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Race Prep 101

Everything you need to know and do to successfully prepare for your upcoming endurance race

You’ve just completed your last long run, ride or swim for your upcoming race, and feel relieved that the hardest part of training is over. No more packing around multiple water bottles or gels during your long and rides runs; no more spending an entire weekend morning pounding the pavement, swimming laps or riding roads and trails. You’ve put in the hard work. Now it’s time to ease up and get ready for race day.

But just how much resting up should you do? Should you still do speedwork? How long should your weekend runs / rides/ swims be now? What should you eat? What gear do you need for race day? 

Here’s a list of a few important things you need to do or consider to successfully prepare for your upcoming endurance race.

Taper time
Tapering, where you ease up on training before your race, lets your body recover just enough while maintaining your fitness level so you’re ready to perform on race day. How you taper depends a bit on how you train, but generally you want to cut your training volume by 20 to 30 per cent each week from your highest volume week, which is typically between three to four weeks out from race day. So, for example, if you are training for a marathon and you ran a total of 55 kilometres (two 7.5 km runs, one 4 km run, and one 36 km run) four weeks out from your race, you could run a total of 39 kilometres (two 7.5 km runs at marathon pace with 4-7 minutes of repetitions in each, one 4 km run, and one 20 km run) the following week; a total of 28 kilometres (two 7.5 km runs at marathon pace and one 13 km run) the next week; and the week before the race you could do two easy 5 km runs and one easy 3 km run with a few pick-ups near the end to get the legs moving.

Race day checklist
Reduce your pre-race jitters (and potential to forget an important piece of race gear) by creating a gear checklist ahead of race day. Write down all the essentials from the bottom up, such as running or cycling shoes, socks, compression sleeves, shorts and a shirt (or a trisuit and wetsuit), race number or hydration belt, sports bra, shirt, arm warmers, Garmin watch, Vaseline (to help prevent chafing), iPod and ear buds, smartphone holder, smartphone, hat, sunglasses, helmet or a hat, water bottle, gels or bars, a change of clothes, your bike and a towel. Gather everything together the night before the race and go through your checklist before you leave the house. 

Nutrition
During the first and second week of taper, focus on eating lots of fresh, healthy foods, staying hydrated and upping your protein intake slightly to help with muscle repair. Keep your carbohydrate consumption the same until the last three days before your race. During that time, eat an extra 100-200 grams of carbs per day to boost glycogen stores in your muscle —your primary source of fuel on race day. The night before the race, don’t feel like you need to inhale a huge bowl of pasta—take in complex carbs during each meal over the entire day and have a light and healthy dinner (like baked chicken and rice with a salad), one that you know sits well with you and won’t cause any stomach upset.

Rest and repair
We all know sleep = repair, so get as much shut-eye as you can over the next few weeks. If you can, book a pre-race therapeutic massage about five to seven days out from the race. Not only is a pre-race massage relaxing (and might help you sleep better), but also can increase blood flow, reduce muscle soreness, and restore joint range of motion. 

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