Whilst eating my breakfast this morning another reminder of the past popped up on my Facebook timeline - not sure whether I love or hate that feature! - it's 3 years to the day that I took part in my first official race, the London Duathlon. It was an incredible day out and as my first experience of a spectated event it was rather thrilling to have crowds cheering you on. A really great buzz!
I made quite a few mistakes that day and I have no shame admitting that my performance was severely hampered due to some monumental clothing and fuelling fails. I'm sure I could've shaved off a lot of time had I have been more experienced and knew a bit more about racing. Since then I've been involved in countless races and I continue to learn things and tweak my race strategies along the way. I can honestly say that there isn't a race I'm involved in where I don't learn something so experience really does count.
With a few races to come before the end of the year I thought I'd share this list of tips with you and hope that it helps you perform to your maximum come start time.
Top Ten Tips for Race Day
Check the weather forecasts
Be prepared for all circumstances and be sure you don't overdress or underdress. The penalties for both will be severe from a physical perspective and will hamper your chance of achieving your best possible result.
Give yourself plenty of time to get to the race start line
You want as little stress as possible on race day. Your heart rate will already be elevated and you'll have the butterflies flapping in your tummy as you anticipate what's to come so the last thing you need is to panic about missing the start gun. Leave early, arrive early, register (if you haven't already), fill in the necessary details on your race number and then try to relax and soak up the atmosphere pre race!
Hit the toilet before you start
If you can get to use to the toilet really close to the start of the race then I'd highly recommend this. You really don't want to be uncomfortable due to needing a pee as you start moving. Try to avoid having to duck into a bush and 'doing a Paula' midrace! With that in mind, take your own toilet roll to the race. I can pretty much guarantee there will be none in the portaloo when you get there....
Don't try anything new
This really is key and goes for anything from footwear (chance of blisters is fairly high), clothing (chafing), breakfast (don't risk a dodgy tummy!) or even a pre race routine (if you don't normally stretch before a run, don't do it now). Stick with what you know, what you've been training with and play it cautiously.
If you're planning on running with music have your ipod pre-loaded with a playlist so you're good to hit play and slip it back in your pocket, you don't want to be messing about with that mid-race. Pre fill your water bottles and have any extra fuel in convenient, easy to reach places.
Stay hydrated but don't overdo it
Sip water before the start, don't glug it. It'll sit in your tummy and make you feel bloated. Hydration is important but make sure you don't overdo it either before or during the race as you need to make sure your electrolyte balance is right. Stick an electrolyte tablet in your bottle and sip this to replace the salts you'll be losing through sweating during the race.
Don't rely on the Aid Stations
If you know that you get hungry during an extended period of exercise then take extra fuel with you that you know you enjoy and gives you an energy boost. If you have special dietary requirements then don't rely on the aid stations to have a gluten free vegan quiche to be waiting for you. Unfortunately aid stations just aren't big enough to cater for every eventuality!
Have your race mentally planned - and stick to it!
You'll get the wave of adrenaline wash over you as the start gun goes off. You end up surrounded by a group of people who are running way too quickly or you get stuck behind someone moving too slowly. You speed up or stick with that group and burn yourself out before you hit the midway point of the race. Don't do this! Be calm, think about your race strategy and conserve your energy for the second half of the race, then hit the accelerate peddle and run the perfect race!
Have a few race targets
Leading on from the tip above, if you have a number of options in your head you can adjust your strategy as you go. I always have Scenario's A, B and C in my head. No matter what you will hit one of them. My first two are generally time related and the last is just to finish the race without injuring myself!
Most imporantly of all, enjoy yourself out there. This is what you've been training for and what all the hard work has been about. Get out there and hustle as hard as you can and keep going until then end. Soak up the atmosphere and use the energy of the crowds and the people around you to keep moving.