With the big race just a short time away, regular readers who’ve been following along with me over the last ten months as I write about the trials and tribulations of training for a 4-day, 78 km run may be wondering what some of the things going through my mind are…
… y’know, like right now. (Besides scoring all those cool medals!)
I’ve never been what you might call a “details person” but taking on such a big challenge has left me in full-on over-thinking mode, sometimes in a good way, and other times not so much. I’d like to think, however, that by considering all the things that might go wrong BEFORE I get to the start line, at least I’ll have (a) considered them and (b) possibly spent some GPU (Grey-Matter Processing Units) on out-thinking the potentially associated FAIL that goes with.
Nutrition & Hydration
aka. No one actually eats properly on vacation.
“Uggh…” you groan. “I went on vacation and gained like ten pounds!” It’s the lament of the modern vacationer, right? But when you’re off to run a race, not only can’t you over-eat (a tough prospect at a theme park on a good day) you also need to make sure you eating good, nutritious food, with proper fibre, and stick-to-your-ribs goodness. Top that off with a strategic effort of a full-on hydration regimen, and that’s a recipe that is even fairly tough to follow when you are at home and focused on it. Good luck, eh?
Go mild or go home. I figure that I’ll be focussing on sandwiches and salads for my restaurant meals leading into the race. I’ve found that standard clubhouse is a good bet –not too crazy, balanced, and full of potential not-too-bland but not-too-strange goodness — on whole wheat with nice light side salads and unsweetened iced tea on the side. The other option will be to look for mild pastas or dishes with eggs and complex carbs. This will be assisted by the “Pasta in the Park” adventure on the evening before the second race: a pasta buffet where the trick will be to settle in for a nice meal that will act as the fuel for the upcoming couple of races and build a good foundation for the marathon, but not to over-do it and end up with a “Pasta on the Shoes” barfing adventure the next morning. Also, a fixed beverage menu pre-races: water, tea, coffee, and maybe a sports drink here and there. And, it almost goes without saying, but I’ll be the guy carrying the water bottle around with me everywhere — EVERYWHERE — too.
Sea-level sounds great, but is it?
aka. Sea-level sounds great, but is it?
According to my GPS watch I live at approximately 670m of elevation. That’s right: about two-thirds of a kilometre above sea level. This isn’t huge, I know, but according the the air pressure calculator at altitude.org I’ve been training and running for most of my days what is described as follows: “At 670m, the standard barometric pressure is 94 kPa (705 mmHg). This means that there is 93% of the oxygen available at sea level.” So, having roughly 7.5% more oxygen available is a good thing, right? Humidity factors aside, I would argue that any time you throw more than say 5% of environmental variability into your run you need to consider it somehow. For sake of that comparison, look at the elevation of Banff, Alberta — about 1460m above sea level — which according the same calculator has “85% of the oxygen available at sea level.” I ran a half marathon there in September and it kicked my ass… so, yeah… just saying. Hopefully the change is in my favour this time, but I’m not taking anything for granted.
Spend the ‘altitude-credits’ for a recovery-boost rather than speed-boost. I’m hoping it works in my favour, but I’m going to ignore as much of the benefit and any associated feel-goodery that emerges from it as I’m running and rather, if the lower altitudes give me any boost at all, I’ll keep running my normal pace and use the extra O2 as a recovery benefit rather than a race benefit. Does that make sense?
aka. Unfamiliar surroundings complicate matters.
For a runner, home-base is nearly as important as any other factor. It’s where you sleep. It’s where you dress. It’s where you prepare your mind, body and soul for the experience of running the insane distances. And, on a travel run, that home is an unfamiliar hotel room, with all the quirks, strange noises, lumpy pillows, tiny blinking lights, rude neighbours, and finicky coffee makers you’d expect.
Settle in. Unpack. Claim a “race zone” for gear and set-up. Bring headphones to help get to sleep, an extra alarm clock to avoid the uncertainty of the one provided, and make it “feel like home” as much as possible. The night before any race, make the plan clear and set up for race morning: coffee ready to brew, clothes ready to toss on, and a plan of morning attack fully formed in your head.
aka. I’m relying on a bus to an unfamiliar place.
No car. Just a bus from the hotel to the start line each morning. It should all work out for the best, right, but even the remotest possibility of a transportation panic attack on the morning of any of the races cannot be under-stated.
Avoid if possible. Get up with time to spare. Chart and time the foot route a days before and have a Plan-B on stand-by. If all else fails, call a cab or hitch-hike. Pride is over-rated, anyhow.
aka. What’s a 40 degree Celsius differential between friends?
If you’ve been reading this blog lately, you’ll have noticed a recurring theme on many of my running posts. It goes something like this: COOOOOOOOOOOLD! SNOOOOW! IIIIIIIIIICE! Yeah, it’s been about as bad as it could have been for marathon training these last couple months. The mercury (or whatever they use in thermometers these days) seemed to hang out in the sub-zero teens for many of the last nine weeks. That would have been fine and I could have dealt with that, but it seemed to alternate between a dangerously cold wind-chill factor and dangerously-trip-inducing fresh snow or icy patches. I got most of my distance in –most– but having trained at the extreme cold end of my preferred climate, it is now looking like the race is going to be warm… as in the other end of that training spectrum: the warm end, that I don’t tend to like too much.
What’s a 40 degree Celsius differential between friends?
Dress for success and eyes off the sun. I’ll be wearing shorts and tees, of course. Clothing is half the battle. But the other side of that is going to be paying solid attention to (a) my pace so I don’t overdo it in the heat, (b) my hydration, because that could bite me in the backside and (c) my gaze, because watching the inevitable variety of (hopefully cute, hopefully Disney-princess) butts on the road ahead of me is better than the seductive snare and brain-numbing light of the Florida sun… no, really.
aka. Two hours of jet lag sucks even without a marathon.
Did I mention that the races start at 5:30 in the morning? Did I mention that 5:30 in the morning is 3:30 back home? And did I also mention it is advised by both race officials and good practice to arrive about an hour ahead of the race which, factoring in preparation and travel time in the morning, means I need to get up around 4 am… or what I would now consider 2 am back home? May as well not even go to bed! That’s a helluva jet lag to contend with before a multi-day race, huh?
Pre-travel time-travel. Or, if that isn’t possible, I’ll just be switching to Florida time a few days early. In fact, starting after New Years I’ve begun progressively shifting my bed-time and wake-up by half an hour earlier each day. Sure, by Sunday night I’ll be in bed by 8:30 and on Monday morning I’ll be crawling out of bed at 3:30 am local, but do you REALIZE how much you can get done for two hours before everyone else gets up? By Thursday morning I’ll be waking up at the same time as the alligators… or at least with plenty of time and sleep to have a good race.