5 Rookie Race Day Mistakes and How to Avoid Them
You’ve completed your training and race day has finally dawned. Now all you have to do is toe the starting line, and the rest is out of your hands, right? Or is it? Unfortunately the answer is no. There’s a myriad of little things that you can unknowingly do to sabotage your own race. Here are five rookie race day mistakes and how to avoid them.
1. Incorrect fueling leading up to a race
I made my first half-marathon unforgettable by “fueling” with not one, but three pure fruit smoothies the day before the race. So much fiber! Needless to say that the race experience was memorable for all the wrong reasons. I was in so much discomfort and made at least five bathroom stops during the race. All because of incorrect fueling leading up to the race! There are generally two golden rules to adhere to in this regard. 1) Stick to what you know works for you, and 2) Stay away from too much fiber in the day or two leading up to the race. But don’t leave anything to chance: Use your longer training runs to test out pre-race fueling strategies and find what works for you.
2. Being disorganized
There are two good reasons why people lay their “flat selves” (i.e. running gear) out on the floor the evening before a race, and no, sharing a good Instagram post isn’t one of them. “Flat selves” help you to make sure that everything is clean and ready for the race, and avoid being rushed on race day morning.
Being organized is key. Not only will it save you time on race day, but it will also help you arrive at the starting line feeling as calm and relaxed as possible. So do yourself a favor and do the following the night before your race: Lay out your race gear. All of it, from head to toe. Pin your race bib to your shirt. Fasten your official timing tag to your shoe. Fill in your emergency contact details in the section provided on your race bib. Check and re-check the race starting time. Check the directions to the starting line, as well as details on any road closures and parking instructions. Prepare your hydration bottles, if using any, and write a note to remind you that they’re in the fridge. Set two alarm clocks.
And last, but not least, check that there is enough fuel in your vehicle to get you to the starting line. You don’t want to do is miss your own race!
3. Wearing new gear
Tempted to race in that funky pair of running shorts that you bought at the race expo? Don’t. Wearing your trusty old pair of worn-in black tights may not be quite as exciting as sporting your new shorts during a race, but it’s much safer. While you know exactly what to expect from your old tights in terms of chafing hotspots and other potential wardrobe malfunctions, your new shorts might just have a few unpleasant surprises up its proverbial sleeves. And the same goes for any other piece of running gear. Wear what you know. You won’t regret it.
4. Not checking the weather forecast
Having a week of sunshine and clear skies before a race means that race day will also be perfect, right? Not necessarily. Make sure that you monitor the weather forecast closely in the week leading up to the race, and be prepared. If there’s a slight chance for rain or a cold spell, arm yourself with a throw-away jacket or shell that you can ditch should the weather turn out fine. (A black garbage bag works perfectly for this!) Or, expecting a hot and sunny run? Pack a cap and sunglasses, slather on some sunscreen and make sure to hydrate properly before and during the race. Nothing makes a race as unpleasant as being unprepared for the elements.
5. Starting out too fast
And once you’ve taken care of all other race day logistics and the starting gun fires, remember the golden rule of racing: Do not start out too fast. Nothing is more tempting than flying out of the blocks at breakneck speed, spurred on by adrenaline and the race day buzz. But don’t. Chances are good that you’re setting yourself up to crash and burn later in the race. Stick to your original pacing plan right from the start. Being conservative early on in the race will leave you with enough fuel in the tank for a strong and satisfactory finish.