Unfortunately, there are many variables that are beyond our control on race day. Inclement weather, stomach bugs, and eternally long porta potty lines are just a few challenges that can throw a wrench into plans for a PR or podium finish. Over my years of racing, I have developed some pre-race rituals that have helped me be as prepared as possible for factors that I can control.
1. If I am traveling to a new destination, I look up grocery stores near my hotel, find out how early the coffee shop opens and research restaurant menus to find the one that makes the perfect pre-race meal. I make dinner reservations so I am not trapped waiting for an hour on a busy Friday night and end up eating much later than I am used to and consequently get to bed later than anticipated.
2. I lay out my race kit, warm-ups, nutrition and anything else I want to bring with me one week before the race. This way I can look at it all week, see what I may be missing and adjust for weather changes. When the time comes to leave the house, I can travel confidently without the uncomfortable feeling that I forgot something.
3. If I know that the weather is going to be cold or that my hands will likely get numb in cool temperatures, I pre-open my race nutrition that won’t spill or ooze out like bars or chomps or I make sure to store them in a place that I don’t have to unzip to get to –which can be really hard with gloves on. I always have hand warmers packed just in case.
4. I study the race course profile and elevation map and program the course into my GPS watch so that I do not get lost or take a wrong turn during the race. Many times, runners have been turned around due to course marking vandalism. Having the course in my watch makes me more confident knowing that I can refer to my map if a turn is questionable.
5. If traveling by plane, I always have my race kit in my carry-on just in case my checked baggage gets lost or delayed. Before the 2011 NACAC Mountain Running Championships, my bag got lost en route to Mexico. Luckily, I had my uniform and shoes with me. Race shorts don’t make the most comfortable pajama bottoms, but at least I could sleep soundly knowing I would be ready to go when the gun went off.