Dyed hair & gratitude: lessons in half-marathons.
With the New Balance Fall Classic Half-marathon tomorrow, I thought I would share some of my insights into race-day preparation, beyond what you could find in the standard Race Event email (i.e. as in the Fall Classic “Important Race Information” email below):
To have a great experience, follow these tips:
Days before race
- Check the race-day weather forecast
- Pack your things the night before – set race gear aside and pack a bag with a change of clothes
- Stay well-hydrated
- Think about taking a bicycle (free secured parking) or public transit, or arrange for carpooling with friends. Our parking map has the location and price of parking options.
- Get up with plenty of time for breakfast and travel
- Arrive 1 hour before race start
- Grab a pair of raceday gloves if it’s chilly
- Drop off your bag with the bag check
Over the last two years, I’ve participated in six half-marathons and have learned a few things that aren’t often written about in these letters:
[Warning: Some photos are a little gross.]
Blisters and bruised nail beds from baaad shoes
- Don’t wear any new shoes (that’s heels, pumps or loafers) in the days before a race – new hot spots on heels or toes can quickly turn to angry blisters in the race and ruin your fun.
- Same goes for new running shoes – carefully consider the downsides of running 21km in a pair of old, worn-out ‘no-shock-left’ shoes and a pair of ‘fresh out of the box’ shoes. The three times I’ve bought shoes in the advent of a race, I wore them every day for a week before they fit comfortably.
- This one I learned from a seasoned marathon runner, Helen: if you’re racing for the first time with a new watch, wear your old one as well! Last month, at the Okanagan Marathon, Helen was standing at the start line, acquiring the satellites on her new Garmin Forerunner 405 (in order for the Garmin to calculate an accurate distance/pace/speed), when it suddenly went dead. It showed a full charge right before the race. Luckily she had her Ironman on her other wrist so was able to keep a 4-hrs 15-min pace and come in first in her age category – 60 years old! The problem with the Garmin, it turned out, was a deposit of sunscreen/sweat which clogged the charging points. A little alcohol on a q-tip and it was as good as new.
- Don’t wear a pair of short-shorts or racing skorts if you’ve not run in them before, or if you’ve gained/lost a little weight and your clothes are too tight or too loose – creating friction. I have scars on my inner thighs from a race in May where they rubbed together for an hour and forty minutes and running in the hot weather, mixed with the sweat… it. was. just. painful.
Body Glide - For a smooth run
Do use Body Glide or Vaseline on those tender, bouncy bits and where the seams of clothes can up (under arms, under the bra, thighs…)
- Consider running with a little tub of Sportslick or Vaseline to apply to any area along the way. Some races even supply it at aid-stations en-route, but don’t depend on it.
- Do reschedule any body-waxes for after the race and minimize any freshly shaved/waxed surfaces, as fresh skin irritates easily.
- Same goes for the pedicure – save it for after the race. Cut toenails short, and file rough edges so the nails are less likely to catch on your shoes and with the constant pressure, causing them to lift off the nail bed.
- Guys – do wear nip guards to avoid the “Bloody Elevens” which will freak out the runners around you. It’s the repetitive friction of the fabric against the nipples, which will cause them to ache or even bleed.
Bloody Elevens - ouch!
- More on the prevention of thigh chaffing here.
Other random stuff
- Don’t dye your hair the day before a race, unless you want coloured-splatters all over your racing jersey – even if it does say ‘permanent’ on the package
Nutrition stuff: Gel energy shots
Cliff Shot Mocha - Energy Gel
Do pack enough gel shots to get you through a race. For a half, I pack five: one I take 15min before the race, and three along the race (every half-hr) and that last one to hold in my hand for the last 20min to bring me comfort – as if holding it alone will give me that extra energy surge! My personal favourite are Clif Shots because I can read & understand the nutrition contents – which are mostly organic, natural ingredients. (You can read a review of them here.) I remember reading that Lance Armstrong reportedly ran a 2:50 marathon on 15 gel shots…
- Oh, dang – I just realized, I don’t have any gels left for tomorrow’s race! Ack! So, um… do remember to BUY your gels before the race - preferably in bulk, in all the flavours you enjoy.
- Do grab an aid station water if you’re going to be sucking back the gel shots. It can be tough on the stomach if you’re not diluting them.
- At the start line, squeeze in there amongst the other runners – being surrounded by all that nervous, excited energy will get you pumped!
- If you run with an an mp3 player put some time into creating a motivating playlist. Mine contains little messages from my bf that I play at particularly tough spots (for me – around the 9km, 13km and 19km mark). I also have a track on gratitude play around 14km, so I can forget for a moment that I’m racing for myself, and reflect in appreciation for the opportunity to be running with all these healthy, fit people instead of running from war or terror or from some predator, like my ancestors would have had to do.
- Don’t blow it all in the first 2 minutes. It’ll feel amazing, like you could run forever, but once your muscles run out of the stored ATP (energy) for this short/intense anaerobic start and the lactic acid hits a threshold, your body will have to begin to make more ATP – which means, for most of us, we slow down (i.e. find our pace) to allow for ATP to be produced oxidatively (aerobically). That’s why we find ourselves breathing heavily.
- Breath naturally – but try to find a calm, deep rhythm – that’s one thing you’ll notice as you become more aerobically trained – your breathing will become deep, full, slow and powerful.
- Really do say “Thank you!” as you run past the race volunteers, especially when they’re standing by themselves, in the chilly morning. They got up even earlier than you to be there! The mere act of showing gratitude will make you feel happier, your step lighter and everyone’s day better.
- Pin your race number to the front of your shirt, not the back if you want to find any of the professional pictures of yourself on the route.
- SMILE when you cross the finish line! I’ve always be the serious ‘sprint-to-the-finish-line’ kinda runner, with devastating photo results. Take the last 4 or 5 steps before the line to raise your arms and smile. It seriously won’t affect your time that much
Cherish that Feeling!