I just got back from a really nice run. The weather outside has been awesome today. It was 47 degrees and the skies were simply blue with almost no wind. Perfect weather for running and so I head outside at around 1.00 PM. I ran for exactly one hour and I mean exactly one hour. When I stopped my Nike Plus GPS watch the time recorded was exactly 1:00:00 – that’s a new one for me. I did not stop the time because I wanted to hit the hour mark, I had just arrived at home and my run was over.
Anyway, here are some random tips for your marathon day – especially when running an evening or afternoon race like the Las Vegas Rock ‘N’ Roll Marathon. I am sure most marathon runners have a special routine on race day or when heading out for a long training run and I developed a few of my own as well and I am going to share them here as I feel they might be helpful for others as well. These tips are specifically aimed at runs or races that start in the afternoon or evening hours of a given day.
Getting enough rest is important before any race, but if your race or long run is in the afternoon or evening you have almost an entire day where you can “waste” important energy and make your feet tired before it counts. To avoid that it is important to get enough sleep in the night before the run/race day and to eventually take a nap a few hours before your race/run. As an example at my Las Vegas marathon I took some Tylenol PM the evening before the race to make sure I get a solid 8-10 hours of sleep. I also took a nap mid-day on race day to make sure I am well rested.
Fuel up before the race
Carbo Loading is the word of the days before a marathon race, but most carbo loading plans stop with either the last dinner or the breakfast on race day. When you run in the afternoon or evening it is important to continue carbo loading up until lunch. It is also important to eat something that will not feel heavy in your stomach and does not have too much fats or oils because those are hard to digest and can make you feel sluggish. I tried Spaghetti with Meat Sauce, but I had better runs when eating Oatmeal using Flax Milk with Raisins. Using Flax Milk cuts out the dairy and lactose which is good for your GI system. Raisins are a powerful food loaded with Antioxidants and are loaded with carbs. I found eating Oatmeal as described is one of the best foods before a really long run or marathon race. And just because a race or run is in the afternoon does not mean you cannot have breakfast type of foods in the afternoon. So, enjoy breakfast at 3.00 PM 🙂
Running an afternoon or evening race in fall might mean significant differences in temperatures between start and finish. As an example when I ran the Las Vegas Marathon on November 17, 2013 it was in the mid to upper 60s around start time and low 50s or upper 40s by the time I crossed the finish line. If you’re sweaty and then stop running it can feel quite chilly – especially if you add some wind to the mix. I decided not to use the gear check that day I was fine with the marathon race blanket, but in the after-math I think I will use the gear check next time. I was not cold, but overall I think it is safer because weather can change fast on you sometimes. Plan for proper gear and keep an eye on the weather forecast.
Re-fuel after the Race
Most marathon organizers will provide sufficient supply of post-race food and drink for runners and it is important that you take advantage of the offerings. During a long run you burned several thousand calories and even if you drank Gatorade during the run or ate a few Gels or chews along the way – you cannot consume the amount of calories that you burn and your fuel resources will be depleted when you arrive at the finish line. I cannot eat right after a long run – I simply cannot swallow food and so I always make sure I have the right type of drinks after a long run or race. In Las Vegas I had several chocolate milks after the race + Gatorade that they gave out to runners. I also had a Gatorade Recovery drink in my car and so within 45 minutes after the race I had plenty of protein and carbohydrates consumed so that my body was properly re-fueled. Don’t take things lightly after a long run or race. Recovery can start immediately if you re-fuel correctly after a race.
As mentioned above it is important to start the recovery process as early as possible after a long run or race as otherwise your body will take much longer than necessary to get back to normal. This is really critical during marathon training because you do not want to lose important training days based on wrong recovery after a long run. One important step for recovery is to take care of your legs. Proper stretching as an example is very important so that you will avoid being sore for too long or sore at all. A foam roller also comes in handy to help your leg muscles to recover. However, one of the most important steps after a long run or marathon race is to take a bath in ice-cold or very cold water. It reduces inflammation in your legs and also allows your body to start proper muscle repair immediately. I used to skip that step in the early parts of my marathon training, but once I tried this for the first time I noticed a difference in recovery and freshness of my legs. So, don’t skip the ice bath. It was late in Las Vegas when I arrived at my hotel, but I still found time for a 5-10 minute soak in cold water for my legs.
Sleep … again
A lot of muscle recovery is done while you sleep. Your body “goes to work” while you sleep and a goodnight’s sleep is a great foundation for a good and speedy recovery. I took some Tylenol PM at the evening after the race, but it still took me about 45 minutes to fall asleep. My mind was working over-time due to the experience of the afternoon/evening. I was glad that I took the Tylenol PM because I got a solid amount of deep sleep that night because I had to get up at 5.00 AM the next morning and then drive about 800 miles to make it back home. If you know you are not the best sleeper, see if taking Tylenol PM is a good option for you as well. I usually do not take sleep aids and I keep those for those special moments in life when it is critical to get enough sleep. Also, over the next few nights following a long run or race make sure to get at least 8 hours of sleep per night. Your immune system has been weakened from the hard exercise and sleep is an important step to get your immune system back into good shape.
There you have it. These are my marathon tips for an afternoon or evening race. Don’t take things lightly after running a marathon or long run late in the day. Just because most races start in the early morning means that things are significantly different when you run a race at night.