Race Day Ritual

I’ve had a lot of people lately asking me what I do the morning of a half-marathon up until the start.

I have a tried and true routine. And it isn’t paleo. but I can’t seem to stray from it. Seeing as how I got second place in my age group in the Jacksonville Marine Corps Half Marathon that I competed in a couple weeks ago (and 14th out of 2176 females), I would say it’s working for now.


Note The excellent outfit coordination. My shoes matched too:)

The course was in downtown Jacksonville, it had 3 bridges and it was 100% humidity that morning. Needless to say I didn’t get a PR. But it was a still a fun race that I would probably do again!

Anyway, prerace routine:

I try to wake up at least 3 hours before race start. (this can be tough, but I need the time to digest)

Right when I get up I have plain green tea and a small sweet potato with cinnamon and almond butter.

Then I put some gummies in a plastic bag to keep in my bra for during the race (I used to use honey stinger ones but I’ve decided I like PowerBar brand better, they are easier to chew and don’t get stuck in my teeth). I also keep a GU on hand (they usually are supplied on the course, but I am picky about the flavors – Vanilla Bean and Espresso Love are my faves. I don’t do the fruity ones. Blech).

I like to get to the course at least an hour and a half before start time. If I run at all, it’s only a few strides. I do mostly dynamic stretches and plyos and jump around a bunch.

about 40 minutes before race time I eat half a Clif Bar and head to the starting line. By now I have had about 16 oz of water and don’t drink again except for a couple sips 15 minutes before when I have my Gatorade Prime.

I always push my way to the front. Why? Because every time I start in a group true to my pace, I leave them all in the dust and have to elbow my way past the people who shouldn’t have lined up where they did. No one is honest anymore.

At this point I make sure I have a sweet playlist all queued up and my laces tied tight and tucked in. Then I reset my watch, and look around to find people I’m gonna try to pass.

I think it’s settling to have some sort of mantra to repeat to yourself when you wait for the gun to go off. It usually gives me a little bit of confidence and also makes me feel like a total bad ass.

Mine comes from a particular moment when I was first trying out for Varsity Crew at UCF. The girls I was about to compete with for a place on the team had been rowing much longer than me. Their muscles were bulging from their trou and they were walking around like they owned the boathouse; I was cowering in the corner dreading going up against them.

Right before we all lined up for the tryout test on the rowing machines, my coach pulled me aside.

‘Trust Your Fitness.’

That was all she said. It stuck with me. I had been training hard all summer, harder than the other girls. I knew that; my coach knew that. And I beat all of them that morning.

When you line up against all of those people on race day, you’ll get what you worked for. You may not be sure how you measure up, but you know how many miles you have put in. This 5-10 minutes before the race can make or break your performance and your overall experience in my opinion. It is so easy to get psyched out by everyone around you doing crazy stretches you start thinking you should be doing and wearing fuel belts or compression sleeves that you start thinking you should have invested in. The worst though are all those people with the bangin’ bods wearing what look like bikini bottoms acting like they are in the olympics or something.

At this point I put my headphones in and ignore all of this going on around me. I tell myself to trust my fitness. I repeat it over and over. I know I’m fast. I know I’m better than most of the showoffs around me, and even if I’m not, I can still beat them if I want it badly enough. This is the attitude you have to go into it with; it’s the one that causes you to surprise yourself, and makes you know you can push harder and go faster the next time.

So, obviously, everyone’s morning is going to differ on race day. After a few times you begin to find what works for you and when, but I think the main things to stress are to wake up early enough, stick to plyos and strides for a warm up to avoid running too much beforehand, bring pre-race and mid-race fuel that you trust and have used before, and find yourself a mantra or phrase that will help you focus and get you ready to race.

Speaking of racing, I’ve got a marathon in 4 weeks now (December 1st). This week I am going to try and get about 75-80 miles in, and ease off into a taper from there.

After that, we’re looking at 4 months til Boston, and the real fun begins!


Long Run Fuel

Over the years, I have experimented with eating a lot of different things before a long run.

Usually, I can make it through anything 10 miles or less without really worrying about what to eat beforehand, but I like to plan it out if I’m gonna be longer than an hour or so.

First of all, I think it’s important to note that in training, you should limit the amount of mid-run fuel for any workout under around 2 hours. I say this because I believe it will actually not help your performance when it comes time to race.
The way I see it – you don’t want your body to always rely on a constant external energy source. There is a lot to be said for letting your glycogen stores deplete completely. You want to train your body to be used to running on empty, because I think this will ultimately force your body to burn fat more efficiently and in turn increase your running economy (think about how much more fat stores you have compared to glycogen). Then on race day, you can eat something half-way through and have a better response.

That being said, I like to test the waters a couple times during a 20 miler or something to figure out what will have the best effect when it comes time for competition.

My favorite mid-race fuel? Honey packets. I used to be a big advocate of GU, but I prefer my sugar to come from a more natural source these days.

As for before hand.. A couple hours before a race or a long hard workout, sweet potatoes all the way. with almond butter and cinnamon on top – YUM. sometimes i even throw some honey on in there if I’m feelin’ real naughty.
Then When I’m about to walk out the door, Dates are my go-to. I like to take a few dates, fold some almonds in there and swish it around with water. It almost tastes like a larabar or something and I can immediately feel the energy boost.

I’d love to know what works for other people because i’m all about experimenting:)