Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Race Weekend Tips I've Picked Up Along The Way, and Mojibijawe, God of Children Marathoners



My Race Weekend Reminders - Things I’ve Picked Up Along The Way
(26.2 of them)

There are very few new ideas, new knowledge is rare, and we’re all just standing on the shoulders of giants thinking we’re tall, or standing on third thinking we hit a triple, regurgitating old ideas and repackaging them and calling them our own.  And if you’re an obsessive marathoner, chances are you are an obsessive data-fiend as well, and have scoured for all the knowledge on running and marathoning and race day strategies for a great time or simply a great experience.

So, here are some ideas that you, the community of experts, have taught me about how to handle race weekend.  These are the things I tell myself when I talk to myself, and if you listened, here’s what you may hear.



1. Develop three goals for the event, only two of them being time goals.  Have a “if everything goes perfect goal”, an “I will be happy as hell if I get this time goal” and a process goal.  For example, A: Ideal: I want to hit a 3:20 to qualify for Boston, B: Also awesome: 3:25 would make me feel plenty Triumphant. C: Process Goal: during the race I want to: run negative splits, make sure to tweet as many times as possible, meet my sole-mate, see the face of God at the finish, whatever fits.  I just believe in having a tiered-approach, to reduce the risk of disappointment, and something that doesn’t’ even include time. 

2. Get to bed early, but don’t expect a big sleep the night before a marathon. Make sure you rest two nights before though. That way one sleepless night isn’t a big deal.

3. Nothing new:  eating routine, as with all routines, food, breathing patterns, nostril snot shots, and desperate prayers for mercy to the running gods – should have all been tried previously to marathon weekend.  Meaning long runs should mimic marathon day, even down to if you choose to have sex the night before the event (and studies show it can increase your chance of a PR. Link)

With all the stimulus at the Expo, it’s easy to get suckered in to thinking you need to try something different. I have found through experimentation that I need protein the night before a run as much as pasta, that chicken and pasta works perfect. Other things that I experimented with that I swear by: Pickle juice, S-Caps, and Compression Socks. 

3. On this same note, during the event, pass up the opportunity to eat that Twinkie or gummi bear or pinch of chewing tobacco or whatever other novelty is being passed out by bystanders, unless you have done so before.  Tried and true is certainly the rule, and while this makes perfect sense now, your head will be woozy and not so logical under the haze of a marathon run, so it’s worth reminding yourself.

4. Exception to number 3: if you aren’t worried at all about times (see the ‘process goal’ above) and just want to say you ‘did it’, then go ahead and do something spontaneous and crazy. Example “do you realize I did a jello shot off the navel of a homeless man at mile 23 while he was  looking for donations playing the Sax? Yes, it’s true.”

How could you not smile and throw him a dollar or two? Or do a Jello shot off of his navel.

5. Lay out your clothes, and put the body glide in your shoes, use a sharpie to mark the spots to cover, do something to make sure you don’t’ forget to lube up all over.  We’ve all seen him. Bloody nipple guy.  And you don’t want to be awake the night before thinking “remember to lube, remember to lube” and doing something like this will assure you you will not forget.

6. At the expo, or at home, do not put on the race shirt before you finish the event.  This may be one of those givens, and over-stated, but its bad luck, bad ju-ju, and sanctimonious.  Of course, exception is if you are trying on for size, but if doing so then, you can only wear for 88 seconds exactly, which is more than enough time to see if it fits. Any more and you are tempting fate and sure to be stricken down by metaphorical lightening during the event.

7. I believe in getting to the start line early but not too early.  Maybe it’s the nerves, but I want to pee twice at the start, once when I get to the area and another time right before I get in the Chute. But otherwise, being first in line just makes me nervous and anxious.  Never come close to missing the start gun.

8. I hate being uncomfortable waiting in the mass of the crowd waiting for the start, so even if its fifty degrees and not 30 I always Bring clothes to the start to shed. Being old sucks, shivering spends calories.  And the homeless man playing the Sax will end up with your discarded rags so its part of the circle of life.

When shedding such clothes, do so by putting at the side if possible and not in the middle of the road.  Poor race etiquette to trip the man behind you.

9. During the national anthem, make the sign of the cross, bow to Mecca, sacrifice a goat, and close your mind off and feel the humm of the universe… in other words, those last moments before take off can feel pretty sacred, so treat them as such and get ready to rock.

10. Once the gun shot sounds, I always walk to the starting matt from my position back in the pack, no matter what. Even if it’s an eight of a mile.  Something mental for me about making sure not to run early.  Its gets me in the right mindframe of preserving energy. Plus, the race hasn’t really started when people run, the mind game does, the strategy does, the race beginning is about saving energy.  Walking to the start while others start running gets it through your nervous skull that you don’t need to keep up with them; (the suckers running 26.2+) just run your own race.

Worth repeating this mantra: You run the first ten with your head, the second ten with your legs, the last 6.2 with your heart.

 11. Headphones. I train with them and am convinced I run events better with them. And most races now ‘suggest’ you do not use them yet do allow them.  Pick some slow songs for the start, and some inspirational ones to pick you up for the last ten miles.  My fear was they would disconnect me from the crowd, but I found this not to be true and that the run is still plenty interactive.

12. Bring some Gu’s, and memorize where the Gu spots are. Have both ready. You may drop a few while trying to open them, or you may pass up a free Gu giveaway spot in your running drunkenness. I’ve done both. Have two options.

13. Read over your running log up to the moment before you marathon. Take it with you to the hotel, to the bathroom, on the car ride to the event. Highlight the trainings where you kicked butt and remember that’s who you are. Write them in bold, wave them around and say “Here’s proof! Here’s proof!” and use them to fight back the doubts.

15. When traveling out of town, bring multiple possible running gear.  Weather and wind and precipitation can change so quick, so bring wet gear, hotter than expected gear, and colder than expected gear along with your main super-cool running gear.

16. When possible, cut the corners of the race, stay to the inside edge. (Otherwise, enjoy your 26.2 miles plus run.) and stay in the shadows when it’s hot.

17.  Pacing. My thoughts are: Run the first 1-5 slower than marathon pace, 5-10 at marathon pace, the next 10 to 15 a bit faster than marathon pace, and then MP or a little slower the way home.  Perceived effort, at least for me, is easiest during the middle miles, and it takes a bit to warm up fully.  This is basically an “even perceived effort pace” run. I didn’t come up with this, of course. More about this idea in a future post.

18. Pick a person in the race who has what seems like a close pace to yours, and use them for reassurance to run with, but be totally prepared to ditch them if they seem too fast or slow.

19. Aid stations - Since there will be a log jam at the beginning of the aid station. (especially at huge marathons, and towards the first miles) run towards the middle of the road, pass the initial pack, and then fall in towards the end of the aid station.  Of course, don’t risk passing, but it sucks to break stride when you don’t want to.
The aid station of those faster folks way ahead of us. 

 20. Grabbing a Gatorade; Always grab water, Gatorade, or other treats from the youngest volunteer possible. This will plant the seed in their little hearts of what an important job they are doing, and you’re creating a volunteer for life.  More importantly, you will be blessed, by Mojibijawe, God of children marathoners, and you will temporarily have tiny invisible wings on your head and travel light of foot. Try it. Grab the water from a youngster, look at their smile, and tell me if you aren’t lighter. Them there’s the wings on your head.

On this same tip, give as many fist bumps and slap as many hands as you can, as long as you don’t redirect your route and run an extra tenth of a mile or something.  If anyone reaches out a hand, and you touch it, that’s one tenth of a mili-second off your time. Hit enough, and you’ll certain to go .00002% faster. No, you’ll never see an elite runner doing this, but it’s one of the perks us regular folks have.

 22. Boston: Kiss a Wellsey girl if you can.  Question for the day: Does a spouse need permission to kiss a Wellsey girl?  Does it matter the gender of the runner?

 23. If you can, take the day after a marathon off work.  The whole world will be hazy and fuzzy, and plus kinda lame since you just ran a monster event and they did not. Plus, on the last few mental miles, you can remind yourself you are on the couch the next day.

24. The last bit of the race, think of a regular running route by your house that’s the same distance you have left in the race and use that to be your mantra.  “Just a run to the high school and back” “Just a loop to the gas station,” “I’m at the Belle Tire and just need to make it home. “ (that last one’s my own.)


25. Sometimes you’re the bug, sometimes you’re the windshield, but run enough marathons and you’re going to go Splat. Doesn’t matter your experience. Be easy on yourself, know that you will live to run again. The zombie walk to the finish is noble yet humbling and the medic van isn’t so bad,

26.  I’ve tried to remember the entire route of a marathon and study it pre-race, and yeah, it’s pretty much impossible with the mush your brain is in during the run. At least mine.  But a few landmarks help.  The CITGO sign at Boston is a special magnet that sucks runners into its gravitational pull. Find the magnet in your race at the end, something to look up towards knowing that it is your sign of the finish.

26.2  If anyone ever says a marathon is 26 miles, and forgets the .2, it is your duty to kindly correct them, because at 20 miles the race is half over, and at 26 miles you will have had everything squeezed out of you and all of it oozes out the last .2 miles. Remember, the zone you are in the last .2 is a rarity, an area few ever tread

I'm more amazed by his time than his headstand. You thinking he did the half? Yeah, maybe.
 Okay, that’s just me talking to myself.  We all have our nuances And of course there’s plenty more things that can be added here, but then it wouldn’t be a nifty list of 26.2

And yes, one more thing about making a list:  It’s always cool to have a specific number in mind when you make a list, because it makes you look like maybe you know what you are talking about, that you have it down to an exact science with a specific number,  instead of just rehashing things that were taught to you, and then finding your voice to pass it on. 


The Jade Rabbit, on amazon. The story of a miraculous marathon run.

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