It's crazy to realize we're almost through September. You know what that means - fall road races!!! From 5Ks to Marathons, September through mid-December is a popular time to race. It's getting too cold for triathlons and bike races, but it's still too warm for cross country skiing or snowboarding. I've got some friends getting ready for the Chicago Marathon on October 9th and I myself am preparing for the Detroit Marathon on October 16th. If you are closing in on your fall competition, there may be only a few weeks left to perfect your nutrition plan. Just like you train your muscles for exercise, you've got to make sure your stomach is ready as well. Just drinking a flavor of sports drink provided on the course that you normally wouldn't could throw off your entire race. Take these steps now to make sure you are ready......
1. Check how often there are aide stations on the race course. Is it every mile? Every 1.5 miles? Generally the longer the race the more aide stations, but you want to check that. I once ran a 10K that had NO water stations (it was pretty painful)! Figure out which stations you will need to stop at based on your planned mile pace. Remember: You should be drinking at least every 20 minutes.
2. Check what will be provided at aide stations. Just water? Water and sports drink? What type of sports drink and what flavor? Gu's or gels? How about real food like pretzels? If you want to use it during the race, you need to start training with it NOW. You don't know how your stomach will react to the nutrition provided if you don't try it ahead of time.
3. Once you complete numbers one and two, create (and by that I mean write out) your race nutrition plan and use it as soon as your next run. The best time to try your plan is on your next training run that is most similar to your race. For example, a 20-mile training run would be a great time to try a marathon race nutrition plan.
4. Don't forget about race morning. What will you eat for breakfast and at what time? Again - try it ahead of time to make sure it actually works for you....meaning you tolerate and it keeps you energized until you get to the starting line.
5. If you're planning to carb load the week of the race (defined as a calculated increase in carbohoydrate intake in the 2-3 days prior to the race - accompanied by a decrease in training), then you also need to try this ahead of time. Not everyone responds favorably to carb loading - especially if not done properly. Try it during an earlier week first to make sure you're ready. And remember that this type of carb loading is really only beneficial if your race is longer than 90 minutes. Not sure how to carb load? I think it's time to see a sports dietitian!
There are of course many other things you need to do in the days prior to the race, but completing steps 1-5 now will assure you arrive at race week confident, focused, and ready to implement your plan.