Every runner has a mantra for race day. Most mantras (“don’t give up” or “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”) are uttered to inspire greatness. But no matter how fast you want to go, or how hard you might train to get there, if you don’t have the right fuelling plan, no amount of self-talk will power you over that finish line.
In preparation for your next race, follow these tips and let ‘er fly.
Nothing New on Race Day
Nutrition experts, newbies, and elites have all fallen victim to the mistake of trying new foods in the hours leading up to (or during) a race. The mistake is easy to make, especially if you’re traveling to a new city and you want to try local cuisine. But save the adventure for post-race celebrations.
Be prepared. Pack your tried-and-true snacks and fuel, and don’t change up your nutrition plan during the race. That means same using the same brand and flavour of mid-run fuel you tested during training.
Train With What’s on the Course
Similar to not trying anything new on race day, it’s important to train with the nutrition that will be on the course – if you’re not bringing your own. Races offer certain brands and flavours of sports drinks, and often make that information known beforehand, allowing you to try it out during training.
Why do we keep beating home this fact? If your body tries something new (while in motion!) it can mess with your stomach and send you running for the portaloo.
Forgot your fuel? There’s a good chance a local running store or the race expo will have it.
Water, Water, Everywhere
Race weekend can be busy, and before you know it, you’ve spent too much time on your feet sightseeing and not enough time hydrating. Keep a water bottle close at hand and sip on fluids throughout the day. Water (with or without electrolytes) and sports drink are all good choices.
Your urine color is a simple, effective way to tell how hydrated you are. It should be light yellow; clear means you drank too much and dark means you need to drink up.
Keep Calm and Fly On
Flying to your next race? You can’t carry a full water bottle through security, the airport shops are insanely expensive, and thanks to dry air and air pressure you’re more likely to get dehydrated en route. Pack empty refillable water bottles in your carry-on bags and refill once past the security check point. (Added bonus: use your savings to buy more race swag!)
Add electrolyte tablets or stick packs to your water while in the air (only if you’ve tried them in training, of course). The electrolytes will help your system to better absorb and retain fluids.
It’s best to stay away from a mid-flight, pre-race soda. It’s heavy in sugar, which impedes hydration. (The same goes for excessive alcohol and caffeine consumption – sorry!)
You Are What You Eat
Food consumed in the 12 to 24 hours before a race has a major impact on your fuel status. Your night-before meal should be low in fat, moderate in protein, high in carbs, and mimic the types of foods you’ve been eating before long runs.
Breakfast the morning of your race will top-off your glycogen stores and complement the gels and chews you’ll consume later down the road. Aim for familiar foods and do some (simple) maths to have a meal with. For example, try to aim for 1-2 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight, taking into consideration how much time you have before the start of the race. Try a bagel topped with a small amount of peanut butter and sliced banana with a side of sports drink. Get to the start village prepared with snacks for races that have long waiting times.