Ten tips to survive your first race

Race season is upon us ladies and for many of you this is your first encounter to what will become a very big addiction! Welcome to the wonderful world of racing! Wether you are racing on a track, a road or a trail, racing is an experience you will never forget. It might be your first, or your last or your racing for a reason. It’s the journey that is behind the race that is important and this girls, is your VICTORY LAP.

For most of you it has been a long road; for some, a short road, but you have done all the hard training and now it’s time to relax and enjoy race day. Here are some tips to get you ready for and on the big day.

1. Be organised. If you are travelling to a race, make sure that you have all the gear you will need set out a few days before, your pack, belt, gels, hydration, gear, shoes, socks, race number etc. Pack them separately to your normal gear in your bag (I put mine in plastic bag just incase there is any spillage in the bag) and if you are travelling on a plane pack this stuff in your carry on luggage so that if your gear gets lost you still have your stuff to race in!

2. Take some time to rest up before hand. If you are doing a longer event like a half marathon, marathon or ultra, you will have hopefully tapered and will be ready for race day. You will find the week or weeks leading up a little difficult as your training has decreased or you may feel like you have stopped altogether, but don’t be tempted to try to gain any more or go for a long run…your work is done and now its time to let your body rest and recover ready for the big day.

3. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. You may not think that this is important, but it is crucial, especially if you have a longer race. Make sure that your body goes in well prepared and hydrated. Once you feel thirsty it is probably too late and you are already dehydrated. A few days before your event stay on top of your hydration and during the event make sure that you are drinking at every aid station or along the way. This includes electrolytes AND water, not just water. As you exercise your body is losing valuable chemicals and you need to replace them with electrolytes.. . . VERY important.

4. Nutrition. Before your event make sure you are filling your body with wholesome food that will keep your energy levels high and prepare your muscles for racing. Some people carb load, some don’t, but make sure your body is getting an adequate balance of carbohydrate, protein and fats. Don’t have a huge meal the night before your race, this may leave you feeling sluggish the next day or may even cause some stomach upset as you will already be nervous.

Perhaps make your larger meal the lunchtime meal the day before and a lighter meal for dinner. If you’re doing a longer event make sure you pack all your nutrition in your bag or have it ready to bring to the race with you. If you have a spi-belt or a pack, put all your gels in there ready for your event in a place that is easy to get them out. The last thing you want to have to do is stop and fumble through your things to find them! Make sure that you have tried and tested out your nutrition before race day. The last thing you want is to try something new on race day. This may spell disaster!

5. Don’t overdress. Especially if your event is in a colder climate you may be tempted to overdress. You might think that you need to wear your long compression tights, a jumper, or even a long sleeve shirt! In my opinion, don’t do it!. As you start to warm up running you will wish that you left these items at the start line. Just wear what you have worn in training and there will be no problems during the race with overheating. Events that start early in the morning can often heat up as you run, so make sure that you are dressed appropriately for this.

6. Pack some gear for the gear tent. If you do want to stay warm before the start you could put on a jumper or long top that you don’t mind throwing away. Most big events cater for this and it is not uncommon to see jumpers strewn across roads for the first few kilometres of a race! Also if it’s going to be cool, pack some warm gear and a snack and extra hydration in your gear drop bag so that when your race is done you can stay warm and comfortable and cheer other runners on that are still running.

7.Push through. At some point in your race, wether its 5k or 50k or even 100k there are going to be points where it is going to be uncomfortable and you are going to want to stop. Push through. Remind yourself why you are doing this and that you are strong and able. Pick some landmarks, or even other runners and tell yourself that you are going to pass them and when you do, pick some other ones until you hit the last landmark…the finish line. If you need a little rest during your race, maybe tell yourself that the aid stations are okay to walk through and use those as your motivation to keep going.

8. Pacing. The number one rule in any race is don’t go out too hard. Tell yourself how far you have and make sure you pace accordingly. The last thing you want is to come undone mid-way through your event. Hopefully you have had a practice run during training with pacing and you will have a strategy worked out that will see you reach your goal in the time you anticipated. Sometimes things don’t work out on race day….this is okay. Drop your pace and change your mindset to get you to the finish line if you need to. Finishing is the number one goal always.

9. Encourage other runners. Just because you are racing doesn’t mean that you can’t do this. High-five other runners, give them a smile, a nod, a ‘Go RMA!”. It’s these little gestures that may just be what a runner needs to keep going if they are feeling off.

10. Enjoy the race! The reason that we run is because we love it. The same rule applies in racing. We race because we love it and we are there for the experience and the journey. The finish line is our goal and we need to enjoy the journey along the way. It may hurt, it may take you to places that you have never seen before, you may meet people you never dreamed of meeting and you may push through barriers you didn’t think possible. In all of this…..enjoy the ride. Oh….and smile for the camera to prove that you did!

Happy racing ladies!

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