RACE DAY PHYSICAL AND MENTAL PREPARATION
Today’s lesson is all about how to prepare physically and mentally for the day of the race, including the following:
Creating a race plan
Practicing visualization and mantras to use on the day of the race
Race day nutrition
Let’s start with the race plan. In order to maximize your success on race day, it’s recommended that you write a formal race plan for yourself. This plan does not need to be a huge novel - a simple list of bullet points can suffice. But these bullet points should include things like: your individualized carbohydrate/nutrition needs (which we addressed in the last presentation and will talk more about today), your projected race pace based on the pace you’ve been running, but also accounting for delays that can be caused by failed obstacles or hills, the amount of time you expect it to take you to do burpee penalties (based on your burpee benchmark but also factoring in delays from fatigue), any daily affirmations or race mantras that you have been practicing or will want to remember on race day (we will also address that today), fluids - how much and what types you plan on bringing and a gear checklist. (We’ll talk more about gear in next week’s lesson).
Why should you create a race plan? Essentially - the more mentally prepared you are going into the race, the less stressful the day of the race will be. This is a major component of mental preparation.
You’ll also likely find that once you complete a race, your original projections may have been off a bit. That’s ok. You will learn more about the length of time it really takes you to run these races each time you complete a race, and as a result, you’ll likely get better at making race plans. No matter what - it’s always better to be prepared.
PRACTICING VISUALIZATION AND DAILY AFFIRMATIONS/MANTRAS
As a Spartan Race approaches, it can be easy to start thinking that you are in over your head and that you couldn’t possibly be ready to do what you’re about to do. This is why mental training is just as important as physical training. We all know that if you want to get stronger physically, you have to train physically. And you have to train regularly - at least three times a week if not more on a consistent basis. The same applies for mental training. You need to practice things like visualizing yourself completing obstacles, for example. Taking some time to remind yourself of the technique and seeing yourself being successful at it. It also helps to come up with some sort of mantra that you can use on race day when you are struggling or when things are starting to suck so that you can push yourself to the other side.
I’ll use an example that worked really well for me. When I did the SoCal Sprint last January, it turned out to be a really cold, windy and rainy day. The weather straight up sucked and my race partner and I could tell right away that it was going to be a pretty miserable slog of an experience. So right out of the gate, I started proclaiming that it was the BEST DAY EVER! Obviously, I was being sarcastic, but that mantra soon became incredibly effective at taking our minds off of how awful everything felt at the time. So I stuck with it. During the race, if the wind picked up or it started pouring out of nowhere, or if we were struggling to get up a muddy mountain, one or both of us would yell out “BEST DAY EVER!”. And that would make us laugh and put us back in a positive mindset.
As a result, when we both went to Lake Tahoe to run the Spartan World Championship Beast course - 15 miles at elevation with massive temperature drops as we inched ever higher up the mountain - we took the BEST DAY EVER mantra with us. We even found sweatshirts that said BEST DAY EVER and wore them to the after party. This continues to be my race day mantra to this day.
Everyone’s mantra or mental reset may be different, so you have to find what’s right for you. I also find merely taking a moment to soak in the beauty of my surroundings to be a good mental reset during a race. Whatever it is for you, it’s something you should practice regularly so that you’ll be ready on race day.
RACE DAY NUTRITION
Alright - now let’s get into the nitty gritty of what you will need to get fueled up and ready to attack the course on race day and how to maximize recovery afterward.
First of all, let’s talk about your pre-race meal.
About 3-4 hours before your race, you should eat a pre-competition meal. This meal should contain 3-5 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight. (Remember - divide your weight in pounds by 2.2 to get your weight in kilograms). Even if you don’t normally eat a meal before working out, I highly recommend eating one before you race - especially for a longer race. Your body will be working hard and will absorb nutrients quickly - so you’ll want to give it the fuel it needs so you don’t hit a wall during the race.
Since Spartan Race recommends that you get to the race at least 90 minutes in advance, be sure to get up early enough to get this meal in. Include this in your race plan so you’ll be ready to go and not have to think too much about this on the day of the race.
One hour before your race, consume an easily digestible carbohydrate just for an extra boost of fuel for the race. This could be in the form of a sports drink or a runner’s gel. I often bring no sugar added applesauce squeezer packs. This generally boils down to preference but is still an important part of race day fueling.
If you anticipate your race taking more than a couple hours, it is also recommended that you bring some sort of fuel with you on the race. In the event of a long and strenuous race, you should ingest close to 60 grams per hour of carbohydrate. This is often in the form of a sports drink and/or gels that you can easily bring with you. Here’s what I have done for the races I’ve participated in:
Spartan Sprint: I only used the water stations on the course for hydration. I will bring one Clif Gel with me but I usually don’t end up using it.
Spartan Super: I usually use a waist belt hydration pack, and I fill the bottles with slightly watered down Gatorade. I refill them at the water station. That tends to be enough carbohydrate/elecrolytes to get me through, and then I can continue hydrating once I refill the bottles. I’ll bring one or two Clif Gels on the course.
Spartan Beast: I bring a hydration backpack filled with slightly watered down Gatorade. Mine is 1.5 liters and that worked in combination with the water stations on the course. I brought a bunch of Clif Gels and ate a few of them on the course. I probably could have done with more substantial food, to be honest - but that was a particularly long and brutal race.
It may also be helpful to bring either salt tablets or mustard packs. These will come in handy in the event that you cramp up during the race. This can commonly happen, especially on the hillier courses. Getting some salt into your system quickly can help your muscles start firing correctly again. I have not had any major cramping issues on races, but I think that may have to do with the fact that I bring sports drink and am getting a steady stream of sodium throughout the day.
After the race, it’s time to eat! make sure you get at least 1-1.5 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight along with some protein at a ratio of 3:1 carbohydrates to protein. If you can have something in your bag or car that you can eat immediately afterward, that’s ideal. And then one hour later, eat again. I’m sure that won’t be a problem - there’s nothing better after the race than a satisfying post-race meal! You worked your ass off - you deserve it!