With race day just around the corner and its time to get ready to run your best. There is time to run one or more low intensity training runs which should be designed to maintain your fitness while allowing your body to rest. After you have run your last workout your final race preparation is to eat carbs on Friday and Saturday, pick-up your race number, and relax.
On race day there are a few options that you have that can impact your race performance such as pacing, nutrition and apparel.
There are four ways you can pace your half marathon. Every pacing strategy has its pluses and minuses
Start easy and accelerate
+ It’s a much more fun race if you can run your fastest quarter during the last quarter. You will pass other runners and you finish strong.
– If you start out too slow then you have left too much time on the road and your cannot make up the difference even if you run a very fast last 5km.
Start out faster than usual
+ Most of us are tempted to start out fast. You have a high energy level from tapering and fuel loading. If you start out faster than usual you may run a personal best time or a faster time that you have been looking for.
– The risk is that if you went out too fast you may run into a wall after 15km. You won’t know that until later in the race.
Attempt an even pace based on your training
+ This seems like the most logical option. You know yourself and your pace and you start out at a target pace that you feel you can achieve.
– Your competitors may get away. Does not consider that some people rise to the occasion and race better than they train.
Have no plan – run as you feel.
+ When you are feeling really good that could be your moment to shine and race well. When you are not feeling that great you hold back and run an average race.
– You may feel really good, and go out too fast and pay for it later. You may be nervous and decide not to go out fast enough.
The best approach is to have a strong idea of your fitness and start out at that pace even if the crowd starts fast. Sometimes you want to go for it and try to run faster which means you will start out faster than usual and hope for the best. You may just want to finish your first half marathon and then it makes sense to start out easy and pick up the pace if you are feeling good.
GPS watches can help you settle into the right pace. Usually I set a pace range of plus or minus 5 seconds per km as its difficult to run exactly at a specific pace.
A half marathon does not require the same amount for fuel loading as a marathon. If you can increase your calorie intake on the Friday and Saturday by 50 percent to 75 percent you should be well fueled for the race. During your taper you train lightly over the final week before the race your muscle tissue will absorb the extra calories and store them for the race.
Race day nutrition depends on what you have been eating before your workouts. You should have a good idea what works best for you. You have a few options for your race day nutrition.
LIGHT BREAKFAST – You can wake up early and have a light breakfast of toast, or bagels and coffee. Approximately 300 calories
ENERGY GELS – Small carbohydrate liquid pouches that you can carry while running. You can rely on gels for your race morning fuel and have one gel 20 minutes before the race starts and a few more gels during the race. Approximately 400 calories
CARBOHYDRATE BEVERAGES – You can drink several hundred calories of carbohydrates on race morning to top up your fuel level and they are easily absorbed. You need to have minimally a glass of water before the race and you can add a carbohydrate mix to it. Approximately 200 to 600 calories.
You need to have some calories in the morning if you want to see a good race time.The key with nutrition is not to try anything new the morning of the race. If you always eat oatmeal then eat oatmeal. If you always have toast and coffee before morning workouts then have the same on race day.
How can apparel affect your race? If you over dress you will sweat more and lose fluids which impacts your race time. At the same time you want to be wearing enough to feel comfortable during the race. The weather forecast is colder than it has been for the past two months. One of the big decisions is to wear tights or not.
Tights or race shorts
Tights will keep your legs warm and you will be more comfortable but they do restrict leg movement and can add a few seconds to each kilometer of the race. Some of the race shorts are made of light fabric and can be too cold. You can wear sports underwear under the shorts and stay warmer without restricting leg lift while running. You can also wear a 1/4 tight without restricting your stride.
Jacket or long sleeve
Jackets are warm and you can adjust the warmth with the zipper to avoid overheating. They are not as aerodynamic as a long sleeve shirt. You can wear a long sleeve with a race singlet or t-shirt over top and that should be sufficient unless it is very windy. The weather forecast is for light wind.
A toque or cap are a good idea when the temperature is below 7 degrees. If there is a bit of wind or rain it will help maintain your body temperature. If you are overheated you can always remove the hat and allow your temperature to drop.
Gloves are an essential on a cold day. Your body will take heat from your extremities to stay warm. If you hands are cold you may clench them and this will tighten your arms and shoulders which can cause you to run slower. You want relaxed hands and arms while racing.
The weather forecast is for 2 to 3 degrees which is cold but not freezing. I will wear a hat, gloves, long sleeve shirt, race singlet, shorts and short underwear. I will be warm enough and my running stride will not be impeded.
Have an idea of you pacing, what you are going to eat on race day, and what you are going to wear. Think about it a few days in advance and have a plan. It it less stressful if you have a plan and you will race better. All the best in the First Half!