The last long run of your race training is one of the most important runs in your training campaign. Shane lines up for his fourth half marathon on Saturday and here he shares with you 5 ways to make the most of your last long run as you prepare for a race.
For the next 5 days I will cover these issues and more as I prepare for the start line in Stockholm, Sweden which is 4000 miles away from NYC. This will be my fourth half marathon.
A very important part of your race training is the long run of course. Your last long run before your race (whether it is a 5k, 10k or an ultramarathon) is crucial for getting your last minute preparations right . Why? Well simply put you really want to replicate race day.
My long run was on Saturday, I had 11 miles to run. My previous half marathons have been early starts, Stockholm will be different, its a 3.30pm start. So for my last long run I decided to run in the afternoon as I usually run in the mornings before breakfast. I wanted to emulate race day and iron out any particular kinks around nutrition and of course the heat. It was a scorcher on Saturday and much warmer than it will be on my race day but I viewed this as a good thing. I remember my last half in San Francisco. I was living in NYC and had to train in extreme humidity. It prepared me well for the much cooler San Francisco climate and I am hoping for a similar effect in Scandinavia.
Here are some tips on what you should try and include on your last long run before race day based on my own running experience.
- Nutrition. Try and eat the same things you will eat on race day. Now that is fairly easy if you are running near your home. When you are traveling out of town and especially international you need to work out what will be accessible to you. Juice bars are not that common place in Stockholm, or at least they were not when I lived there 3 years ago. So I opted for wheat bagels with peanut butter and a banana. It is really important to do this on that long run just in case you run into any stomach issues. Better to understand your body on the long run than race day.
- Energy. In an ideal world, I would be running with a support crew and they would be able to give me a juice during the race. My body would love that but alas I have no support crew so there will be no juice for me. For some this is controversial but on more than 10 mile runs I do use energy gels. My favorite are Cliff Bloks. I find them easier to chew and digest whilst running. I know some of you are critical about this because it is processed and full of sugar and not really in alignment with my views on healthy eating. But when you a racing long distances we need all the help we can get so I am happy to gulp a few of those down to help me with fuel.
As regular readers know I love the vega range of products yet the only product that disagrees with me is the Vega running gels for some reason I get some stomach issues with those ones but Angie likes them and uses them. On the subject of Vega I love the Vega Sport Pre Workout Energiser. I actually add it to my water during runs, its full of good stuff including yerba mate, devils claw, green tea etc. After my long runs I also blend their Vega Sport Performance Protein with water and banana to give me 30g or so of protein to aid with my recovery. Vega was developed by Ironman Athlete Brendan Brazier so I always feel comfortable with his products. (He is also a vegan – worth checking his story out.)
- Clothing and kit. Once upon a time a good friend of mine, let’s call him Bill to save embarrassing him. He had trained hard to run in a very well known European half marathon. The day before the race he was mooching around this famous city when he decided to invest in a new pair of running shorts. The next day, all excited for his race, he felt good in his new kit. That soon wore off, by about mile 2 he was suffering with agonizing chafing because his shorts did not fit right. The poor guy had to run 13.1 miles in excruciating pain, I mean he tells me his skin was raw afterwards. Hopefully during your own long runs you have realized what works for you and what doesn’t when it comes to clothing and shoes. Whatever you do, do not wear anything new or strange on race day. Use your long runs to work out what you feel comfortable and good in. So on my last long run this weekend I picked out the shorts, socks, top, cap and shoes I want to wear on race day. Thankfully I had no issues with my gear on my 11 miler. This gives me confidence on race day and gives me one less thing to worry about.
- Music/Ipod/MP3 player. For those of you who run with music then now is the time you should be putting that killer playlist together. I love running with music, it helps me to zone out on my long runs as well as pick up the pace when needed. I rotate my playlists during training and then on race day I like to combine the best of those tracks and make a race day playlist. I am hoping to break 2 hours on this one so I have put together a very fast paced playlist. I am talking legends like Guns n Roses, Iron Maiden, Motorhead and some of Morrissey’s faster tracks. It is fun to put these playlists together. I tried out my new playlist on my last long run. Just in case there is a song I do not like or maybe the sound quality is not good. I am a sentimentalist and for each half I have run it always start with the Morrissey classic ‘Do Your Best and Don’t Worry’ the song title puts me in the right frame of mind.
- Unfortunately my trusty old Ipod Nano has broken, this will be my first half marathon without it. So I went and bought a new Nano and to my horror they do not include the clip on it. So I had to buy one of those armbands. Not cool Apple! I hated using it especially when I would try and change a track mid run and after fumbling around with it for a few minutes would have to stop and re-arrange it. So I bought an ipod shuffle. It only holds 2 GB instead of the usual 16. It claims to be able to hold 200-250 tracks so I will keep this for race day as it has a clip so I can clasp it to my shorts and away I go. So yes I tried this on my last long run as it does not have a screen and other features and I wanted to make sure it worked perfectly and would not impede my race. I would hate to have to stop to fiddle around with it.
- Mentality. On your last long run you really want to wind yourself up mentally to prepare for the big race. By that I mean two things in particular. Visualization and inspiration.
“I am a big believer in visualization. I run through my races mentally so that I feel even more prepared.” US olympic gold medalist Allyson FelixI tried this on my last long run, not so much the route and the city but more mentally visualizing how a perfect race day will look, from the morning until after the race. Although there is a video of the 2012 Stockholm Half Marathon captured in just 4 minutes.
- My favorite visualization quote is from author Bo Bennett who said ‘Visualisation is daydreaming with a purpose.”I try and picture how a confident Shane will feel, look and hopefully smile. I picture myself smiling throughout and appreciating that whilst I may be hurting or in discomfort that I am very lucky to have a healthy body and to be able to run these races. I also think about my reasons for running as well as all the training miles I have completed and of course I picture the finish line with a beaming Shane and the clock displaying the time I would like to achieve. You should really be practicing these techniques on all your long runs and especially on your final one.
In Part 2 of this 5 day guide I will look at what to pack and how to organize yourself if you are traveling to a half marathon.