I'm doing my 4th 5k in about 4 hours! This will be my first evening event, and honestly, I'm not sure if I'd schedule one this late again - the wait is killing me! I'm not really too nervous, just more antsy to get this thing in motion! In the past I'd be freaking out by now wondering if I have everything ready that I need and trying to sort through tons of "what if's" in my head. But I think I've gotten a better handle on what I need to do to prep myself before a race at this point. So I figured that with some time to kill, why not try to make race day a little less stressful for others as well? Most seasoned runners won't need this - it seems like some people who've been through this enough times (coughRichcough) can just throw on their sneakers and go! But for anyone looking for even a little insight into a less-stressful day, here are some tips I thought I'd throw out there!
#1 - KNOW WHERE YOU'RE GOING! Most people have a GPS or a smart phone these days, but in the very least, you might as well spend the 3 minutes it'll take you on Yahoo! or Google Maps to figure out exactly where the race will be. It also never hurts to find an alternate route. If your race is of any significant size, or part of a fair/festival weekend, most likely there will be lots of streets closed in the area. Learn how to get in the back way through the next exit in case the one you'd normally take is closed off ot thru traffic. Even better, some races (like mine tonight) offer shuttle parking locally that will bring you directly to the site. Instead of wasting your energy flipping off every other car in traffic next to you, park at the mall and take the shuttle! You'll also appreciate not having to walk the mile back to your car after you just finished your 5k, 10k, etc.
It's also a little helpful to know the course beforehand. If the official site for the race posts this, try to become a little familiar with it. Some even post elevation maps! Knowing any of this stuff can't hurt you at all, so you might as well help yourself!
#2 - KNOW WHAT YOU'RE BRINGING! A lot of race day headaches can be solved by laying things out the night before. Just as you might iron your clothes the night before work to save yourself the time and hassle the next morning, the same goes for doing a race. It's a lot easier to wash your favorite sports bra that you realize is in the laundry the night before the race than it is to try and do it an hour and a half before you actually leave for the race! If you have a million pairs of everything, this probably doesn't apply to you. But I like to know what I'm wearing ahead of time and know that it's all clean and ready to go! This rule goes for little stuff too. If you normally bring an iPod running with you, make sure it's charged up and in your bag! I HATE working out without my sleeve scrunchies (since I only work out in t-shirts right now), so it's a MUST that I have those with me. If you have a headband you like to wear, a knee brace, any extra "non-clothing" stuff, make sure it's ready to go with you! They may seem like trivial items to some, but it can start your race off in a bad mood if you're doing it while lacking something that really matters to YOU!
#3 - KNOW WHAT YOU'RE GOING TO EAT/DRINK BEFORE THE RACE! Ok... this one might seem a little extreme, but trust me, it's beneficial! If no one in the house has done any grocery shopping and the only thing you have to feed your body with before a big race is last night's leftover Chinese take-out and a couple of beers, by about the half mile mark you're just going to want to turn around and head back to the start line. I'm not saying you need to feed yourself like an Olympic athlete, but let's face it, you get from your body what you give to your body. You need to fuel it properly. You don't need to eat a pound of pasta the night before a 5k. It's 3 miles, not 26! Have something with carbs and protein the night before, but not something ridiculously heavy that's just going to make you feel weighed down. Keep the day of meal(s) simple. I like peanut butter, maybe a slice of bread, some string cheese, an apple - and water! That's only from my own experience though. You should know from any training you've done what works for you and what doesn't. But make sure that what works for you is available to you! Suffice it to say, the more nutritious, the better.
#4 - KNOW HOW TO MANAGE YOUR TIME! I wanted to call this one "plan to be early!" but it didn't really flow :) Expect some traffic. You're not the only person running the race. I've been to races where there have been 200 people and I've been to ones with over 5,000 people. I've gotten there super early, and we've gotten there so late that Rich had to run down to registration while I searched for parking in the garage! You don't know what you're going to come across, so it's always better to be early than late. Also, keep in mind that if you didn't register online you'll have to register when you get to the race. Again, I've been to some that are electronic registration and you can finish them in just a couple minutes. Some have forms that might make you think you're applying for a mortgage! If possible, print out the registration form at home and bring it with you already filled out (Thanks for the tip Mandy!). Lastly, and the most important as far as I'm concerned, you're going to want to pee before the race! Even if you don't feel like you have to go, GO ANYWAY! I'm a strong believer that the distance of a mile actually changes based on how full your bladder is. I read about one woman who was about to run a marathon - she showed up and used the porta-potty and immediately got into another porta-potty line because she knew she'd have to go again and the line would just get longer the more she waited. You are definitely going to want to make sure you have enough time for this before the race starts!
#5 - KNOW HOW TO RELAX! Easier said than done, but your body will thank you for it. The GI tract doesn't normally like running to begin with. Add in a ton of stress and you've got a recipe for disaster! If you follow the first 4 tips, this one should really be pretty easy. Try to get a good night's sleep the night before. Maybe watch one of your favorite movies before bed to keep your mind off it. If you're into meditation and yoga, the quiet might help you. Maybe it's blogging with Pandora on that keeps you calm :) Whatever it is, try to keep positive thoughts in your head, try to visualize yourself crossing the finish line, and believe that you are giving it your all and your best. All the preparation will help lead you to success :)