In just under two weeks, the Rock 'n Roll Full and Half-Marathons will once again be here; our hotels and restaurants will be filled to capacity, our streets will be littered with used cups and energy gels (don't worry, they all get picked up!-thank you, volunteers!), and people-watching will be at its zenith as we question if the stumbling people we see are A.) Sore, B.) Inebriated or, C.) All of the above.
Many of you have run Rock 'n Roll Savannah before, or have at least completed something similar in another city, thus you may already have your plan of attack firmly in mind-how you plan to fuel before and during the race, your pacing strategy, and even what outfit you're going to wear (if you're reading this and thinking "I have no earthly clue what you're talking about; wing and a prayer, my friend!"...well, believe me, you're not the only one using that tactic, either). That's all well and good, but from the most seasoned runners to those toeing the line for the very first time, it never hurts to be reminded about some good practices as we near the finish line (and in many cases, these "rules" can be applied to races of any distance). Keep in mind that these are not hard and fast must-dos, rather are suggestions from lessons I've learned, both the easy and hard way, over the years; different things work for different runners, so you have to find what works best for you. So, without further ado (and in no particular order):
1.) Practice what you preach. From nutrition to clothing to shoes, make sure there are no surprises come race day; only eat and drink what you know will keep your tummy happy, and make sure your outfit-from the hat on your head to the socks on your feet-sits just right, because 13.1 and 26.2 miles are difficult enough without various places on your body blistering or chaffing (just take my word for it); don't add insult to injury. Practice now to make "perfect" later.
2.) Hydrate the entire week prior to the race, not just the day/night before. Continue sipping on your drink of choice the morning of the run, but try to steer clear of said beverage the last 30 minutes or so, because you should already be hydrated well enough and won't want to make an impromptu, unwanted pit stop mid-race.
3.) Most people (mistakenly) carb load the night prior to their race. While it is important to eat a healthy meal the night before, what you eat that night isn't nearly as important as when you eat it; make sure you're eating earlier than you generally might, because even though your body won't have a chance to process it by the time of the race, it will allow the food to sit comfortably during the run. As for carb loading, your dinner on Thursday night is the key here, to insure your body gets-and is able to apply-the most from the meal.
4.) Set goals. I generally set three, and make achieving each slightly harder than its predecessor. For instance, I might say my C-goal is just finishing, my B-goal is running a sub-2:30 Half, and my A-goal is achieving a PR. By doing this, you set yourself up for success, both during and after the race (and both physically and mentally); not only will these goals help to keep you motivated during the run, but even if you don't have your best race ever, achieving at least one of your goals gives you something to hang your hat on as you attempt to move forward to your next run.
5.) Stay positive. You either did your training or you didn't; with the hurricane(s) and everything else that's transpired in recent weeks, we've all had a lot on our plates. There is nothing we can do now to change the past or better prepare for the future, in terms of running-in fact, there's an old adage that basically says all we can do this close to race day is hurt ourselves. Remember that you paid your hard-earned money to do this, so embrace the opportunity and try to go into it with a smile on your face, because stressing over it is only going to eat-up the energy you need to perform at your best (and put you in bad headspace, to boot). Try to get some good sleep the next two weeks, rest your overused muscles as often as you're able, and stay in your routine-no sudden changes (unless that routine is sleeping poorly and overusing your muscles, then by all means, suddenly change it!)
Always remember that we're all in this together; that even though some of us might take longer strides, or even be faster, the starting and finishing lines are in the same place for us all. Enjoy the cooler weather, enjoy being active and practicing healthy lifestyle choices, and then enjoy showing all of your friends and family members your well-earned bling on race day (and after), because you should celebrate the fact that you did what you set out to do all those months ago; this is something you did yourself, and you should be proud.