Wednesday, December 8, 2010

First Marathon? Don't Sweat It! - Part 2

My previous post dealt more with mental concerns on race day. Today, I'm going to focus on some physical issues that many runners encounter during races of all distances, but marathons in particular. Let's begin!

1. Pre-race meal

This is a source of anxiety for many people. Planned or consumed improperly, a pre-race meal can be disastrous. Keep it simple and stick to carbs. While I prefer a plain bagel, there are many options available to you. Bagels, toast, cereal, granola (careful with the fiber, though), various bars, bananas, etc. Your best bet is to try out what you'll be eating on race day before one of your long runs. Another option for people who might have digestive difficulties is a liquid meal. There are different types of Gatorade and electrolyte mixes you can buy that contain a sizeable number of calories but don't require the same level of digestion that solid food would.

Some runners make coffee part of their pre-race routine. If you're comfortable with this and are used to drinking coffee before running, go ahead. Just don't decide that you're going to try it out for the first time on race day.

A few weeks before race time you might also start being more aware of how your body reacts to certain foods. I like to avoid dairy in the days leading up to a marathon. It doesn't always give me problems, but why risk it?

You will probably encounter some pre-race jitters that will have you needing to use the restroom once, maybe twice before the gun goes off. Play your pre-race meal cards right and you can minimize your time spent in a portable toilet. Let's face it, few things are more repulsive than race day porta-potties.

2. Chafing

If I had to pick one thing I hate about running, this would be it. Chafing can strike anywhere something is rubbing against your skin. Anywhere. I've gotten chafing from the neck and zipper of my tri suit while swimming. Unfortunately, this is one of those things you learn about through experience. The more you race, the more places you'll experience chafing. On the bright side, you'll also be better equipped to deal with it in the future.

How DO you deal with it? Lubricant! That's right, runners, lube it up. Many running and athletic stores sell products like this. I've used Body Glide before and it worked fine. Cheap tip: you can also use Vaseline for this purpose. Apply wherever you think chafing is a possibility. After completing dozens of races I finally got smart and started noticing my own chafing hot spots (the back of my running pants where there's a tag AND zipper and bra line).

And then of course there's one of evolution's cruelest jokes: nipple chafing. If you've seen the episode of The Office where Michael Scott organizes a 5k, you know what I'm talking about. This is mostly specific to gentlemen. Be aware that there are also products for this unfortunate situation.

3. Hydration

It's embarrassing to admit, but I'm pretty bad about this. It might sound gross (perhaps not as gross as nipple chafing) but you should drink water until your urine is clear. Make sure this is a priority for you in the days leading up to the race. Maybe resolve to drink water instead of coffee and/or soda in the week before.

4. Tidbits

Fuel Belt: Many marathoners use these during their long runs and races. I myself have not used one, but if you don't like keeping an eye out for water fountains or carrying a water bottle in your hand, this might be a good solution. It's a belt that holds 2-4 small bottles that you can fill with water, Gatorade, etc.

There are also simple race belts on which you can pin gels and attach your race number. It's an alternative to pinning your bib to the front of your shirt.

Decide what you'll carry. Even though you'll probably be running in a race with hundreds or thousands of fellow marathoners and spectators, you should consider carrying ID and some cash or a credit card with you, just in case. I carry my phone during races for music and in case anyone plans to watch for me on the course.

That's all for now! Remember to vote in the marathon poll up top. Next time I'll talk about holiday races and why you should try one this season!

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