Tips for Racing the 25K

In order to have a good experience with the 25K, you should keep your energy up.  In the next several posts I will tell you how to avoid the scourge of heat exhaustion, dehydration, cramping, and nausea.

Eating and Resting for Energy:  If you’ve been training for a long race, your body is capable of storing a lot of energy in the form of fat and sugar.  Muscle sugar (glycogen) is the most important fuel because you’ll deplete it first during the race.  When you’re out of glycogen, you’re out of high-octane muscle fuel and you’ll be forced to slow down.

Eating (In the Days Before the Race):  Eat plenty of starchy foods such as noodles, rice, and bananas.  Eat several pasta meals per day on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday before the Sunday race (take pasta and a little meat in a plastic container with you to work).  Have a high calorie pasta meal Friday evening.

Eating (The Day and Night Before):  Continue your pasta regimen on Saturday morning, adding bananas for breakfast.  Eat light and simple foods after mid-day on Saturday.  If you eat an evening meal it should be very light (a few crackers and a little juice).  A heavy meal will clog up your system with undigested food during the race, which will slow the absorption of liquids and could lead to side stitches.

Don’t Eat on Race Morning, Unless…  The only athletes that should eat before a race are the walkers and slow joggers who will be out there the longest with the least level of exertion.  They can eat a light meal.  Other racers should not eat the morning of the race, so your body doesn’t have to split its energy between racing and digesting food.

Training:  The best way to conserve your energy and avoid injuring yourself, is to minimize your running in the two days before the race.  You don’t have to run at all.  Sleeping/Napping:  Get plenty of rest.  Take naps if you can.  Thursday night is the most important time to get a full night sleep.  Don’t stay out late Friday evening partying.

Pacing.  Conserve your energy by following a conservative pacing plan during the first hour of the race.  After that you should maintain your average target pace at a sustainable level until you are sure you have enough energy to finish without crashing.

Keeping your energy up:  Once you start getting tired after the mid-point of the race, you can augment your energy by sucking on some hard candy pieces.  Don’t use gels unless you are willing to sip from them conservatively.  Never take more than one gel per hour after the mid-point of the race.  They put too much sugar into your system at once.

Sweet Drinks.  Don’t drink Gatorade or other drinks with lots of sugar/sweetness.  If it tastes too sweet, it probably is.  Your stomach will shut down and won’t pass the liquid to your intestines where it can be absorbed.  The result is nausea.  Ugh!

Maltodextrin Drinks.  I recommend drinking SPIZ or other products containing mostly maltodextrins, which are long-chain sugars that take a longer time to digest than simple sugars.  Make sure you water those drinks down, too.  Remember, drinking is far more important (to hydration and optimal performance) than the energy a drink can supply.