Race week can be extremely exciting, yet tediously tiring at the same time. With months of physical preparation for an event coming to a close, “maranoia” can settle in and ruin our race week and race day experience.
‘Maranoia’, which could be described as a ‘trance of mild madness’ is suffered by all athletes alike, and the chief cause of such outlandish and irrational behaviour? The taper.
Taper: Being over-tired, over-trained, over hungry, having feelings of being underdone, and the ever present desire to go for JUST one more run at race pace to “loosen the legs”.
Being a running coach, I spend a significant amount of time around other runners.
These runners are funny creatures; they have varying degrees of superstitions, rituals and other creative idiosyncrasies.
Having coached numerous athletes from many different levels and backgrounds, I’ve heard them all.
From wearing the same socks every day, to staying up all night before a race, to day before sprint sessions, to eating a kilogram of pasta - I hear about all sorts of weird and wonderful tricks of the trade.
A successful race day is largely due to what is happening in your head, so here are some helpful hints that may assist you during race week.
Roll, massage & stretch
Sounds simple enough; foam rolling
, receiving a massage and stretching has numerous benefits, both physiologically and psychologically.
We all know the physical/physiological benefits of these techniques, it’s the psychological benefits that are important during race week.
Most runners have mild to moderate issues with tapering, decreasing their load and intensity and generally speaking, sitting still. Using active recovery methods will ease the need to do more running, take the ‘edge’ off the nerves, anxiety and pressure of race week.
Trust Your Process
If you have completed a solid training preparation period; believe in yourself and trust the process of your training. (If you haven’t, now is the time to freak out!!!)
Be honest with yourself, review your training data/logs, talk to your training partners - see how much work you have done to get to where you are.
Doubts and negative thoughts are natural for everyone; from elites to weekend warriors to recreational runners. Resist the urge to make up missed work outs or complete last minute training.
Be sure to have an easy jog the day before the race. Emphasis on the word easy!!
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Plan & prepare
Being prepared will assist in settling race week nerves. Planning your race kit, the route to and from the event, as well as preparing your race week and race day nutrition will all assist you in feeling as normal as possible in the lead up to an event.
Logistics are an important aspect of race week/day that are commonly overlooked; err on the side of caution and have too much time rather than feeling rushed.
Take extra precautions in regards to illness; if you're travelling, be sure to wash your hands regularly and take care with what and where you eat.
Eat & sleep - as normal
Both of the above factors are grossly underestimated during race week. If you go to bed at 9.30pm every night, continue this.
Changing your sleep patterns and altering your diet to comply with the latest ‘carbo loading’ or ‘best rest’ techniques can be dangerous.
Be aware of how you’re feeling, sleep and rest as much as necessary and eat as you would normally.
Enjoy the moment
Race week and race day is the reason the vast majority of us run. Be sure to appreciate the moment and not be caught up with data hysteria; heart rate/times/goals/pace/distance etc etc!
Enjoy all the aspects of race week: the lead up, the road trip, the event expo, the scenery, friends and family taking part or coming along and all the wonderful things why we run.
After all; this is all meant to be fun! Smile and enjoy.
Remember- we are all individuals and what works for one person may not work for you - the minor fine print of this is finding out what best suits your personal preparation.