1. DIDN’T PREPARE FOR THE CONDITIONS
When dealing with mother nature, anything and everything is possible. Whether it be rain, extreme heat/cold, wind, etc… there is no shortage of weather related things that can arise on race day. As such, training in these conditions so that you know how to dress, how your body will respond, how to strategize, and how it will feel and how to manage the conditions is imperative. Hope for the best – prepare for the worst!
This is not just a physical issue but also a mental one as well. If you are not prepared for certain conditions, it may very well impact you negatively from a mental standpoint which directly translates to the physical aspect.
2. DEVIATED FROM YOUR PLAN
I get it – you hear the roar of the crowd when you make the turn onto 1st avenue during the NYC Marathon and you pick up the pace.
Hopefully you’ve developed some sort of race plan/strategy – but that’s only half the equation… the other half is following it! Whether it be starting out too fast/too slow, varying your pace too much or anything else that wasn’t in the pre-race plan – following your race plan, so long as it is viable, is critical for your success.
3. UNDERESTIMATED OR DIDN’T KNOW THE COURSE PROFILE
Knowledge of a course is imperative to your success – period. In the age of GPS mapping, blogs, message boards, etc… there is no excuse for not knowing what a course profile is. It’s not just a function of knowing that a course is hilly, or a net downhill. While being ‘in-shape’ is the most important variable to having a successful race, the more specific you can make your training to the course being raced, the greater your chance of success will be.
4. TRIED THOSE NEW SHOES ON RACE DAY
While it’s very tempting to buy those sweet shoes at the race expo and run in them on race day – DON’T! The old adage of “Nothing new on race day” is as true today as it always has been. Your race shoes and attire must be tried and true. You’re likely to encounter a few surprises on the race course, however your fuel and attire should not be included in the those surprises.
5. FUELING ISSUES
What you ingest, as well as when and in what quantities before and during a race will have a significant impact on the race outcome. You should have trialed fueling strategies during training to give yourself the best chance of optimizing your performance on race day. This doesn’t just pertain to preserving as many carbs as possible, but also minimizing the chance for any type of GI issue.
As such, it’s important to find out ahead of time what type of fuel (if any) is available at fueling stops.
Is it just water?
If Gatorade, what flavor?
Knowing this information ahead of time can be helpful in creating an effective fueling strategy.
One other thing to bring up is the pasta dinner. A lot of races have free or cheap pasta dinners hosted by the race organizers. While this may seem like a good idea because it is cheap and easily accessible, you don’t know how the food is prepared or how your body will respond to it. So while this isn’t a full on ‘no,’ just something to keep in mind.
6. TOO MUCH SIGHTSEEING
One of the side benefits of going to a race in a big city or someplace interesting is that you get a chance to explore a new place that you might not otherwise go to. While this is all good and fine, remember the main reason you’re there… to race!
Being on your feet for hours the day(s) before your big race is not the best way to prepare and will likely come back to haunt you during the race. You want to start the race with the freshest legs possible and a 4 hour tour of the Bronx Zoo isn’t exactly the best way to accomplish this. So save your sightseeing for after the race is over!
7. UNDER OR OVERTRAINED
While this is seemingly common sense, if you haven’t trained enough, or trained too much to the extent that you’re suffering from the effects of overtraining, you can expect to have sub-par race results.
While there are no guarantees that following a well-constructed training program that is customized to you will result in a great race, deviating substantially from that plan (or not having a plan at all!) will increase the likelihood of you being under or overtrained come race day.
If you’re sick, you should not race. Simple as that. Same goes for those that are injured. Racing when sick and/or injured will not only decrease your chance of having a successful race but will likely make your illness and/or injury worse.
9. JUST A BAD DAY
Unfortunately, even when you do everything right, you can still have a bad day. It happens. Moreover, if you race with some frequency – it will happen. Just know that if you’ve prepared properly, followed your race day strategy and had a bad race, there is nothing more you could have done. Don’t beat yourself up and look for areas that you could have done differently. Chalk it up to a bad day and move forward.
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