Race-day preparation is key to your success on the big day. Here are 10 ways to gear up, get ready, and cross the finish line strong.
1. Enjoy the Taper
For many runners, the decreased running during the taper can be very unnerving. Avoid replacing the runs with lots of cross-training. The taper is designed to allow your body to recuperate, rebuild, and be fresh for race day. Adding in extra cross-training at the last minute can cause your fitness level to dip and actually lessen your race-day potential. Enjoy the taper and focus on getting yourself mentally prepared for the race.
More: 7 Tips to Taper Smart
2. Fuel Up
During the last three days before an endurance run such as a marathon, a runner's carbohydrate intake should increase to 70 to 80 percent of his/her total daily caloric intake.
- Day 1: The first day of the carb-load should consist mainly of complex carbs (i.e., whole grain breads and pasta). By loading up on complex carbs the first day, you have time for them to be processed and voided well before race day.
- Day 2: Taper off the complex carbs and switch over to simple carbs. Be careful though. Don't load up on tons of fruit and the like, if you're not used to eating lots of fruit. Also avoid loading up on simple carbs that contain a lot of saturated fat (cookies, doughnuts, pastries). The extra fat will slow down digestion and make you feel sluggish. This is the time to eat regular pasta and use white bread for your sandwiches.
- Day 3: Continue with the simple carbs. Eat your last major meal 12 to 15 hours prior to the race. This meal should be comprised of easily digestible foods that will pass through your system before the race. This is the time for the big plate of regular pasta. Avoid heavy cream sauces and stick with basic marinara sauce.
More: Are You Eating Enough Carbs?
FYI: Each gram of carbs can store 3 grams of water. So, to make sure you get complete carb storage, drink four to eight glasses of water each day. You may gain a pound or two during this carb-loading phase, but most of this extra weight is water and will actually help keep you well hydrated during the race. Plus, you'll sweat out those extra pounds on the run.
Practice: Eating before a race can be a tricky thing. Test different foods for your carb-loading phase well before race day. Pick one of your longest training runs and pretend it's "race day." Try a mini-carb-loading phase before this run. This will give you the opportunity to see how long different foods take to pass and which ones to avoid because they "hang around" too long.
More: Why Are Carbs Important?
Note: Diabetics and others with specific health problems should consult with their doctors about the best foods to eat during their carb-loading phase.