How to make a good race plan - 5 things you need to include
Racing season is definitely upon me as I prepare for my third race of the season and second half- marathon in a month. Over the past few years I`ve accumulated some helpful tips for running long-distance races. Whether running with or without racing buddies, I have found that a solid race plan can make your race much more successful and enjoyable.
To start: Make an overall race "Plan A" and "Plan B" with your goals set out for each plan, then fill in the details using my 5 tips.
1. Time goal/PR or other race goal
- This involves looking at the race description and determining based on your training what you need to do to either PR or finish feeling like you did your best and didn't get injured . Sometimes finishing without injury is an accomplishment in itself and should never be discounted. Once you get into a race, the weather, race course conditions or your own body will dictate that Plan B is still a winning strategy and this will help you to finish feeling proud of yourself. If its a beautiful race course, looking around and enjoying the scenery might be your Plan A; with time goal not even a consideration. Also, remember that its not realistic to PR at every race!! Seems obvious, but I have to remind myself of this in every starting corral!!
- If race time is one of your goals, using online race pace tools will allow you to input your desired race time and get a pace that you need to maintain to get to your goal. These tools are invaluable! If you search for "race pace calculator" you can find numerous sites that will give you what you need.
- I try to have 2 race time goals - the first is the time I am striving for, the second is the time that I will still feel content with and would fall back on if the race does not go as I had thought - this has happened to me during races where the heat and humidity spikes once the sun rises and I cannot maintain my initial pace in a healthy manner. It keeps my head in the game and resists the urge to throw a race away just because of a few hiccups along the way.
2. Depending on the temperature and length of race, add a nutrition and hydration plan you have used in the past to your Plan A and Plan B
- DO NOT try new gels, hydration tabs, etc during your race - stick with what you trained with - even if you picked up some great items at the expo ! ( I've learned this the hard way! The "nothing new on race day" applies to gels and hydration).
- For example, if you don't drink Gatorade during your long runs at home, take the water during the race NOT the Gatorade. It may seem harmless, but your tummy may not be happy with the change of hydration and this one ingredient could send you straight to the port-a-toilets along the race course!
- Plan when you will take your gels. During your training you may have taken one every 45min. Make sure you factor in what time you will eat breakfast on the morning of the race. You may need a gel earlier than 45 min into the race if your breakfast ended up being 2 hours prior to race start. You will see some people take a gel in the start corral - be careful of this unless you've practised it. Some gels have caffeine and you could end up consuming too much caffeine if you don't plan accordingly and end up taking 3-4 gels over the course of a 1/2 marathon.
3. Plan to Be prepared
- If you need music to get in your zone and you use blue-tooth ( as I do) make sure to pack an pair of ear buds with a cord. You never know when a battery can strangely die or blue tooth signal can get lost - this happened to me at the 12km of a 1/2 marathon one time and I was so thankful to have a back-up pair to finish the race with! Having said that, I also have a race play list that I use. The songs at the end always pump me up and signal to me that the end of the race is near and help me with that extra push I need to finish.
- Look at the race description and plan what you might need - tissue, band-aids, your own hydration pack - this is especially helpful if you are running a trail race or a race with few aid stations
4. Plan out what you are going to wear and eat on race day
(based on your training and weather forecast) and don't pack too many options if you are going to a destination race
- In the stress of night-before-race-jitters, if you have too many outfits to choose from, you may be tempted to try something new (ex. bought at the expo) or over-think your race day attire. GO WITH WHAT YOU KNOW AND HAVE TRAINED IN. Lay it all out with race bib pinned on it and sleep tight knowing you are ready.
- If you are away from home, you may need to take your pre-race breakfast with you so you are not scrambling in the early morning hours to find that bagel and banana that you always eat before racing!
5. Decide ahead of time if you will race with a friend and lay out your expectations of each other regarding various racing scenarios
- Communication is key in this! Even though you may have travelled to a race with a friend or group of friends, do yourself a favor and have the conversation BEFORE the race. Decide whether you will stick together for the whole race, start together then run your own race, or go with the flow as the race unfolds. Be honest with your racing buddies so no one is feeling guilty about potentially leaving a friend behind if they are struggling or holding a friend back if they are on fire. Going into a race with honest expectations will make the race more fun and enjoyable for you and your racing buddies.
Likely you've trained long and hard for your race. Having a race plan or 2 will not only calm your nerves, but ensure you enjoy the race and have fun, which is the ultimate goal now isn't it!?