There's racing. There's racing with a plan. And then there's being able to adapt to race-day changes. In terms of experience level, know that anyone can register and show up on time for the start of an event. Few will actually have a plan based on their training, as you do by this point. But what really separates the elite crowd from everybody else is their ability to adapt.
Your race plan requires that everything goes according to your plan, and the odds of all those stars aligning for you are pretty slim. What happens if the weather changes? What if your stomach tanks? What if you forget your nutrition? All these things not only can, they will happen to you at some point in your racing career.
Here's a quick primer on how to make adjustments to keep yourself on track.
OverallThe most important thing is to not lose sight of what has brought you to the starting line. Honor the hard work you have done thus far by striving to stay as close to your original race plan as possible--after all, it's what you've planned and prepared your body to do. Changing gears without due cause can lead to some serious (and avoidable!) race-day challenges.
Whenever you are faced with a choice, be conservative as your marathon race day is such a long event. Find the easy option; the one that requires the least effort and creates the path of least resistance.
- I am kind of bunched up; I'm running 5 seconds slower per mile than I'd like. I can either (A) sprint out and around and ahead of this group; OR I can (B) simply ease off the gas and let them pull away, then drop into my given pace. Answer = B.
- It's not that hot and not that cold. I am not sure what to wear. I can either (A) just wear what I think I need; or I can (B) bring that extra layer just in case. Answer = B.
- My nutrition plan says to eat a gel every 45 minutes. I have 15 minutes to go to my next scheduled "feed," but I am starting to get hungry right now. I can either (A) tell myself to suck it up and wait like I have trained; OR I can (B) have the gel at the next aid station with water and make a note to adjust moving forward. Answer = B.
Race Morning Changes
You wake up on race morning wanting to cry because you discover that the beautiful day forecast for your PR effort has been waylaid by the evil weather gods. We've all been there; it's just part of the racing experience. On some level, your high energy around this minutiae is a clear sign that you are dialed in and ready to race...so don't feel like it's taking you out of the game at all.