What Does it Take to Race Well: Part II – Race Day Logistics

Racing well is a goal that many of us have. Whether you want to place in your age group or finally hit that PR in your favorite, local, half marathon, racing well is one of the things that many of us are working towards. Previously I talked about training and today I will discuss race day logistics.

The morning routine.

There are a few things about racing that have nothing to do with fitness and can have a large impact on you racing result. Race day logistics is one of those things. Racing provides enough pressure on its own without added stress from things that can be worked out with a little bit of prior planning.

Most of us have a morning routine that we adhere to. There are several actions that we take (without even thinking) that get us out the door on time and ready for our day. The more variation we have in our routine the more mental energy we need to expend to get it done. Making decisions is the primary source of this mental fatigue. The same principles are at work on race days. Simple things like getting your racing outfit ready to go the night before can pay huge dividends. There is no reason you need to be scrambling around the house looking for safety pins for your bib the morning of the race. That additional mental energy is better spent focusing on the race.

Reverse planning

I like to use a technique called reverse planning when I plan out my race day. I start with myself on the starting line and subtract the time I need for each task. I’ll give you an example. I’m running a half marathon on July 1st. The race starts at 9:00am. I want to be on the start line at 8:55am. I want to warm up for 45 minutes, so I need to be parked and out the car at 8:10am. I will need to pick up my bib the day of because the race is out of town. Bib pick up starts at 8:00am and is on the course, so I want to be there by 7:45. The course is about 2 hours from my house so I need to leave at 5:45am. Better make it 5:30am to account for traffic. I see that parking costs $5 which means I should get some cash to keep it easy. If I get up at 5am, that should give me plenty of time to get some breakfast and get my gear on. I’m going to have some cereal with some almonds and cranberries. I’ll bring an energy bar to eat on the way and I’ll grab a double espresso at a drive through to drink about 7:30am. The caffeine takes an hour to kick in but it always gets the mail moving before then. My porta potty time is built into my warm up. I’ll need to have a $5 bill and my race dots in my jacket pocket. Temperature on the course should be in the 70s . Which for me means a tank top and shorts for a half marathon. I need to test out my car keys in the shorts pocket before hand. I’ll want a full tank of gas so I’ll put a reminder in my phone to top off the gas tank after work on Friday night. I’ll get to bed by 8pm to give myself ample time for sleep.

Planning all that out does not guarantee that everything will go exactly according to plan. What it does force me to do is expend the mental energy ahead of time thinking about all the tasks. Making a plan is simply making some decisions in advance. If the dynamics of those events change I’ve already thought about them and it is easier to deviate. This makes it a lot easier if something does go wrong. So if I forget to get gas the night before I know that the race is only about 100 miles from my house and I can get there on less than half a tank (just need to get gas after the race prior to heading home). Planning out your race day logistics is a great way to actually conserve your mental energy for racing.

This may not seem significant but all these little things add up when you want to bring your best on race day. Obviously if you are doing some overnight travel to a race or traveling with family or a group, this becomes more detailed and there are more decisions to make. The same principles apply. Reduce the number of decisions you need to make the morning of the race to keep your mind sharp and focused. You are now better able to focus on maintaining your pace and executing your race plan.

Next time I will talk about your race plan as the final element in racing well.

Enjoy the run.

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