weather, try not to throw up.
- 5:00 – Arrive at race start after dropping vehicle at finish line with my post-race clothes and recovery drinks in it (Husband is heading up a water station and he has to be there early so I’m going with him so I can have a dry/warm car to sit in).
- 5:00 – Eat banana or PB bread, probably both
- 4:00 – Get up, stretch, write goal pace times on arm, check Garmin
- 2:30 (am) – Eat big pre-race meal and hydrate, try to get back to sleep
- 8:00 pm night before – Check weather and verify clothes needed – be sure they’re bagged and labeled
- 7:30ish – Eat big meal (hamburger on a bun) and hydrate; check Garmins to be sure they’re charged.
- See what I mean? There’s a lot of detail in these, but if you think everything through and plan, you should find yourself not frantic or realizing you forgot something the morning of your race.
- Make supply lists – I start from the bottom and work my way up. Shoes, socks, tights, shorts, undies, bra, tank, short sleeve, long sleeve, throw away shirt and gloves, BIB, gum, iPod, earphones, arm warmers (cheap socks with the feet cut out), hair ties, nutrition, EVERYTHING I may possibly need for race day, before and after the race. It’s a long list, but again, it takes away the possibility of forgetting something.
- Plan race nutrition – This one takes practice. I can take my gum out of my mouth, open the gu, eat it, put gum back in, all while having it timed so after I’m done, I will run upon an aid station and wash it down with water. One thing I know from other people’s mistakes though, is FOLLOW through with your race nutrition plan. I’m going to take a Gu every 6 miles, even if I feel like Meb, unless I feel I need one sooner, then I’ll adjust on the fly. NEVER wait too long to fuel or it could very well be too late. Make a plan and follow it, but also allow yourself a little bit of flexibility if you’re not feeling right.
- Plan race strategy – I’m hoping to run a negative split race, so I need to start more conservatively. I don’t know what the weather will be, so I may have to make adjustments, but I have a nice range of per mile times I need to 1) get me to Boston and 2) get me a dream PR. I know where I need to be to BQ, which is the goal, so these are the times I will write on my arm with a Sharpie, so I won’t have to do any math while racing. In Boston, it was great to know that at the 10k mark, I saw my goal time on my arm, was one minute ahead of that, so knew I had a 1 minute cushion. I think one of the keys here is to make your plan and stick with it. At the end, if you have gas, push the pedal to the metal, but don’t do it too early or you may just run out.
- Visualize your run – This one came about the first time I ran a marathon for time. It evolved naturally for me, but I had read about visualization in Hal Higdon’s book. It used to start a few days before the race, but now this process starts several weeks before the marathon and sometimes, my husband will find me staring at the wall, only to distract me out of my first place finish fantasy. Haha, really, I imagine this: a good, strong run (one of those awesome days), hearing steady, strong footsteps on the pavement, even, strong breathing, taking my water at the aid stations, passing the mile markers, crossing the finish line with my arms up and a smile on my face. I do this when I am training, when I write blogs, when I am doing house work. It’s a great tool to build confidence and to visualize yourself going through with the race and meeting your goals.
- Think positive, be realistic, have no fear – Running marathons is such a mental game. I’m one week away as I write this and I’m not in a good place mentally. The difference is that I know this is the typical up and down I have before a big race where I’ve set major goals. I’ll be ok. I’ve also decided that I will not allow myself to give up at the end, when I’m most tired and probably struggling. I’ve planned how to attack, how to talk to myself, how to keep my knees up and get the miles done successfully, how to focus on the end, not the process. This is something different that I’ve never done. I KNOW it will be hard, but I KNOW it will be worth it in the end.