Friday, April 29, 2005

Cue up the theme from Chariots of Fire

My boss, Tom, is a former marathoner and a great human being.

He's been extremely supportive of the four of us in the office who have been training for the BSR. Here are his final words of wisdom, imparted upon us today:

Okay Runners:
Only two days to go! Theresa and Betsy were talking to me yesterday about what to eat the morning of the race, which made me think of a number of things I used to try to do or remember on race day. Take these for what they're worth. Everyone is different, so just use those that work for you:

1) Breakfast
I would try to eat 3 hours before the race, because it normally takes me a while to digest food, and you don't want anything to repeat on you during the race. And because you'll probably have some butterflies, digestion will be slower this morning. I would eat light food lightly. I've never heard of anyone starving to death before a race. Three pieces of lightly buttered toast and water. I tend to stay away from juice because it can be acidic.

2) Bath
Optional. I have very tight muscles, and it takes a while to warm up. So for a morning race, I would take a bath after breakfast and try and let the heat loosen them up.

3) Ben Gay or Myoflex
Normally thought of as an after exercise tool, many runners spread this on their muscles to help loosen up before a race. Same idea as the bath. Apply an hour before race time. Bear in mind this stuff stinks (unless you can find the odorless kind.) Wash your hands pretty thoroughly after you apply. You don't want to accidentally get this stuff in your eyes or groin area--very painful.

4) Stretch
Same theme as bath and Ben Gay. Do this off and on for the last half hour before the race. Stretch before you run. Slow stretches and hold for 30 seconds. No bouncing.

5) Bathroom Break
Perhaps the most strategic move you will make all day--when to get in the line for the port-a-potties. You'll want to pee within 20 minutes of race time, so you don't have to stop during the race. Figure about 1-2 minutes for each person in line and you'll have a sense of when you'll get to the front.

6) Tea and Aspirin
Two "performance enhancing" drugs that are legal. Caffeine is a stimulant which tends to improve athletic performance. Aspirin thins your blood, which enables your body to cool more efficiently. Particularly useful on hot days, but even useful in moderate weather, because you will be sweating. Both tea and caffeine are definitely optional, and depend on your tolerance of them. Aspirin can cause stomach upsets in some people. If you're one of them--skip it. Tea can make you jittery, so if you're already nervous, may not be helpful. If you decide to use either of these, be sure and wait till 15 minutes before the gun to take them. If you take them too early, you may need to go back to the port-a-potty at an inopportune time.

7) Drink During the Race
Some bonehead at the New England Journal of Medicine recently published an article about someone "overhydrating" during a race. I'm sure it happened, and is theoretically possible for you to do so, but you would have to drink LOTS AND LOTS of water to do it. Far more likely is that you dehydrate. So, drink every two miles or so. If they serve Gatorade, Powerade or ERG (all basically the same), drink that at every other stop, with water at the stops in between. Drink half to whole cup (4-8 oz) depending on how you feel at each stop. Some people try to drink on the run to save seconds. I never learned how to do this. For the few seconds extra it takes to drink while you walk, you will be grateful later not to have swallowed air while trying to drink on the run. Belching and running don't mix well.

8) Start Slow
In the early part of the race, you will be excited, but caught in a lot of runner traffic, and the pace may be agonizingly slow. You will be tempted to zip around all the traffic and start running your pace right away. If you do you'll end up running extra mileage that you'll wish you had back later. Resist the temptation to start fast, and run slow and straight. Every step you save in the beginning you'll be grateful for at the end.

And watch out for other runners. All that congestion has led to people getting tripped up at the start of the race, shoes being stepped on, etc. Just try to keep some space from you and the other runners at the start. Some jostling is unavoidable--just try to minimize it.

9) Finish Strong
If you pace yourself well at the start, you should be able to speed up gradually as the race goes on (miles 3-8). If so, you'll start to pass other runners. Great adrenaline surge from passing people in the latter half of the race. It's really fun to finish strong. Odds are that as you get to the last couple of miles, you will start to tire. This is where your brain needs to take over from your body. Your body will be saying "slow down, slow down", but if you're within 2 miles of the finish, you'll make it. Just concentrate on maintaining your pace and running smooth. You will make it, and you won't pass out. The human body is capable of much more than we think.

10) Drink After the Race
Lots of beer! I have it on good authority that hops, malt and other grains are very good for post-race psychological recovery, although shockingly, this has never appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Good luck to all! Wish I could be there to cheer you on, but will be cheering in spirit, and look forward to the post-race analysis on Monday and Tuesday.

And here’s Jim’s Cliffs Notes version:

1. Buttered Bread
2. Bath
3. Ben Gay
4. Bend
5. Bathroom!!!
6. Bergamot & Bayer
7. Beverage Breaks
8. Bobble
9. Burst
10. Bacchanalia!!!

Seems like sound advice. Especially number 10.


Marksthespot said...

Go get 'em, T. Good luck, and congratulations.

Jen O. said...

At the risk of sounding sappy, I am so proud of you. You put your mind to it, perservered, and by this time tomorrow, it will have all paid off. CONGRATS!

So when's the marathon?