We'd like to thank our friends at Boulder Center for Sports Medicine for putting together the following race day tips for our runners!
Race Day Tips for Successful Running!
1. PRE-HYDRATION THE NIGHT BEFORE
It’s amazing what a little fluid can do for you! Ideally, you should be pre-hydrated before the race. The general rule of thumb is the day before your urine should be colorless or clear. So ideally urinating clear, colorless urine means you are hydrated well as opposed to darker yellow straw colored urine. If your urine is too dark then you are already dehydrated before you even start the race!
2. RUNNING AT ALTITUDE
Depending on where you are coming from, you may or may not be used to running at a higher altitude. Be aware of the early signs of altitude sickness. Altitude sickness can take many forms but in its most simple form it is Acute Mountain Sickness. It can present with very vague symptoms such as fatigue, headache, and nausea. Therefore, be careful with just passing these symptoms off as consequences from your travel. Be preventative and hydrate more than you usually would as hydration is a main stay of helping to prevent altitude sickness. Also plan your trip, if you can, to allow yourself some time to get used to the higher altitude.
3. HEAT ILLNESS
Be familiar with the different forms of heat illness: heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Heat stroke is an emergency characterized by altered mental status (i.e. confusion/hallucinations) and a core body temperature above 104 degrees. Early signs of heat illness may be: weakness, nausea, faster pulse, headache, irritability, and loss of coordination. Any of these signs can rapidly progress to become heat stroke which is a medical emergency, that if not treated can lead to serious consequences, even death. Move to a cooler place, rest, and push fluids.
In any outdoor activity, hot or cold exposure can compromise athletic performance. Be careful in sun exposed areas to ensure you have covered yourself with enough sun protection (clothes/sun block). Getting sunburned can further dehydrate you, making you feel worse with more fatigue, even possibly causing you to be more predisposed to the range of heat illnesses. In cold temperatures, runners can certainly be at risk for frostbite, so ensure you have proper layers of clothing.
5. APPROACH TO HYDRATION – IT’S NOT ONLY WATER!
It’s important prior to your event you have a hydration strategy. Endurance events need more than just re-hydration with water. In general, if you are exercising for more than one hour, you need to start replacing with electrolyte solutions. Be wary though if you are a “salty sweater,” as you may need to consider starting your electrolyte solutions earlier than an hour. Hydrating with only water can also lead to a potentially serious medical condition called hyponatremia (low sodium levels caused by over hydration). So remember your electrolyte solutions!
Know what medications you are on and which can predispose you to heat illnesses. You may be surprised to know simple over the counter medications like antihistamines, laxatives and alcohol can predispose you to heat illnesses. In addition, chronic medications like thyroid medicine and anti-depressants can also predispose you to heat illnesses. Of note, many athletes frequently take ibuprofen-type medications. Be aware these medications, especially if taken incorrectly, can predispose you to something called rhabdomyolysis, which is a condition causing significant muscle spasm and can lead to an eventual break down of muscle tissue and even kidney damage. BE CAREFUL WITH SUPPLEMENTS! Supplements can contain unknown stimulants, like Ephedra, which can lead to serious cardiac abnormalities and even death in athletic situations.
7. PRACTICE YOUR CARBOHYDRATE APPROACH
Race day is not a day to experiment with new products you haven’t used. Be careful as carbohydrate substances which are high in sugar can sometimes lead to nausea as your body is not going to be focus on digestion as you run 26.2 miles. You will experience delayed gastric emptying which will make you regret high sugar content drink and doughnut you had before the race. Know ahead of time what your pre-race meal with be and what substances you are going to use while on the race for re-fueling (gu/energy gels/jelly beans/etc).
8. KNOW YOUR LIMITAITONS
Many people will come into a race they have been training for in a compromised way as they have gotten ill the week before. For example, if you have had the flu in the days prior or experience vomiting or diarrhea on the day of the race, now is not the time to try for a PR. Illness and pre-existing medical conditions can complicate your race day approach, so be aware of what your limitations are ahead of time and plan accordingly. Race smart so you can race again another day.
9. STAY WELL INFORMED
Conditions can change at any moment in Colorado.The weatherman may say it is going to be sunny with no wind and a cool 70 degrees the day before the race only to have it turn cold with a snow flurry. Check the website for the race frequently for updates in expected conditions. Be prepared for anything so your race day experience is awesome and not hampered by not having the right gear/attire for the day. If you are not sure what to bring or what to plan for contact the race to ask questions.
10. WHAT DOES YOUR SWEAT TASTE LIKE?
Yes, you read that correct. Have you ever thought about it….what does your sweat taste like? Some people are “salty sweaters,” meaning they lose more sodium in their sweat than others. “Salty sweaters” often feel like after they run or race they have a layer of salt caked on their bodies. If this is you, then you REALLY need to have a different hydration strategy, replacing your electrolytes sooner than most. If this isn’t you, still be mindful of how quickly your sweat can evaporate at altitude. Sweating is one of your body’s main mechanism for cooling you off, so is very important. You may need to further adjust your hydration based on how you sweat at altitude.
Have Fun! Every race is a new race, and brings new excitement and adventure. Enjoy the scenery, the event, and the post-race celebration as you bask in the glow of the Rocky Mountains!