Your training is done and your big race is just days away. What you do on race day, and in the days leading up to the event, can have a huge impact on your performance. Let's take a look at the top 10 things you can do to set yourself up for success.
1. Nothing New on Race Day
Race day is not the time to experiment. Make sure you race in clothes you have trained in to prevent chaffing or other wardrobe issues. Eat a tried and true breakfast—one that you know won't upset your stomach. Make sure you have trained with the sports drink and energy gels/chews the race will provide. If you haven't trained with these things, or if you don't like what's offered, bring your own drinks and foods. Trying a new sports drink and/or energy supplement could potentially send your stomach into an uproar.
2. Trust the Taper
A pre-race taper can be a challenge for some athletes because it requires a runner to reduce training volume and intensity as race-day approaches. A taper, however, is absolutely necessary for optimal performance. While there are many theories on how to taper, the fact remains that it works&mdahs;so make sure to cut back on your mileage in the days leading up to your race. It's always better to arrive at the start line rested versus overtrained. Use the downtime during your taper to catch up on things you have put on hold or neglected during training. And if you start to feel sluggish or cranky, that's a good sign that your body is repairing itself and your taper is working. Now is not the time to sneak in extra workouts.
3. The Sleep Factor
If you toss and turn the night before the race without getting much sleep, don't despair. Studies have shown the amount of sleep you get the night before the big event has little impact on your race-day performance. It's more important to get enough sleep in the days leading up to the race. Therefore, try to go to bed a little earlier the week of the race to get some much needed extra zzz's.
4. Stay off Your Feet
Walking around at the expo and/or sightseeing for multiple hours the day before the race is a big no-no. You want to minimize the time you spend on your feet. If possible, go to the expo two days before (it will be less crowded), and save your sightseeing for after the race. Your legs will thank you.
5. Hydration Matters
It's important to start hydrating in the days before your race, not just on race morning. This is especially true for longer races and hot/humid races. If you're a heavy sweater or you struggle with cramping, you may want to consider extra salt supplementation. Finally, experiment during training to find an appropriate hydration cut-off time before the race start to ensure you're not spending precious moments in the port-a-potty during the race. Some athletes only need 30 minutes, while others need up to 90 minutes for fluids to clear their system.