3 Easy Ways to Ruin Your Race

For weeks on end, athletes are disciplined about training for an event. Unfortunately, some will unwittingly ruin their races in the few days before the race start. Here are three common race-week mistakes to watch out for...and how to avoid them.

More: Top 10 List of Newbie Triathlete Mistakes

Drink, Drink, Drink

While you do need to be well hydrated for race day, you do not want to drink more water than is normal for you. If you force feed yourself with water all day prior to the race, there is a risk that you strip valuable electrolytes from your body. This is because your body will only absorb fluid that has a particular balance of electrolytes. If you drink high volumes of water, your body pulls electrolytes from within to add to water so the solution can be absorbed.

The condition of drinking too much water, forcing the body to dilute its electrolyte stores is called hyponatremia, or a low sodium condition.  

In the days before the race, consume fluids at a rate and type that is normal for you. Your urine should be lightly straw colored—not clear and not dark yellow or orange.

More: How to Create a Race-Day Hydration Plan

The Secret Super Supplement

A few years ago, one of my friends was at the start line for the Bolder Boulder 10K running race. While at the start line, a friend of his told him that consuming bee pollen before the race gave him extra energy. He said, "Bee pollen makes such a difference."

My friend, eager for extra energy on race day, consumed the capsules that his buddy offered to him on the start line. After all, that fellow was taking them so they must be good and safe. Besides that, his friend wouldn't steer him wrong, would he?

About halfway through the event, my friend started feeling bad. He couldn't really put his finger on what was going on, since he'd never felt like that in past training or races. Breathing seemed hard and he felt itchy.

While he did manage to finish the event, he learned that he had an allergic reaction to the bee pollen tablets. Thankfully, he was able to recover from the reaction and not end up in the emergency room. Yes, bee pollen made a difference—a negative difference.

Do not consume any special supplements in the few days prior to the race that you have not used in training.

More: Athletes and Protein: The Truth About Supplements

Listening to the Schmoes

There are plenty of people dispensing advice on message boards, in coffee shops and at the venue in the days leading up to the race. Your training has been a significant investment of your time and energy, why would you take race advice from a random person? I suspect you would not take financial investment advice from some random Joe or Jane Schmoe that wrote their opinion on a message board.

Completing one event or a handful of events does not make someone an expert, no matter how confidently and convincingly their advice is dispensed. You've invested a good amount of training and time into preparing for your race; do not follow some Schmoe's advice. 

Pre-race or not, before taking advice from message boards and websites, consider the source. Has this person advised or in other words coached other people to successful race finishes? What are their qualifications? What makes this person an expert worth paying any attention to?

It is easy to get caught up in all of the excitement in the days prior to the race. That's why it's good to have your pre-race and race-day plan worked out at least a week before the event. Try to keep things as normal as you can, "normal" being the things that have worked for you in training.

More: When Pre-race Neurosis Takes Hold

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